What are the key considerations for public transport station access?

Successful urban public transport has to consider all aspects of the journey from origin to destination, from door to door. One component that has been largely neglected is access to, and egress from, rail and bus stations.

Access to mass passenger transport services at bus or rail stations (including bus rapid transit and light rail) is an important component in the overall traveller experience and key to improved patronage and sustained growth into the future.

All the potential access modes have to be assessed in any planning, design or upgrade project, including access by pedestrians, cyclists, car users such as kiss and ride, and park and ride and feeder bus and taxi services.

While there are exemplars in passenger transport station access planning practices from Europe, such as UK Network Rail, and North America (eg TCRP Report 153), there are limited guidelines available for Australian transit planners.

Station access involves the interface of a number of jurisdictions, including transit agency(s), operators, local government, road/traffic agencies, planning agencies, stakeholder groups and local communities, making for a complex collaboration.

Some transit agencies have identified priority access modes – for example BART (San Francisco Bay Area) requires pedestrian access to be the highest priority – the challenge is how to estimate future demand.

As part of recent CRC for Rail Innovation research being undertaken at The University of Queensland, a number of station and interchange guides have been evaluated.

The US TCRP Report 153 and UK Network Rail guides provide best international practice. They provide guidance on the planning process, station categorisation (based on patronage, revenue, density etc), methodology for demand estimation, and principles for enhancing access modes.

References: Network Rail (2011) Guide to Station Planning and Design.
Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) (2012) Report 153: Guidelines for Providing Access to Public Transportation Stations.

3 thoughts on “What are the key considerations for public transport station access?”

  1. It is really a no brain discussion that always seems to take a lot of energy in stakeholder agreement and disagreement around potential passenger numbers and space for such facilities. Establishing corridor priority is a very real issue between various agencies with conflicting demands and fighting the car culture is a challenge. However the network planners need to ensure that the passenger connections are in place. For the GCRT project when I live 3.5kms away from the University that students cannot get a bus directly to the university without walking halfway there and to get home takes 45mins via Southport so hence we have 5 cars. No incentive to switch modes. We work ahrd to get PT accepted to be constrained by limited allocated space or an indifference to making those passenger connections work. More questions than answers I am afraid.

  2. Yes station planners never seem to quite get it right and I suspect it has a lot to do with the trade-offs of never having a clean sheet of paper to start with, pre-existing compormises to deal with, and never having enough funds to put in the ideal solution we would really like to put in. The one area others have alluded to already but which I think is worth discussing further is the need to plan access to infrastructure for the busiest peaks, ie our stations are all but empty for a large part of the day yet are at capacity or worse at other (peak) times. A lot of our transport infrastructure access woes could be significantly reduced if we could increase smoothing of the peaks.

  3. Modal connectivity is indeed a chronic problem worldwide. In dense urban zones the general assumption seems to have been that individuals will select a single seat if not single mode journey, be it by metro, BRT, conventional bus, trolleybus or light rail / tram or shared taxi / vanpool / jitney. However the development of ICT networks and resources to serve transit riders is already making this paradigm obsolete, and the gap will only continue to grow. As fare media systems become more integrated and traveller information gets better and better, citizens are far more enabled to optimize their mobility choices as to cost, routing, time, etc. and will want seamless access across all transit modes, as well as incorporating walking, cycling or personal/shared car use including electric vehicles. It is important for transit planners thereby to incorporate physical infrastructure upgrades and enhancements to anticipate this evolving digital ecosystem. This will continue to ensure increased adoption of transit use by citizens both for regular commuting, as well as for their occasional and discretionary travel.


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