The PROCEED project analysed 67 urban public transport systems in small and medium sized cities and developed 54 specific guidelines on how to improve urban bus transport planning and operations in such cities so as to deliver high-quality public transport (HQPT). In addition to these specific guidelines, PROCEED developed a set of 16 high level guidelines describing “tips and tricks” to help guide overall system planning and operations for HQPT. This section presents these high level guidelines; the specific guidelines are presented in the following chapters.
Recommendation 1: Build solid political support for HQPT projects.
It is important to obtain broad political consensus for HQPT to ensure that planning and service can continue even in the event of a change in local government. HQPT is a long-term project too valuable to undergo controversial discussions during election campaigns. Therefore it is important that a climate of agreement on the basic features of the public transport system be sought from all involved stakeholders including representatives of all major political parties and other important interest groups.
The city of Sint-Niklaas (Belgium) has developed strong local political support and interest in HQPT over a long period of time and this has resulted in a number of concrete achievements. See Guideline Political Marketing
Recommendation 2: Seek secure and long-term financing.
An HQPT system depends on adequate funding. Financing operating and investment costs is a long-term process.
Consequently, HQPT needs the support of
all major stakeholders and local political parties. Furthermore,
the public transport agency must always be mindful of its own responsibility for improving the cost effectiveness
and efficiency of public transport service, even if there is strong political support to cover deficits.
The Versement Transport tax system in France provides an example of a secure, long-term financing system: see Guideline Tendering of Services
Recommendation 3: Implement measures to support public transport.
High quality public transport should not be implemented in a vacuum. To be successful cities must implement measures that “push” people out of their private automobiles as well as HQPT measures that “pull” them into public transport. It is ineffective to spend large amounts of money for high-quality public transport in situations where cheap access by private cars to the city centre is available or where parking control is weak. Providing both HQPT and cheap parking will contribute to a failure of the public transport investments.
Recommendation 4: Make public transport a city planning priority.
Public transportation should be fully integrated into all levels of the city planning process. If public transport is not considered at the very beginning of an urban development activity, it may result in inefficient and high cost service. While urban development must consider many different criteria (including, e.g. available space, accessibility by car), its integration with public transport must be a high priority, and there should be a strong co-operation between urban design and transport planning sections.
Integrating land use and transport planning must be done at all levels of the planning process from area master plans to site specific detailed plans. Furthermore, it is also critical to work closely with urban planners to optimize public transport in complicated situations such as cities with a historic urban core or pedestrian shopping districts. In these cases planners must develop solutions that provide public transport stops as near to their passengers’ final destinations as possible, but without negatively impacting the urban environment.
In the new town of Almere (The Netherlands) public transport was an integral part of the plans from the very beginning of the development. See Guideline Planning objectives and levels of planning for more information.
Recommendation 5: Clearly assign public transport responsibilities to involved actors.
HQPT requires a clear assignment of responsibilities. In cases where the responsible public authority differs from the public transport operator, each player must recognize that customers are not interested in the organisational details of the transport service, but only in the quality of service. A clearly defined interface strategy towards public transport customers helps to avoid failures in service quality and/or conflicting messages being given to the customer by different organisations. See Guideline Advertising for further information on this topic.
Recommendation 6: Use best-practice ideas from other cities and operators.
It is possible to learn much from reviewing best practices. While best practice examples are not always fully transferable to other cities, regular exchange of experiences among planners and decision makers from different cities helps prevent “reinventing the wheel” or repeating the mistakes of others. Best practice ideas are especially important for critical political decisions. Studying real life examples during a site-visit may persuade decision-makers to support HQPT plans in their own cities.
The subcontractor cities and operators within the PROCEED consortium have demonstrated their commitment to follow this Recommendation by being so willing to visit and learn from others’ experiences through participating in site visits during the project. Other examples of willingness to learn from best-practice elsewhere are special-interest groups of bus operators and cities that visit foreign locations on study trips. One such group is BRT UK (consisting of UK operators, city authorities, and consultants) whose members have visited Bus Rapid Transit systems in Caen, Rouen and Nantes, Eindhoven and Haarlem in recent years. See http://www.brtuk.org
Recommendation 7: Prepare a detailed analysis of the service area.
It is critical to fully understand the urban area to prepare effective HQPT plans. This means collecting as much information on geographic distribution of inhabitants, jobs and travel attractions, travel behaviour, working centres, etc. as possible. Since travel patterns change over time a public transport network has to be adjusted regularly in order to guarantee high market penetration. See Guideline Basic Analysis for further information.
Recommendation 8: Implement quality management procedures to analyse performance.
Quality management helps public transport operators deliver the high service quality that passengers expect and helps ensure that funds spent on public transport produce the maximum effect possible. Collecting performance data, interviewing passengers and analyzing the public transport market is the basis for further improvements and changes in an urban bus system. See Guideline Monitoring of performance for further information.
Recommendation 9: Think tram, use bus.
The flexibility of a bus system is its Achilles heel, since route changes can easily result in complex network structures that are difficult for customers to understand. In contrast, frequent changes are difficult to implement in tram networks. Furthermore, tram tracks are highly visible providing strong customer orientation. Therefore, the "Think tram, use bus" process aims to design an attractive bus network by adopting major characteristics of tram systems in the planning of bus systems. These characteristics include high frequency, direct routing, dedicated lanes, co-ordinated vehicles and platforms, and prioritisation measures at intersections.
An example of where this concept has recently been introduced is Swansea (UK) which has just launched its ftr Metro system (in September 2009) using articulated tram-like buses and extensive bus priorities and bus-only roads. More information on this new network can be found at http://goftr.com/swansea/
The Guideline Network design also explains more about the concept of ‘Think tram, Use bus’, in the context of a bus service hierarchy.
Recommendation 10: Deliver high quality throughout the "package".
HQPT aims to provide a service that competes with private cars (high availability, good comfort, etc.). Therefore, public transport services must be “as good as possible” in all respects. Frequent service will not attract customers if, for instance, buses are of poor quality, dirty or badly maintained.
However, providing top-level quality and
standards in all aspects of operation is expensive and, consequently, the
goal is to balance the quality of each element so that it contributes to a
consistent quality level for the overall system (vehicles, stops, level of
service, customer information, tariff system).
Extremes should be avoided: single strategies that are too ambitious may cause financial problems and poor quality in any one element may destroy the image of the whole system.
The Fasttrack system in the Kent Thameside area (UK) is characterised by many integrated high-quality features, such as high-quality vehicles, frequent operation, high-quality stops, excellent information, easy-to-understand and fast ticketing, and an extensive network of bus-only roads. Full information can be found at http://www.go-fastrack.co.uk/
Recommendation 11: Public transport service levels should provide high availability throughout the day.
Frequency, operating times, and walking distances to transit stops are key-features of an HQPT system. Public transport service should be as frequent as possible. With short intervals (10 minutes or less) people stop using timetables and instead experience what is effectively a 'turn up and go' system.
Providing frequent service is a challenge in smaller cities. However, a standard service interval should still be fixed, since this can serve as a memorable backbone for the public transport system (‘Buses run every 15 minutes.’). Given typical travel time budgets for local trips, standard service intervals should not be lower than 30 minutes.
Operating hours should also be standardized on all bus lines serving a city. Most people prefer a ‘higher service frequency’ system (a sparse network) rather than a ‘shorter distances to stops’ system (a dense network with infrequent service). However, the best solution is always a trade-off between frequency and access time, and should especially consider the needs of elderly people and those with physical disabilities.
When fixing the level of service, it should be appreciated that demand is not infinite. If a new urban bus system has reached a certain market share with moderate standard service intervals, any improvement in frequency will contribute to a more or less linear increase of costs, whereas demand may increase by a much lower extent.
Recommendation 12: Develop integrated public transport systems.
The agency responsible for local and regional public transport service need not be the same, but both public transport systems must be closely integrated so as to appear as one seamless system. When new services are planned, serious consideration needs to be given to the assignment of tasks and the roles of other public transport modes. Integration includes a common approach to customer information, co-ordinated timetables, physical coordination (interchange points) and consistent tariff schemes.
The city of Dundee (UK) has successfully integrated operations of different bus companies, despite them being in competition. This is through developing a very strong and high-quality information system, with real-time information (including via SMS), good at-stop printed information, and very high-quality city centre on-street interchanges. See http://www.dundeetravelinfo.com/
Recommendation 13: Continuous marketing is critical for success.
The public transport industry tends to underestimate the value of marketing. However, research shows that in some cases ‘soft’ techniques, such as marketing, can be more effective in attracting new customers than 'hard' techniques, such as providing more buses or lines. An urban bus service needs continuous marketing and strong, well-designed ‘branding’ to enter and remain in the minds of potential customers and citizens. A good and positive image of the urban bus system among all citizens is a major factor in delivering success.
Many cities in France have very strong local public transport brands, which are continually being developed. There are many examples that could be quoted but one city where the website is available in English is Brest: see http://www.bibus.fr/?langueid=2.
Recommendation 14: Provide continuity in the public transport system.
A high-quality urban bus system depends on innovation and continuity. Innovation helps keep the system attractive to the users in the long-term and presents a positive image to the public. However, changes always cause a loss of system knowledge, making it harder for customers to use the system. Too many changes in a short period of time will adversely affect a system’s positive image. Therefore, service and timetable changes should be planned carefully and concentrated on one date, and all changes to the system should be widely communicated.
The bus company in Brighton (UK) is continually developing its brand and network, while maintaining continuity. Services are changed only on two specific dates each year. See its website at http://www.buses.co.uk. This also shows (in the 'Interesting Information' section of the website) how its brand has been gradually modified over the years.
Recommendation 15: Provide an attractive fare structure and an easy ticketing system.
Public transport fares are an important factor in attracting customers, especially in smaller cities since many passengers are users of public transport by choice and have discretion to use other modes or not to travel at all. Attractive fare structures can be developed for the different main user groups. When considering fare structures it is important to remember that the attractiveness of a tariff system rests not mainly on a low price strategy, but rather on easy comprehension and usability as well as on high perceived “value”. Tickets that closely fit passenger needs, and ticketing systems that allow everyone to easily obtain a ticket, help increase public transport use and effectiveness.
Recommendation 16: Carefully consider new technologies
Many different computer-based technologies are present in public transportation including: onboard devices, computer-based operation control systems, traffic light prioritisation and ticket vending machines. Some of these systems are essential, others are helpful, and still others are simply ‘nice to have’. Since each technological system involves a capital investment and continued operating costs they should never be introduced for their own sake, but must be clearly justified. Learning from best practices from other cities is especially helpful in assessing the need for new technology.