Effects of rural bus stops on travel time and reliability

Joel Hansson, Fredrik Pettersson-Löfstedt, Helena Svensson and Anders Wretstrand, Public transport 2021

Due to relatively low patronage levels, rural bus stops are sometimes questioned in order to improve travel time and reliability on regional bus services. Previous research into stop spacing has focused on urban areas, which means that there is a lack of knowledge regarding the effects of bus stops in regional networks, with longer distances, higher speeds, and lower passenger volumes, in general. The present study addresses this knowledge gap by analysing the effects of bus stops on a regional bus service regarding average travel times, travel time variability, and on-time performance. This is done by statistical analysis of automatic vehicle location (AVL) data, using a combination of methods previously used for analysis of rail traffic and urban bus operations. The results reveal that bus stops that are only used sporadically have a limited impact on average travel times, in general. In contrast, they are all the more influential on travel time variability, and, in turn, on on-time performance. On the studied bus service, the number of stops made have a far greater impact on travel time variability than any of the other included variables, such as the weather or traffic conditions during peak hours. However, the results suggest that rural bus stops have a much lower impact than what we define as secondary bus stops in urban areas. Consequently, by primarily focusing on bus stop consolidation in urban areas, it is possible to significantly improve service reliability without impairing rural coverage.

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