Public transport service planning

Service planning is one of the most important aspects of public transport. Here’s how mobility planners can speed up and improve this process, while minimizing the uncertainties that accompany it.   

What is public transport service planning? 

Public transport service planning consists of network design and timetable planning. The goal is to achieve a good public transport supply for the passengers, with minimum effort for the operator.  

Through public transport service planning, operators can tackle some of the most common challenges to their operations, such as:  

  • Overcrowded busses in the morning due to transport of pupils  
  • Passengers missing connections at certain stops because of delays  
  • Adjusting bus and train services during construction works at bridges and roads  
  • How to shorten bus lines when an adjacent tram line is extended  

Software for public transport service planning  

Like in many other areas of mobility, software can greatly improve public transport service planning and speed up the digitization.  

With software, public transport planners can combine multiple scenarios, integrate data from other departments, and present plans to stakeholders.  

Compared to manual methods like pen-and-paper or Excel, modeling in specialized software helps public transport operators to speed up service planning and better predict how changes will affect the network.       

The recent pandemic highlighted the benefits of modeling in public transport service planning: Extensive adjustments to timetables could be made at short notice due to health or cost requirements, with less errors. 

PTV Group software for service planning  

PTV Group offers two software for public transport service planning:

PTV Lines PTV Visum

PTV Lines for public transport service planning 

PTV Lines is an easy-to-use web-based platform for public transport planning. It provides planners with all functionalities for a rapid design and modification of new and existing public transport supplies. 

With PTV Lines, planners easily import the current network and timetables, adjust the supply, and instantly see the effects. Building and duplicating scenarios is simple, so multiple scenarios can be investigated.

The results are presented as digitalized timetables. They can be exported to PTV Visum for further investigation or imported into an operational system. 

PTV Lines supports effective collaboration: Planners can share the results with all other relevant departments and stakeholders.  

PTV Lines also enables service planners to do the following:  

  • Upload supply data in different formats 
  • Create and compare numerous scenarios 
  • See on-the-fly calculated run times during sketching or editing of line routes 
  • Change dwell and run times of line routes in a simple schematic view 
  • Timetable editing 
  • Predict operation costs and supply KPIs 

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PTV Visum for public transport service planning

PTV Visum is the world's leading transport planning software. It is the standard for macroscopic simulations and modelling of mobility networks, including public transport. PTV Visum is used worldwide for the development of transport strategies and solutions.  

For public transport service planning, PTV Visum models urban transport supply in detail. The main advantage of PTV Visum is its multimodal approach: It predicts how measures in public transport will affect other modes of mobility.  

PTV Visum takes demand into account. In addition to modeling the supply and the costs, it also calculates ridership - and the resulting benefits, such reduction in car use.  

Planners also use PTV Visum to rate measures, which is often a condition to get funding. The software supports the official German method of doing cost/benefit studies.  

Another key feature of PTV Visum is detailed modeling of transfers and connections. The dedicated transit data model depicts realistic behavior.  

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Visualizing service planning with PTV Visum

Here are some of the features that make PTV Visum ideal for visualizing public transport service planning:

Graphical Timetable Editor

The graphical timetable editor displays the timetable’s trips in a time-distance diagram. Depicting multiple lines, a user selection of stops and arrival/departure times is ideal for a service planner.

Graphical timetable editor


By clicking on one journey near a transfer stop, all possible and missed connection journeys are presented in a table. This gives planners valuable insights for connection optimization.

Graphical Timetable Editor



When combining it with count data and PTV Visum assignment results, the demand distribution on the single vehicle journeys is visible. Therefore, you can visualize the sections of high occupancy on vehicles and demand peaks over time and space.

Graphical Timetable Volume


Graphical Timetable Volume

Transfer display

The transfer display depicts all transfers in a given time on one stop. The circle mimics a clock, the arrows represent the arriving and departing vehicle journeys. The position indicates the transfer time between arriving and departing trips. By selecting two trips, the required walking time and waiting time between those are indicated.

Transfer Display



Combining it with counting data, or the PTV Visum assignment results, clearly indicates which connections are currently used. Reducing waiting times for these connections improves service quality for passengers.

Transfer Display


Schematic Line Diagram

Supply planners focus on network planning, timetable design, and connection optimization. The major elements - line courses, served stops and frequencies, and headway offsets - can be summarized in one view: The schematic line diagram. This kind of display supports the planning of public transport supply by providing a quick overview and serves as a tool to communicate ideas to other stakeholders.

Shematic Line Diagram




Extensive graphic parameters, bars, and labeling options allow you to clearly present important aspects, such as:

  • service frequencies
  • departure times
  • service type operators
  • model results: capacities, volumes, transfer flows

Shematic Line Diagram


Shematic Line Diagram Demand


One software suite

A unique feature of PTV Visum is that it is one software suite, based on one dataset. Therefore, changes in one view are immediately updated in the other. Synchronization is possible, which means clicking on one object in one view will mark it in the other views. This enhances your daily work: You continue your work while choosing the optimal view on your data.

Marketing Overall


Extended features for planning Services

These features enhance the service design and give a deeper insight into the effects on the system.

Multimodality aspects: Calculating modal shift. In PTV Visum you model not only public transport, but all modes of mobility. You can model people’s choices of a specific transport system. Therefore, you can estimate how many people will switch to public transport from other modes, because of planned measures or scenarios.

Multimodality Aspects



Assignments & posteriori analysis: In an assignment, combining demand and supply results in a set of individual paths. All the connections made by passengers are stored in the model, with the exact schedule and timestamps. This data can be assessed in multiple posteriori analysis, like selected link analysis or skim matrix calculation.




Timetable-based assignment of headway-based supply: In early planning phases, not all details of a planned supply are available. A new extension of the timetable based-assignment procedure can deal with PT services, which only holds the headway information, but not the information about the departure time. This enables planners to include such lines in the network without assuming connection details.

Headway Offset Optimization: A major part of service planning is optimizing the connection between lines. Therefore, PTV Visum offers an algorithm for optimizing the offset of headways for a single line, or the entire network, to minimize passengers’ waiting times.


Operating Indicators 

Vehicle Scheduling: Vehicle Scheduling turns the timetable into tour plans for buses and trams. It derives the number of needed vehicles and the performance indicators like service mileage and hour.

Cost Calculation: Having the performance indicators on all levels of the timetable enables you to derive the operating cost of the timetable.

Cost / Benefit Calculation (Standi 2016+): Often, expensive public transport infrastructure measures are subsidized. Therefore, it must be proven a project is macro-economically sensible. With PTV Visum you can derive all needed characteristic values to provide the evidence (e.g., Standi 2016+).

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