Accessible Service:

Buses, vans, or other vehicles operating in regular service with lowered floors, wheelchair ramps, kneeling functions, or other devices that permit passengers with disabilities to use the service.


1) The extent to which facilities are barrier free and useable by disabled persons, including wheelchair users.  2) A measure of the ability or ease of all people to travel among various origins and destinations.


To get off a transit vehicle (also called deboarding). Plural noun: “alightings”.


An administrative distribution of funds (for example, federal funds among the states).  Used for funds that do not have legislatively mandated distribution formula.

Alternative Fuel:

A non-petroleum fuel used to power transit vehicles. Usually refers to alcohol fuels, biomass fuels, and hydrogen.

A.M. Peak:

The morning commute period in which the greatest movement of passengers occurs, generally from home to work.  This is the portion of the morning service period where the greatest level of ridership is experienced and service is provided.  Generally 6:30 A.M. - 9:00 A.M.

Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA):

The law passed by Congress in 1990 which makes it illegal to discriminate against people with disabilities in employment, services provided by state and local governments, public and private transportation, public accommodations, and telecommunications.


An act of Congress that permits federal agencies to incur obligations and make payments for specific purposes.


Basic, substantive federal legislation that established or continues the legal operation of federal program agencies, either indefinitely or for a specific period of time.

Automatic Passenger Counts (APC):

A technology installed on transit vehicles that counts the number of boarding and alighting passengers at each stop while also noting the time. Passengers are counted using pulse beams located at each door. Stop location is generally identified through use of global positioning systems (GPS) in combination with vehicle odometers.

Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL):

A system that senses and monitors the real-time location of transit vehicles carrying special electronic equipment that communicates a signal back to a central control facility.  The system locates the vehicle and provides other information about its operations and its mechanical condition.

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The selection process by which transit motor coach operators are allowed to select new work assignments in the next (forthcoming) schedule. Also called pick or sign-up.


To go onto or into a transit vehicle. Plural noun: “Boardings”.


A rubber-tired road vehicle designed to carry a substantial number of passengers (i.e. 20 or more), commonly operated on streets and highways for public transportation service.

Bus Lane:

A lane of roadway intended primarily for use by buses, either all day or during specified periods.

Bus Stop:

A curbside area where passengers board or alight transit vehicles.

Bus Pullout:

Cutout on the side of the road designed to permit a transit vehicle to dwell at a curb.

Bus Shelter:

A structure constructed near a bus stop to provide seating and protection from the weather for the convenience of waiting passengers.

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Capital: Long-term assets, such as property, buildings, and vehicles.

Capital Costs: Costs of long-term assets of a public transit system such as property, buildings, vehicles, etc.

Capital Improvement Program: The list of capital projects for a five-to-seven-year programming period.

Capital Project: Construction and/or procurement of assets, such as transit centers, transit vehicles, etc.

Carpool: An arrangement where people share the use and cost of a privately owned automobile in traveling to and from pre-arranged destinations.

Central Business District (CBD): The "Downtown" area of a city that contains the greatest concentration of commercial activity.  This area contains retail, trade and commercial areas of very high land valuation, concentrations of retail business offices, theaters, hotels and services, and confluences of higher traffic flows.

Coordinated Transfer: A location where two or more routes come together at the same time to provide synchronized transfer connections. A short layover may be provided at the timed transfer point to ensure the connection. Coordinated transfers become increasingly important where service frequencies are below 20 minutes and hub-and-spoke networks are used.  Also called timed transfer.

Corridor: A broad geographical band that follows a general directional flow or connects major sources of trips. It may contain a number of streets and highways and many transit lines and routes.

Crosstown Route:  Non-radial bus service that normally does not enter the Central Business District (CBD).

Crush Load: The maximum passenger capacity of a vehicle, in which there is little or no space between passengers (i.e. the passengers are touching one another) and one more passenger cannot enter without causing serious discomfort to the others.

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Deadhead Time: There are two types of deadhead bus service (also called non-revenue service)
  1. Bus travel time between the garage and a terminus point where revenue service begins or ends;
  2. Bus travel time between the end of service on one route and the beginning of another.

Deboard: To get out of a transit vehicle (also "alight").

Disabled: With respect to an individual, a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such an individual; a record of such an impairment; or being regarded as having such an impairment.

Discretionary Funding: Subject to the discretion of legislators or an administrator. The federal Section 5309 New Starts Program is an example of a discretionary program.

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Express Service: A service generally connecting residential areas or other trip generators via a high speed, non-stop connection with limited stops at each end for collection and distribution of passengers. Collection can be exclusively or partially undertaken using Park-&-Ride facilities.  As opposed to limited service, there is usually a significant stretch of non-stop operation. 

Extra Board: Operators who have no assigned run but are used to cover runs deliberately left open by the scheduling department (extra runs), or runs that are open because of the absence of regularly assigned operators.

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Fare: Payment in the form of coins, bills, tickets and tokens collected for transit rides.

Fare Box: A device that accepts the coins, bills, tickets and tokens given by passengers as payment for rides.

Farebox Recovery Ratio: A measure of the proportion of transit operating expenses covered by passenger fares. It is calculated by dividing a transit operator’s fare box revenue by its total operating expenses.

Farebox Revenue: The total value of cash, tickets and pass receipts given by passengers as payment for public transit rides.

Fare Collection System: The method by which fares are collected and accounted for in a public transportation system.

Fare Elasticity: The extent to which ridership responds to fare increases or decreases.

Fare Structure: The system set up to determine how much is to be paid by various passengers using the system at any given time.

Federal Transit Administration (FTA, formerly UMTA, Urban Mass Transit Administration): A part of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) which administers the federal program of financial assistance to public transit.

Feeder Service: Service that picks up and delivers passengers to another mode of service such as an express bus, transit center, Park-&-Ride lot, or fixed-route bus.

Fixed Cost: An indirect cost that remains relatively constant irrespective of the level of operational activity.

Fixed-Route Service: Transit service provided along a specific route on a repetitive schedule with vehicles stopping to pick up or deliver passengers at designated locations placed at intervals along the route.

Fleet: The vehicles used in a transit system, including buses, rail cars, etc (also called rolling stock). 

Frequency of Service: The amount of time scheduled between consecutive vehicles on a given route segment (i.e. how often the bus comes).  (Also called "headway")

Fiscal Year (FY): A yearly accounting period designated by the calendar year in which it ends (e.g. FY 2001). The fiscal year for the federal government runs from October 1 through September 30.  The State of Michigan and the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority also use the federal FY.

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Garage: The place where revenue vehicles are stored and maintained and from where they are dispatched and recovered for the delivery of scheduled service.

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Headway: The scheduled time interval between any two revenue vehicles operating in the same direction on a route. Headways may be LOAD driven (i.e. developed on the basis of demand and loading standards) or POLICY based (i.e. dictated by policy decisions such as service every 30 minutes during the peak periods and every 60 minutes during the base period).  (Also called "frequency of service")

High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV): Vehicles that can carry more than two persons. Examples of high-occupancy vehicles are buses, vanpools, and carpools.

Hub-&-Spoke System: Local or express service designed primarily to connect the Central Business District with outlying areas.  (Also call "radial service")

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Incident: Traffic or passenger accident that include collisions with other vehicles, pedestrians or fixed object, and passenger accidents while boarding, on-board, or disembarking the transit vehicle.

Intermodal: Switching from one form of transportation to another.

Intermodal Facility: A building or site specifically designed to accommodate the meeting of two or more transit modes of travel.

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Kiss-&-Ride: A place where commuters are driven and left at a station, Park-&-Ride lot, etc., to board a public transportation vehicle.

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Layover: Layover time serves two major functions: recovery time for the schedule to help ensure on-time departure for the next trip and operator break time between trips.

Limited Service: Higher speed service where designated vehicles stop only at transfer points or major trip generators, usually about every 1/2 mile. Limited stop service is usually provided on major routes, in addition to local service (that makes all stops) during a certain part of the day, or in a specified area . As opposed to express service, there is not usually a significant stretch of non-stop operation.

Linked Passenger Trips: A linked passenger trip is a trip from origin to destination on the transit system. Even if a passenger must make several transfers during a one-way journey, the trip is counted as one linked trip on the system. Unlinked passenger trips count each boarding as a separate trip regardless of transfers.

Load Factor: The ratio of passengers carried versus the total passenger seating capacity of a vehicle. A load factor of greater than 1.0 indicates that there are standees on that vehicle.

Local Service: A type of operation that involves frequent stops and lower speeds.  The purpose of local service is to pick up transit passengers as close to their origins or destinations as possible.

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Maximum Load Point: The location(s) along a route where the vehicle passenger load is the greatest. The maximum load point(s) generally differ by direction and may also be unique to each of the daily operating periods. Long or complex routes may have multiple maximum load points.

Missed Trip: A schedule trip that did not operate for a variety of reasons, including vehicle failure, dispatch error, traffic, accident, or other unforeseen reason. 

Mode: A particular form of travel (e.g. bus commuter tail, train, bicycle, walking or automobile).

Mode Split: The proportion of people that use each of the various modes of transportation in a region. Frequently used to describe the percentage of people using private automobiles as opposed to the percentage using public transportation.

Model: An analytical tool used by transportation planners to assist in making forecasts of land use, economic activity, and travel activity.

Monthly Pass: A prepaid fare card, valid for unlimited riding for a one-month period.

Motor Coach Operator: An employee of a transit system who spends his or her working day in the operation of a vehicle, (e.g. bus driver).

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Network: The configuration of streets or transit routes and stops that constitutes the total system.

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Off-Peak Period: Non-rush-hour periods of the day when travel activity is generally lower and less transit service is scheduled.

Operations: Maintaining the ongoing functions of an agency or service.

Operating Cost: The total costs to operate and maintain a transit system including labor, fuel, maintenance, wages and salaries, employee benefits, taxes, etc.

Operating Expenses: Monies paid in salaries and wages, settlement of claims, maintenance of equipment and buildings, and rentals of equipment and facilities.

Operating Ratio: A measure of transit system expense recovery obtained by dividing total operating revenues by total operating expenses.

Operating Revenue: Revenue derived from passenger fares, state and federal funding, local taxes, and third-party payments.

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Paratransit: Transportation service required by the American with Disabilities Act of 1990 for individuals with disabilities who are unable to use fixed-route transit systems. The service must be comparable to the fixed-route service.

Park-&-Ride: A parking area for automobile drivers who then use transit vehicles to reach their destinations.

Pass: A means of transit prepayment, usually a card that carries some identification that is displayed to the driver or conductor in place of paying a cash fare.

Passenger: A person who rides a transit vehicle, excluding the driver.

Passenger Miles: A measure of service usage which represents the total of the distances ridden by each passenger. It is normally calculated by multiplying the number of passengers on a vehicle by the distance between those individuals' bus stops. Example: ten passengers riding in a transit vehicle for two miles equals 20 passenger miles.

Passenger Revenue: Fares paid by passengers traveling aboard transit vehicles.  (Also called "farebox revenue.")

Peak Period: Rush hour period(s) of the day when travel activity is generally increased and transit service levels are adjusted to meet high levels of ridership.

Program: (1) noun, a system of funding for implementing transportation projects or policies. (2) verb, to assign funds to a project.

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Revenue: Monies derived from, or for the operation of, transit service, including farebox revenue, operating assistance from governments, and funding from other sources.

Recovery Time: A planned time allowance between the ending time of a completed trip and the departure time of the next trip. This extra time allows the route to return to schedule, if traffic, loading, or other conditions made the trip fall behind schedule.

Revenue Service: The period of time when a transit vehicle is in operation over a route and is available to the public for transport.

Revenue Miles: Miles operated by transit vehicles while available for passenger service.

Revenue Passenger: A passenger from whom a fare is collected.

Reverse Commute: Travel movement in a direction opposite to the main flow of travel, such as from a downtown area to a city's outskirts during the morning commute hour.

Ridesharing: A form of transportation in which more than one person shares the use of a vehicle such as a van or car to make a trip.  Bus/rail/etc. trips are not considered to be ridesharing.

Ridership: The number of rides taken by people using a public transportation system in a given time period.

Road Call: A mechanical failure of a bus in revenue service that causes a delay which necessitates removing the bus from service until repairs are made.

Route: A specified path taken by a transit vehicle (usually designated by a number or a name) along which passengers are picked up or discharged. (Also called a "line")

Route Miles: The total number of miles included in a fixed-route transit system network.

Running Time: The time assigned for the movement of a revenue vehicle over a route, usually done on a route segment basis by various time of day. (Also called "travel time")

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Schedule: A document created by the transit agency (not the public timetable) that shows the time of each revenue trip through designated time points. Many agencies include additional information such as route descriptions, deadhead times and amounts, through-routing information, run numbers, etc.  (Also called "headway sheet", "master schedule", "operating schedule")

Scheduling: The planning of vehicle arrivals and departures and the operators for these vehicles to meet consumer demand along specified routes.

Service Area: A geographic area which is provided with transit services. Service area is now defined consistent with ADA requirements.

Service Standards: Benchmarks by which transit service operational performance is evaluated. These standards are set by the agency's Board of Directors.

Span of Service: The range of hours over which transit service is operated (such as 6:00 a.m. - 11:30 p.m.)  Service span often varies by day of the week (i.e. weekday vs. weekend).

Subsidy: Funds granted by local, state or federal governments.

Supervisor: The individual who is responsible for keeping transit vehicles on schedule.

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Through-routing: The use of the same revenue vehicle and/or operator on more than one route without going back to the garage. Interlining is often used to minimize vehicle requirements and to provide transfer enhancement for passengers. For interlining to be feasible, two (or more) routes must share a common terminus or be reasonably proximate to each other. (Also called "interlining")

Timepoint: A time and location published in the public route schedule where a transit vehicle can arrive before, but not leave earlier than, the stated time as indicated.

Transfer: A slip of paper or ticket issued to a passenger that gives her/him the right to change from one transit vehicle to another according to specified limitations in order to complete a trip.

Transfer Passenger: A passenger who transfers to a route after paying a fare on another route. 

Transit Center: A fixed location where passengers transfer from one route to another.

Transit Dependent Passenger: Someone who must use public transportation for her/his travel.

Transit Priority: A means by which transit vehicles are given an advantage over other traffic, e.g., preemption of traffic signals or transit priority lanes.

Trip: The one-way operation of a revenue vehicle between two terminal points on a route. Trips are generally noted as inbound, outbound, northbound, southbound, etc., to identify directionality when being communicated.

Trip generator: An area with high population and concentrated activities which generates a large number of trips (e.g., central business districts, shopping centers, business or industrial parks, recreational facilities).

Total Miles:  Includes revenue, deadhead, and yard (maintenance and servicing) miles. 

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Unlinked Passenger Trips: The total number of passengers who board public transit vehicles. A passenger is counted each time he/she boards a revenue vehicle even though the boarding may be the result of a transfer from another route to complete the same one-way journey.

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Van: A rubber-tired road vehicle designed to carry a small number of passengers (i.e. 15 or less), usually operated for ridesharing service.

Variable Cost: A cost that varies in relation to the level of operational activity.

Vehicle Hours: The total hours of travel by a transit vehicle, including both revenue service and deadhead travel.

Vehicle Miles: The total number of miles traveled by a vehicle, which are usually calculated by mode.

Vehicle Revenue Hour: A measure of scheduled hours of service available to passengers for transport on a route.  Equivalent to one transit vehicle traveling one hour in revenue service, excluding deadhead hours, but including recovery/layover time. Calculated for each route.

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