Implementation of Zürich’s Transit Priority Program

MTI Report 01-13
Mineta Transportation Institute
October 2001

Andrew Butler Nash
Ronald Sylvia, Ph.D.

from the introduction to the report:

Transit priority improvements can be defined as a wide range of techniques
designed to speed up public transit service. Speeding up transit is critical.
Customers use travel time as a critical factor in choosing a means of
transportation. The fastest transportation mode will be the top choice.
Furthermore, by speeding up transit, more service can be operated with the
same resources.
Transit priority techniques can range from simple engineering improvements
in a single location to construction of major infrastructure improvements such
as busways. In addition to physical improvements, operating changes can be
applied at the network level to provide transit priority for the entire transit
Zürich has taken a unique approach to providing transit priority. The city has
implemented relatively simple techniques throughout its transit network and
has designed and implemented more complex techniques to improve overall
network operations (for example, a citywide traffic signal control system).
Many techniques implemented in Zürich are not complicated and are relatively
inexpensive, but other cities have not implemented them to the same extent.
One reason is that providing priority to transit vehicles can mean taking road
space or traffic signal time from other vehicles. While this is often an efficient
way to allocate resources based on the number of passengers carried by transit,
it does not mean that other users will be happy. Ironically, cities where streets
are congested and people argue that there is no room to give transit special
treatment are exactly the places where providing transit with priority will have
the most benefits.
This report describes Zürich’s transit priority improvements, explains how
Zürich has been able to implement transit priority improvements, and presents
lessons from Zürich that can be used by other cities to implement transit
priority programs. Zürich faces many of the same urban problems as other
large cities, including decentralization and increasing automobile use, and
therefore these lessons should be relevant to other cities.

Download the full report from the Mineta Institute's list of publications.

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