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From Bus Shelters to Transit-Oriented Development: A Literature Review of Bus Passenger Facility Planning, Siting, and Design


The recent California Supreme Court decision in Bonanno v. Central Contra Costa Transit Authority, 30 Cal. 4th 139 (2003) ruled in favor of a pedestrian who was tragically hit by a car while crossing a dangerous intersection to reach a bus stop. Although the $1.6 million verdict undoubtedly sent a chilling message to hundreds of public transit agencies that now they can be held liable for the location of their property, it reaffirms the importance of good planning, siting and design of bus passenger facilities—often a low level priority vis-à-vis other transit operation concerns. The judges’ decision underscored the significance of effective interagency coordination in enhancing safe bus service provision. The car driver was sued and bore the bulk of total liability. However, the lack of coordination between the county owning the right of way along the busy street and the public transit agency which neglected to relocate its bus stop to a safer location was what ultimately resulted in avoidable physical trauma and injury to bus patrons.

This court case brings attention to the bus stop, an often overlooked, yet fundamental component of overall safe quality transit service which provides a viable alternative to the automobile. As the Bonanno case demonstrates, bus stops and other bus passenger facilities have been treated as residual elements in a transportation system biased toward rapid automobile flow and characterized by poor speed limit enforcement. Regarding safe pedestrian access to transit facilities, the transportation system’s decision-making structure is typically balkanized among state departments, transit agencies, and local governments regarding the design, maintenance, and safety conditions of the right of way where bus stops must be located. Transit-oriented development and bus stops will remain marginal planning and urban design considerations as long as the focus remains set on rail and as long as local land-use planning and transit planning continue to be out of sync.

The current planning and design philosophy toward more livable, equitable and environmentally friendly cities expressed in several Smart Growth and New Urbanist manifestos is strongly reliant on practical transit mobility solutions. In some instances these solutions are offered as alternatives to the automobile, while in others they are complementary. Although Curitiba-inspired bus rapid transit (BRT) (Cervero 2003) is at the center of new regional design and mobility schemes like Peter Calthorpe’s “urban network” (Calthorpe 2001) as well as a nationwide flurry of light-rail based transit-oriented development (TOD) initiatives (Cura 2003), we must not forget that these transit mobility schemes are dependent on subsidiary bus feeder and pedestrian mobility networks and as well as on the “buying-in” of a large number of transit agencies and county and city departments. As of late, some progressive transit agencies have assertively advocated for transit review in local site plans and development review processes, but this is more the exception than the rule; the vast majority of bus passenger facility design and siting decisions take place divorced from the development review process. Although a literature review may be no direct remedy to this problem, a comprehensive compilation of work regarding effective bus passenger facility planning, siting, and design, that can help transit and transportation planners assess the state of the art in these rubrics is a step in this direction.


Bus passenger facilities from the bus stop and shelter to the intermodal station are vital elements of multimodal environments that contribute to people’s accessibility to places. The design and location of these facilities with respect to surrounding land uses and the modes of travel they interconnect (particularly for pedestrians and automobiles) are critical to enhancing people’s overall accessibility to the bus network, people’s transferability within the bus network and, ultimately, people’s ability to reach their desired destination.

Although traditionally the bus stop is concept­ualized as “an area where passengers wait for, board, alight, and transfer between transit units” (TCRP 1999, page 6-35), they are seldom thought of as key nodes connecting the bus service network to other mobility networks. For instance, a bus stop on a service arterial or street is a connecting node between the pedestrian network of sidewalks and the bus-service network. The bus patron must use the pedestrian network of sidewalks and paths before he or she can get to the bus stop to await bus service. Likewise, a park and ride bus transfer stop is a nodal facility connecting several mobility networks, connecting pedestrian networks (sidewalks and crossings), bicycle networks (lanes), automobile networks (roads), and the bus route network. One can think of bus stops at airports or train stations as more complex bus passenger facilities linking all of the previously mentioned networks to air and railroad mobility networks. The bus stop acting as the interface between the other mobility networks must be pedestrian accessible, ADA compliant, and must maximize the safety of riders transferring from one mode to another. As is well known and illustrated by the Bonanno case,1 public pedestrian infrastructure, chiefly built by local governments, continues to be disregarded or relegated to a low priority even in metropolitan planning organization’s (MPO) transportation enhancement programs in many American cities. At the same time, transit agencies are increasingly called to task over becoming more actively involved in the development review process and over strengthening interagency coordination to promote the provision of pedestrian, bicycle, and transit-friendly development.


This annotated bibliography assembles a large body of literature related to the planning, design and siting of bus passenger facilities. Its organizing themes were conceptualized using brainstorming and nominal group techniques. The techniques were applied during an advisory group session held in Fall 2002. Session participants represented an array of specialties from the Florida Department of Transportation, such as pedestrian and bicycle transportation and livable communities planning, transit design and demand analysis, and roadway design. Other advisers in the session included the city’s transit agency planner, transportation consultants and academics, and landscape architects. The aim of this compilation is to offer to planners and transit planners, and most particularly to those planning bus transit facilities, a variety of sources to the relevant literature concerning good bus passenger facility planning, siting and design. It is organized along the following themes.

I. Accessing BusTransit Facilities

  1. ADA Americans with Disabilities Act (1990) and Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD)
  2. Federally regulated design for: (1) accessibility for people with disabilities and (2) traffic control devices on highways, streets, bike and pedestrian ways
  3. Bicycle-oriented considerations: Integration of bicycles and transit
  4. Pedestrian-oriented considerations: Guidelines and research for pedestrian-oriented design that is transit-supportive
  5. Security and crime prevention: Crime prevention at bus stops through design and other strategies

II. Building Bus Transit Facilities

  1. Transit facility design guidelines: Guidelines and standards for transit facilities design and planning
  2. Intelligent transportation systems: Technological solutions that can increase the attractiveness and competitiveness of transit
  3. Bus passenger facilities: Bus passenger facilities profiled in research or in the media
  4. Green design considerations: Solar design and other green building techniques applicable to transit facilities.

III. TOD Transit-Oriented Development Siting and Land Use Issues

  1. TOD planning and strategies: Planning and design guidelines for transit-oriented development (TOD) and research assessing TOD effectiveness
  2. Parking and auto relationship to transit demand: Strategies for curbing automobile and parking demand that work with transit

IV. Funding and Marketing Transit

  1. Funding: Strategies that transit agencies are pursuing to identify new sources of funding
  2. Transit image marketing and community visibility: Transit image and ways to strengthen it

Each chapter presents an introduction to the annotated literature highlighting the most salient sources. In these introductions, reports which provide the most up-to-date research findings or that offer state-of-the-art reportage of current transit practice are weighted more heavily than academic articles devoted to transportation modeling techniques or still experimental approaches. A special effort was made to locate the internet address of each document and as of the date of this writing, more than fifty percent of the bibliographic entries have an accompanying active web link.

Chapter I looks at design concerns associated with non automobile access to bus passenger facilities. Chapter II focuses on transit facility guidelines breaking them down by whether they originate at the national level or at the regional or local transit agency level. It also compiles the most recent reports regarding transit agency adoption of intelligent transportation systems (ITS) and provides Internet links to website of large transfer and intermodal terminals that have been recently built or are in the process of being built. The last section in this chapter provides green design techniques that have been applied to passenger transit facilities. Chapter III presents literature concerned with strategies for the realization of transit-oriented development (TOD) through the application of transit-joint development mechanisms (TJD). This section’s annotated TOD studies and guidelines are grouped by type of author and scope into (1) national (e.g., TCRP reports), (2) state and regional (e.g., California Statewide TOD Study), (3) county, city or transit agency (e.g., San Diego’s TOD design guidelines), and (4) academic and professional studies. The last section in this chapter looks at parking management measures that work with transit. Chapter IV looks at strategies for funding transit systems, with special attention payed to small and mid-size transit agencies. It then discusses how to increase community visability and visability relationship with funding. LITERATURE SEARCH METHOD

A search was conducted in the Transportation Research Board’s (TRB) thesaurus (TRT 2002) in order to select families of words related to bus transit facilities. Each of the family of words was scrutinized to distill only those words that relate to bus and bus transit facilities. This yielded a final list of bus-related TRB key words to which a few other key words were added. These key words2 became the basis for searching the following sources and databases:

1. Transportation Research Board (TRB)

2. Transportation Cooperative Research Program (TCRP)

3. National Transportation Library (NTA)

a. NTA & Federal Transit Administration (FTA)

b. FTA National Transit Library

c. Federal Transit Administration (FTA)

d. NTA & Bureau of Transportation Statistics

4. USDOT Library On-Line: University Transportation Centers (UTC)

5. Council of University Transportation Centers

6. Northwestern Transportation Library

7. American Public Transportation Association: Bus Organizations

8. The Bus Stop: All About Buses

9. The Library of Congress

10. The FDOT Library

11. Geobase

12. First Search.

The literature on bus transit facilities culled from the above search was obtained from a variety of documents comprised of research projects, transit agency reports and guidelines, TRB and TCRP reports, funded research grant reports, books, electronic journals and published journals. In the latter category, fifty-four journals in planning, transportation, architecture, urban design and civil engineering were carefully examined for relevant literature.



Calthorpe, P. (2002). The urban network: A radical proposal. Planning, 68 (4), 11-15.

Cervero, R. (2003). Green connectors: Off-shore examples. Planning, 69 (5), 25-29.

Cura, F. (2003). Transit agencies seeing increased interest in transit-oriented and joint development. Passenger Transport, 1, 4-5.

TCRP Transit Cooperative Research Program (1999). Part 6 Glossary in Transit Capacity and Quality of Service Manual. (TCRP Web Document 6). Washington, DC: TCRP. Retrieved on Nov. 23, 2003, from publications/tcrp/tcrp_webdoc_6-a.pdf

TRT Transportation Research Thesaurus. (2002).

Transportation Research Board, Transportation

Research Information Services. Retrieved on

Nov. 23, 2003, from



1 National Public Radio’s Richard Gonzalez reporting on the case states: “to the casual observer, there is nothing remarkable about the intersection of Pacheco Boulevard and Normandy Way. This intersection sits in an industrial section of ContraCosta County, about 25 miles east of San Francisco. There’s a conve­nience store at the corner, a hardware store, and a tattoo shop nearby. But a pedestrian crossing to the north side of Pacheco Boulevard to catch a bus is clearly taking a risk. There are no traffic lights here, and of the approximately 20,000 cars that pass through here every day, many don’t appear to pay much attention to the speed limit” (NPR, Morning Edition, April 24, 2003).

2 See the glossary in Appendix A for list of key words.