Create a simple and regular timetable well coordinated with other public transport.
Operational route planning is one of the three main fields of operational planning in public transport (next to vehicle allocation planning and personnel / shift planning). It includes the detailed choices of the different lines’ route, start and end, the stopping pattern, the frequency of departures and the timetable. These often need co-ordination with other lines and modes. Extra time at the end of the lines must be provided in order to adjust timings after traffic disturbances.
The timetable might vary according to the time of the day, day of the week, month and season, but here there is a trade-off between simplicity for the users, information needs, and efficiency in the use of resources (HiTrans 2006b). Simple, regular clock-face frequency services are, in general, much easier for the user to understand and consequently are more effective in growing passenger demand. A passenger does not usually care about the timetable if the headway of departure is shorter than ten minutes, but he / she has to adjust trip planning according to the timetable when the frequency is longer. Not having to care about the timetable is preferable for passengers; however, such a frequent supply may well not be realistic for the whole network in small and medium-sized cities due to efficiency reasons, but is limited to selected corridors with overlapping lines.
Operational route planning should be always the first step of the overall timetable planning procedure. After setting the interval of each line to an aspired interval (e.g. 10 minutes), the vehicles are assigned to the lines according to size and capacity (vehicle allocation planning) in relation to the actual demand level of each line. Subsequently, the personnel allocation is performed considering working time regulations and the personal wishes of drivers.
In small cities, with only one central transfer point, it is advantageous to use the ‘Rendezvous principle’ (of co-ordinated timings). That means that the timetables are co-ordinated in order to make all buses meet at the same time at the same place. This allows passengers to transfer between all routes. Furthermore, this approach contributes to a condensed system with a limited need for buses and personnel that matches the available resources and funds of smaller cities.
In cities that usespecial service routes to meet the needs of elderly and disabled persons the timetables of the service routes are often adjusted in order to make sure that all passengers have time to board and sit down safely before departure and time to stand up and alight while the bus is standing at the stop.
Other performance criteria to take into consideration when timetable planning are:
Frequency. A high frequency requires a high travel demand to make it viable. The frequency must be related to the travel demand and might therefore vary during the day or during the week. When the headway is below ten minutes, studies have shown that passengers do not care about the timetable any more. If it is possible, a headway of 10 minutes or less on trunk lines is preferable. If this is not possible, then the timetable should at least be regular so that it is easily remembered by passengers.
Operating intervals. The operating interval in minutes should be exactly divisible into 60 (e.g. 60/15 = 4). In that way the departures take place at the same minute every hour at a fixed interval. This is also called a “Stiff timetable”. Service intervals of 7.5, 15, or 30 minutes (exactly divisible into 60 and the result is a multiple of 2) makes it easier to adapt the timetable to the actual demand (adding runs during peak hours or taking out in the evening), but the general service pattern remains. Other operating intervals (e.g. 60/35 = 1.714) will result in timetables which customers cannot remember.
Operating times. Operating times should be fixed in accordance with the load curve of local demand which varies from town to town (e.g. a city with a high share of manufacturing industry has other traffic peak-hours compared to a city with many service-oriented businesses). In many countries a service pattern ranging from 0500 – 0600 to 2200 – 2400 h on weekdays, from 0600 – 0700 to 2200 – 2400 on Saturdays and 0700 – 0800 to 2200 – 2400 on Sundays has been established.
Jönköping (Sweden): The city has a number of interchange points, which are primarily meant for changes to / from the City buses. The main principle is that the regional bus timetables are set with reference to the timetables of the City buses.
Luleå (Sweden): In September 2003 a new star-shaped bus system was introduced. The bus system has a main central bus stop where all bus lines meet. When setting the timetable, the ambition was to have up to 8 bus lines meeting at the centre, in order to make it possible to change between bus lines.
Hasselt, Leuven, Sint-Niklaas (Belgium): ‘De Lijn’, the Flemish bus operator, has the legal task of organising public transport with minimum frequencies (from 5 departures/h in cities to one every 2 hours in rural areas) within fixed operation times from 0600 to 2100 (working days) and 0800 to 2300 (weekend) respectively. If the service does not match that quality, a demand-responsive bus or even a taxi can be used instead.
Helsinki (Finland): In the Finnish capital a service network is operated which includes 20 lines covering most parts of the city. The network takes into account the special needs of the elderly and disabled, the timetables of the service routes are simple, the buses and bus stops are accessible to elderly and disabled, and the buses stop at places such as convenience stores and care centres.
Graz (Austria): In Graz the ‘Jakominiplatz’ is the central ‘Rendezvous’ station of all tram lines in off-peak hours where all lines meet at the same time. The connections between the lines are guaranteed by the local dispatcher.
Schaffhausen/Neuhausen (Switzerland): The bus network consists of 6 cross-city bus routes. The main train station is the most important station. Timetables are harmonised with the trains arriving and departing in Schaffhausen.