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In public transit, a limited-stop bus, tram, or train service is a service that stops less frequently than local service. The term is normally used on routes with a mixture of fast and slow services, and can differ in meaning, depending on how it is used by different transit agencies. Additionally, there may be a "semi-fast" service, with more stops than a "fast" service, but fewer than a "slow" service.
In a typical metropolitan area, limited-stop services are most likely to be scheduled at times when more people are travelling (these times are not limited to the rush hours).
Sometimes a higher (premium) fare may be required for the faster journey, especially for some international trains in western Europe.
On railways, the layout of the tracks and number/length of platforms at stations will normally limit the extent to which a blend of fast/semi-fast/slow services can be operated.
In Australia, particularly in Brisbane and Sydney, limited stop services are formed by commuter trains which run as limited stops or express services from the city centre to the edge of the suburban area and then as all stops in the interurban area. Same is done in Helsinki, Finland by VR commuter rail.
In the United Kingdom, some railway stations have tracks where there are no platforms, allowing more fast trains to rush past those stations without stopping. They may go down the middle of the station, or down the side. Examples are at Forest Hill, Raynes Park, Kentish Town and Totnes (the middle track at Totnes is only used in summer, by Great Western Railway services between London Paddington and Newquay).
Traditional limited stop bus service
Traditionally, a limited stop bus service usually operates on a route identical or similar to one or more local bus routes. They only serve certain bus stops, skipping others that local routes serve. Typically, the stops that are served by limited stop routes are chosen so there is even spacing stops and also that transfer points, major intersections, and popular destinations are served.
For example, for many years, in Minneapolis/St Paul Minnesota, USA, Metro Transit Route 50 operated as a limited stop version of Route 16 during peak travel times between Downtown Minneapolis and Downtown St. Paul along University Avenue. While Route 16 served every single stop along University Avenue, Route 50 only serviced select stops, skipping the rest. Route 50 was replaced in June 2014 by the Metro Green Line light rail service, while Route 16 continues to serve local stops between downtown St. Paul and Prospect Park in Southeast Minneapolis.
Limited stop bus service is sometimes viewed as a form of bus rapid transit (BRT), but differs in that it doesn't share most of the common features of bus rapid transit such as unique route branding, off-vehicle fare collection, signal preemption, frequent all-day service, and dedicated right-of-way such as bus-only lanes. For example, the RapidRide lines in Seattle, Washington are from existing local King County Metro routes by reducing the number of stops and adopts some BRT features at select stations.
Other forms of limited stop bus service
There are forms of limited stop bus service other than the traditional type characterized by only serving certain stops. Often certain bus routes where portions of the route are non-stop are referred to as limited stop by the transit agency operating the route.
One form of this is a route that operates partially on a highway. It is more similar in characteristics to an express bus route than the traditional limited stop route. However, the non-stop portion of the route is typically shorter than that of an express route, and depending on the fare structure of the transit agency, a limited stop route may have a lower fare than an express route.
One example of this type of route would be Metro Transit Metro Transit Route 114 in Minneapolis, MN. The route originates at the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis, then it travels several miles on Interstates 35W and 94, before it begins to operate as local service through the Uptown area of Minneapolis.
Another form of limited stop bus service includes local routes that may operate certain trips with limited or non-stop sections. For example, Metro Transit Route 12 in Minneapolis, to aid commute times for downtown workers, operates during peak hours as non-stop for approximately 8 blocks between Franklin Avenue and Uptown Transit Station, when normally the route serves all stops along that section.