A Study on the Optimization of the Bus Network and Exclusive Bus Lane Planning for the City of Tianjin

Bus electrification is a systematic programme encompassing not only the procurement of buses, but also the adjustment and optimisation of related bus networks, their operation capacity allocation, as well as the design, construction, and operation of needed charging infrastructure. Covering, amongst other initiatives, all of these aspects relevant to bus electrification, Tianjin’s 14th Five-Year-Plan (FYP) for the 2021 – 2025 period will set the objectives, road map, and indicators that will guide the development of Tianjin’s fully electrified urban bus system, in coordination with other modes of transport. Commissioned by the municipal government, the Tianjin Municipal Engineering Design & Research Institute (TMEDI) conducted research on the transport sector plan of Tianjin’s 14th FYP, the Bus Network Optimisation Plan, and looked at sub-studies on bus operation and bus corridor management. While the CLCT project strives to provide targeted recommendations to support Chinese cities to develop a low carbon transport sector, the 14th FYP preparation for Tianjin presented a perfect window of opportunity for the fostering of international technical cooperation on bus network optimisation and operation improvements. These issues are unique to Tianjin, as the city just fully electrified its bus fleet at the end of 2020, which puts it ahead of most cities worldwide. The challenges and lessons learned from Tianjin will be valuable not only for other cities in China, but also those globally that aspire to develop electric bus systems.

The objective of this study is to assist the transport authorities of Tianjin to comprehensively improve the service level of Tianjin’s bus system through bus network and bus lane planning, and thus improve the efficiency and climate friendliness of the city’s public transit network. The study assesses identified problems related to Tianjin’s bus network and operation, and then proposes macro development strategies as well as detailed optimization suggestions to tackle these, for the 2021-2025 period. To support TMEDI’s research for the preparation of Tianjin’s 14th FYP in the most effective manner, the CSTC team worked as a parallel team with TMEDI, providing evaluations relating to TMEDI’s research tasks and conducting independent analysis on other topics as requested by TMEDI.

This research provides an overall assessment of the plan, as well as and related suggestions for its improvement. Then, it analyses not only of the operational issues of the bus network itself, but also of other relevant operational issues, such as the input capacity for peak and off-peak hours, bus scheduling, fare setting, subsidies, and further related considerations. Thirdly, the study provides an analysis of the exclusive bus corridors of Tianjin, evaluating their efficiency from the aspects of overall operation, bus speed, bus lane continuity, delay times, platform design, and other related issues. To provide targeted suggestions, a specific bus corridor was selected as a case study for detailed analysis. Recommendations on related operational aspects of the case corridor were provided to support its optimization. At last, it concludes with the presentation of findings from a carbon emission reduction estimation, which was conducted for selected case bus corridors. The estimation reflects the vast potential in the reduction of carbon emissions if Tianjin could continue to improve its public transit system and reduce the transport modal share of cars.