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Transit Basics

This page tells you a little more about how high-ridership networks look the way they do to understand the basics of bus network design.

How Do You Get Higher Ridership?

By making transit useful to many people.

Useful transit provides more access— it lets you reach more opportunities in a given amount of time.

We can maximize access by:

  • Providing high-frequency routes

  • Forming a connected network

  • Making transit reasonably reliable and fast

  • Focusing on places that are:

    • Dense​

    • Walkable

    • Nearby

    • Direct

Access - what is - 2x2 flow.png

How Should We Design the MARTA Network?

It depends.

Imagine we are designing a transit network for this fictional city. The lines are roads and the dots are people and jobs.

Places with more dots close together are dense with activity. More people want to travel to and from those places. That dense activity is concentrated along the main roads.

The buses in the image are all the resources we have to run transit.

A fictional city we have to design the transit system for

Before we can plan the routes, we must first ask: what is our goal for this city's transit system?

Network Designed for Ridership

If our goal is to get the most ridership from our system, we would concentrate transit resources where most people and jobs are close together. We can then provide high-frequency service that is very convenient and encourages people to ride transit in those areas.

Network Designed for Ridership

If our goal is to get transit coverage in as many areas as possible, we will have to spread transit resources out. Routes cannot be as frequent, and so not many people would find transit useful and convenient. However, there would be some transit coverage in as many areas as possible.

Both goals are important, but within a limited budget shifting towards one means shifting away from the other.

Where Is Ridership High Today?

One way to think about the performance of transit is to think how many people ride it relative to its cost: its productivity.


The maps here show MARTA routes serving different areas colored by their productivity for Fall 2019. You can click on each map to expand it.

This does not mean that routes with low productivity are failing! Ridership is not transit's only goal. Some routes are designed to provide transit coverage in areas which cannot support high ridership. These routes will have low productivity.

Want to Learn More?

To get more details of how transit works, the existing MARTA network, and the choices and trade-offs involved in designing transit, read the Choices Report by downloading it using the button below.

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