Top-Down Versus Bottom-Up Perspectives on Streetcar Priority

Priority for public transport (buses and trams/streetcars) provides passenger travel time savings, transit fleet and operational cost savings, and mode shift benefits. However, in practice transit priority implementation is constrained by political and institutional barriers. While there is much quantitative research into priority benefits, what is lacking is an understanding of how to implement transit priority policy. This paper examines the effectiveness of transit priority implementation on the Melbourne tram network. It contrasts government ‘top-down’ policies with localized ‘bottom-up’ opportunistic efforts by traffic engineers. Melbourne top-down policies include the Think Tram program and the Federal Government Disability Discrimination Act (DDA). Think Tram aimed to improve operations, but faced significant resistance from the community. Ultimately it improved run times by only around 1%. DDA provided level boarding platforms, but analysis of four example sites suggests a net tram runtime increase. Bottom-up efforts to improve tram priority have included isolated one-off treatments and the addition of priority measures to top-down DDA treatments of tram stops. Only four cases of isolated opportunistically works (bottom-up) where studied, but they decreased run by 7%-28%. Eight hybrid (top-down and bottom-up) works were also analyzed, for which scheduled run times decreased 3%. Overall results imply the compromises necessary in large top-down priority policies act to reduce benefits to trams while bottom-up localized opportunistic treatments by traffic engineers have greater benefits. Results imply that policy makers should focus their approaches to bottom-up, incremental and opportunistic priority treatments when they arise. Implications for practice and future research are discussed.

  • Supplemental Notes:
    • This paper was sponsored by TRB committee AP000 Public Transportation Group.
  • Authors:
    • Reynolds, James
    • Currie, Graham
    • Rose, Geoff
    • Cumming, Alistair
  • Conference:
  • Date: 2018


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Digital/other
  • Features: Figures; Photos; References; Tables;
  • Pagination: 12p

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01660471
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Report/Paper Numbers: 18-06428
  • Files: TRIS, TRB, ATRI
  • Created Date: Jan 8 2018 11:39AM