Dwell time (transportation)

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In transportation, dwell time or terminal dwell time refers to the time a vehicle such as a public transit bus or train spends at a scheduled stop without moving.[1] Typically, this time is spent boarding or deboarding passengers, but it may also be spent waiting for traffic ahead to clear, trying to merge into parallel traffic, or idling time in order to get back on schedule. Dwell time is one common measure of efficiency in public transport,[2] with shorter dwell times being universally desirable.

Causes of increased dwell times[edit]

The main predictor of dwell times will vary widely by mode, time, and line. However, dwell times will, in most cases, probably be most affected by the number of passengers needing to board and alight from a vehicle.

In the case of bus transit in particular, one cause of major delay at stops is the incidence of passengers making use of a wheelchair lift. Often, the driver will also be required to secure the passenger in addition to operating the ramp or lift.

Subway overcrowding in New York City has resulted in increased dwell times and travel delays, especially after 2014.[3]

Methods of minimizing dwell times[edit]

  • Make the vehicle entrance level and flush with the platform, eliminating the need for special wheelchair access apparatus/procedures.
  • Expedite or eliminate fare payment at the point of entry to the vehicle. Fares may be paid before the arrival of the vehicle as is done in rapid transit systems.
  • Board passengers through multiple doors (also called "all-door boarding")


  1. ^ "Dwell time - Transportation Research Thesaurus (TRT)". trt.trb.org. Retrieved 2017-06-30. 
  2. ^ Levinson, Herbert (1983). Analyzing transit travel time performance. 
  3. ^ Fessenden, Ford; Fitzsimmons, Emma G.; Lai, Rebecca K.K. (2017-06-28). "Every New York City Subway Line Is Getting Worse. Here's Why". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-06-30.