The placement of bus stops is a complex matter. It is important to consider passenger characteristics (eg access to the bus stop), route characteristics (eg frequency of buses), service identity or the roading environment when determining the location of individual bus stops.
Literature shows that most people will only walk around 400 metres or 5 minutes to a bus stop and that the distance they will walk depends on factors such as carrying bags, age, weather, topography, etc. The key is to try to have most households within 5 minutes walk of a bus stop. If bus stops are too far apart, people will not walk to the bus but if bus stops are too close together, the bus will have to stop often and the trip will take a long time. The spacing used must not only have regard to typical pedestrian walking distances but also to the attractiveness of the bus route as a safe, convenient and efficient way to travel.
However, currently the distance between bus stops ranges between 100 metres and 400 metres apart (usually 2-3 bus stops per kilometre), often due to changes that have occurred on different routes at different times and the lack of a coordinated policy on this. To assist bus users and drivers, it would be useful if the distance between bus stops was reasonably consistent with the type of service and location.
Criteria to consider when locating bus stops:
These criteria should all be considered when new or existing bus stops are located or reviewed. The different criteria should be balanced according to site-specific needs but Part A criteria are considered primary and Part B criteria are considered secondary.
(a) Maximise the catchment area
Bus stops should be located to maximise the catchment area surrounding that bus stop and between bus stops.
As people are only willing to walk up to around 400 meters to a bus stop (5 minutes), it is important to consider the coverage that the placement of the bus stop will allow. Where possible, bus stops should be located near to or at the intersection with a side street, to decrease the distance that bus passengers living on side streets need to walk. Other aspects to consider when maximising the catchment are walkways, parks and public spaces that give pedestrian mid block access to a wider catchment area.
The coverage of areas is also dependent on the density of bus routes. Where there are a number of bus routes close together in an area, a bus passenger will have a choice of routes to access and bus stops may be placed further apart on the individual routes, in a coordinated manner. Therefore the location of other bus routes should be considered when bus stops are being located, and the bus stops on all routes coordinated to ensure convenience for bus passengers and efficiency for the bus services.
(b) Nearby attractions and major people generators
Bus stop should be located as close as possible to all major attractions and people generators.
The major attractions, notably malls and shopping centres, are the most obvious places to locate bus stops. However there are other attractions that will also generate bus passenger demand or have a higher density of residents, and are likely to be suitable sites for bus stops. These may include:
- Rest homes, elderly persons housing
- Smaller suburban shopping areas
- Recreational activities eg park, pool
- Medical centres
- Community Centres
Additional bus stops may be required on a route where there are key attractions on or near to a bus route and these may reduce the distances between bus stops. Where possible, bus stops should be located adjacent to all main attractions or at the point on the bus route that is most convenient to give access to the attraction.
When locating a bus stop in the hill suburbs or adjacent to rivers, the reduced accessibility for bus passengers should be considered.
While the majority of Christchurch is flat, giving easier access for pedestrians, special consideration should be given to bus stops in the hill suburbs. On the hills, bus stops may need to be closer together to account for reduced "walk-ability" to the stops. Access to bus routes may also be constrained by crossing points over rivers. In this case, the bus stops should be located to maximise access according to bridges.
(d) Population density and building development style
The location of bus stops should take account for the adjacent population density and building development style.
There will be some areas where the subdivision style has caused a low density or spread out style of development, or where development is still to occur. In these situations, where a bus route is provided through the area, it is important to consider the distance between bus stops that are initially placed in order to allow for future growth but to minimise any unnecessary initial infrastructure provision. Where the demand for bus stops is uncertain a conservative approach to infrastructure provision may initially be taken to "seed" the area while minimising infrastructure costs.
(e) Distance between bus stops
The distance between bus stops should be standardised and consistent.
The distance between bus stops is an important consideration and there are different needs in different areas eg the City centre or the suburbs. The current bus stop spacing in the City Centre is around 200 meters due to the size of the blocks. Speed of service in the City Centre is less important than access to attractions. In contrast, in the suburbs speed of service becomes more important and 300-400 meters is more appropriate. On the major bus "trunk routes" (as defined by the Regional Council) into the city eg Riccarton Road, speed is most important and high frequency of service will partly compensate for the slightly longer distances to walk.
The distance between bus stops should be consistent with the surrounding land uses and desired service speed. The typical distances between bus stops in different areas of the City are:
City Centre: 200 meters
General Suburban Area: 300 meters
Major Trunk Routes: 400 meters
(f) Safety and security
Safety and security for bus passengers, residents, and road users, should be considered when locating bus stops.
Safety and security issues are particularly strong for pedestrians accessing bus stops and passengers waiting, boarding and alighting at bus stops. The area surrounding the bus stop should be considered for existing safety factors; where possible bus stops should be located near existing land uses that provide passive surveillance.
Visibility is important to ensure that pedestrian/motor vehicle conflicts are minimised. The stop location should be visible from all sides and sight lines, and should not be obstructed by trees, buildings, etc.
At night the bus stop and the area surrounding it should be adequately lit. Good lighting will help to ensure that passengers get safely on and off the bus and do not feel threatened when waiting. Lighting is also important so that the bus driver can see waiting passengers. Lighting can be very expensive to install specially at a bus stop and so the location of existing lights should be considered when placing a bus stop.
The location of bus stops when near to intersections should consider the traffic management issues involved.
The location of bus stops in relation to intersections depends on a number of factors, which include the type of intersection and the volume of traffic using the intersection.
Best practice shows that:
- Where traffic queues are long or significant volumes of general traffic turn left from an approach leg, it may be preferable to locate a bus stop on the departure rather than the approach side of an intersection,
- A bus that must turn right at an intersection may have difficulty reaching the right-hand lane of a multi-lane approach from a kerbside stop immediately prior to the intersection. In such a case, the stop would be better located on the departure rather than the approach side of an intersection,
- Road geometry and/or traffic movement requirements on a departure leg may preclude buses from stopping soon after having passed through an intersection. In these circumstances the stop would be better located on the approach rather than the departure side of an intersection, and
- At intersections where different bus routes meet, stops should be located bearing in mind walking distances and (potential) pedestrian-vehicle conflicts for transferring bus passengers.
(a) Surrounding land uses
The surrounding land uses should be considered when locating bus stops.
The type of land use and the amenity in the area and/or along the bus route may also influence the location of bus stops. For instance, in commercial areas there may be a key location that would service the surrounding development better than a number of bus stops spread throughout the area.
Some commercial and industrial businesses are more compatible with bus stops than others. Recent research work has shown that businesses that have large frontages are less likely to be adversely affected by having bus stops located outside. This is also the case with activities that have customers staying longer times rather than relying on adjacent car parks for short stay shoppers. The type of businesses in the surrounding area should be considered when bus stops are being positioned.
(b) Infrastructure and implementation
Bus stop locations should consider the need for infrastructure, the ease of implementation and the permanency of the bus stop location.
The opportunities to provide infrastructure at a bus stop should always be considered and where possible enhanced through the choice of bus stop location. While there may not be any infrastructure provided at the bus stop when it is initially established (other than regulatory signage), the ability to provide infrastructure in the future should be considered. Locations that have a wide footpath and road reserve area are more likely to be suitable for a seat or shelter in the future.
Also to be considered when placing bus stops is the level of infrastructure that may need to be provided to enable the bus stop to function. Depending on the location, there may be a need to provide a new sealed area for passengers, a cover over the dish channel, extra lighting or other associated pedestrian facilities. These may cause additional costs to the locating of the bus stop and so should be considered when looking at the area.
When infrastructure has been located at a bus stop, there has been a significant cost incurred. For this reason it is preferable to not relocate bus stops often and therefore it is important to locate the bus stop well in the first instance.
The need for the provision of infrastructure in the form of pedestrian crossing facilities should also be considered, as it is important to ensure the safety of bus passengers accessing the bus stop. Where possible bus stops should be located close to existing crossing facilities, or new facilities may need to be provided.
(c) Type of bus stop
The type of bus stop to be provided should be considered, as this may affect the location of the bus stop.
The type of the bus stop chosen for a certain area will depend on the characteristics of the area. The main choices are kerb side, bus bay, and in traffic lane.
Kerb side bus stops are common in Christchurch and are simple in design and construction. They are easy to relocate but may mean the removal of marked car parking spaces in some areas. They are best suited to suburban areas with lower traffic flows.
Bus bays are best suited to areas where there are higher traffic flows and higher traffic speeds, as they allow the bus to get easily off the road. However they may present problems for bus drivers re-entering the traffic flow. These are also more expensive to construct, require a large area of road reserve land and are difficult and expensive to relocate.
In road bus stops usually involve a kerb extension to bring the footpath out to the edge of the roadway, which will involve the removal of some parking space. These stops are very convenient for the bus passengers and drivers but cause traffic to queue behind the stopped bus. This type of bus stop also would block a marked cycle lane.
The size of the bus stop should also be considered during the location process. If the bus stop is likely to be used by a number of buses at a time, often during the day, it should be lengthened accordingly to accommodate the additional buses. The length of the marked bus stop may vary depending on whether there are driveways before or after the bus stop that can be used to allow the bus more room to pull in to/out of the bus stop. In some situations there are bus stops that are only used during certain hours or change use (eg to a taxi stand) during off peak hours.
(d) Pedestrian crossing facilities
Bus stops should be located adjacent to pedestrian crossing facilities or the provision of crossing facilities should be considered.
As passengers usually make a round trip, they will generally need to cross the road at least once at the ends of their journey. As bus stops are generally on busier roads, this causes an issue in the ability of people to cross the road safely and conveniently.
Therefore when locating a bus stop the available crossing facilities should be considered. Where possible a bus stop should be located close to existing facilities such as traffic signals, a pedestrian crossing or a pedestrian island. If there are no facilities currently provided, these may need to be considered and so the space needed to provide these should be taken into account. In planning to provide pedestrian crossing facilities associated with bus stops, the bus passenger demand and traffic volumes should be considered, to determine the n