What's New in City Design

Transit Transfer Design Guides

Transit stations and stops serve as transfer points to other transit lines or modes.  Designing these transfer points to facilitate safe, predictable, efficient and legible transfers helps boost the transit. Note design also includes access to the station or stop, not just a transfer zone.

Benefits & Problems Addressed

East, fast travel using transit:  Many travelers must make connections on their journey. Easy transfers help make transit competitive with other point to point options such as driving or ridehailing.

Limit conflicts among travelers: Good design helps orchestrate multiple flows of passengers. This is particularly important when there is a motorized and non-motorized mix.

Efficient land use to shorten connections: Travelers making connections will want seamless, short transfers.  Good design focuses on providing short connections for many travelers.

Introducing new mobility options: As the list of new mobility options grows, good design needs to accommodate the planning nuances, for example autonomous vehicles and fleet electrification.

Tips & Techniques

Getting started:  Examine ridership and how many travelers on your transit system make connections. Identify the top transfer stations and collision data to set priorities, including collisions at nearby intersections. Conduct walk & ride audits of common transfers. Identify key stakeholders such as public and private transportation providers, employers, local developers, business improvement districts, and riders.

Overall goals: Overall, design should address efficient transfers, usability, access and safety.  Design should seek to maximize flow, minimize conflicts and minimize distance. Information design should support a traveler preparing for the journey, preparing for a transfer while on board, making the transfer and waiting for the second leg of the transit trip.

Customer journey and experience: Interview customers and ride the system to determine challenges and create customer journey maps for a variety of existing and potential customers.  The  customer journey typically consists of several steps: (1) Research, preparation & payment, (2) Moving and determining  the correct connection stop or station, (3) Once at the connecting  station or stop, determining when & where to make the connection, (4) Payment and boarding.

Transfer zones: The most important point in the transfer is the zone in which a rider gets off one transit mode (e.g., bike share, bus or train) and moves to board the next.

Common design challenges in transfer zones: Challenges include: (1) Jurisdictional and cross-Agency coordination, (2) Limited space & accessibility, (3) Limited budgets, (4) Maintenance, (5) Reducing visual clutter, (6) Consistency in design and wayfinding, (7) Growing number of modes including shared-use and autonomous.

Typologies:  Typologies run from simple to complex based on size, number of connected modes and transit scale. (1) sidewalk-based stop for low ridership routes (2) sidewalk-based stop for high ridership/multiple buses, (3) off-street transfer bus stop, (4) small scale station for bus, bus rapid transit and light rail, (5) transit station, (6) large intermodal transit station, (7) commuter station.

Design Audit and Checklists: In addition to a walk audit, there are several areas: (1) Data, (2)  Plan, budget and policy schedules, (3) Map of key transfer points and paths, (4)  Stakeholders and agencies, (5)  Safety and access including ADA compliance, (6) Priority improvements. The audit should look for quantitative and qualitative aspects of safety, state-of-good repair, and directness of route.  

Important design elements:  At a minimum, best practices include: (1) station identifier, (2) access ramps, (3) lighting, (4) wayfinding system and area maps, (5) time tables, (6) real time arrival information, (7) information on apps and emergency contacts, (8) sheltered seating. Recommended facility improvements also include bike facilities, pedestrian improvements, clear pick up and drop off areas for kiss and ride and ridehailing drop offs. In addition to physical design for transfer, stations and stops can include amenities for travelers as they wait. This includes Wi-Fi, rest rooms, art and other amenities.

Hot Buttons:  Transfers will always be more challenging than direct routes or auto trips. Transit ridership in some areas is declining due to pressure from ridehailing and ridesharing companies.  As such, transfer design needs to locate designated pick up and drop off areas with transit stops and stations.This, in turn, does create more pedestrian-auto conflicts that must be incorporated into design. 


Transfers Design Guide Improving Connections for a Seamless Trip: LA METRO (May 2018)

Interchange Best Practice Guidelines, Transport for London (website)