What makes a successful transport system?

This evening, I attended a presentation of the West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority’s new WM Strategic Transport Plan entitled “Movement for Growth”.

After a presentation of the long term approach to transport in Birmingham over a 20 year period, a discussion ensued with unsurprising comments either applauding the plans, questioning them or criticising them for taking so long to come to fruition. Not much to write home about. What I did find notable, however, was one gentleman’s comments answering the question of “What are the characteristics of a highly successful transport system?” He mentioned 5 things:

  1. Legible
  2. Through ticketing
  3. Easily interchangeable
  4. High frequency
  5. Run on electrified rail

According to him, the combination of the above make cities easy to use. I found this list to be a great summary, in line with my personal experience of using transport systems in a range of cities, countries and continents. Furthermore, he pointed out that the way in which a transport system is characterised is the same for both a newcomer to a city and a long-time resident of the city, be they a new or experienced user. Granted, an ‘old’ resident may know that the 41 bus runs past their house and takes them to work or to the city centre, but if they have to go somewhere new, the above list of items will ensure that the transport system is easy to adapt to their circumstance. Needless to say that such as system is necessary to encourage sustainable travel and decrease the reliance on cars.


What is your opinion on what makes a successful transport system? Do you agree with the above list? Are there any key characteristics which have been missed out?