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How big are walking catchments?

Standard distances are often used for the purpose of measuring or planning accessibility, but acceptable distances will vary according to the strength of the attraction, the availablity of alternative means of travel, and the health and circumstances of the traveller. Climate also plays a large part in some countries.

400 metres to a bus stop; 800 metres to a station. Where did these notions arise? What research is there to back them up? Does it matter?

The 400 metre walk catchment for a bus stop is too large within the context of a single bus route serving an area with high car ownership. 300 metres is used in planning the Zurich public transport network, and this seems a better rule of thumb.

Catchments of public transport "hubs" or interchanges will be much larger because the user is offered services to a range of destinations. The frequency of services will be the other main factor determining how far people are prepared to walk to reach them.

The walking catchment rule of thumb will be useful in planning populated areas in relation to a public transport route or network. However, its relevance evaporates if the services operated on the route or network are poor. Poor services are those which:

  • Operate during limited hours of the day
  • Operate only on certain days
  • Have routes and/or destinations that vary
  • Have irregular frequencies
  • Are unreliable
  • Are uncomfortable or unsafe

One needs to ask the question "would you walk past your car sitting outside the house, which is already paid for, to reach the nearest bus stop to use public transport instead." If the affirmative seems unlikely, then the catchment size needs to be smaller or the services at the bus stop need to be improved, or both.


Accessibility, catchment, walkability, pedshed, facilities planning, location planning, public transport planning, transit, urban structure, urban form

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