Innovative concepts in public transport : 4 innovative examples


Conseil National des Transports (CNT)

This sheet has been selected and reviewed by Régis Rioufol, contributor to the CNT’s « One Road for All » initiative, coordinated by Jean-Charles POUTCHY-TIXIER and Hubert PEIGNE.

It presents 4 examples :

  • Eindhoven, the bus-train «  Phileas  »

  • Madrid, reversible axial lanes for buses and HOV

  • Manchester and Istanbul, from stagnation to commercial success

  • California : co-mobility, public transport by car

1. Eindhoven, the bus-train «  Phileas  » (Editor May 2005)1.

Phileas is an articulated and wheeled vehicle2. Its capacity is flexible and it is situated between the bus and the tramway or the tram-train. It is an intermediate mode of transport, suitable for medium-sized cities. It operates like a tramway with the characteristics of a bus operating on its own site. The guidance system is a fundamental element. The driving can be manual, as in a normal bus, semi-automatic as in a tramway (lateral guidance) or automatic (lateral and longitudinal guidance). The maximum speed for the guided vehicle is 80 km/h.

An electronic coupling in automatic mode allows to increase the capacity of the bus and to transform it into a « train-bus » without additional driver, with three or more articulated parts, as for a vehicle on rails. All wheels are steered and allow Phileas to run in a corridor as narrow as that of a streetcar, with the rear wheels following the front wheels, even on a chicane.

Phileas went into service in July 2004 in Eindhoven with 11 18 m vehicles and one 24 m vehicle with three articulated sections. Optimization of the development was planned over a one-year test period.

2. Madrid, reversible axial bus and HOV lanes (Edited June 2003)3

The Madrid example of sharing the roadway in space and time, by establishing on the medians of urban freeways an axial lane reserved for buses and, in some cases, for vehicles with at least two passengers (HOVs),4 is a particularly interesting example for the creation of High Service Level Buses and for the subsidiarity of the bus service by HOVs. It is also an interesting example for the temporal aspect of the line, since it is a line running in the direction entering the city in the morning and in the direction leaving the city in the evening.

Another interesting aspect is that on the way to the city center, the HOVs leave the dedicated lane at some point. The buses then continue on their own, on a dedicated lane, directly connected to a metro station by a bus-metro interchange.

The creation of these lanes was done on existing arterial roads without increasing the right-of-way by using the central medians. The advantage is that the buses can operate in « metro » mode, linking the most distant suburban extensions to the city center and using the expressways at high speed, while avoiding the problem of the many urban interchanges. The buses are « unhooked » at the appropriate moment by an underground hopper the width of a single lane (even if it is sometimes two-way, thanks to a variable assignment system)5 allowing the buses to switch from « metro » to « commuter » mode or vice versa.

3. Manchester and Istanbul, from slump to commercial success (Edited May 2005)6

Manchester, a city that has suffered particularly from Thatcherite policies, with its public transport system in a state of complete collapse, has recreated a high service level public transport system with a tram-train entirely entrusted to private enterprise. Financially strapped, the city had no choice but to set up a public transport service linking the two stations that would be economically efficient and could operate without any public subsidy.

The Manchester « metro-train » project was therefore launched in the period 1990-1992 by a call for tenders to private operators based on relatively simple specifications: a time slot for operation (from such and such a time), a timetable (every six minutes) and an obligation of accessibility for the disabled. On the other hand, the operator had complete freedom to set fares, with the exception of those applied to « social welfare beneficiaries », who are covered by the kingdom’s social policies.

The surface tram-train linking the two stations was put into service in 1992 and quickly became a huge success. The profit was 20 million pounds instead of the expected 7 million pounds. The project avoided the creation of new tracks for 3 million pounds. It created 200 jobs and increased Manchester’s Gross Domestic Product per capita by £70.

What can be transferred from this Manchester experience ? The implementation of a « metro »-type transport system, all on the surface, but with the timetable and accessibility of a metro, has made it possible to reduce investment and operating costs while solving a number of safety and security problems and optimizing operating costs.

In addition, since the operator is free to set operations and fares, it has also been able to implement a differentiated fare policy according to the schedule. Ticketing and a « travel card » system also made it possible to optimize operations and fares.

The city of Istanbul, for its part, used the concept of « modality » to transform its metro project into a tramway. The Istanbul metro project was blocked for financial reasons and could not have been built quickly and efficiently within a reasonable time frame in the short term. Therefore, Istanbul decided to transform its 200 metro cars into tramway cars and to install the rails on the surface. Accompanied by a « travel card » system with ticket harmonization without fare harmonization, Istanbul’s metro-tram quickly achieved a 240% profit.

4. California : co-mobility, public transport by car (Excerpts from the chapter «  California 2002, is there a city after the automobile ?", in the book by Georges AMAR [>(note) 7] (March 2004))

In Los Angeles (in 2002), 15% of trips are made by «  ridesharing  » (a trip made in co-mobility). In the United States, the basic pairing is not private car / public transport but «  drive alone / HOV  » (High Occupancy Vehicle). As soon as there is, on average, more than one occupant per vehicle). The essential modal distinction in the United States is not one of «  nature  » The essential modal distinction in the United States is not one of « nature » (car or truck) but of degree (occupancy rate equal to or greater than 1).

An observation of the operation of  ridesharing  (a process in which the HOV is the primary vehicle) is not a « natural » distinction. (the process of which the HOV is the expected result) makes it possible to understand that this is, in California, a truly original mode of transport - even if it is carried out (mainly) by means of « private vehicles ». The reason that carpooling has reached such a high level is that it is very actively controlled and managed. A public agency (initially named Commuter Computer), manages the massive databases that allow carpooling candidates to meet.

Among the incentives for carpooling, two are particularly effective: all the freeways in the L.A. metropolitan area network have «  HOL  » (High Occupancy Lanes) on all freeways in the L.A. metropolitan area. Similarly, L.A. businesses are required to provide two types of parking for their employees: onsite for « carpoolers » and at a distance from the site for « drive alone ».

The Commuter Computer agency also has the role of coordinating the network of « transportation coordinators » which, since the 1988 California Air Act, every employer with more than 150 employees (on the same site) is required to designate. The transportation coordinator must draw up an annual travel plan for his company, which is given a synthetic objective through this plan: to ensure that an indicator called AVR (Average Vehicle Ridership) is greater than or equal to 1.5. This objective is perfectly multimodal. It is accompanied by incentives and, of course, penalties if the value of 1.5 is not reached.

This shows that intermodal policy in California is largely based on a managerial and informational approach, rather than on infrastructure and fare systems.

1 Prepared with the help of the article «  Phileas, public transport of the future  » by Ruud BOUWMAN, Director of the Advanced Public Transport System in the Netherlands, published in TEC - Transport Environnement Circulation - n° 184 of October - December 2004.

2 The general look of Phileas is close to that of the Civis tram-bus, but with three articulated bodies instead of two.

3 Documents «  Calzada reversible para autobuses y vehiculos de alta ocupación (VAO)  » provided by the Spanish «  Ministerio de Fomento ".

4 HOV: High Occupancy Vehicle, i.e. vehicle occupied by at least two persons including the driver.

5 Note that a system of bus lanes with mobile signs has also been implemented in Barcelona, also integrating off-peak parking functions in the city.

6 Written on the basis of elements of the European PLUME project «  Planning Urban Mobility in Europe  »

7 «  Urban Mobilities. In praise of diversity and the duty to invent  », published by Editions de l’Aube.


This text is extracted from Une Voirie pour Tous - Sécurité et cohabitation sur la voie publique au-delà des conflits d’usage - Tome 2 : Exemples et Annexes au rapport du groupe de réflexion, Conseil National des Transports (CNT), 2005, published by CNT and La Documentation Française in June 2005.

Une voirie pour tous - Tome 2- pages 175-179