Fixed-route transit service has traditionally served medium-to-higher density residential and commercial centers in metropolitan areas. Usually, transit services in such areas are operated most efficiently with standard transit vehicles, because the passenger loads are large. However, much of the recent growth in residential and commercial centers has occurred at lower densities on the fringe or even beyond the fringe of metropolitan areas. Transit services that are appropriate for these areas--feeder, route-deviation, and paratransit services--do not often accumulate large passenger loads. The same is true of circulator routes in suburban activity centers and fixed-route services in small cities. Often, a full-sized transit bus is not appropriate for services in low-density developments, specialized markets, and smaller urban areas. Transit providers are looking to smaller vehicles to serve this need.
While not standard, there is a great deal of similarity among full-sized transit vehicles. Over time, operators have learned the most successful vehicle features and are able to specify vehicles that perform best in a fixed-route service environment. To the contrary, there are many types and sizes of small transit vehicles, a wide range of purchase prices, and a wide range of reported useful lives. It is difficult to make purchase decisions about dissimilar vehicles used in dissimilar types of service. In order to make the best possible vehicle decisions, transit operators, planners, and policymakers need information about the costs (capital, operating, and maintenance) associated with using small transit vehicles.
The focus of this project was on the cost characteristics (capital, operating, and maintenance) of various types of small vehicles, not on the planning tradeoffs between capacity and frequency. The objective of this research was to develop a practical decision tool, incorporating actual cost data, to assist transit operators, planners, and policymakers in considering all relevant costs (capital, operating, and maintenance) when selecting among various types of small transit vehicles for different service and operating environments.
: The final report with software has been published as TCRP Report 61.
(MS Excel format)