Redesigning Ottawa’s BRT System

So during the past few weeks of the Covid-19 pandemic, I’ve been fortunate to have had a lot of time to just do the things I’ve wanted to do. One thing that started to interest me was transit, specifically how we can design efficient public transit networks.

In a where time more and more people are moving back to cities, making public transit a confident primary means of transportation rather than an embarassing alternative is crucial in order to go about this development in a sustainable way.

Why?

Well, many people who own a car and use it to get around have probably, at some point in their driving lives, been annoyed with the amount of traffic they have to get through in order to get to wherever they are going.

Why so much traffic? Simply because people have places to go, and cars are viewed as the obvious way of getting there.

And so by this rationale, more people = more cars.

If we continue in this pattern, traffic is only going to get worse. And the inevitable things that follow like frustration, decreased levels of happiness, more time spent getting between places and emissions are also going to get worse.

Which is not what we want.

Luckily, many cities have some form of public transportation, so if we all just opt for that, we’ll be set.

The only thing is, most people don’t want to just exchange their car in favour of a bus pass.

Because…

Public transit is seen as nothing more than a second rate way of getting around — an alternative you would sigh and take only if you don’t have a car that could get you there first.

And these sentiments are not unfounded. They are often the result of people’s negative experiences with public transit.

  • It not being able to get you where you want to go
  • Taking 50 minutes to get somewhere that could take 15 minutes
  • Getting lost or getting on one of the millions of variations of one line
  • Having to switch lines 3 times
  • Waiting in the cold or the rain
  • Being a minute late and having to wait another 19
  • Being a minute early and still having to wait another 21

The list goes on, because let’s face it, many public transit services are not as efficient as we’d like them to be.

And ironically, the reason they have gotten to be like this is because they’ve not gotten enough investment to begin with. People treat them like second rate transit so they perform like second rate transit and so people treat them like second rate transit… it’s kind of a vicious cycle.

I live in Ottawa which is home to one such BRT (bus rapid transit) system. Over the past few weeks, I’ve taken it upon myself to try and redesign it. Not, seriously or anything, just because I was curious about the whole subject.

So, after learning as much as I could about public transit and what can make it effective, I put together a 19 line bus network which covers the city of Ottawa.

The purpose of this article is to cover the steps I took to do this.

Quick Aside: I am very much not a transit expert of any kind, and am pretty unqualified to be disseminating any kind of transit wisdom. None of the process I went over here is backed by any official procedures actual transit planners use, only by what I think is a bit of common sense and whatever I could find on the internet. I’m just a kid with a lot of time who tried to take a crack at something I’m interested in.

So, all of the lines and maps and whatnot referenced here can be found in a more comprehensive compilation here: https://www.notion.so/Routes-Stops-1e79577a97844e469850f1ef913afbd6.

Alright, let’s get to it.

The first rule of designing good public transit is pretty intuitive but somehow manages to constantly be overlooked.

Transit needs to go through density.

Transit is meant to move people, and no place in a city contains more people than it’s densest regions. Draw lines between these pockets of density and you have the basics of a good transportation system.

Ottawa’s Population Density 2016 Census

Here is a map of Ottawa’s population density according to the most recent census. The areas highlighted in dark purple are the densest. The map doesn’t have labels, but we can see that Ottawa’s most consistently dense places are

  • Centertown
  • Sandy’s Cove
  • Byward Market
  • Little Italy and Chinatown
  • West Bayshore
  • East carling
  • Vanier + New Edinburgh

There are also a couple dense spots in Nepean, Alta Vista, Greenboro and Gloucester.

Then the less dense places where there are still people living, only more spaciously in suburbs, are Nepean, Centerpoint, Bells Corners, Kanata, Orleans, Alta Vista, Westboro, most of Carling and Bayshore, Beacon Hill, Rockcliffe, Manor Park and Blackburn Hamlet.

Now, although many of these locations are suburban, or have low density suburban-like development, they are still populated — there are still people living in them that need a way to get places. And so, they should have access to at least one significant transit line.

And since we want our transit map to look more or less like our settlement pattern — hence following the density — we can draw some lines that represent the shape of the density and get something that looks like this

Follow the density

Every city has a few considerations which make things not as direct as they could be. In the case of Ottawa, that appears in the form of greenspace and a river (which otherwise, we’re super lucky to have).

So, Ottawa has a big patch of green space right in the middle (the large white hole directly under the downtown area on the map) where there are no people living. So, having transit go through there would most likely be a waste because it’s serving less people that way.

Ottawa is also split by an off shoot of the Ottawa River which borders it to the north. The offshoot runs between Vanier and centertown then down between the Glebe/Nepean and Alta Vista/Greenboro.

Although this river is pretty small when you head south, it there are also fewer bridges that go across it. So, in order to get from Nepean to Greenboro, let’s say, you can’t just take any road, you might have to detour to a specific bridge.

Looking at the map like this in it’s purest form doesn’t capture all the ways we need our network to run.

Because, taking a step back, why do people drive cars? Yes, because they are reliable and there when you need to take a trip but also because they are customizable. If you need to go from point A to B, you could more or less do that directly rather than needing to go to points C, D and E in the process.

This is often the most irritating thing about public transit: detours.

So, then, rather than the lines just following the shape of the density, they also need to be direct routes between different pockets — not always the same thing.

For instance, if we just went with this follow the density method, getting from Alta Vista to Orleans would require us going in the opposite direction through the Glebe and Centertown then in the right direction through Vanier and Gloucester.

So, dividing the map into little zones of density can make this a bit more approachable. Then, we can draw lines between those zones like so (nevermind the different colours).

Direct between zones of density

Now, we don’t need lines between every pair of zones because some groups of zones are basically colinear — they line up. In order to get from from one end of them to the other, you would end up going through all the ones in between anyway.

This is true in the case of Kanata and Orleans (at opposite ends of the city). To get from one to the other, you would end up passing through Bayshore, Carlington, Westboro, Little Italy/Chinatown, Centertown, Vanier and Gloucester. So we don’t need different lines for each pair.

Now, these two sets of lines are more or less what our transit routes should look like, however, they themselves are not roads. But, using Google Maps (we’ll be using a lot of it throughout the process), we can figure out the roads that most closely resemble this shape.

Putting them on the same map, we get

The most appropriate roads

One of the most widely praised transportation models is called the “trunk-feeder”.

What this basically entails is having a few backbone lines (called the trunks) which get people from the outskirts of the city to the interior. These lines are direct and fast — they do the heavy lifting. Then, to complement these lines are smaller, sometimes more roundabout ones which take people between these major lines and to other locations in the city. These are the feeder lines.

Right now, our map predominantly highlights roads that are capable of getting people directly from one dense place to another, making them perfect for our trunk lines.

Now, the original theory behind the trunk line is to have it connect through the city center (in this case “centertown”). So, this is where we’ll start off.

The places which are farthest away from centertown in each directions is Kanata, Barhaven, Greenboro, New Edinburgh and Orleans.

One of the best ways to get from Kanata to Centertown is through Westboro and then Little Italy. We can do this by going along Corkstown > Richmond > Wellington > Somerset > Elgin > Rideau. We’ll call this line T1.

One of the best ways to get from Barrhaven to Centertown is north through Nepean, Carlington and Westboro and then east into Little Italy. We can do this by going along Rideau > Elgin > Gladstone > Kirkland > Merivale. We’ll call this T2.

To get from Greenboro to centertown, we can go North through Alta Vista and the Glebe using Bank Street. We’ll call this T3.

To get to New Edinburgh, we can go through the byward market using King Edward > Sussex. We’ll call this T4.

Finally, to get to Orleans, we can go west through Vanier then Gloucester along Montreal > St. Joseph. We’ll call this T5.

But, since T1 and T5 are basically diametrically opposite about centertown, we’ll combine them into one route T1. Since T2 and T4 are also basically diametrically opposite about centertown, we’ll combine them into one route T2.

T2

Now, not everyone wants to travel exclusively through center town. The most notable examples of this are

  • Vanier to Alta Vista to Greenboro
  • Kanata to Nepean
  • Nepean to Alta Vista/Greenboro
  • Alta Vista to Orleans

So, we’ll introduce a couple “modified trunks” — they serve the purpose of getting people directly between areas, only not through the centertown.

The first modified trunk will go from Kanata to Nepean to Alta Vista/Greenboro to Blackburn Hamlet to Orleans along Hazelton > Robertson > Baseline > Heron > Walkley > St. Laurent > Innes. This’ll be T4.

T4

The second will go from Vanier to Alta Vista along St. Laurent — this’ll be T5.

Now, our Current T3 which just goes north and south along bank street doesn’t exit centertown another way as the other trunks do. So, we’ll combine it with our current T5 which goes north and south along St. Laurent and connect them using the east/west connection of Rideau > King Edward > St. Patrick > Beechwood.

Now T3 looks like Bank > Rideau > King Edward > St. Patrick > Beechwood > St. Laurent.

T3

Now, besides where people live making up density, where people want to go (commercial areas) also makes up density.

So, luckily, a lot of these roads that are included in the trunks and modified trunks intercept lots of restaurants, malls and other large commercial destinations.

Rideau for instance (which T1, T2 and T3 go by) has the Rideau mall, Richmond (which T1 goes on) has the bayshore shopping center and Bank (which T3 runs the length of) has many different restaurants and stores.

However, not all such locales lie on streets that are currently serviced. To find these streets that are not currently included, we can once again use google maps and zoom in to each particular neighbourhood. Handily enough, google colour coats most stores and public enterprises in yellow, so all we have to do is look for these yellow buildings that are not on the streets we have already serviced.

Doing this shows that there are many such buildings on the streets like

  • Albert
  • Alta Vista
  • Carling
  • Bronson
  • Greenbank
  • Ogilvie
  • Main
  • Smyth
  • Belfast
  • Woodruff
  • Churchill
  • Hunt Club

Since Ogilvie, Belfast and Alta Vista more or less feed into each other, we’ll connect it like so: Ogilvie > Coventry > Belfast > Trainyards > Industrial > Alta Vista. This’ll be C1.

Now, Albert eventually turns into Scott which connects to Churchill, and Churchill in turn connects to Carling. And Greenbank turns into Pinecrest which also connects to Carling. So, we’ll have our C2 line be Albert > Scott > Churchill > Carling > Pinecrest > Greenbank.

C2

Now this doesn’t totally take care of Carling — there is still a significant chunk of it left exposed. There is also another road called Old Richmond coming up from a more southern part of Kanata that has intersected the Bells Corners Suburb. What we can do here is make a C3 route going from Old Richmond > Carling > Bronson > Queen > Rideau.

But, our current T1 line starts off with Corkstown (which effectively turns into Carling) then Richmond. And our C3 line starts off with Old Richmond (which turns into Richmond) then Carling. So, instead of having two routes that switch off like this, we’ll change T1 to Corkstown > Carling > Bronson > Queen > Rideau > Montreal > Gloucester and C3 to Old Richmond > Richmond > Wellington > Somerset > Elgin > Rideau > Montreal > St. Joseph.

T1
C3

Main and Smyth also meet up, so we are going to connect them. But, since Main eventually is directed onto King Edward which goes right through the downtown area, we’ll extend it along this road until we hit Rideau. And then send it in the opposite direction along Innes to Orleans. This can be C4.

C4

And then finally, in order to deal with Huntclub we can make the C5 route which connects Huntclub to Baseline through Woodroffe > Hunt Club > Coventry.

C5

Now, Orleans and Kanata (the queen suburbs of the city, technically considered a part of Ottawa but basically little worlds of their own) have quite a few scattered commercial centers. For Kanata we can connect them up into Terry Fox > Eagleson > Terron > March.

C6

For Orleans we get C7 which goes along Jean D’Arc > Orleans > Innes > Tenth Line > St. Joseph > Trim.

The addition of these lines isn’t just good because it gets to more commercial places, it also helps service different parts of neighbourhoods we haven’t already dealt with.

Now, we need places where these busses can stop.

A good rule of thumb is that every station within ½ mile (800 meters) of a potential rider is within acceptable walking distance. Every station within ¼ mile (400 meters) of a potential rider is even better. This means that ideally, you’d have stops no more than 800 meters apart (a pedestrian exactly in the middle has two stations 400 meters away). But, having stations packed too together adds a lot of stop travel time to the bus and the other riders using it.

So, it’s a delicate tradeoff.

But, a pedestrian probably has to walk more than just along the street that the bus services, they probably have to walk along a street that is perpendicular to that street in order to get to their final destination. So, rather than spacing stops out 800 meters apart, we’ll start with 400 meters, and perhaps even go down if there are certain places that should have stops in front of them (shopping centers, community centers…).

First, we’ll definitely need stops at the spots where these trunk and commercial routes intersect. Going through the different pairings, we can easily figure out the locations and note them down as stops.

Then, to figure out all the stops in between, we’ll use our classy friend google maps! For each route, we’ll zoom into the roads and just measure out 400 meters using the scale at the bottom right of the map. After each increment of 400 meters, we’ll record the street that it intersects with.

Sometimes, these roads won’t be perfectly spaced out to 400 meters, so in these cases, we’ll just round to the nearest road. And like above, in cases where we have a dense block of stores or a recreation center (a place where people want to go), we’ll put a stop in front of it and adjust the other stops accordingly. This could mean taking an adjacent stop out if it’s really too close, moving it down a little, or just keeping it where it is.

An important thing to note is that sometimes, there won’t be an official “road” for a few hundred meters and instead just really long patches of suburbs. Sometimes, in these cases, there is a little side street/footpath leading into it. These can be seen on satellite view on google maps, and putting a bus stop in front of them is pretty legitimate because it still gets people into the suburbs — at least, it’s better than having no stop for a while.

Rather than boring you with a complete list of stops, here is an example of the C1 line.

  1. Ogilvie x Kender
  2. Ogilvie x Naskapi
  3. Ogilvie Square
  4. Ogilvie x Blair Towers
  5. Ogilvie x City Park
  6. Ogilvie x Cadboro
  7. Ogilvie x Cummings
  8. Ogilvie x Cyrville
  9. St. Laurent
  10. Coventry x Belfast
  11. Belfast x Tremblay
  12. Trainyards x Terminal
  13. Trainyards x Industrial
  14. Alta Vista x Rolland
  15. Alta Vista x Dorion
  16. Alta Vista x Hospital Link
  17. Alta Vista x Smyth
  18. Alta Vista x Crestview
  19. Alta Vista x Pleasant Park
  20. Alta Vista x Cunningham
  21. Alta Vista x Randall
  22. Alta Vista x Heron
  23. Alta Vista x Ridgemont
  24. Alta Vista x Bank

A full list of other stops can be found in the document.

So, it’s all very well to have lines that just go through density, but we also need lines that go from these areas to the suburbs — i.e. the feeder lines.

We’re going to make these based on “secluded residential areas” — i.e. residential areas that are separated from one another based on significant roads.

Here’s why we divide everything up based on significant roads. Let’s say you are a pedestrian who gets off a feeder line and is walking home. If you need to cross a significant, multi laned road or boulevard where traffic is fast and the crosswalks are spaced far apart, not only does this add a lot of time to your travel but it can be a bit nerve racking and dangerous. Especially compared to the more pedestrian friendly, sidewalk clad roads of a residential area.

Unlike the trunk lines, which we want to have going in one direction only, with feeder lines, it can go in multiple and opposite directions, so long as each time it changes directions it has intersected or comes with in walking distance of the trunk/commercial line it was once headed to before.

To make the rationale behind this clearer, let’s consider an example. Say that you have two north to south trunk lines which lie on opposite sides of a considerable neighbourhood. In order for these residents to get to those trunk lines, there has to be some east-west direction involved. But, of course, if the neighbourhood is quite large, one line going east to west isn’t going to cut it for the entire area, so you need multiple east to west lines. But, then since you have multiple east to west lines, why not connect them? For instance, by going east from one trunk and crossing the other one, going south for a bit, going west and intersecting both, going south for a bit, going east and intersecting both…

Now, of course in most neighbourhoods, unless they form a homogenous grid, you don’t want to be wasting resources mindlessly going east and west — you have to follow the density. But, the idea is that you can have one feeder line going in opposite directions at various parts as long as it intersects the trunk/commercial line it’s headed towards (or at least comes within walking distance of it) before switching directions.

So, in this case, we’re going to have a feeder line that goes through the southern part of Nepean/Centerpoint. This’ll be F1.

So, in this case, we’re going to have a feeder line that goes from Nepean and Center point to Carlington, Bayshore, Westboro, Little Italy, Centertown and the Glebe because it just so happens that the otherwise individual feeder lines connect up quite nicely. This’ll be F2.

And the reason F1 isn’t just grouped in with F2 is because the Canada Trail inconviniently separates them and so there are no good roads between them other than the already existing trunk lines.

F3 will be for Manor Park, Rockcliffe and Vanier. F4 will be for Greenboro and Alta Vista. F5 will be for Orleans. F6 for Kanata. F7 for Barrhaven and F8 for Gloucester.

Now, each of these lines will have several stops, but the ones we’re most interested in for the time being are the ones where they intersect with the trunk/commercial lines. And given where they intersect, we might need to go back and make sure that each of the trunk/commercial lines actually have stops at these spots.

Once again, the specifics can be found in the document.

So, if we were designing a transit route where busses made headways of 90 seconds (ahem, Curitiba), we wouldn’t need a specific schedule because busses would basically always be coming. However, the cost of putting that many busses on the road is high and relies on high ridership in order to be offset.

So, for the sake of this whole endeavour, we’re going to assume that we are not in such a situation (at least, not yet).

But, that doesn’t mean that we have to stick to having a bus line come only once every half hour. One of the biggest things to keep in mind when scheduling busses is that they have to be around for a person all the time, or they might as well not be. This means consistency. A bus can’t come around 7:30 on Mondays, Tuesday, Thursdays and then not until 9:00 on Wednesdays and Fridays because then a person can’t rely on that bus in order to get them from to and from work every day of the week.

Similarly, if busses come every ten minutes four out of five weekday afternoons, they should come with the same frequency on that fifth weekday. Why? Because in this way, they are more reliable for anyone who wants to ride them. People can count on the bus being there if they have to make any trip that deviates from their normal schedule.

Now, of course, busses don’t have to run with the exact same frequency the entire day. They should ride with the highest frequency when it is the most important for people to get where they need to go — i.e. rush hour.

In Ottawa, rush hour is between 7:00 and 9:00 and 3:30 and 5:30. So, between these intervals, we’ll have the trunk and commercial lines run every five minutes. In the half hour before and after rush hour, we’ll have them run every 10 minutes. Then, we’ll have them do every 15 minutes the rest of the day between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m.

Then, on the weekends, since people tend to be less active we’ll just do every 15 minutes between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m.

Now, some people might want to travel during the night — in this case, a night bus could be established like the Night Owl service in Philadelphia which has a smaller fleet that runs more infrequently and only services key areas.

Of course, an important thing to note when doing any bus line is the data. Things can be changed depending on how things go when a bus line is implemented. If a line doesn’t need to run as much earlier in the day or should run more frequently in the afternoon depending on how ridership turns out, adjustments can be made — things are in no way set in stone.

Now comes the question of where the bus will drive. On the road, yes obviously. But, what about the “bus-only lane”? The single most underrated transit invention ever.

So, we’re going to give Ottawa busses their own lane and paint it red.

Okay, well not necessarily red but paint it something bright that will distinguish it from all the other mundane asphalt lanes.

We are also going to clearly write BUS ONLY on it. But, of course this won’t prevent cars from using the lane. We could put a physical barrier between the car and bus lanes, but in cases where the bus lane is between the traffic and parking lanes this makes it impossible for cars to switch over from traffic to parking lanes.

So, you might say, just put the bus lane next to the curb and the parking lane between the bus lane and the traffic lane. Well, on the other hand, everytime people want to get in and out of their cars, they are either stepping into traffic or crossing the bus lane — not ideal.

The better thing to do, is to do something like New York City did. Use security cameras near long stretches of bus lanes and fine people who drive in the bus lane. Simple.

The other thing would be to have a center transit way with spaces for stations right between the transit way and the normal road way. The downside is that this requires effectively 6 different lanes (eight if you want car parking), and most places in Ottawa just don’t have that kind of street envelope.

So, why should busses have their own lanes? Well, public transportation has the potential to service more people than a private car. Just one bus can take 50 cars off the road. They can be more densely filled and so don’t require as much money and transportation emissions to get people from Point A to Point B.

But, at the moment, we subject busses to the same conditions as cars, perhaps even worse conditions. They sit in congestion, have to weave through lanes in order to get to a stop and wait for a break in traffic in order to get moving again. Not to mention that if their stop is in a parking lane, and cars are parked there, it makes it extremely awkward to try and let passengers on and off.

All these factors significantly undermine a bus’s reliability. Which is why people end up opting for more “reliable” private cars.

Busses service density and are by far a more equitable form of transportation than a private car, so why are they subject to worse situations? They do more for our roads, yet our roads don’t do enough in return for them.

So, we should give busses their own lane. Like we saw before, placing this lane right next to the curb is not ideal for streets with parallel parking lanes. So, it’s better to put them in between the parking lane and a car traffic lane.

So then how do pedestrians get on and off the bus? Yes, rather than having them run back and forth across the parallel parking lane, we can use something called a bus bulb. Bus bulbs are little curb extensions that extend from the sidewalk into the parking lane until they come flush with the bus only lane. This makes it easy for pedestrians to get right up close to the bus.

So, at spots where we have parallel parking along the road (mostly the downtown area), we’ll put in bus bulbs.

Even better is when the bus platform is level with the curb making for more accessible entrances.

But, you might say, what about the parking spots that this takes up?

Well, sacrificing 2–3 parking spots which can only be used by a person each for a bus that services 50 people seems reasonable. Also, perhaps we won’t even need these parking spots once we have more reliable public transit because of these dedicated parking lanes.

Now, it wouldn’t be fair to do all of this for a bus system that isn’t effective — that isn’t getting people where they need to go so don’t want to ride it. Because, then people will still use cars and that just leads to more congestion.

But, of course, we’d hope that the transit system we designed here is effective.

So, bus only lane it is.

Not every road in Ottawa is going to be able to accommodate a bus only lane — some only have two available lanes for traffic and there are some that would just get too congested, at least in the short term.

So, in determining the preliminary set of roads that can withstand having a bus only lane (taking into account the fact that the bus lane would be moving people), a traffic assessment would have to be done for each major street.

Then once those are up and running, a second, third and even fourth wave could be done. And even if not every road has a bus only lane in the end, that’s fine. As long as bus only lanes are put along roads where a bus is most likely to get stuck in copious of traffic that undermine it’s reliability, it’s a step in the right direction.

Then in the suburbs themselves, where congestion is not such a huge issue, the feeder lines don’t really need their own lane.

So, bus stations. If you’ve ridden virtually any bus line in North America, chances are you are familiar with bus stations which are nothing more than a metal pole sticking out of the ground with a plastic card affixed to the top. And while this can, on some occasions fulfill whatever aspirations we have for our bus stations, sometimes they just don’t.

Ottawa can get pretty cold in the winter, so a metal pole isn’t going to do much to shelter waiting riders from the elements. And no, this doesn’t mean that each station needs to be heated, because that’s pretty expensive. But, it does mean that each stop should in someway be sheltered. This could mean we’re downtown and the buildings nearby have overhangs or we’re out in the suburbs and we need to install something extra.

So, in the case of the suburbs or indeed any place which isn’t already protected, we should have a bus shelter. Now, I’m no designer, but it would at least look nice if these shelters were cohesive and looked nice. As in, they look like part of one nice set. This can be done simply by making each of the shelters look similar, whether or not they look exactly the same or have some kind of artistic element that ties them all together like the blue glass used at the stations in Washington.

Another thing which could be pretty cool is pay before boarding. This could be done by making the only way to get on the bus through the shelter, and making the only way through the turnstiles through pay activated turnstiles. This would mean pedestrians have to pay before getting on the bus, decreasing wait times.

And while this might not seem like a big deal, 32% of a buss’s time on the road is spent at stops, so less wait time means more efficient service.

But, since the places we’ve put in stops don’t always have space to accommodate the physical shelters, this isn’t totally realistic for every stop, and so it might be better — for the sake of consistency — not to opt for this decision.

Pay could still be done using the Presto pass — the refillable tap card that is currently used on Ottawa’s BRT.

Signage is extremely important for any kind of transit line, because they tell users where they are and where they are going.

Effective signage with in a station incorporates

  • Where the rider is now
  • Where the rider can go from here
  • When the transit is expected to come by

Where the rider is now can be most easily explained by naming the station. In this case, we’ll name it just based on the intersection it’s at.

Where the rider can go from here can be addressed using a map which highlights the lines that run through that specific station and the major locations they hit along the way. It’s also useful to include the other lines that don’t pass through the station, as of course, people might transfer from one line to another over the course of their trip.

So, for this, we’ll do two things. We’ll put a sign on the outside of the bus shelter with the stop’s name and a little marker for each line that goes through the station. Let’s just say the colours of the bus line are red, white and black (what it currently is now). We’ll represent the trunk lines with a red circle and T1, T2… written on it and the commercial lines with a red hexagon C1, C2… written on it.

Of course, a line goes both ways, so in order for the rider to be able to tell that they are going the right way, the sign should include the last stop on the line.

Putting this outside makes it easy for a rider to glace up at it as they are walking by.

Then, inside the station, we’ll put a schematic map of the system. Only, we’ll highlight the routes that specifically go through this station by tinting the other out a little bit. I’m also not a graphic designer, so here’s a rough example for the Baseline x Greenbank station.

We could also put a couple similar schematics which focus on each of the eight feeder lines.

Here, we’ll also put a a sign with the times that the bus should come through.

Alright, so just to summarize the basic steps used here,

  1. Figure out where areas of density are and connect them, both by following the shape of the density and inputing direct routes between adjacent areas.
  2. Figure out the roads that best align with these lines.
  3. Combine these roads into trunks, and add in modified trunks as needed.
  4. Identify commercial areas that are not yet serviced and add in commercial lines to connect them.
  5. Put in stops along these lines at their intersections and near walkable streets keeping in mind the 800 meter rule.
  6. Put in feeder lines which intersect secluded residential areas with these trunk/commercial lines.
  7. Schedule routes consistently but also paying attention to when demand is highest/lowest. Remember that modifications can always be made after a line is put in use.
  8. Consider putting in bus only lanes, bus bulbs and flush curbs.
  9. Bus stops should have some form of shelters and when you can, consider pay before boarding.
  10. Signage should be clear, consistent and indicate where a person is and where a person can go from each bus stop.

So, that’s my stab at redesigning the Ottawa BRT system. It’s by no means an exhaustive list of what does go into a BRT system (busses themselves, sation specifics…) but it’s definetly the outline.

Activator at The Knowledge Society | A Sandwich or Two Founder

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