Study of Metrobus Operations in Multimodal Corridors Completed

March 4th, 2014

New Metro study evaluates best practices for the coordination of bus service with new, street-running rail services.

What's old is new again! Capital Transit vehicles sharing the road  in 1947.

What’s old is new again! Capital Transit vehicles sharing the road in 1947.

In the Washington region, bus rapid transit (BRT), light rail transit (LRT) and streetcar (SC) systems are currently under study or construction on major transit corridors in every jurisdiction.  Each is being planned by a different agency with different sets of goals and aspirations. Most of these corridors currently are already served by Metrobus and have heavy bus ridership.  All of these projects can leave a bus planner wondering how all of these modes will work together and with the existing Metrobus system.

Some existing riders will be fully served by the new service; however, many others will require a combination of existing bus service and the new fixed route transit to reach their final destinations.  As transit professionals, the ability for our customers to navigate seamlessly though the region via transit, regardless of the mode or operator, is our ultimate goal.   Towards that end, we have been working on a set of guidelines for the operations planning of buses and new modes traveling in the same corridors.

Operations Guidelines for Metrobus in BRT, LRT and Streetcar Corridors study addresses the best way to coordinate new service modes with WMATA’s existing bus transit system (i.e., Metrobus) to optimize rider mobility and system efficiency.  We identify a wide range of operational scenarios, and guide the reader in considering how various operational decisions can help new transit modes better integrate into the regional transit network.  For example, if a streetcar and a bus line are traveling on the same corridor, rather than have both modes stop at every corner, we can work together to determine which mode works best at serving local trips in the corridor and which would work better at serving commuters traveling longer distances.

The following table gives a brief overview of the mode types and opportunities for coordination discussed in this report.

Coordination Category Streetcar   Light Rail Bus Rapid Transit
Metrobus coordination Local Metrobus MetroExtra Local Metrobus and MetroExtra
Running way coordination All vehicles can use if streetcar operates in mixed traffic.  Local buses should not use center running streetcar right of way. Ballasted track right of way cannot be used by buses.  In locations that paved right of way exist, bus services that have the same stopping pattern as Light Rail may use running way. Curb bus lanes and transitways can be used by all buses.  Median running ways cannot be used by local bus services.
Schedule coordination Coordinated headway management; can be schedule or headway based. Corridor services are not coordinated with local buses.  May be coordinated with express buses. Schedule coordination along BRT running ways will be based on individual running way characteristics.
Fare collection coordination Feasible – requires coordination. Feasible – requires coordination. Feasible – requires coordination.
Customer Information Should be coordinated. Should be coordinated. Should be coordinated.

These guidelines are designed to give planners the tools they need to identify operational choices and coordination opportunities at each stage of project development, spanning from envisioning a new service, to designing the best cross section, to selecting station locations and fare payment strategies.

Download:  WMATA Operations Guidelines for Metrobus in BRT, LRT and Streetcar Corridors (PDF, 1.5Mb)

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  1. jnb
    March 5th, 2014 at 11:10 | #1

    Especially to the question about running way coordination: were jurisdictional partners part of the discussion leading to this item: “All vehicles can use if streetcar operates in mixed traffic. Local buses should not use center running streetcar right of way”? If not, is there a process for refining this recommendation?


    • Ramona
      March 13th, 2014 at 14:32 | #2

      Local jurisdictions and operators were closely involved in all aspects of the development of these recommendations.

      The main issues with allowing local buses to use a center running way developed for a streetcar are threefold:

      1. The primary reason this recommendation is in the report is that right now, the stopping patterns for the streetcars (as planned) are wider than those for Metrobus local service; therefore, the local buses should not be using the center running way, as they would either need additional stops built that the streetcar would not use (and which then means that you have to figure out a way for the streetcars to be able to “leapfrog” a local bus that is at a bus stop that the streetcar doesn’t serve), or those local intersections would be left without transit service entirely. (Other bus services with different stopping patterns more akin to the streetcar mode are another issue entirely, as we state in other tables and parts of the report.)

      2. Depending on the design of the center running way, some may require that the streetcars themselves use left-side doors. Barring any significant redesign of the center running way to accommodate both left-side and right-side door vehicles, any buses using the center running way would then also need left-side doors – in addition to having the same stopping patterns as the streetcar service. While this is not a technical impossibility, it is not likely that a sub-fleet would be purchased for use on a specific local Metrobus route.

      3. Finally, station compatibility is always a consideration – if the platform heights (for example) are not the same, then the bus stop and the streetcar stop cannot be co-located in any event, and the efficacy of operating the local bus service along the center running way is severely compromised. (But this item is true of any bus mode using a rail right-of-way.)

  2. March 9th, 2014 at 09:24 | #3

    What does feasible fare coordination mean? Won’t all these vehicles accept Smartrip cards? Or does it refer to a transfer discount between modes?

    • Ramona
      March 13th, 2014 at 14:42 | #4

      In the context of this report, fare coordination refers the coordination of methods of fare collection (off board, on board, honor system), costs per ride and per transfer, and types of fare media accepted across multiple systems.

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