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 Transit Station Spacing Criteria

Click on the following links to Download the Transit Station Spacing Analysis worksheet (presented in Microsoft Word format):

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Sample Worksheet

A particular neighborhood within the Sacramento Regional Transit District (RT) desires a new light rail station. The neighborhood is located between two existing stations about one mile in each direction. As the analysis to determine the feasibility of the new station began, it was difficult to find quantifiable criteria for locating new stations used by other transit agencies.

Regional Transit, in conjunction with Parsons Brinkerhoff (PB), developed a process that helps evaluate and quantify a potential site for a new station. The two-tiered process first identifies fatal flaws and the overall feasibility of the station. The second part of the evaluation provides more detail as to the effectiveness, connectivity and transit-orientated development opportunities of the potential station site.

Benefit of Criteria
The value of this process is beneficial to staff and decision-makers as it provides criteria that can objectively assist staff and decision-makers when evaluating the feasibility of a new station along a transit alignment. Although this criterion was developed for light rail stations, it could also be applied to Bus Rapid Transit or other types of stations (e.g. ferry terminals).

The following criteria were approved by the RT Board on April 24, 2006. This two-tiered approach represents only guiding standards for consideration of staff and decision-makers. Any of the listed criteria may be superseded by circumstances of a particular site. A final decision may require additional considerations such as environmental clearance, funding, design development and other relative information.

Station Spacing Evaluation and Criteria
The first tier of analysis is an evaluation of four criteria to assess the proposed station site’s "feasibility" and level of responsiveness to the community in which it is proposed. This is a "fatal flaw" analysis.

If the proposed station site passes this first test, no fatal flaws are identified, and the Board decides to move forward with further analysis, then the second tier of criteria are applied to determine the further appropriateness of the station proposal and assist in the guidance process.

Tier 1 -- Initial Evaluation (Fatal Flaw Considerations)

The initial level of evaluation consists of four criteria:

  1. Constructability (including Safety)This criterion addresses whether the proposed station physically is able to be constructed and can be done so and not adversely affect the safety of the system or the user. The proposed station site would need to meet Sacramento RT’s horizontal and vertical design criteria to be considered further and not pose a safety problem that cannot be resolved. Assuming it does, RT should also qualitatively assess the "feasibility" of bringing a station site "on-line." Because each station is inherently unique, some locations will be more problematic and disruptive to existing light rail services to bring on-line, as compared to other sites. Those sites which are more problematic to bring on-line (but potentially still feasible) may have increased capital costs associated with them.

  2. Ridership and Density Guideline ConsiderationsRT would use "minimum guidelines" for station spacing that are based upon forecasted ridership and/or density models at or around proposed stations. This allows RT to make a simple initial assessment of the potential feasibility of the proposed station site.

    A spreadsheet-based "Station Spacing Analysis Tool" has been developed to evaluate a proposed station site’s ridership potential and/or population and employment density relative to the existing RT stations. The Station Spacing Analysis Tool is used to estimate ridership and/or density for the proposed station site. Inputs are derived from verifiable geographic and modal (feeder bus and number of park and ride spaces) data. The definition of the proposed station site is based on a range of a combination of population and employment density (calculated using GIS) within a ¼ to ½ -mile walk shed.

    Using the Direct Ridership Model (SACOG Direct Light Rail Transit Ridership Models, Richard Lee, Ph.D., April 2004 modified by PB, November 2005), as it has been refined by the consultant; forecasted ridership is developed based on the proposed station’s surrounding population and employment. Using the same data, a second "model" calculates the "average density" around the station. These models produce numeric results related to ridership potential and average density.

    The results are then compared to a histogram of existing (2005) ridership and/or existing (2000) population and employment density data, which are presented descending order.

    The minimum guideline for further consideration of the placement of a proposed station would require that the forecasted ridership and/or average density fall within the third quartile or better of all existing RT Stations.

    In addition to the first two "functional" criteria, two community-based criteria were identified and requested by the RT Board to be included in the first-tier analysis.

  3. Environmental JusticeConsistent with federal and RT policy, an assessment of the environmental justice issues would be undertaken. As a qualitative assessment, the level of transit-dependent population (as defined by median household income below the poverty level and auto ownership) within a ¼ or ½-mile radius (as determined by GIS application of most recent US Census data). A station would score "Low" if the environmental justice population comprises 10% or less of the population; a "Medium" if the environmental justice population is between 10% and 30% of the population; and a "High" if the environmental justice population is greater than 30% of the population within the ¼ or ½-mile radius.

  4. Community/Neighborhood InputInput from the community at large as developed from any community meetings held, or comments received from the public, neighborhood leaders or decision-makers (especially from the immediate neighborhood(s)) would be determined and a qualitative documentation of the level of support (or non-support) for the station would be documented (including the source(s) of the comments.) "Low" support would be just that; "Medium" support would be a mixture of favorable and unfavorable support; and "High" support would be mostly favorable support received from the public through various means.

    RT Staff would determine the technical feasibility of the station and its ability to be constructed and would also compile and document the necessary community-based information as appropriate and available for the candidate station. At the end of the Tier 1 evaluation, RT Staff would bring the two sets of results, along with a staff recommendation on the next action, to the RT Board for consideration of the candidate station.

    The combination of information developed for the candidate station would result in one of the following staff conclusions:
  • The station may be technically feasible, may be embraced by the community and/or may serve an identified environmental justice population base.
  • The station may not be technically feasible or poses a safety concern, may not be embraced by the community and/or may not serve an identified environmental justice population base.

In reality, each station will have some combination of these factors.

The information will be summarized and presented so that the Board can determine as to whether move forward with the additional Tier 2 screening analysis.

Second Tier – Comparative Evaluation                         Back to top

If the proposed station "meets" the first-tier criteria for further consideration, a "second-tier" set of criteria would be used to further assist in the guidance of selecting future light rail stations. Seven criteria have been identified and are recommended to be applied for further guidance.

Travel Time Effects of Proposed Station

  1. As guidance, the effects on travel times should be assessed. While it is recognized that any one individual station might add minimal effects to the travel times, the cumulative effects could become significant over the long-term as stations are added to a line.

    In order to respond to and communicate this issue to policy-makers, the cumulative effects of a station are considered along with any other stations that have been previously added since the baseline year. The baseline year is 2005. Thus, the existing travel times for the Gold Line from Folsom to Saint Rose of Lima Park in 2005 is 50 minutes; and the end-to-end running time for the Blue Line from Meadowview is 48 minutes. These travel times would serve as the basis for comparison. Each new station that is added would add additional travel time.

               Minimum Station Spacing                          Back to top

  2. As guidance, a set of "minimum station spacing" criteria would be applied:
    1. The minimum standard for "urban core", "downtown" and/or "town center" stations will be spaced no closer than four blocks; where the geographic area is generally recognized by the community as such (the key example would be "downtown Sacramento").
    2. "Mid-town stations" defined as an area of general density similar to the neighborhood-stations in the Sacramento "mid-town" area between downtown and 29th Street or Alkali Flat (La Valentina) or Arden/Del Paso and would be spaced approximately ½ mile.
    3. "Suburban stations" would be spaced generally no closer than one mile. This is consistent with the stations north of Swanston, east of 65th Street until Rancho Cordova and then east of Mather Field, and south of City College.
    4. "Ex-urban stations" are spaced no closer than two miles. These are stretches of the light rail lines where infill development has not occurred (yet) – thus there is no activity or rationale for closer station spacing. The only identified examples in the Sacramento RT system are between Sunrise and Hazel and between Hazel and Iron Point (presently).

      Operations and Cost                              Back to top
  3. Operations AnalysisA quantitative assessment of whether the proposed station can be accommodated operationally. This would entail analysis using RAILSIM® V.7 (or similar software acceptable to RT) to determine if there is sufficient schedule time in the system for the new station, if the train "meets" are acceptable, etc. If operationally achievable, additional system operations costs (if any) would be identified in Criterion # 4 below. Based on the Operational Analysis, a scoring of "Low" (Poor or Infeasible operational ability such as additional delays for "train meets"), "Medium" (can be accommodated without operational impacts beyond the additional station time requirements, or "High" (improves operations) would occur.

  4. Incremental Operational and Capital Cost to RTA quantitative estimate of the cost of the station to RT that identifies the net additional O&M and Capital Cost (annualized) to RT. Costs of the station (O&M + Capital [annualized]) to RT would score a "Low" if RT was anticipated to cover 60% to 100%; a "Medium" if 30% to 60%; and a "High" if 0% to 30% is to be paid by RT.
  5. Local Bus Network Benefits or CostA qualitative or quantitative assessment of the effect on existing bus services in the area. Does the proposed station result in a net increase or decrease in bus operating costs – as compared to the existing system? An increase in the bus operating cost (by requiring a more roundabout or extended feeder service) would result in a "Low" score; no change would result in a "Medium" score; and a decreased cost of existing services would result in a "High" score.

    Cost/Benefit Consideration                           Back to top

  6. Cost Benefit Consideration The initial cost estimate for the candidate station will have been prepared by RT Staff in the Tier 2, Criterion #4. These costs will be compared to the relative benefits the station is anticipated to have. The benefits may include additional riders anticipated (based on Tier 1, Criterion #2) and could be a simple "annualized cost per new rider." Over time, a comparison of candidate stations will provide a benchmark for what is envisioned as an acceptable cost/benefit ratio.

    Redevelopment (TOD) Potential

  7. Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) Potential A qualitative assessment of the potential for development or redevelopment within the walk shed of the proposed station site is recommended. A score of "Low" would be assigned if the potential (as determined through discussions with Planning staff or other documented means) is low or non-existent. A "Medium" score would be assigned if the potential exists and there is documented interest, but would require re-zoning, preparation of Specific Plan or other TOD-oriented actions to occur. A "High" score would result from the station area being within a designated redevelopment area and/or already planned for higher density, transit oriented development to occur.

Click here for more information and to sample RAILSIM®

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  Sacramento Regional Transit District