Reference Materials

Transit Glossary

A glossary of public transit-related terms that may appear on this website.

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Above Grade The location of a structure or guideway above the surface of the ground (also known as elevated or aerial).
Accessible Service Buses operating in regular service with wheelchair lifts, kneeling functions or other devices that permit disabled passengers 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.
Alight To get off a transit vehicle.
Alignment The horizontal and vertical ground plan of a roadway, railroad, transit route or other facility.
Allocation 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 Low-polluting fuels used to propel a vehicle instead of diesel or gasoline. Examples include methanol, ethanol, propane or compressed natural gas, liquid natural gas, and electricity.
AM Peak The morning commute period, about two hours, in which the greatest movement of passengers occurs, generally from home to work; the portion of the morning service period where the greatest level of ridership is experienced and service provided. Synonyms: AM Rush, Early Peak, Morning Peak, Morning Rush Hour
American Public Transportation Association (APTA) The national, nonprofit trade association representing the public transit industry. APTA members serve the public interest by providing safe, efficient and economical transit services, and by improving those services to meet national energy, environmental, and financial concerns. APTA members include public bus, rapid transit and commuter rail systems, and the private organizations responsible for planning, design, construction, finance, supplying and operating transit systems. In addition, government agencies, metropolitan planning organizations, state departments of transportation, academic institutions, and trade publications are also part of our membership.
Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) A civil rights 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.
Apportionment A federal budgetary term that refers to a statutorily prescribed division or assignment of funds. It is based on prescribed formulas in the law and consists of dividing authorized obligation authority for a specific program among transit systems.
Appropriation A federal budgetary term that refers to an act of Congress that permits federal agencies to incur obligations and make payments out of the Treasury for specified purposes. An appropriation act is the most common means of providing budget authority, but in some cases the authorization legislation itself provides the budget authority.
Arterial Street A major thoroughfare, used primarily for through traffic rather than for access to adjacent land, that is characterized by high vehicular capacity and continuity of movement.
At Grade The location of a structure or guideway at the same level as the ground surface.
Authorization 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 Vehicle Location (AVL) A system that senses, at intervals, the monitors the real-time location of transit vehicles carrying special electronic equipment that communicates a signal back to a central control facility, locating the vehicle and providing other information about its operations or about its mechanical condition.
Articulated bus A 60-foot three-axle bus. These buses have an "accordion" section in the middle that allows the bus to bend and flex (articulate). The articulated bus has more passenger capacity than standard 40-foot buses.
Average speed The total miles of revenue service divided by the total hours of revenue service. Average speed includes time traveling and time waiting for passengers plus any other delays.
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Base period The period between the morning and evening peak periods when transit service is generally scheduled on a constant interval. Also known as "off-peak period."
Block A vehicle schedule, the daily assignment for an individual bus. One or more runs can work a block. A driver schedule is known as a "run."
Board To go onto or into a transit vehicle.
Bus Rubber-tired vehicles operating on fixed routes and schedules on roadways. Buses are powered by diesel, gasoline, battery or alternative fuel engines contained within the vehicle.
Bus Bay Bus berthing area in a facility such as a transit center or rail station.
Bus Hours The total hours of travel by bus, including both revenue service and deadhead travel.
Bus Lane A street or highway lane intended primarily for buses, either all day or during specified periods, but sometimes also used by carpools meeting requirements set out in traffic laws.
Bus Shelter A building or other structure constructed near a bus stop, to provide seating and protection from the weather for the convenience of waiting passengers.
Bus Stop A place where passengers can board or alight from the bus, usually identified by a sign.
Bus Miles The total miles of travel by bus, including both revenue and deadhead travel.
Bus Turnout Cutout in the roadside to permit a transit vehicle to dwell at a curb.
Busway A special roadway designed for exclusive use by buses. It may be constructed at, above, or below grade and may be located in separate rights-of-way or within highway corridors. There are no busways in Honolulu.
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Capital Long-term assets, such as property, buildings, roads, rail lines, and vehicles.
Capital Costs Costs of long-term assets of a public transit system such as property, buildings, vehicles, etc.
Capital Improvement Program (CIP) The list of capital projects for a five to seven year programming period.
Capital Project Construction and/or procurement of district assets, such as transit centers, transit vehicles and track.
Car Pool An arrangement where two or more people share the use and cost of privately owned automobiles in traveling to and from pre-arranged destinations together.
Central Business District (CBD) An area of a city that contains the greatest concentration of commercial activity, the "Downtown".
Car house Bus garage Kalihi Bus Facility, Pearl City Bus Facility
Contract Authority A federal budgetary term that refers to a form of budget authority permitting obligations to be incurred in advance of appropriations. Advance obligations, however, have been limited by the appropriations committees with obligation limitations.
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
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).
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Deadhead There are two types of deadhead or non-revenue bus travel time:
  1. Bus travel to or from the garage and a terminus point where revenue service begins or ends;
  2. Travel between the end of service on one route to the beginning of another.
Deadhead operation Non-revenue time when a bus is not carrying passengers. Usually this refers to the trip between the home division garage to the point where the bus enters or leaves its route.
Dedicated Funding Source A source of monies which by law is available for use only to support a specific purpose, and cannot be diverted to other uses.
Demand Responsive Non-fixed-route service utilizing vans or buses with passengers boarding and alighting at pre-arranged times at any location within the system's service area.
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 Subject to the discretion of legislators or an administrator. The federal Section 5309 New Starts Program is an example of a discretionary program
Dispatcher An individual who combines bus operators, run assignments, and buses that provide transportation service to passengers
Downtime A period during which a vehicle is inoperative because of repairs or maintenance.
Dwell Time The scheduled time a vehicle or train is allowed to discharge and take on passengers at a stop, including opening and closing doors.
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Earmark A federal budgetary term that refers to the specific designation by Congress that part of a more general lump-sum appropriation be used for a particular project; the earmark can be designated as a minimum and/or maximum dollar amount.
Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) A comprehensive study of likely environmental impacts resulting from major federally-assisted projects; statements are required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
Exclusive Right-of-way A highway or other facility that can only be used by buses or other transit vehicles.
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Fare Box A device that accepts the coins, bills, tickets and tokens given by passengers as payment for rides.
Farebox Recovery Ratio Measure of the proportion of operating expenses covered by passenger fares; found by dividing fare box revenue by total operating expenses for each mode and/or systemwide.
Fare Box Revenue Value of cash, tickets, tokens and pass receipts given by passengers as payment for rides; excludes charter revenue.
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 a transit vehicle at any given time.
Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Formerly known as the Urban Mass Transportation Administration (UMTA); FTA is the agency of the U.S. Department of Transportation which administers the federal program of financial assistance to public transit.
Feeder line A bus line that services neighborhoods and crosses trunk lines offering transfer opportunities.
Fixed Cost An indirect cost that remains relatively constant irrespective of the level of operational activity.
Fixed-Guideway System A system of vehicles that can operate only on its own guideway constructed for that purpose (e.g., rapid rail, light rail). Federal usage in funding legislation also includes exclusive right-of-way bus operations, trolley coaches and ferryboats as "fixed guideway" transit.
Fixed Route Service provided on a repetitive, fixed-schedule basis along a specific route with vehicles stopping to pick up and deliver passengers to specific locations; each fixed-route trip serves the same origins and destinations, unlike demand responsive and taxicabs.
Four-point securement system An onboard securement system for wheelchairs, three-wheel and four-wheel scooters. The system incorporates four seatbelt type straps that attach to the frame of a mobility device as a way to keep it from moving or rolling while on the bus.
Frequency The quantity of service on a route. The amount of time scheduled between consecutive buses on a given route segment; in other words, how often the bus comes (also known as Headway).
Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) An agreement executed by the federal government with a public transit operator that assures the operator of the federal government's intention to fully fund the federal share of a New Starts project.
FY (Fiscal Year) A yearly accounting period designated by the calendar year in which it ends (e.g. FY 2000). The fiscal year for the federal government runs from October 1 to September 30. The fiscal year for both the City and County of Honolulu from July 1 to June 30.
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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.
GILLIG A manufacturer of transit buses.
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Head sign The sign above the front windshield of a bus describing the route number or letter its name, and destination.
Headway Time intervals between vehicles moving in the same direction on a particular route.
High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) Vehicles that can carry two or more persons. Examples of high occupancy vehicles are a bus, vanpool and carpool. These vehicles sometimes have exclusive traffic lanes called "HOV lanes," "busways," "transitways" or "commuter lanes."
HOV See High Occupancy Vehicle.
Hybrid bus A bus that runs on hybrid propulsion (fossil fuel combined with electric power).
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Incident Traffic or passenger accidents 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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Jitney Privately-owned, small or medium-sized vehicle usually operated on a fixed route but not on a fixed schedule.
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Kiss and ride An area within a station where commuters are driven by private car and dropped off to board a public transit vehicle
Kneeling bus A feature on all buses that lowers the floor to the curb or to near-curb level to make it easier for passengers to board, especially for seniors and persons with disabilities
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Layover Layover time serves two major functions: recovery time for the schedule to ensure on-time departure for the next trip and, in some systems, operator rest or break time between trips. Layover time is often determined by labor agreement, requiring "off-duty" time after a certain amount of driving time.
Layover time Time built into a schedule between arrival at the end of a route and the departure for the return trip, used for the recovery of delays and preparation for the return trip.
Layover zone A designated stopover point at or near the end of the line for bus drivers to rest between trips.
Limited stop service A route segment where designated buses stop only at transfer points or major activity centers, usually about every other block. Limited stop service is usually provided on major trunk lines, in addition to local service that makes all stops.
Limited Service Higher speed train or bus service where designated vehicles stop only at transfer points or major activity centers, usually about every block in Honolulu. Routes A, B, and C are "all-day" limited stop express services
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 actually 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 consequent low speeds, the purpose of which is to deliver and pick up transit passengers as close to their destinations or origins as possible.
LOS (Level of Service) A measure of congestion that compares actual or projected traffic volume with the maximum capacity of the intersection or road in question. LOS is rated from A (free-flowing traffic) to F (gridlock).
Low-floor vehicle A bus that does not have steps at the doorways.
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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 operator absence, 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. Also describes the process of allocating the proportion of people using modes. Frequently used to describe the percentage of people using private automobiles as opposed to the percentage using public transportation.
Model An analytical tool (often mathematical) used by transportation planners to assist in making forecasts of land use, economic activity, and travel activity.
Monthly Pass A prepaid pass valid for unlimited riding for one-month period.
Multimodal Refers to the availability of multiple transportation options, especially within a system or corridor. A multimodal approach to transportation planning focuses on the most efficient way of getting people or goods from place to place by means other than privately owned vehicles; by bus, trolley, light rail, streetcar, cable car, and/or ferry systems.
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National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) A comprehensive federal law requiring analysis of the environmental impacts of federal actions such as the approval of grants; also requiring preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for every major federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment.
Network The configuration of streets or transit routes and stops that constitutes the total system.
NABI (North American Bus Industries) A bus manufacturer
New Flyer A manufacturer of transit buses.
New Starts Federal funding granted under Section 5309 (B) of the United States Code. These discretionary funds are made available for construction of a new fixed guideway system or extension of any existing fixed guideway system, based on cost-effectiveness, alternatives analysis results and the degree of local financial commitment.
NOVA NOVA Bus manufacturer
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Off-Peak period Non-rush periods of the day when travel activity is generally lower and less transit service is scheduled. Also called "base period."
Operating Assistance Financial assistance for transit operating expenses (not capital costs); such aid may originate with federal, local or state governments.
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, wages, materials, supplies and equipment in order to maintain equipment and buildings, operate vehicles, rent equipment and facilities and settle claims.
Operating Ratio A measure of expense recovery obtained by dividing total operating revenues by total operating expenses.
Operating Revenue Receipts derived from or for the operation of transit service, including fare box revenue, revenue from advertising, interest and operating assistance from governments.
Operating Speed The rate of speed at which a vehicle in safely operated under prevailing traffic and environmental conditions.
Operator The bus driver.
Origin The location of the beginning of a trip or the zone in which a trip begins
Origin-Destination Study A study of the origins and destinations of trips made by vehicles or passengers.
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Paratransit Comparable transportation service required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 for individuals with disabilities who are unable to use fixed-route transportation systems.
Park-and-Ride Designated parking areas for automobile drivers who then board transit vehicles from these locations.
Passenger A person who rides a transportation vehicle, excluding the driver.
Passenger lift A mechanical device, either a lift or ramp, that allows wheelchair or scooter users, as well as other mobility-impaired passengers, to board a bus without climbing the steps. By law, passenger lifts must be capable of lifting at least 600 pounds.
Passenger Miles
  1. A measure of service use that represents the cumulative sum of the distances ridden by each passenger. It is normally calculated by summation of the passenger load times the distance between individual bus stops. For example, ten passengers riding in a transit vehicle for two miles equals 20 passenger miles.
  2. The total number of miles traveled by passengers on transit vehicles; determined by multiplying the number of unlinked passenger trips times the average length of their trips.
Passenger Revenue Fares paid by passenger traveling aboard transit vehicles.
Particulate Trap A filter which removes a portion of the particulates (solids, soot, etc.) from a vehicle's exhaust stream and generally includes a regenerative unit and associated control system to burn the collected solids.
Peak service Refers to weekday a.m. and p.m. service during commute hours to carry a maximum number of passengers. Commute or peak hours are defined as time between 5 and 9 a.m. in the morning, and between 2 and 5 p.m. at night.
Platform hours Refers to the total scheduled time a bus spends from pull-out to pull-in at the car house
Public Transit System An organization that provides transportation services owned, operated, or subsidized by any municipality, county, regional authority, state, or other governmental agency, including those operated or managed by a private management firm under contract to the government agency owner.
Public Transportation Transportation by bus, rail, or other conveyance, either publicly or privately owned, which provides to the public general or special service on a regular and continuing basis. Also known as "mass transportation," "mass transit" and "transit."
Pull-In Time The non-revenue time assigned for the movement of a revenue vehicle from its last scheduled terminus or stop to the garage.
Pull-Out Time The non-revenue time assigned for the movement of a revenue vehicle from the garage to its first scheduled terminus or stop.
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Recovery Time Recovery time is distinct from layover, although they are usually combined together. Recovery time is a planned time allowance between the arrival time of a just completed trip and the departure time of the next trip in order to allow the route to return to schedule if traffic, loading, or other conditions have made the trip arrive late. Recovery time is considered as reserve running time and typically, the operator will remain on duty during the recovery period
Revenue Receipts derived from or for the operation of transit service including farebox revenue, revenue from other commercial sources, and operating assistance from governments. Farebox revenue includes all fare, transfer charges, and zone charges paid by transit passengers.
Revenue hours Refers to all scheduled time a bus spends serving passengers, which can also be defined as platform hours minus deadhead and layover time.
Revenue Miles Miles operated by vehicles available for passenger service.
Revenue Passenger A passenger from whom a fare is collected.
Revenue Service When a revenue vehicle is in operation over a route and is available to the public for transport.
Revenue Vehicle Hour The measure of scheduled hours of service available to passengers for transport on the routes, equivalent to one transit vehicle traveling in one hour in revenue service, excluding deadhead hours but including recovery/layover time. Calculated for each route.
Revenue trip Refers to any linked or unlinked trip that generates revenue by cash payment, use of a pass, and/or any other means of payment.
Reverse Commute Movement in a direction opposite to the main flow of travel, such as from Honolulu to Kapolei during the morning commute hour.
Ridesharing A form of transportation, other than public transit, in which more than one person shares in the use of the vehicle, such as a van or car, to make a trip.
Ridership The number of passenger boardings on a public transportation system in a given time period.
Road Call A mechanical failure of a bus in revenue service that causes a delay to service, and which necessitates removing the bus from service until repairs are made.
Rolling Stock The vehicles used in a transit system, including buses and rail cars.
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.
Route Miles The total number of miles included in a fixed route transit system network.
Run A driver's daily work assignment. One or more runs can work a single block. Runs can also work on multiple blocks. A driver's schedule is primarily determined for each sign-up period through the run-cut process where bus schedules are integrated with driver assignments.
Run-cut The process of generating daily bus driver work assignments in a cost efficient manner to meet all contract requirements negotiated between the union and district. Run-cutting software is used to generate assignments that may be reset until they fulfill the requirements of all participating parties.
Running time Time allowed between any two points, such as from time point to time point or from end-of-line to end-of -line.
Run relief point A list of locations where bus operators begin their respective run assignments when scheduled to relieve an operator who is already in service on a route
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SAFETEA-LU Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU). SAFETEA-LU authorizes the Federal surface transportation programs for highways, highway safety, and transit for the 5-year period 2005-2009
Schedule From the transit agency (not the public timetable), a document that, at a minimum, shows the time of each revenue trip through the designated time points. Many properties include additional information such as route descriptions, deadhead times and amounts, interline information, run numbers, block numbers, etc.
Scheduling The planning of vehicle arrivals and departures and the operators for these vehicles to meet consumer demand along specified routes.
Section 13(c) Employee Protections Under the Federal Transit Law, 49 U.S.C. 5333(b) (formerly identified as Section 13(c) of the Federal Transit Act) The section of the Federal Transit Act (formerly known as the Urban Mass Transportation Act of 1964), as amended, related to labor protection that is designed to protect transit employees against a worsening of their position with respect to their employment as a result of grant assistance under the Act.
Service Area A geographic area that is provided with transit services.
Service Span The span of hours over which service is operated. Service span often varies by weekday, Saturday, or Sunday.
Service Standards A benchmark by which service operations performance is evaluated.
Shuttle A public or private vehicle that travels back and forth over a particular route, especially a short route or one that provides connections between transportation systems, employment centers, etc.
Subsidy Funds granted by federal, state or local government.
Spread Time The total time from the start of a driver assignment to its end, whether a bus is in service or not.
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Timed transfer A system of scheduling transit so that connecting routes come together at the same time. This allows passengers convenient no-wait transfers between bus lines
Transfer A slip of paper issued to a passenger that gives the passenger the right to change from one transit vehicle to another according to specified limitations.
Transit Center A fixed location where passengers transfer from one route to another.
Transit Corridor A broad geographic band that follows a general route alignment such as a roadway of rail right-of-way and includes a service area within that band that would be accessible to the transit system.
Transfer Passenger A passenger who transfers to a line after paying a fare on another line.
Transit Dependent Someone who must use public transportation for his/her 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.
Travel Time The time allows for an operator to travel between the garage and a remote relief point.
Trip The one-way operation of a revenue vehicle between two terminal points on a route. Trips are generally noted as inbound, outbound, eastbound, westbound, etc. to identify directionality when being discussed or printed.
Total Miles Total miles include revenue, deadhead, and yard (maintenance and servicing) miles.
Travel time Paid time that allows a bus driver to travel from relief point to garage or from garage to relief point.
Transit System An organization (public or private) providing local or regional multi-occupancy-vehicle passenger service. Organizations that provide service under contract to another agency are generally not counted as separate systems.
Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) A program of intermodal transportation projects, to be implemented over several years, growing out of the planning process and designed to improve transportation in a community. This program is required as a condition of a locality receiving federal transit and highway grants.
Trunkline A route operating along a major corridor that carries a large number of passengers and operates at headway frequencies of 15 minutes or less
Trust Funds Funds collected and used by the federal government for carrying out specific purposes and programs according to terms of a trust agreement or statute, such as the Social Security and highway trust funds. Trust funds are administered by the government in a fiduciary capacity and are not available for the general purposes of the government. See "Dedicated Funding Source."
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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. Where linked or unlinked is not designated, unlinked is assumed.
Unlinked Trip A trip taken by an individual on one specific mode. A linked trip may involve two or more unlinked trips.
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Vanpool An arrangement in which a group of passengers share the use and cost of a van in traveling to and from pre-arranged destinations together.
Variable Cost A cost that varies in relation to the level of operational activity.
Vehicle Revenue Hours (VRH) The hours that vehicles are scheduled to or actually travel while in revenue service. Vehicle revenue hours include Layover and/or recovery time, But exclude: Deadhead, Operator training, and Vehicle maintenance testing, as well as, School bus and charter services.
Vehicle Miles The number of miles traveled by a vehicle, and is usually calculated by mode.
VMT (Vehicle Miles Traveled) The number of cars that are on the road at the same time in the same area. The greater the number, the worse the congestion will be. Reducing the growth of VMT can help ease traffic congestion and improve air quality.
Vehicle Revenue Miles (VRM) The miles that vehicles are scheduled to or actually travel while in revenue service. Vehicle revenue miles include Layover and/or recovery time, But exclude: Deadhead, Operator training, and Vehicle maintenance testing, as well as, School bus and charter services.
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Wheelchair Lift A device used to raise and lower a platform in a transit vehicle for accessibility by handicapped individuals.
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