In contrast to the mismanagement highlighted in the last few posts, there’s a set of best industry practices for good transit. Here is a list of what I believe are the most salient. As far as possible I’ve avoided contentious issues that well-run agencies disagree on. By its nature, the list is open, and you should feel free to comment with your own ideas of what’s more important.
1. Regions should organize regionwide transport associations (the German Verkehrsverbund) with integrated fares and schedules, even across political boundaries. One ticket should be valid on all trips, and transfers should be free even across different operators. Bus and rail schedules should coordinate to minimize transfer time; rail-rail transfers should be cross-platform when possible and timed when possible, even if frequency is high.
2. Schedules should be organized on simple clockface intervals (Takt): instead of complex timetables, the same pattern should repeat every half hour or hour, and should be compressible to a system map. Supplemental peak services should be integrated into the same takt, for example arriving at the half-points or maybe third-points if the peak is very prominent. Minimum off-peak frequency for regional branch lines is hourly; for commuter rail and anything else intended to serve as suburban transit, it’s half-hourly; for urban services, it’s 15 or at worst 20 minutes.
3. If express service is desired, it should be limited-stop and make stops at all major stations, rather than running very long nonstop segments. For a good example, go here and click on the interval timetable links. In addition, the express buses and trains should run on their own clockface schedule, and express trains should have timed transfers to maximize utility and overtakes to minimize the amount of four-tracking required. The practice on Metro-North and other legacy US railroads of having peak commuter trains make a small number of suburban stops and then run nonstop to the CBD should end; not everyone works in the CBD.
4. Boarding should be level. For regional rail, this means at least moderately high platforms are non-negotiable. For surface transit, this means low-floor equipment; high-floor BRT is a feature in Latin America, where it’s a lower-cost replacement for a subway, but in developed countries, the cost of paying so many bus drivers is such that BRT is a replacement for local buses and should be open with many curb stops in outlying areas.
5. All payment should be done on a proof-of-payment basis. Any vehicle, no matter how long, should have at most one employee on board, operating it. The fare should be enforced with random inspections; it pains me to have to say it, but the inspectors should never hold a bus during inspections. This should be done systemwide, even on local buses, as is normal in Paris, Singapore, and every German-speaking city; turnstiles are only worth it on extremely busy trains (nothing in the US outside New York) and maybe also legacy subways that already have them. To discourage fare dodging, there should be a large unlimited monthly discount, as well as unlimited 6-month or annual tickets, so that most riders will be prepaid; the unlimited monthly pass should cost about 30 times as much as a single ride even with multi-ride discounts.
6. Intermediate-grade surface transit – i.e. the BRT and light rail lines providing service quality higher than a local bus and lower than rapid transit – should run in dedicated lanes, except perhaps on outer branches. Bus lanes should be physically separated, and tram lanes could even be put in a grassy median. Except for special cases where one side of the street is much more important than the other, in which case one-way pairs may be defensible, those dedicated lanes should be in the median of a two-way street, when street width permits it, which it does everywhere in the US except the North End of Boston and Lower Manhattan.
7. Intermodal transfers should be painless. Commuter trains should run through from one side of the region to the other, to allow for efficient suburb-to-suburb travel, and the infrastructure should be upgraded to allow for such operations. It should be unthinkable to terminate transit short of its natural destination. Though transfers at the originating end are unavoidable, planners should still endeavor to place rapid transit stops at every walkable place the line intersects, and achieve adequate speed by running better rolling stock. (In contrast, bus stop spacing should be 400-500 meters, rather than 200-250 as is common in North America). Parking lot commuter stations should be rare; they impede reverse-peak traffic, are expensive to provide, and help ensure transit will be used only when there’s no alternative.
Any other important principles for transit, dear commenters?