Planning Portal

Transport Assessment
Stage 2: Influencing Travel to the Development: Promoting public transport access

For many developments public transport, usually buses, will be the main potential alternative to the private car, since many visitors will need to travel relatively long distances and are therefore less likely to walk or cycle. Only large developments are likely to lead to the need to increase rail provision (although improving walking access, cycling links and bus links to rail stations may be required for many smaller sites).
Good location is the key to promoting public transport use, but its provision (and use) can also be encouraged through better information and awareness, good site layout, bus priority measures etc.
New developments, particularly larger ones, may provide the opportunity to modify existing public transport services or add new ones.  The aim should be to provide good quality services, which people will want to use and they need to be available when residents move into new developments, otherwise the habit of using private cars will become ingrained and the change to public transport will be more difficult to achieve. Important features include:
  • a network that serves people's travel needs effectively;
  • safe and accessible stations and stops, with easy access for people with a  mobility impairment. Inclusive Mobility provides guidance on public transport   infrastructure.
  • services which operate at suitable times and appropriate frequencies;
  • convenient and useful information for potential users; and
  • good quality vehicles and infrastructure.
To serve a site properly, public transport must serve areas from which people wish to travel to the site. A public transport travel time assessment can help establish the potential demand. Ideally services should link to centres where other public transport services can be accessed and park and ride sites.

Public transport information

Good information is essential if people are to choose to travel by public transport. Clear and easy to use timetables, route maps, and area maps are the simplest and most convenient sources. Once again Inclusive Mobility provides guidance in this area for people with a mobility or visual impairment.
Real time information can be displayed at bus stops, bus and railway stations.  Real time bus information can also be displayed in large retail developments which are open for most of the hours that buses operate.  Where a real time system is not appropriate, perhaps due to cost, timetable based information screens may be considered.

Timing of public transport services

As far as possible, services need to be co-ordinated with the activity they serve. This is particularly important for infrequent services (more than 20 minute intervals). Services that operate too late for people to get to work or cease too soon to provide access to leisure activities will not be used.

Improving access for bus users

The proposed siting of bus stops needs to be considered as early as possible to ensure that they can be positioned safely. Discussions should be held between the developer/property owner, Planning Service and Roads Service, bus operators and the police, to determine the most suitable location.
Operators may resist extra stops being placed on a route since it may slow buses and may require timetabling changes. A diversion off an existing route will also add extra journey time. If the density of a development is relatively high, a direct bus route with short walks to the final destinations becomes feasible.
Bus stops need to be as close as possible to trip generators and attractors. Bus stops should, ideally, be located:
  • to minimise walking distances, yet maximise the potential catchment areas.  Ideally, walking distances to bus stops should be shorter than that to the competing car park, and no more than 400 metres. Walking distances need to be much shorter for people with mobility impairments (e.g. sheltered housing);  
  • on pedestrian routes to and from the main bus trip generators;
  • on a road that allows a direct and, wherever possible, an un-congested bus route;
  • close to pedestrian crossing facilities;
  • on routes with easy physical access for people with mobility impairments;
  • close to junctions and on their exit sides, to facilitate passenger interchange with other buses, but without interfering with junction capacity or compromising road safety;
  • not directly in front of banks or building societies, where security vehicles need to park; and
  • away from residential and other sensitive frontages, where noise and disturbance are undesirable.
In practice, it may not be possible to meet all these criteria, in which case, priority should be given to ensuring safety and meeting the needs of people with reduced mobility.
Where buildings are set back from the road (and therefore the bus route) these must be integrated by direct footpaths. These should be well surfaced, well lit, without steep inclines or barriers, which are difficult to negotiate, and, if possible, protected from the weather. It is preferable that individuals should not have to cross major traffic flows to reach a stop.  
Developers should demonstrate that they have fully considered the needs of individuals with mobility impairments. For example, with the case above, a building set back from the road, the Planning Service may require it to be more conveniently located adjacent to the road.  This issue may also be dealt with through a safety audit.
Developers should aim to accommodate all types of bus, wherever possible, although this may not be appropriate for some residential developments. Smaller buses can gain access to places, which are not easily accessible to larger buses, such as narrow residential roads with on-street parking and highways that are affected by weight and height restrictions. However, there may be operational difficulties in ensuring that smaller vehicles are always available to serve a development.  
There is an increasing use of low floor vehicles, which provide much easier access for all passengers but particularly people with mobility impairments, older people and those with young children. The benefits of low floor vehicles can only be fully realised where these vehicles can easily pull alongside the kerb at bus stops. The installation of raised kerbs at bus stops further assists boarding and alighting.
Where potential bus use is low, or there are many small potential destinations, a “hail and ride” bus service may be suitable, in which passengers hail the bus from the footway or ask the driver to stop to set them down at any point along the route.

Bus priority and traffic management

Delays to buses resulting from congestion, either within the development or at the junctions with the surrounding road network, must be minimised. Peak period congestion in urban areas  leads to inefficient services.
Wherever possible bus priority measures should therefore be included in larger developments from the start of the design and planning process. This may involve providing bus lanes, bus-only roads or special junction designs. Bus-only links allow buses to follow a direct route through a development, while excluding other through traffic.

New or diverted bus services

A bus route through a development should be as direct as possible, with entry and exit points that fit with the surrounding network of bus routes. Destinations should be located either side of the bus route with only short walks to the bus stops. It may also be possible to provide a bus service to integrate with rail services.
The walking distance will typically be about 1.3 times the straight-line distance to the bus stop, and safe pedestrian crossing points should be supplied near each stop. However, it is better to provide bus routes that are simple and direct than to divert bus routes merely to shorten walking distances.

Access to rail services

With developments served by rail, the aim should be to provide safe, direct and convenient pedestrian and cycleroutes to and from the development, with suitable entrances and layout within the development site. Generally, people are willing to walk twice as far to or from a station than a bus stop - up to 800 m for rail compared to 400 m for bus. Cycle parking should be provided at stations.
If a new station or additional services are envisaged, early consultation with the railway operator as well as the Planning Service will be essential. Where a new station is under consideration for an existing line, the choice of possible station locations will be limited by the track layout and by railway operating issues.
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