Great transit brings more people to a street in less space than other modes, creating nodes of activity around stations and along routes. Designing transit streets as linear public spaces enhances both the attractiveness of transit and its ability to support healthy urbanism. Shift vehicular priority from cars to transit to unlock space for parklets, plazas, bike lanes, and sidewalk cafes.
Repurposing street space for transit can have a strong safety impact as well—research from around the world has demonstrated that rededicating lanes for exclusive transit use can reduce crashes 12–15%; other transit priority designs have reduced crashes more than 60%.
Nicolae Dudata, et al. Traffic Safety on Bus Priority Systems, WRI Ross Center (2015).
On streets of every size and context, design can directly improve transit travel time, reliability, and capacity. Major projects like dedicated transitways can substantially increase transit speeds and the total person capacity of a street. On smaller streets, fine-grained improvements like bus bulbs and signal timing combine to transform the way the street works.
Bus lanes on a major street, coupled with all-door boarding and spot improvements at three intersections, improved corridor transit travel times on average 19-23%, with negligible impact to vehicle traffic.
Eric B. Beaton, et al. Designing the Modern Multi-Modal Urban Arterial, Transportation Research Board (2014).
Streets that comprehensively prioritize transit create an upward spiral of higher ridership, better service, local economic growth, and more compact, sustainable development. Basic transit accommodations are not enough to support future growth; high-quality transit calls for efficient and comfortable stops, coordinated signals, and dedicated space. Combine these with mixed-use zoning and expanded city services to fundamentally remake a transit corridor.
Transit streets are built around safe, low-stress, and complete pedestrian and bicycling infrastructure. Transit riders are active users of the street, relying on comfortable sidewalks and bikeways—and orderly motor vehicle traffic moving at safe speeds. Intuitive travel paths and frequent opportunities to cross the street make it easy and safe for people to get to transit stops, and are essential to building ridership.
Factors like presence of bicycle and pedestrian facilities, mixed land uses, and transit stop amenities have all shown significant positive correlations with transit ridership. However, the most significant indicator to ridership is transit level of service—transit frequency, transit alternatives, and route density—at a given stop location.
Jennifer Dill, et al. Predicting Transit Ridership At The Stop Level: The Role Of Service And Urban Form. Transportation Research Board (2013).
As streets become more heavily traveled, repurposing space for transit can dramatically increase ridership, bringing more activity to the street. Investments in transit-supportive infrastructure attract new riders and reveal latent demand for better transit service. Street design powers a shift to transit, walking, and bicycling by making them the most attractive travel modes—safe, convenient, efficient, and enjoyable.
Implementing transit improvements quickly with interim materials can demonstrate the value of dedicating space to transit and can build support for broader change, while informing public discussions around street design. Use low-cost materials to change street geometry, unlocking opportunities for new types of transit service, improving walking conditions, and testing new ideas while preparing for longer-lasting capital construction.