Regional Rapid Rail

Long distances between stops. Speediest of all modes. High capacity. All other other traffic yields to transit services. Builds on CBD-centric commuting patterns on legacy freight train corridors.

PROS: Cost-effective optimization of existing heavy rail infrastructure in highly sprawled metropolitan setting; frequent regional rapid rail systems often evolve from peak hour-only commuter services.

CONS: Sharing of tracks with freight train, lack of density of points of interests along rail lines tend to make system useful only to CBD-bound workers (unless more jobs and services are concentrated along the rail axes to generate round-the-clock, bidirectional and more sustainable ridership).

  • Metro Sydney's fully-electrified double deck frequent train network (left)
  • Klang Valley's KTM Komuter services along Rawang to Seremban, Subang Jaya to P.Klang stretches
  • Greater Toronto's GO Train 15-mins two-way all-day Lakeshore Lines between Aldershot and Pickering which will be electrified in the future (below)
Greater Toronto's GO Train

Regional Highway Bus

Long distances between stops along free-flow expressway corridors. Speedier than a Class-A Rapid Transit when combined with lane management techniques (e.g. high-occupancy lane, auto congestion charge, bus-only shoulder lane and access-exit ramps). Fills up the gaps of CBD-centric regional rapid rail network.

PROS: Highly cost-effective optimization of existing expressway infrastructure in a metropolitan setting characterized by sprawling expressways and suburban centres.

CONS: Interweaving of transit with general traffic, and challenges for regional highway bus to interface with local transit without bus priority measures at highway entry and exit ramps.

  • Frequent GO Bus line along Highway 407 which is Greater Toronto's speediest orbital transit route (right)
  • Greater Kuala Lumpur's frequent City Liner 701 KL-Klang route with well-distanced stops along Federal Highway, which ceased to exist; buses can't utilize shoulder lanes to beat congestion and there is no pedestrian-friendly infrastructure to facilitate transfer to intersecting local bus routes (below)
Malaysia's 701 Federal Highway limited stop bus operated by KTB in the late 2000s
Click the button above and select the Shoulder Highway Lane and Frequent Highway Route layers

Class-A Rail Rapid Transit

Moderate distances between stops. Grade separated (i.e. elevated or underground) with no cross-traffic interface. Most reliable and highest capacity of all modes due to full exclusivity of right-of-way.

PROS: Gold standard for urban rapid transit when synergized with car-restrictive, higher-density land use policies (i.e. Tokyo's exclusive "air rights" to rail operator-cum-land developer, Singapore's MRT-oriented public housing scheme, Hong Kong's MTR rail-based property value capture)

CONS: Difficult to be fiscally justified, especially for car-dominant metropolitan regions with massive suburban expansion.

  • Singapore's "MRT" system (left)
  • Malaysia's "LRT" (not to be confused with North American LRT) and "MRT" lines

Class-A Bus Rapid Transit

Moderate distances between stops. Grade separated with no cross-traffic interface. With the right design, reliability and capacity can be almost as similar to Class A Rail Rapid Transit.

PROS: All the benefits of Class-A Rail Rapid Transit, plus flexibility to cost-effectively feature limited stop or express routes without overlaying passing lanes throughout the entire corridor.

CONS: Can be costly if the design is not right. Faster Regional Highway Bus, or slower Class-B BRT may be more appropriate for corridors with limited right-of-way opportunities.

  • Malaysia's elevated Sunway BRT Line (low capacity due to usage of shorter buses, sharp corners)
  • Open System: Brisbane busways with low-floor buses branching in and out (right)
  • Close System: Bogota's highway segments of Transmilenio BRT, served by articulated and bi-articulated high-floor buses running on exclusive median highway lanes with train-like same-level platform boarding (below)
Transmilenio BRT

How could this have been applied in Klang Valley? We could have Class-A BRTs on Cheras Highway and Federal Highway, instead of full-length SBK MRT and Line 3 LRT Lines!

Class-B Rail Rapid Transit

Slightly walkable distances between surface stops along mainly walkable thoroughfares, with transit-only right-of-way and transit signal priority at cross-traffic intersections. Lesser capacity than Class-A rapid transit. Known as Light Rail Transit (LRT) in North America, tram with dedicated tracks elsewhere.

PROS: Integration with lively pedestrian environment without sacrificing most benefits of Class-A Rapid Transit. Promotes both sustainable land use and mobility goals that fit a pedestrian-oriented urban intensification strategy.

CONS: Although cheaper than Class-A Rail Rapid Transit, traffic reconfiguration and underground utility complexity can still be costly, plus may not work well with steep grades and overly winding roads.

  • Portland LRT Network's downtown section (left)
  • Melbourne Frequent Tram Network (below)
Melbourne Tram

How can this be applied in Klang Valley? We should make Class-B and Class-C bus system successful before upgrading sections of the system into a Class-B tram (sub)-network.

Class-B Bus Rapid Transit

Slightly walkable distances between surface stops along mainly walkable thoroughfares, with transit-only right-of-way and transit signal priority at cross-traffic intersections.

PROS: Almost all the benefits of Class-B Rail Rapid Transit, at a fraction of the construction cost (which means system can be tailored to serve more places with the same amount of capital spending). Flexibility for main line to branch out into local lines.

CONS: Complex transit signal priority configuration due to BRT's frequent headway (as compared to Class-B LRT, as shorter articulated buses have to run more often to carry same passengers than longer light rail vehicles). Platforms have to be long to accommodate bus platooning for high-density service areas. Future higher capacity, LRT-like BRT vehicles with swept-path motion technology like Zhuzhou's trackless tram may be a game-changer.

  • Close System: Downtown segment of Mexico City's Metrobus system with articulated high-floor buses serving same-level boarding platforms (right)
  • Open System: USA's Albuquerque Rapid Transit with articulated low-floor buses that serve both curbside local bus stops and median BRT platforms (below)
Albuquerque Rapid Transit
Click the button above and select the Bus Lane Infra and Frequent Local Bus Route layers

Class-C Priority Rail Transit

Highly walkable distances between surface stops along highly-pedestrianized streets, with transit signal priority, queue jumps and/or through-traffic bans at cross-traffic intersections but without transit-only right-of-way (i.e. transit runs in mixed traffic). Known as streetcar in North America.

PROS: Significant ridership driver especially on highly-pedestrianized streets (central Toronto's Class-C King Streetcar line carries more passenger than suburb Toronto's Class-A Sheppard Line)

CONS: Requires traffic diversion and restriction. Irrelevant for cities without existing tram tracks.

  • Toronto's King Street through-traffic bans within the downtown segment - general traffic forced to turn right at every intersection (right) - which allow frequent streetcars to run more reliably (below)
Toronto Transit Commission's 504 King

How can this be applied in Klang Valley? There is no pre-existing tram track that can make this mode work.

Class-C Priority Bus Transit

Highly walkable distances between surface stops along highly-pedestrianized streets, with transit signal priority, queue jumps and/or left/right turn bans at cross-traffic intersections but without transit-only right-of-way (i.e. transit runs in mixed traffic).

PROS: Most basic and cost-effective in driving ridership especially along pedestrian-friendly corridors (Vancouver's Broadway corridor carries the highest bus-based ridership in North America)

CONS: Requires general traffic flow restriction.

  • London's transit signal priority and queue jump lane at bottleneck signalized junctions (right)
  • Other measures that afford special privileges to buses, such as deployed in Sydney (below)
Sydney's bus-only turn at Talavera and Herring roads
Click the button above and walk through the drop down list of each bus priority measure

Class-C Mini Bus Transit

Frequent low-floor minibuses can attractively serve high density neighbourhoods and suburban centres with very restrictive road widths. This can be done in tandem of street calming measures, shared pedestrian and bicycle spaces (commonly known as woonerf in the Netherlands) and bus-only shortcuts, particularly in rapidly growing cities with high-density developments popping in the middle of tightly-woven road fabric originally meant for low-density traffic.

PROS: Most future-proof of all Class-C modes, as autonomous vehicle technology will make longer local (not trunk) buses obsolete in the future

CONS: Least efficient due to high labour cost per passenger carried, at least until autonomous vehicle technology is fully proven

  • Hino Poncho (bottom) minibus is very popular in Japan (left)
Hino Poncho's narrow and short chassis
Click the button above and select the Frequent Local Minibus layer (for corresponding priority measure, click the button under the earlier Priority Bus section)


Putting the Pieces Together

Why not put technology first?

We at TRANSIT Malaysia advocate advancing our often muddy, simplistic urban transit discourse from being piecemeal, technology-specific, to holistic and purpose-based. Understand the contexts, principles and applications of urban public transport planning through our educational Transit Network Principle blog.

Evidence that technology should not be the primary factor in driving urban public transport investment decisions

How can we make the most with what we have?

Long-lasting solution requires integrative network approach that combines urban growth, public transport and road traffic planning. We have proposed an exhaustive plan on how transport and spatial planning can be integrated for Klang Valley through clever re-optimization of our existing road infrastructure to prioritize buses to carry more people to get to more places quickly and affordably, through our SANTAN blog.

Evidence that bus and rail rapid transit modes are equal when it comes to attracting ridership

What can we do to achieve this?

Share this page with your family members and friends on facebook, and follow opinion-shaping discussions on Malaysia's public transport through our main TransitMalaysia.com blog and TRANSITmy twitter!


Created with images by Nalau Nobel - "People are going home after work and looking very tired, all they want to do is just relax, spend time with loved ones or maybe just being active on social media. I took this shot in an LRT station in Kuala Lumpur showing the tired people as my subject. The time was 19:59, when some people are just getting off work. It was shot on my old Canon 40D with YongNuo 50mm fixed lens, ISO 100, and wide aperture at F/2. This photo reminds me of that awesome feeling where you are just grateful that finally the train arrives and is ready to take you home." • Tony Dinh - "untitled image" • Juan Rojas - "untitled image" • cegoh - "singapore night evening" • Michael - "untitled image" • Rutvik Patel - "Hyatt hotel in Toronto, Canada. " • Aditya Chinchure - "Street cars of Toronto" • Noralí Emilio - "untitled image"