Transport Network Planning – Best Practice


Planning the Public Transport Networks, an Introduction to the HiTrans Guide to better public transport planning

Nicholas Low

HiTrans is short for the ‘development of principles and strategies for introducing High Quality Public Transport in medium sized cities and regions.

It is a program funded by the European Commission to promote better public transport. Five ‘Guides’ were published, the most widely used and publicly available is Guide 2 ‘Public Transport – Planning the Networks’.  [hi-trans-vol2-planning-the-networks]  It is a ‘must read and understand’ publication for all public transport planners.

This guide consolidates the experience of high quality public transport planning in cities and regions. These are places where good public transport is treated as a universal right, and where public transport is viewed as the best way of guaranteeing mobility to all at least public expense. The seminal contribution to public transport planning for the dispersed city by Melbourne transport scholar Dr Paul Mees is recognised.

The Guide covers both general principles of public transport planning and specific examples to illustrate the points it is making.

Examples of good practice include:

  • Strasbourg’s light rail system (p. 24);
  • The bus super-routes of Tyne and Wear around Newcastle UK (p.53);
  • The Zürich network (p.92);
  • Houten outside Utrecht in The Netherlands cycling and walking linked to public transport;
  • Jönköping’s Komfort project: Think Tram – Use Bus (p. 112);
  • Copenhagen’s bus network (p.114);
  • Bus-train interchange design in Germany and Sweden (pp. 129-130);
  • The direct Toronto bus route (p. 133);
  • Tram and us priority on roads in Germany and Sweden (p.134).

Some important points from the Guide are:

  • Understand the demand for public transport in terms of what users want from the public transport system.
  • Get the institutional system for planning right.
  • Travel time and service frequency are critically important to users.
  • Take account of the existing urban structure in designing an effective public transport system to serve it.
  • Make bus services as fast and routes as short as possible.
  • Make the public transport network simple to understand and simple to use. An easy to read universally available map of the network is essential.
  • Recognise the key role of transfers and interchange points from one mode of transport to another (bus to train, bus to tram, local bus to mainline bus, walk or bike to bus etc.).
  • Combine integrated planning and market competition.
  • Provide an integrated ‘pulse timetable’ for locations of low density and weak demand.