How to Streamline Public Transportation Planning and Improve Public Transport


In your job as a planner, we know you're often fielding basic questions about public transit. We hope this Remix Primer blog series offers another resource as you educate your constituents.

Public transportation planning is a complex process that relies on strings of data and modeling to forecast future transit trends. This article examines ways to streamline the planning process and develop better public transport services.

‌Public transportation plays an essential role in maintaining a healthy, growing economy. As the population of communities around the globe continues to climb, the numerous complexities involved in developing more efficient public transit are becoming more relevant than ever before. To accommodate the demand for improved transit services, cities will need to explore innovative approaches to advance public transportation planning and transit processes. We'll share how cities can streamline public transit planning and improve the overall efficiency of public transport services.

Stages in the Public Transportation Planning Process

‌Public transit planning is an intricate, multistep process that uses collected data sets and surveys to forecast future transportation needs. Civil engineers evaluate variables such as route origination, destination, and mode of travel to determine how changes to infrastructure or transit could affect a given population.

Public transportation planning can be divided into several distinct stages:

  • First, data is gathered from a population to improve understanding of current public transit use and potential future growth.
  • Next, this data is used to construct a transportation model to simulate how various changes to transit may affect a city or state.
  • The final step of transportation planning is to examine the information generated from the model to improve the speed, accessibility, and affordability of transit systems.

Planning Process

Creating a strategic plan for public transportation starts with collecting vast amounts of data regarding travel patterns, infrastructure, and population. This data is plugged into a transportation model that uses complex algorithms to generate predictions about future public transit usage. To create a viable model, planners need to examine trip generation (the person traveling) and trip distribution (where they are going). Socio-economic factors and the environmental impact of transportation projects are also involved in planning. The complexity of transit planning requires a thorough examination of community needs and how at-risk populations are potentially affected by transportation improvements or changes to services.

Survey and Data Collection

When developing a public transportation plan, it’s necessary to gather as much information as possible regarding commuter behavior, routes, and modes of travel. It’s equally important to collect traffic volume data for understanding how particular transportation projects or road closures will affect travel patterns. Other valuable information for transit planning includes relevant demographic data of individuals in an area.

Surveys of household demographics that help with planning include:

  • Income
  • Age
  • Sex
  • Occupations

Various roadside or home interviews to learn when people travel the most and the amount of cargo they are carrying is also helpful.

Costs associated with travel are also helpful in generating a comprehensive transportation model in a city or county. For public transportation planning, knowing the number of vehicles owned in an area is also vital for determining the number of people who will use various transit services. With GIS software by Remix, users can efficiently compile all this data in a centralized and secure cloud-based platform. This software supports open data standards for improved compatibility between systems and more efficient information sharing processes.

The Transportation Model

A transportation model is a series of mathematical equations that helps planners interpret the survey information and data they’ve gathered. Output from a model provides valuable insights regarding projected demand for public transit, congestion patterns, land use, and other information that will help guide public transportation policies in a city. Under federal law, Metropolitan Planning Organizations are required to plan at least 20 years in advance, accounting for changes in population, public transit demand, or alterations to existing travel infrastructure.

Since transportation models involve complex calculations, leveraging technology has become an integral component of effective public transportation planning.

Trip Generation

When creating an accurate model for public transit planning, it’s essential to know the amount of expected travel an area will generate. To do this, planners must know the number of workers or students in a population. Data regarding trip generation helps planners forecast the usage of public transit starting at home and ending at a workplace or a school. Trip generation also considers the number of expected trips originating or ending at a location outside the home. Statistical regression equations are relied upon to calculate this data and ultimately project the number of public transit trips to or from a particular community.

Trip Distribution

Understanding trip distribution is the final component to creating a transportation model. Trip distribution relates to the destinations of commuters and the purpose of their travel. Again, mathematical equations are needed to determine demand in an area compared to the availability of transit options in a selected area. Trip distribution data assists planners in identifying zones where public transportation expansion is needed to accommodate growing needs. The Remix platform for public transit planning makes building a transportation model an intuitive and engaging process. With Remix, it’s easy to convert complex data sets like trip distribution into a simple and straightforward format.‌

Final Thoughts

For many commuters, having access to reliable and efficient public transit is imperative. In a 2014 study, researchers found that individuals who make less than 30k a year are most reliant on public transportation for their daily needs. Improving transit capacity and accessibility contributes directly to supporting the mobility of those who need help the most. Enhancing transit planning and implementation is critical to creating more inclusive and equitable communities across the country.

Leveraging technology can help cities streamline transportation planning processes and deliver more effective transit for their population. With the help of a transportation planning platform like Remix, it’s less challenging to transform complex data streams into better public transit policies. For those interested in expanding the scope and reach of public transportation, the Remix platform is a valuable tool that allows users to gain an in-depth view of how transit operates today and how it can be improved going forward.