Public transportation guidance for planning studies

Use this guidance to include public transportation considerations in the process of developing planning studies.

Before you begin

Consult the Washington State Summary of Public Transportation (PDF 37.1MB) for background information and specific data on transit providers in the state.

For regional studies and plans, please contact the regional Community Liaison (PDF 1.1MB) for localized guidance.

Three main areas of interest

Fixed-route transit

Fixed-route transit describes bus, rail or streetcar service provided by a transit agency and available to the public on a repetitive, fixed schedule, with a specific route and stops.

Human services transportation

Human services transportation describes transportation services dedicated to people with special transportation needs, including those provided by a transit agency (paratransit), community non-profits and for-profit organizations.

Transportation demand management

Transportation demand management describes the use of transportation options, motivation and infrastructure to enhance access to and use of transportation network capacity.

Consider the public transportation prompts below. Your answers can help guide the development and execution of your planning studies.

Addressing areas of interest in planning studies

Understanding the built and public transportation environment in the study area will inform analysis and recommendations made in the study. Consider the following questions from both current and future viewpoints. The answers should clarify how public transportation currently operates in the study area, how public transportation could operate in the future, and how public transportation could be affected by decisions that are made as advised by your study.

Fixed-route transit


  • Are there any fixed-route transit services present?
  • What purpose do those routes serve, and are those purposes likely to influence the scope of and recommendations made by the study? For example, a route could primarily serve a commuting function or access to services, health care, shopping, etc.
  • If no service routes are present, are there other public transportation uses of the study area/corridor? For example, “deadhead” routes for returning to terminal.


  • What, if any, transit stops are present in the study area?
  • What types of stops are present? These can include bus pullout stops, shoulder stops and in-lane stops.
  • Why are the stops located where they are?

Factors for consideration:

  • Proximity to origins/destinations (groceries, housing, medical/social support, restaurants, etc.).
  • Safety.
  • Transit operations.
  • Traffic operations.

Paratransit & human services transportation

  • What paratransit or human services transportation providers provide service in the study area?
  • What type of providers are they? Examples include: non-emergency medical, deviated fixed-route/flexible routing, demand response/door to door.
  • Which populations do these providers serve? Examples include: people with disabilities, people with low incomes, the elderly (65+), veterans.
  • Does this study identify generators/attractors for these populations? Examples include: hospitals and other medical facilities (cancer centers, dialysis clinics, etc.), assisted living facilities or group homes, schools, employers.

The above groups may be identified using tools such as CUBE Access (WSDOT service), EJ Screen, Small Area Estimates, or data sets from the 2010/2020 American Census and its annual updates (often accessed, visualized, and/or analyzed using GIS). In addition, the Washington Tracking Network has several useful resources:

Transportation Demand Management (TDM)

How could single occupancy vehicular (SOV) travel be reduced?

What could be done to:

  • Increase transit ridership?
  • Influence land-use development (compact development, zoning for trip reduction, etc.)?
  • Increase bicycling, walking, and rolling?
  • Increase carpooling and vanpooling?
  • Increase telecommuting?
  • Manage parking?
  • Are there changes that could be made to infrastructure in the study area which could enhance the above options (e.g. dedicated lanes or facilities for transit/active transportation, broadband access)?

Access to transit

  • How can access to transit services by walking/rolling be improved?
  • Are sidewalks and/or bike lanes present for key pathways to transit?
  • Are these facilities well-connected? (e.g. can a pedestrian reach transit services entirely by walking on sidewalks?)
  • Are there frequent controlled (signal, stop, or beacon) crossings on key pathways to transit?
  • Is there adequate lighting?
  • Do transit stops have shelters?
  • How do highway characteristics (vehicular operating speeds and volumes, number of lanes, geometry, etc.) affect the comfort level of walking/rolling on key pathways to transit? How could comfort be increased?

For detailed discussion of the active transportation environment in Washington State and how highway features affect active transportation connectivity and comfort (i.e. level of traffic stress), please refer to the Active Transportation Plan.


There are a number of planning documents that consider public transportation at statewide, regional, and local levels. Consulting these plans as part of your study can reveal challenges, needs, and aspirations for public transportation as seen by planners with firsthand knowledge of the issues.

  • Does this study make connections with and draw from appropriate plans pertaining to public transportation?
  • Does it address any unmet needs or recommendations made in these plans?

Fixed-route transit

WSDOT Public Transportation Plan

Paratransit/Human services transportation

WSDOT Human Services Transportation Plans

Transportation demand management

Other plans

Equity & engagement

It’s important to ensure that the interests of public transportation users and providers are adequately represented in planning studies, since decisions made based on studies can have a lasting impact on these groups. In addition, historically underrepresented groups are more likely to be using public transportation than other groups, so in the interest of equity it is essential to reach these groups.

The WSDOT Community Liaison (PDF 1MB) local to your study area may have detailed information on many of the groups listed below. The Community Engagement Plan may also prove a useful resource.

Fixed-route transit

  • Transit agencies (e.g. Pierce Transit).
  • Tribal transportation providers.

Human services transportation

  • Transit agencies (paratransit group within the agency).
  • Specialized paratransit providers (e.g. Hopesource).
  • Medicaid transportation brokers (e.g. Hopelink).
  • Community transportation providers (e.g. People for People).
  • Tribal transportation providers.

Transportation demand management

  • Demand management and commute trip reduction practitioners within cities, counties, regional planning organizations, or transit agencies (e.g. the TDM group within Community Transit).
  • Transit agency vanpool departments.
  • Transportation management associations (e.g. Commute Seattle).

Historically marginalized groups

  • Income-based
  • Race-based
  • Disability-based
  • Language-based
  • Age-based

Final questions

Considering the information gathered from the prompts above, how might recommendations/proposals in this study:

  • Improve the operations of fixed-route transit, paratransit/human services transportation?
  • Make transit safer and more comfortable for its users?
  • Reduce single-occupancy vehicle travel?

Depending on the purpose and goals of your study, consider if future investments in a corridor might be more cost-effective if made in transit or TDM than directly into highway improvements.

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