If commencing a HQPT urban bus network, or radically redesigning an existing network, carefully analyse the local conditions and the local travel demand patterns to ensure realistic estimations of the expected travel demand potential.
Basic analysis of a city or town’s local conditions aims at objectively assessing the economic and financial impacts of intended service improvements in public transport. This enables a city council’s political decisions to be soundly based.
In the case of smaller cities (approx. 25,000 – 75,000 inhabitants), it should be checked carefully whether the municipality provides all the necessary prerequisites for a high-quality urban bus system, considering its location, size, population density and the concentration of the town centre. For example, small towns as part of a greater conglomeration may have travel demand patterns with a high share of commuting into neighbouring towns, resulting in a low share of local trips, which can be targeted by a local bus service.
Fields of interest to be studied before considering improvements in local public transport refer to all aspects affecting public transport demand to any extent (e.g. number and spatial distribution of inhabitants). For examples see ► Background information: Fields of interest with regard to basic analysis.
In medium-sized cities (≥ 75,000 inhabitants) transport demand modelling or other sophisticated transport engineering methods for network re-design and network optimisation are available and are usually of high benefit. On the other hand, the usage of transport modelling in small towns and cities (approx. 25,000 – 75,000 inhabitants) is rare and often not necessary.
Prior to the planning phase a local transport master plan could be set up dealing with all transport goals and modes while raising the question of how to reach the city centre (or other key area) with modes other than private cars. While an integrated local transport master plan covering all modes of transportation might exceed the requirements of smaller towns in terms of costs and complexity, the approach is recommended at least for medium-sized cities.
When starting basic analyses aiming for a HQPT system, external experts / consultants experienced in the field of urban public transport may support the decision-making process by providing the necessary studies (e.g. an initial feasibility study).
For political decisions it is essential to consider transferability, seeing best practice elsewhere. Studying real-life examples by site visits may persuade decision-makers to aim for high-quality urban public transport.
Always keep in mind the need to follow the ‘quality cycle’ (Figure 1-1). The elements of the quality cycle are: plan, act, evaluate (monitor and review) and improve.
Figure 1-1: Principle of the quality circle
The life cycle of a public transport product is not long-term, as customers’ needs change. It is therefore recommended that significant reviews of bus services be carried out on a regular basis. The size and scope of such significant reviews varies depending on the extent of changes in land-use, population and employment growth, transport policies, user lifestyles, etc., as well as on the characteristics of the continuous monitoring process. In any case, it is recommended that reviews be performed every 3 to 5 years.
Donostia-San Sebastián (Spain): The city has created an office for General Land Use Planning by restructuring several departments based on participation and coordination of various administration levels. This has led to a general mobility policy whose main aim is to limit car use.
Hasselt, Leuven, Sint-Niklaas (Belgium): The Flemish public transport operator ‘De Lijn’ aims at a certain service level appropriate to the demand level (above the basic supply level which is fixed by law), using a tool called "Netmanagement". This tool applies standardised and objective study methods to reveal new network needs.
Luzern (Switzerland): The "Zweckverband öffentlicher Verkehr Luzern " (ÖVL) (http://www.oevl.ch ) is in charge of the organising and financing of public transport services in the city and its surrounding urban areas. Three employees in ÖVL’s office run a small operations centre. One member of each municipality involved is responsible for discussing and elaborating an appropriate service for his "customers". This ensures that local knowledge, specific local needs, Origin-Destination trip patterns and planned developments are taken into account in the planning process.
Germany: Public transport master plans are required by German law. These plans usually cover medium term strategies (including analysis of local patterns, supply and demand figures as well as basic network and timetable design and financing) and should be updated every 5 years. The authority in charge is either the county or city administration (depending on the size and status of the city).
UK: As part of the evidence-base for Local Transport Plans, Local Authorities carry out Accessibility Planning, where they analyse for each town / suburb / village within their area the available access by bus and other public transport to centres of attraction (shops, hospitals etc.). These actions serve to develop strategies for improving accessibility and are one input to decisions on focussing investment in public transport.
VDV Verband Deutscher Verkehrsunternehmen (2000): Stadtbus – Mobil sein in Klein- und Mittelstädten / Mobility in small and medium-sized towns by urban bus. Düsseldorf (Germany): Alba-Fachverlag (in German with English summary)
The following overview (Table 1-1) provides examples for basic features to be studied in order to perform a basic analysis. The overview can only provide examples and give indications on what to study because data availability may differ widely between countries or even between cities within one country.
Table 1-1: Fields of interest with regard to a basic analysis (examples)
Field of interest
Major question to answer
Sources of information
How many people are living in each area of the city?
Municipal data sources (e.g. residents registration office)
Large traffic generators
Where are major work places like industrial estates, business parks, head offices of banks or other big traffic generators like hospitals, schools, high-density dwelling areas and shopping malls?
Municipal data sources, own surveying and mapping
Spatial structure of the city
Which sub-centres exist within the city? Which streets are suitable for urban buses? What are the typical distances between the city centre and residential areas / suburbs?
Municipal spatial development plan, own surveying and mapping
Development areas of the city
Where are new residential areas or business parks planned in the short-, mid- and long term?
Spatial development plan of the municipality, own surveying and mapping
Integration with neighbouring municipalities
What is the share of commuting (work, education) into neighbouring cities?
Data on commuting from traffic surveys or from national social insurance institution
Share of private purchasing budget spent locally
Do people do their shopping locally or do they travel to neighbouring municipalities?
National / regional / local statistics department
Role of tourism in the town
Are there incoming tourists (e.g. in a spa) generating additional trips on public transport?
Ratio between inhabitants and overnight stays
Quality of existing public transport services
What is the frequency and coverage of current regional lines? What role does the rail service play within the urban area?
Current timetable and network plan of public transport services
Role of ‘competing modes’
What is the share of bicycle trips, what is the availability of parking in the city centre, what is the ‘inclination’ of the local parking policy?
Local transport plan, own surveying and mapping
Financing and legal framework for urban bus services
Which is the responsible administrative body (it need not be the municipality itself, but could be a regional authority)? Which funds are available for local PT?