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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Synchronizing Transit Schedules to Reduce Transfer Times and Operating Costs


Local bus operators can reduce costs and better serve their customers by matching service frequencies to those of the regional trunk lines that pass through their jurisdictions. For an entire region, trunk line and local bus operators should coordinate their schedules and the carrying capacities of their fleets. Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) are in a position to encourage this through their purse-string powers and ability to provide financial incentives. For future investments, facilities should be designed to allow quick and efficient transfers not just between the same types of vehicles (e.g. cross-platform transfers for rail systems), but also between different types of vehicles across different systems (e.g. small feeder buses and commuter rail lines).

Before implementing these changes, several issues should be considered. One, additional costs will likely be incurred for technologies that improve scheduling and for upgrading stations. Also, improved bus-rail coordination can lengthen headways, thus reducing the frequency of services. Additionally, not all local feeder bus riders are destined for trunk line stops. Thus, the benefits of coordination should be weighed against the additional waiting times experienced by those riders.

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