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In public transit, particularly tram or train transportation, a limited-stop (or sometimes referred to as semi-fast service) service is a service that stops less frequently than a local service. Many limited-stop or semi-fast services are a combination of commuter rail and express train.
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. The main benefits of limited-stop or semi-fast services is the ability to utilise skip-stop calling pattern to maximise capacity along the line, as opposed to a commuter service stopping at every station which slows trailing express trains down.
On railways, the layout of the tracks and number and length of platforms at stations 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 that 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 (an example of such an express pattern can be seen on the Gold Coast line). The same occurs in Helsinki, Finland, by VR commuter rail.
In the United Kingdom, some railway stations have tracks for which there are no platforms, allowing a larger number of fast trains to pass them without stopping. They may go down the middle of the station or down the side such as at Forest Hill, Raynes Park, Kentish Town and Totnes (the middle track at Totnes is used only in the summer by Great Western Railway services between London Paddington and Newquay).
Traditional limited-stop bus service
Traditionally, limited-stop bus services usually operate on an identical or similar route to one or more local bus routes, serve only serve some of the bus stops, and skip others, which are served by local routes. Typically, the stops that are served by limited stop routes are chosen so that stops are evenly spaced or are transfer points, major intersections, or popular destinations.
Limited stop bus service is sometimes viewed as a form of bus rapid transit (BRT) but differs by not sharing 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 existing local King County Metro routes but with fewer stops and some BRT features being adopted at some stations.
Other forms of limited-stop bus service
There are forms of limited-stop bus service other than the traditional type characterized by serving only some of the stops. Some bus routes with portions of the route are non-stop are referred to as limited stop by the transit agency that operates the route.
One form is a route that operates partially on a highway. It is more similar 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 the fare structure of the transit agency cause a limited stop route to have a lower fare than an express route.
One example of this type of route would be 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, to aid commute times for downtown workers, Metro Transit Route 12 in Minneapolis operates during peak hours as non-stop for approximately eight blocks between Franklin Avenue and Uptown Transit Station, but the route serves all stops along that section at other times.