America’s bus stops are too close together. In many cities, it’s not uncommon to see bus stops every other block — or even closer. Given that buses spend 20% of their time at stops, reducing the overall number of stops can dramatically speed trips for riders.
TransitCenter surveys consistently find that what transit riders value above all is getting from A to B as quickly as possible. One of the simplest and most cost-effective ways to improve trip time is by extending the average distance between bus stops — otherwise known as bus stop balancing, consolidation, or optimization.
In San Francisco, SFMTA increased bus speeds 4.4% – 14% on routes by shifting stop spacing from nearly 6 stops per mile to 2.5 stops per mile. In Portland, Oregon, travel times improved 5.7% when TriMet increased stop spacing by an average of 90 feet along one of its busiest routes, according to researchers at McGill University. Bus stop balancing was cited as the “most successful action taken” to improve bus speeds by agencies surveyed in TCRP Synthesis 110, Commonsense Approaches to Improving Transit Bus Speeds.
Riders sense that bad bus stop spacing slows them down. At a series of public workshops conducted by New York City Transit, 63% of Bronx bus riders said they would prefer fewer stops.
But bus stop balancing isn’t without friction. Transit riders often feel ownership over their bus stops. Asking people to walk farther to something that used to be at their doorstep can be a tough sell. Making transit faster for more people involves trade-offs, and agency officials need to be prepared for some objections.
To minimize and overcome pushback, transit agencies across the country have found success by approaching bus stop balancing with a comprehensive campaign strategy.