Improved bus stop design in Vancouver, with pedestrian infrastructure, vegetation, bollards and other sustainability features. Bus Stop Urban Design, Kevin Jingyi Zhang.


Bus Stop Urban Design (BSUD) seeks to improve the waiting environment at bus stops through urban design techniques. Because bus stops are embedded into the neighbourhood, improvements will not only benefit the riders, but also the immediate urban realm. A more comfortable waiting environment leads to greater rider satisfaction and shorter perceived wait times, leading to higher ridership. A well designed public space may leads to greater walkability in the area and a safer environment that is more conducive towards active transportation for local residents.

The project identifies 7 major goals in designing a good bus stop: safety, thermal comfort, acoustic comfort, wind protection, visual comfort, accessibility, and integration. The goals are achieved by 9 techniques: lighting, seating and surfaces, cover, amenities, information, vegetation, traffic management, pedestrian infrastructure and bicycle infrastructure. These 9 techniques are then applied to 9 bus stops in Metro Vancouver, ranging from major exchanges to remote stops. Beyond testing the identified goals and techniques in existing settings, the design section also demonstrates that with appropriate urban design expertise, municipalities can quickly develop and visualize public space designs with low costs and widely available technology.


This research has been generously supported by the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions.

I would like to thank my supervisor, professor Maged Senbel, and my second reader, Scot Hein of City of Vancouver, for their invaluable advice throughout the entire process. I am grateful for the ongoing guidance and research tools provided by Michelle Babiuk of TransLink and professor Ronald Kellett of UBC.

In addition, I want to thank Frank Ducote, Gary Penway, and Alexander Kurnicki of the City of North Vancouver, Raymond Fung and Hans Breuer of West Vancouver, Courtney Miller of Richmond, Henry Wong of Coquitlam, Eric Vance and Kristi Smith of Port Moody for providing me with feedback on urban design issues and data for analysis. Modular bus shelter designs were iterated with insights and advice from Bita Vorell and Marco Bonaventura of TransLink.

Lastly, I thank my family and my girlfriend for their unwavering support, and the countless people I have talked to during my daily commute for their ideas and inspirations.
Figure 1.1.1: Space occupied by 28 single occupancy drivers, cyclists, and transit riders. Source: Complete Streets Canada.

1.1 Project Summary

Bus Stop Urban Design (BSUD) aims to improve the waiting environment of bus stops and their adjacent neighbourhoods through the development and application of 9 design techniques. Topics of focus include station amenities, non-vehicular access, and neighbourhood integration. It is hoped that better walking and waiting environments will lead to higher active transportation and transit mode shares, thereby reducing transportation related greenhouse gases and improving overall health.

This project contains five sections. First, the author reviews current literature on issues relating to urban design, transit, and commuter behaviour. Second, the distilled research results give rise to a set of 7 goals for urban design around transit. Third, the author identifies 9 design techniques for achieving the goals. Fourth, the author demonstrates each of the 9 techniques at a bus stop in Metro Vancouver. Fifth, the author makes recommendations for further actions and research.

1.2 Background and Rationale

According to UN reports, the urban population now amounts to 50 percent of total global population and will rise to about 75 percent by 2030 (United Nations, 2007). This poses dramatic transportation challenges for the major cities of the world. In British Columbia, half of household carbon emissions and one third of overall carbon emissions result from transportation, which consists largely of private automobile use (BC Ministry of Environment, 2008). Therefore, reducing car use can play a pivotal role in transitioning into a low carbon emissions economy. However, at the same time, we must improve transit service to ensure that mobility is not limited when car use decreases.

1.3 Focus on Design

Research Context
Project Context: Focusing on the design element of the built environment to increase transit ridership.
Regional transit ridership is affected by a variety of factors such as regional geography, metropolitan economy, population characteristics, and the built environment (Taylor, Miller, Iseki, & Fink, 2009). Subsequently, the relationship between the built environment and ridership is often broken down into the 5 D's: density of development, diversity of land uses, design of the environment, destination accessibility, and distance to transit (Ewing & Cervero, 2010). The third factor, design of the environment, is the focus of this report. Studies show strong connections between the urban realm and mode choice. A recent study commissioned by TransLink showed that 45% of residents along Main Street in Vancouver are more likely to choose transit after improvements to sidewalks and bus shelters were made in 2005 (NRG Research Group, 2010). Because riders expend a great deal of the time, energy and patience outside of buses while waiting or transferring (Taylor, Iseki, Miller, & Smart, 2007), enhanced passenger amenities are greatly valued by passengers (Jenks, 1998). Alternatively, lack of adequate design leads to commuters feeling undervalued and thereby view the waiting experience as an impediment to choosing transit (Hess, 2012; Wardman, 2001).

1.4 Trends

In most North American cities, transit mode share declined dramatically after the 1930's and have remained low since the 1970's (Taylor et al., 2009). Part of this phenomenon is caused by the domination of automobile oriented design of cities after World War II (Lillebye, 1996). Such principles made cities easy for driving, but hard for walking and cycling, which are the primary feeder modes for transit. As a result, many feel that the walk to and the wait at transit stops have become too physically and emotionally demanding compared to travelling in a private car (Wardman, Hine, & Stradling, 2001).

US Historial Transit Ridership Data
Figure 1.4.1: Annual Unlinked Transit Trips per Capita in the United States. Source: American Public Transportation Association Historical Ridership Report
However, as the recognition of the environmental impacts of transportation related GHGs have grown in recent years, many cities have initiated traffic calming and pedestrian network enhancement programs to restore the walking environment and make taking transit easier (Ewing, 2008). Although the effects of these actions are slow to be seen, most cities understand that such incremental transformations build off one another, have long term benefits, and are worth investing in (Van Dyck, Deforche, Cardon, & De Bourdeaudhuij, 2009). This report aims to contribute to this transformation.

BSUD Project Map