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Development of Principles and Strategies for Introducing High Quality Public Transport in Medium Size Cities and Urban Regions

European Union
Complete with results
Geo-spatial type
Project Acronym
STRIA Roadmaps
Smart mobility and services (SMO)
Transport mode
Multimodal icon
Transport policies
Societal/Economic issues
Transport sectors
Passenger transport


Background & Policy context

Six cities in the EU-North Sea Region planning to implement various forms of high quality public transport in their regions (in most cases light rail/tram-train) formed the HiTrans partnership in order to obtain necessary knowledge. Medium size cities that are looking for alternatives to normal bus services rarely have the resources to adequately research the advantages and disadvantages of emerging technologies and concepts of high quality public transport, particularly as these would apply in their circumstances. HiTrans is a cooperative research effort to obtain this knowledge; to find suitable and cost effective solutions for such cities, and to learn from the best examples of relevant cities throughout the world.


To support the introduction of high quality public transport in medium cities. High quality public transport refers to cost-effective solutions like tram-train, light rail, quality bus etc. A key criterion is the ability to compete with the private car for everyday travel.


The process will go through three stages:

- Stage 1: Different concepts of public transport will be discussed and the partnership will choose the most relevant ones for further analysis.

- Stage 2: There will be five parallel strands in which the partners may choose to participate. These strands are:

  • Land use planning as a means of increasing patronage
  • Public transport as a network
  • Urban Design when introducing new infrastructure
  • Methods and tools for assessing public transport schemes and technical solutions
  • Qualities required by the Citizens

- Stage 3: The five strands will be summarised and final documents produced.


Parent Programmes
Institution Type
Public institution
Institution Name
Joint Technical Secretariats for each of the strands, respectively regions.
Type of funding
Public (EU)


Five best practice guides have been developed. These are:

  1. Public transport & land use planning 
  2. Public transport - planning the networks 
  3. Public transport & urban design 
  4. Public transport - mode options & technical solutions 
  5. Public transport - citizens' requirements.

The guides can be used by anyone working in public transport or town planning. More information about the guides can be found at the project website

It is possible to implement high quality public transport in medium sized cities (pop. 100,000-500,000). It is recommended to use the HiTrans best practice guides to find the best solutions for a city.

The introduction of high quality public transport can have profound implications for a city's urban design. It may be introduced without any thought about how it will look or its impact on people's ability to move about and enjoy the city's public spaces. On the other hand, it may be carefully designed to reinforce or enhance these aspects — or to play a crucial part in the reinvention of the city's image.

The project uses case studies to examine the variety of urban design factors that should be considered when introducing high quality public transport: overhead wiring, rails, signs, stations, stops, guideways, safety barriers, as well as the vehicles themselves. It also provides advice on advertising and preventing vandalism. The constant theme is that all of these factors should be considered within a comprehensive urban design strategy.

Small to medium size cities face special challenges when introducing high quality public transport. Also, such cities are often part of a wider regional network of urban settlement that complicates the design of public transport services. These challenges are on top of well-known dilemmas that lie behind questions such as how far apart stops should be and whether resources should be spread between dense network of routes, or concentrated in a few, higher frequency routes.

Illustrations and graphs demonstrate principles of network design, introducing concepts that simplify and clarify the planning public transport services. The project provides many practical examples of the principles being implemented. It contains advice for planners of public transport in settlements ranging from

Policy implications

There have been some spectacular cases of cities increasing public transport patronage and achieving a shift from car use to public transport. The gains have been made using both bus and rail-based services, in a variety of regulatory circumstances, and have sometimes been achieved without heavy expenditure. And sometimes the gains have been won in the most unlikely circumstances.

What is the role of high quality public transport in our modern cities? How can we reshape our cities to once again have public transport as our mode of choice? The most successful cities have used high quality public transport as part of an overall strategy that has included not only land use measures, but also complementary policies to restructure and market public transport — and to limit our use of the car. A series of case studies provides some inspirational illustrations of what can be done — as well as some salutary lessons of what to avoid. There are examples of cities regenerating rundown areas, curtailing urban sprawl, building successful public transport oriented communities, ridding themselves of traffic-chocked city streets, as well as examples of cities reinventing themselves as attractive places in which to invest and to live.


Lead Organisation
EU Contribution
Partner Organisations
EU Contribution


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