Transit Station Improvements

Improving Public Transit Waiting Conditions


TDM Encyclopedia

Victoria Transport Policy Institute


Updated 17 April 2015

This chapter describes ways to improve public transit stops and stations in order to make them more attractive and improve waiting conditions.




Improving Transit Station and Stops (also called transportation terminals) can increase the convenience, comfort and attractiveness of Public Transit travel, increasing transit ridership and supporting Transit Oriented Development. For a typical transit trip, 10-30% of travel time is spent waiting, and passengers tend to be particularly sensitive to the conditions where they wait. Currently, most North American transit systems have poor quality Stations and Stops, creating a major deterrent to transit travel. There are many specific ways to improve transit waiting conditions:











Table 1 lists various factors that can be considered with evaluating Transit Station and Stop Level-Of-Service. These factors can be prioritized from high to low importance, and graded from A (best) to F (worst). This can be used identify problems, establish minimal service levels, evaluate a particular Station or Stop, and to track trends.


Table 1            Transit Station and Stop Level-Of-Service Factors




Weather protection

User protected from sun and rain.

·     Bus shelters and covered platforms.

·     Shade trees and awnings.

·     Enclosed waiting rooms.

Sense of Security

Perceived threats of accidents, assault, theft or abuse.

·     Perceived transit passenger security.

·     Accidents and injuries.

·     Reported security incidents.

·     Visibility and lighting.

·     Official response to perceived risks.


Passenger comfort.

·     Seating availability and quality.

·     Space (lack of crowding).

·     Quiet (lack of excessive noise).

·     Fresh air (lack of unpleasant smells)

·     Temperature (neither too hot or cold)

·     Cleanliness of stations and nearby areas.

·     Washrooms and refreshments.


Ease and speed of station activities.

·     Ticket purchasing.

·     Baggage checking and collecting.

·     Security inspections.


Ease of reaching transit stations and stops.

·     Distance from transit stations and stops to destinations.

·     Walkability (quality of walking conditions) in areas serviced by transit.

·     Automobile Park-&-Ride availability.

·     Bicycle Parking availability.

·     Taxi service availability.

Transit-Oriented Development

Quality of development in areas near transit stations and stops.

·     Quality and density of development within 500 meters of transit stations.

·     Walkability (quality of walking conditions) in areas serviced by transit.

·     Affordability of housing within 500 meters of transit stations.

Universal design

Accommodation of diverse users including people with special needs.

·     Accessible design for stations and nearby areas.

·     Ability to carry baggage

·     Ability to accommodate people who cannot read or understand the local language.

User information

Ease of obtaining information on transit routes, schedules, fares, connections, and destinations.

·     Availability, accuracy and understandability of information at stops, stations, destinations, Internet, telephone, and transit staff.

·     Real-time transit vehicle arrival information.

·     Availability and quality of wayfinding signs, maps and other information for navigating within the station and to nearby destinations.

·     Quality of announcements.

·     Availability of information for people with special needs (audio or visual disabilities, inability to read or understand the local language, etc.).

·     Availability of pay telephones.

Courtesy and responsiveness

Courtesy with which passengers are treated.

·     How passengers are treated by transit staff.

·     Ease of filing a complaint.

·     Speed and responsiveness with which complaints are treated.


Attractiveness of transit stations and stops.

·     Attractiveness of stations and stops.

·     Attractiveness of station areas.

This table lists various factors to consider when evaluating public transit Stations and Stops.



It is generally infeasible to provide all services at every transit station and stop, but it is possible to insure that all transit stations and stops meet certain minimal levels of service (for example, that all are considered safe and accessible to users, and have basic rider information), that major stations (those where multiple routes connect or that accommodate large numbers of passengers) have full services and are well integrated into the community, and that transit station and stop improvements are considered as part of overall efforts to improve transit service and increase transit ridership.



How it is Implemented

Transit Station and Stop improvements are generally implemented by public transit agencies, often in conjunction with local governments, transportation agencies, developers and individual businesses. Stations and Stops can be integrated into the construction or redevelopment of buildings such as shopping malls and offices. In some situations, building space within Transit Stations and Stops can be leased on favorable terms to businesses such as coffee shops to provide waiting areas. Some improvements (such as real-time vehicle arrival information) are implemented by transit agencies as part of overall system enhancements. Others (such as vendors that sell refreshments and periodicals, and WiFi services) are implemented by businesses for profit, or by community groups as public amenities. Some amenities, such as bus shelters and benches, are sometimes financed through advertising.



Travel Impacts

Research indicates that travelers are particularly sensitive to waiting time, so improving public transit waiting conditions tend to increase transit ridership, particularly discretionary travelers who would otherwise drive (Kittleson & Associates 2013; Pratt 2004; Litman 2007). Improving station conditions tends to expand a rail station’s catchment area and increase transit ridership (Cascetta and Carteně 2014). Public transit waiting condition improvements tend so support Transit Oriented Development. People who live or work in such areas tend to drive significantly less and rely significantly more on alternative modes, including walking and public transportation. See Transit Evaluation, for more information on travel impacts.


Table 2            Travel Impact Summary

Travel Impact



Reduces total traffic.


Can reduce automobile use.

Reduces peak period traffic.


Tends to be attractive for commute trips.

Shifts peak to off-peak periods.


Off-peak fare discounts induce some shifts.

Shifts automobile travel to alternative modes.



Improves access, reduces the need for travel.


Can encourage higher-density, clustered land use.

Increased ridesharing.



Increased public transit.



Increased cycling.


Can support cycling.

Increased walking.


Supports pedestrian travel.

Increased Telework.



Reduced freight traffic.



Rating from 3 (very beneficial) to –3 (very harmful). A 0 indicates no impact or mixed impacts.



Benefits And Costs

Improving Transit Stations and Stops can significantly improve the quality of transit travel, providing direct benefits to users and attracting new transit riders, providing benefits including reduced traffic congestion, road and parking costs, accidents, energy consumption and pollution emissions. It helps reposition transit as a higher quality service.


Where Station Improvements are a catalyst for Transit Oriented Development it can provide indirect benefits, including Increased Property Values and improved community Livability near transit stations, and increased Economic Development. These benefits can be substantial, in some cases offsetting a significant portion of transit service public costs (Smith and Gihring, 2003).


Costs include the capital and operating expenses, and any disruptions that Stations and Stops impose on adjacent land uses.


Table 3            Benefit Summary




Congestion Reduction


Reduces automobile use on congested corridors.

Road & Parking Savings


Reduces road space and parking requirements. Buses may increase road wear costs.

Consumer Savings


Provides affordable mobility.

Transport Choice


Increases transport choice for non-drivers.

Road Safety


Tends to be safer than driving overall.

Environmental Protection


Tends to reduce air pollution.

Efficient Land Use


Tends to discourage sprawl.

Community Livability


Contributes to neighborhood livability.

Rating from 3 (very beneficial) to –3 (very harmful). A 0 indicates no impact or mixed impacts.



Equity Impacts

Transit Station improvements can significantly improve travel conditions for economically and physically disadvantaged groups.


Table 4            Equity Summary




Treats everybody equally.


Provides benefits that are valued by most groups.

Individuals bear the costs they impose.


Requires subsidies, but often less than for driving.

Progressive with respect to income.


Provides affordable mobility for lower-income people.

Benefits transportation disadvantaged.


Provides mobility for non-drivers.

Improves basic mobility.


Provides basic mobility.

Rating from 3 (very beneficial) to –3 (very harmful). A 0 indicates no impact or mixed impacts.




Transit Stations and Stops improvements can be implemented in virtually any geographic condition, including large cities, towns and rural villages. It is generally implemented by state, regional and local governments, often in conjunction with private businesses.


Table 5            Application Summary





Large urban region.


Federal government.


High-density, urban.


State/provincial government.


Medium-density, urban/suburban.


Regional government.




Municipal/local government.


Low-density, rural.


Business Associations/TMA.


Commercial center.


Individual business.


Residential neighborhood.




Resort/recreation area.


Neighborhood association.






Ratings range from 0 (not appropriate) to 3 (very appropriate).




Improved Transport Options.



Relationships With Other TDM Strategies

Transit service improvements support and are supported by most other TDM strategies, particularly Transit Oriented Development, Smart Growth, New Urbanism, Complete Streets, Bus Rapid Transit, and Nonmotorized Transportation Planning. Transit service improvements are usually more cost effective when matched with Transit Encouragement programs and incentives for motorists to reduce their driving, such as Commute Trip Reduction programs.




Transit Station and Stop improvements are generally implemented by government agencies, including transit agencies, and local planning agencies, often with state or regional funding. They sometimes require public support for additional funding. Some require business support.



Barriers To Implementation

Major barriers include inadequate funding and a lack of support, since in most communities only a minority of residents regularly use public transit.



Best Practices

The Reconnecting America Best Practices Clearinghouse ( provides recommendations for transit station and stop improvements. Transit Stations and Stops should:



Wit and Humor

Cowardice asks the question: ‘Is it safe?’

Expediency asks the question: ‘Is it politic?’

Vanity asks the question: ‘Is it popular?’

But conscience asks the question: ‘Is it right?’ And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but one must take it because one's conscience tells one what is right.

-Dr. Martin Luther King



Case Studies and Examples

For case studies and examples of many different types of successful transit improvements see the Center for Transportation Excellence (; “Light Rail Transit Success Stories” (, Pratt (1999), CIT (2001), TRB (2001) and TranSystem (2005).



Tool for Transit-Oriented Development Planning (

The Performance-Based Transit-Oriented Development Typology Guidebook created by the Center for Transit-Oriented Development is a user-friendly tool for evaluating conditions around transit stations and determining how they influence factors such as per capita vehicle ownership and travel, consumer transportation costs, public transit ridership, energy consumption and pollution emissions. It uses real performance outcomes measured at more than 3,700 existing transit station areas in 39 regions around the United States. This information gives stakeholders the ability to evaluate the performance of the transit zones in their neighborhoods.



Staples Street Bus Station (

The Corpus Christi Staples Street Bus Station offers passenger services, comfort, and a sense of safety and community, integrated with retail development. It resembles a Spanish-style civic building, with 1,500 hand-painted ceramic tiles produced through a public art project decorating the entry arch, column bases, benches, planters, light fixtures and phone booths. By making people-friendly improvements, this type of transit center is able to attract more passengers and economic activity to the area. Ridership increased notably with the consolidation of area bus stops at this one station. The station serves 14 bus routes and approximately 5,000 daily transit users.


The Corpus Christi Staples Street Bus Station offers passenger services, comfort, and a sense of safety and community.



Transit Access Research (TCRP 2009)

Research by the Transit Cooperative Research Program Based made the following conclusions concerning access to transit stations and stops:














Rutherford Station Square (

The Rutherford, New Jersey Train Station is an anchor for the town's main street. It serves as a transportation hub, with integrated bus, train and taxi service. The station’s redesign has stimulated local downtown development.



Sacramento Rail Station Improvements (

In order to improve traveler convenience and comfort that Sacramento Regional Transit, in partnership with the Capitol Area Development Authority (CADA) and the City of Sacramento, is improving light rail stations as part of a local redevelopment program. Both stations will also receive sidewalk improvements and directional signage within a 1-block radius, as well as other improvements to be constructed by the City. Below are specific improvements.


13th Street Station


16th Street Station



References And Resources For More Information


Major Desman Brown (2006), Urban Public Bus Transportation in Developing Countries: A Roadmap For Successful Planning, Desmon Brown (


CalTrans (2002), Statewide Transit-Oriented Development Study: Factors For Success in California, California Department of Transportation (


Ennio Cascetta and Armando Carteně (2014), “The Hedonic Value Of Railways Terminals. A Quantitative Analysis Of The Impact Of Stations Quality On Travellers Behaviour,” Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Volume 61, March, pp 41-52; summary at


Center for Transportation Excellence ( provide research materials, strategies and other forms of support on the benefits of public transportation.


Robert Cervero, et al. (2004), Transit-Oriented Development in the United States: Experience, Challenges, and Prospects, Transit Cooperative Research Program, Transportation Research Board (


CTOD (2010), Performance-Based Transit-Oriented Development Typology Guidebook, Center for Transit-Oriented Development (; at


KFH (2002), Arlington County Bus Stop Design Standards, Arlington County Department of Public Works (


Kittleson & Associates (2013), Transit Capacity and Quality of Service Manual – Third Edition, TCRP Web Document 165, Transit Cooperative Research Program, TRB (; at


Todd Litman (2004), Rail Transit In America: Comprehensive Evaluation of Benefits, VTPI (; .


Todd Litman (2005), Evaluating Public Transit Benefits and Costs, VTPI (;


Todd Litman (2007), Valuing Transit Service Quality Improvements, VTPI (; at A version of this paper was published in the Journal of Public Transportation, Vol. 11, No. 2, Spring 2008, pp. 43-64; at


Nelson/Nygaard (2006), Toolkit for the Assessment of Bus Stop Accessibility and Safety, ESPA, Easter Seals Project Action Clearinghouse (


NextBus ( is a private company that uses Global Positioning Systems (GPS) to provide real-time transit vehicle arrival information to passengers and managers in various North American cities.


Gloria Ohland and Shelley Poticha (2006), Street Smart: Streetcars and Cities in the Twentry-First Century, Reconnecting America ( ).


Richard H. Pratt (2004), Traveler Response to Transportation System Changes, TCRP Report B12-A, TRB (; at


Project For Public Places ( is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people create and sustain public places that build communities, with particular emphasis on Transit Oriented Development. It offers “Stations as Places” workshops which explore the basic principles of successful public spaces and successful transit stations.


PPS and Multisystems (1999), The Role of Transit Amenities and Vehicle Characteristics in Building Transit Ridership, Transit Cooperative Research Program Report 46, National Academy Press (


Reconnecting America (2008), TOD 202: Station Area Planning: How To Make Great Transit-Oriented Places,  Reconnecting America (; at


Timothy Rood (1999), Local Index of Transit Availability (LITA), Local Government Commission ( LITA is a system for rating transit service intensity, or transit availability, in various parts of a metropolitan area. LITA scores are intended to be useful to transit service planners as well as local land use planners and policymakers.


Michael Smart, Mark A. Miller and Brian D. Taylor (2009), “Transit Stops and Stations: Transit Managers’ Perspectives on Evaluating Performance,” Journal of Public Transportation, Vol. 12, No. 1, pp. 59-77; at


Jeffery J. Smith and Gihring, (2003), Financing Transit Systems Through Value Capture: An Annotated Bibliography (Previously titled: Does Public Transit Service Raise Nearby Property Values Enough To Pay For Itself Were The Value Captured?), Geonomy Society (; at


TCRP (2009), Literature Review for Providing Access to Public Transportation Stations, TCRP Web-Only Document 44, Transit Cooperative Research Program, TRB (; at


Vukan Vuchic (2005), Urban Transit: Operations, Planning and Economics, John Wiley & Sons (


Lloyd Wright (2003), “Mass Transit Options,” ( and “Bus Rapid Transit” (, modules in the Sustainable Transport: A Sourcebook for Policy-makers in Developing Cities, published by the Sustainable Urban Transport Project – Asia ( and Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Technische Zusammenarbeit ( 

This Encyclopedia is produced by the Victoria Transport Policy Institute to help improve understanding of Transportation Demand Management. It is an ongoing project. Please send us your comments and suggestions for improvement.




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