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Public Transport System Design & Operations Management (CIV5071Z)

Course convenor: A/Prof Mark Zuidgeest (Department of Civil Engineering) (assisted by Mr Pieter Onderwater of SMEC)

Motivation for the course
Considerable investment is occurring in, and is planned for, the upgrading and expansion of public transport infrastructure and rolling stock in South Africa. There is a need to produce a cohort of appropriately skilled practitioners to design, operate and manage these public transport systems. In this course both road-based and rail-based public transport systems are discussed, focusing on the design and operations of these systems (and their integration). The course discusses the various stages in developing a comprehensive and integrated public transport plan. Students are accordingly trained in the (quantitative) techniques to perform the various calculations necessary for design and operations of public transport systems.

Course objectives
This course aims to develop an advanced understanding of public passenger transport system design and operations management. It exposes students to current developments in the field both locally and internationally.

Course structure and content
The course comprises four phases:

  • a pre-contact period of five weeks, involving some 30-40 hours of preparatory reading and an assignment;
  • a week of intensive contact time at UCT, comprising 40-50 hours of formal lectures and class assignments;
  • a two-hour course test (on the Monday following the contact week), intended to evaluate students’ understanding of selected aspects of the material they have been exposed to during the contact week, and
  • a post-contact period of seven weeks, involving an assignment or assignments requiring about 100 hours of work.

The material presented during the contact period is structured around the following broadly sequential themes or topics:

  • Passenger markets: Different methodological approaches to estimating transit demand, including reiterating the link land use – transit use. Aspects of data collection in the South African context are also discussed.
  • Passenger quality needs: Different service quality requirements for different user groups in the South African context adopting Maslow’s theory of Hierarchy of Needs are discussed.
  • Networks and level of service: Different public transport systems and their characteristics in view of the available passenger markets are discussed. Bus and rail capacity as well as stop and station capacity are discussed as well. Network design and integration concepts are introduced.
  • Transit operations: The various operational concepts of public transport systems (frequency, headways, capacity, cycle lengths, scheduling, terminal times, travel time components, fare systems etc.) are discussed
  • Capacity and infrastructure: State-of-the-art technology, gauge discussions, rolling stock are discussed in relation to Transit operations and LOS issues
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis: The direct and indirect costs and benefits of the various system options are discussed.
  • Public transport plan: A framework for developing an integrated public transport plan is part of a group assignment which builds up in level of complexity over the course days.

Formal presentations on these topics by both Programme staff and invited external specialists are interspersed with work on a group assignment, the product of which is presented and discussed on the last day of the course.

Readings for the preparatory assignment are issued about five weeks prior to the commencement of the contact period. Additional readings may be issued during the contact week or subsequently through the Vula online course worksite, together with the brief for the major post-contact phase assignment.

Contact week attendance
Students are expected to attend the contact week on a full-time basis, which will require them to be resident in Cape Town for its duration given that the daily timetable during this period will generally occupy the hours from 08h00 to 17h00. Attendance for the entire contact period is a requirement, and students who are absent for more than 20% of the contact period duration will not be allowed to complete the course.

Learning outcomes
Students who have completed the course successfully should:

  • have a clear conceptual understanding of key challenges of public transport systems design and operations
  • comprehend the interactions between the different components of public transport design and operations, i.e. service quality, passenger demand, infrastructure, transit operations and evaluation
  • be familiar with the current challenges of public transport systems in South Africa and have a critical understanding of their implications for the competitiveness of public transport
  • be equipped to do basic calculations on transit line capacity, scheduling and network design

The aggregate mark for this course is compiled as follows:

minor assignment based on preparatory reading 15%
group contact week assignment 10%
course test 25%
major post-contact phase assignment 50%

Students who do not obtain an aggregate mark of at least 50% for their preparatory assignment, course test and post-contact phase assignment will be deemed to have failed the course.