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Introduction to Transit Planning

The purpose of this course is to provide an overview of procedures and techniques for transit planning. The course will emphasize how transit planning is different than planning for other activities. Short range planning will be discussed in the context of a realistic case study based on real problems faced by transit agencies. The course will include methods to predict service costs, fleet size and scheduling considerations, ways to find areas of potential demand as well as an overview of procedures used to develop new starts for major transit investments. Course schedule and emphasis will be modified to relate to student needs.

The course will be taught by Dr. Edward Beimborn, an emeritus professor of transportation planning and engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. It is based on nearly 40 years of experience working with transit agencies and in the teaching of transit planning programs for professional training throughout the United States. The course is especially useful for those who work for planning agencies and transportation departments and those who interact with transit agencies on short range or long range problems.

Benefits and Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

At the completion of the material, students should have an understanding of the:

  • Differences between highway and transit
  • Characteristics of transit use and benefits of transit
  • Procedures for conducting a comprehensive short-term transit plan
  • Transit project development process including the development of alternatives analysis and major investment studies
  • Use of performance indicators for transit planning and management
  • Alternative technologies for public transportation
  • Principles of route location and design
  • Procedures to estimate transit demand
  • Cost analysis procedures


Course Outline/Topics

Topics Covered:

Week 1: Background Information

  • Course overview, Student introductions
  • Become familiar with online course process
  • Differences Between Highway and Transit Planning
  • Transit Benefits

Week 2: Transit Operations Planning for Operations

  • Understanding Transit Demand
  • A Profile of Public Transit Riders (from APTA)
  • Transit Planning Examples
  • Glossary of Transit Planning Terms
  • Introduction to the Belle Transit Crisis
  • Transit Operating Decisions

Week 3: Transit Route Location and Analysis

  • Transit Performance Measurement
  • Use of Performance Data
  • Transit and Geographic Information Systems – Case Studies
  • Alternatives: Strategies for Transit System Change
  • Transit Route Location

Week 4: Analysis Procedures for Operations

  • Demand Analysis for Transit Operations
  • Basic Fleet Size Relationships
  • Transit Scheduling

Week 5: Transit Demand Analysis

  • Route level Demand analysis
  • Transit demand in long range planning
  • Transit Cost Analysis

Week 6: Transit Planning for New Starts/Specialized Transit

  • During this week there is a choice of two topics, a discussion of the new starts process of FTA or a discussion of specialized services aimed at the needs of those with disabilities and/or those in rural areas with limited transportation choices.

Week 7: Land use & environmental issues, specialized transit

  • Transit and Land Use
  • Environmental Impact Assessment
  • Environmental Justice and Transportation Planning

The eighth week will be available for catch up and finishing the Belle crisis. The topics dealing with new starts or specialized transit in weeks 6 and 7 are optional.

Schedule and Objectives

Course Schedule:

The course will be offered with an on-line format over an 8 week period beginning January 25, 2016 and ending March 18. There will be opportunities for interaction by email with the instructor and other students, recorded sessions and designated call in times

Broad Objectives

  • The objective of this course is to create an understanding of public transport by students interested in professional careers in transportation.
  • Students should be able to understand differences between public transit planning, design and operations and procedures used for other modes.
  • Students should be able to understand the New starts process for planning of major fixed guideway transit systems.
  • Students should be familiar with procedures used for transit operating decisions, and for the planning of major new systems or extensions.
  • Students should be able to develop a short term transit plan through following the Belle transit Crisis case study.


Prerequisites by Topic:

  • Understanding of fundamentals of planning and transportation systems.
  • Written and Graphical skills
  • Mathematical preparation to understand basic algebraic relationships and financial analysis
  • Computer background including spreadsheet software. (understanding of geographical information systems is useful)

Dates and locations to be announced.