Bus stops

The design and location of bus stops helps maximize rider access and safety, and enhance safety and efficiency for all users of the transportation system.

Key characteristics




WSDOT regions

Strategy description

Well-designed and located bus stops can improve safety, reduce travel times, enhance transit speed and reliability, and improve the flow of traffic for all vehicles. Bus stops, where buses stop to pick up and drop off passengers, should be designed for universal access, to support safety and security for transit riders and other vehicles on the roadway, and to enhance transit operations.

Planning for bus stops includes:

  • Understanding travel patterns and how people access transit
  • Understanding travel markets, planned and future land use and the relationship between transit stop location and potential ridership growth
  • Understanding Federal Transit Administration requirements
  • Convenient passenger transfer to other transit routes and modes
  • Analyzing the flow of traffic, traffic volumes, and vehicle turning movements
  • Bus service speed and reliability
  • Dedicated transit lanes and bus bulbs that extend the curb into the parking lane so that buses can stop in the travel lane for passengers to board.
  • Transit passenger enhancements, including sidewalks, ramps and handrails, and bus shelters
  • Bus route optimizations and simplifications
  • Bus technologies, including computer-aided dispatch, automatic vehicle location, and transit signal priority systems
  • Traveler information systems offering transit users real-time information and mobile device access
  • Advanced fare payment options

Effective locations for bus stops help maximize rider access while enabling buses to safely and efficiently stop and then re-enter the flow of traffic. In choosing bus stop locations, a key consideration is whether the bus should stop in the lane of traffic (in-lane) or outside of the lane (pull offs). Bus stops can be located far-side (just past an intersection), near-side (just prior to an intersection), or midblock (between intersections).

Key considerations in determining bus stop locations are:

  • Access to the transit system
  • Safety and security for transit system users (and others)
  • Connectivity for different modes of transportation
  • Amount of time it takes for a bus to stop, allow people to get on and off, and re-enter the flow of traffic
  • Proximity to facilities that serve people disadvantaged and traditionally underserved populations, including people with disabilities
  • Compliance with Federal Transit Administration requirements

When to use this strategy

Well-designed and located bus stops make it easier for people to safely and securely access transit and transfer between transit routes and modes. They also affect transit speed and reliability. Agencies concerned with transportation performance gaps should consider the design and location of bus stops as a solution. They can improve access to transit, improve pedestrian and vehicle safety, reduce delays and long travel times, and maximize the value of transit service investments. This can improve the rider experience, increase travel options, and improve traffic operations for all vehicles.

The most common benefits of well-designed and located bus stops include:

  • Increased transit ridership
  • Improved safety and security for transit riders
  • Reduced travel times and increased travel time reliability for transit vehicles and potentially for all vehicles
  • Reduced fuel consumption
  • Eased congestion by reducing the number of trips for people driving alone
  • Increased mobility for disadvantaged populations

Long-term and specific benefits may include:

  • An established transit infrastructure that supports more permanent transit-oriented housing and business development
  • If successful in moving people from single-occupancy to high-occupancy vehicles, well designed and located bus stops may result in reduced congestion

What you need in order to implement

Locating and designing bus stops requires agency coordination, planning, and operations, and infrastructure.

Agency coordination needs:

  • Changes or upgrades to bus stops require collaboration with various city/county divisions, which may be numerous for routes that span jurisdictions
  • Signal operations strategies may require collaborating with various cities' traffic signal operations divisions or traffic management centers
  • Any land use strategies may require city, county, and/or state collaboration for rule-making and regulations

Planning needs:

  • Tools to understand travel demand patterns and to forecast the optimal locations for bus stops in order to serve as many people as possible

Operations & infrastructure needs:

  • Sidewalks, crosswalks, bike lanes, bus shelters, lighting, etc. enable transit riders to safely and securely access bus stops
  • Park and ride lots can provide transit accessibility to travelers in lower-density areas
  • In certain situations, infrastructure improvements associated with the design of bus stops will require right of way acquisition
  • Bus rapid transit strategies, such as prepayment of fares and dedicated right-of-way, help reduce travel times and bus service variability

About key characteristics

Location notes:

Transit operates in all locations. Its greatest potential is typically in urban areas, where higher population densities and space constraints emphasize its spatial efficiency advantages.

Cost notes:

There are a wide range of costs depending on the extent of improvements made at each location.

Technology notes:

Technology needs are highly variable, depending on the systems and components used. Lighting, security features, on-board systems and communications, fare payment systems, and signal priority systems typically require technology on vehicles, at the roadside, and at central management centers. Connection to these systems requires communications networks.

Collaboration notes:

Substantial collaboration may be necessary, including within a transit organization, with various city/county divisions for roadway improvements, traffic signal operations divisions for signal priority systems, and regional and state collaboration for rule-making and regulations.

Need or issue this strategy addresses