The Secrets of Transit Line Success

Payton Chung summarizes a new report from the Transportation Research Board that reveals the indicators of successful transit projects.

2 minute read

July 12, 2014, 5:00 AM PDT

By Helen Brown

Transit Ridership

Bridget Zawitoski / Shutterstock

Payton Chung reports on "Making Effective Fixed-Guideway Transit Investments: Indicators of Success," a Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) report for the Transportation Research Board by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley. According to Chung, this "landmark report…identifies the factors that set successful transit investments apart from the rest." In his summary of the report, Chung notes that the study, which examined more than 140 elements of including location, demographic factors, and design of more than 55 rail and bus rapid transit systems, concluded that the secret to attracting high ridership is to "[serve] areas that are dense in both jobs and population and have expensive parking."

Per Chung, while the connection between high density jobs and population and transit is not new knowledge, the TCRP report's findings suggest "...access to these specific kinds of [high-wage] jobs, rather than to jobs in general, is a hallmark of transit-oriented metro areas...that perhaps easy transit access to high-wage jobs draws 'choice' riders out of cars and onto transit. Meanwhile, leisure jobs clustered around transit stations could be a proxy for '24-hour' mixed-use urban neighborhoods that draw transit riders throughout the day." Additionally, Chung notes that "the only design factor that seemed to have a significant effect on ridership was whether the route is grade-separated (in a tunnel or on a viaduct). In isolation, transit speed, frequency, or reliability did not have significant impacts, but the great advantage of grade-separated routes is that they can run quickly and reliably through high-density areas."

Chung adds, "The Berkeley researchers’ goal was to create an easy-to-use ridership forecasting model, built with data collected from finished projects across the country, that can help planners evaluate both individual transit routes and systemwide changes." The research team has provided a handy Excel file that can be used to predict riderships and cost estimates.

Thursday, July 10, 2014 in Streetsblog USA

stack of books

Planetizen’s Top Planning Books of 2023

The world is changing, and planning with it.

November 24, 2023 - Planetizen Team

Close-up of 'Red Line Subway Entry' sign with Braille below and train logo above text in Chicago, Illinois.

Chicago Red Line Extension Could Transform the South Side

The city’s transit agency is undertaking its biggest expansion ever to finally bring rail to the South Side.

November 24, 2023 - The Architect's Newspaper

Diagram of visibility at urban intersection.

How ‘Daylighting’ Intersections Can Save Lives

Eliminating visual obstructions can make intersections safer for all users.

November 27, 2023 - Strong Towns

People walking on paved path in green city park with trees and tall city skyscrapers in background.

Green Spaces Benefit Neighborhoods—When Residents can Reach Them

A study comparing green space and walkability scores found that, without effective access to local parks, residents of greener neighborhoods don’t reap the health benefits.

December 3 - American Heart Association News

Aerial view of Eugene, Oregon at dusk with mountains in background.

Eugene Ends Parking Minimums

In a move that complies with a state law aimed at reducing transportation emissions, Eugene amended its parking rules to eliminate minimum requirements and set maximum parking lot sizes.

December 3 - NBC 16

White, blue, and red Chicago transit bus at an urban bus station with shelter.

Chicago Announces ‘Better Streets for Buses’ Plan

The plan establishes a ‘toolkit’ of improvements to make the bus riding experience more reliable, comfortable, and accessible.

December 3 - City of Chicago

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

"Rethinking Commuter Rail" podcast & Intercity Bus E-News

Chaddick Institute at DePaul University

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.