Walking is one of the most practical, affordable, and widely accessible ways people travel for the first and last mile of journeys involving public transport. 

It’s also the most common way New Zealanders get to and from a public transport stop. For example, surveys in the Wellington region have shown that 85% of trips to a public transport stop, and 92% of trips from the stop to the destination, were by walking (Source: State of Walking Report: Wellington Region 20012015).

Walking is also the most space-efficient mode, as more people can travel on a footpath per square metre than typically travel in a road lane. Walking access, including safe and convenient road crossings, should be built into new land developments, redevelopments, or retrofitted if there are deficiencies in the existing environment (see checklist below). 

Quick checklist for getting to and from public transport [PDF, 54 KB]

This will help ensure that people in the areas around a public transport stop or station feel that they can access and use the facility. 

Intuitive access and wayfinding

Urban design and street layouts should support intuitive access to public transport to the greatest extent possible.

Planning for wayfinding will ensure that people can easily find their way to public transport and understand when and where the services will take them, is important. It can help to promote the uptake of public transport, particularly for people who are new to an area, or visiting. It can also have a wider benefit of giving public transport more visibility, ‘softly’ highlighting it as a possible mode of travel. 

Wayfinding information systems can include a broad range of cues such as signs, visual clues, maps, colour coding, tactile elements, audible communication, digital real-time signage in popular trip destinations such as shopping centres and public libraries, or other aspects which help guide people or enhance their understanding of a place.

Wayfinding should also include information for disabled people such as the maximum gradient of paths.

Further information on wayfinding for pedestrians is available in guidance on walkability and wayfinding for walking is provided in the Pedestrian Network Guide.

‘Walkability’ section in the Pedestrian Network Guidance

‘Wayfinding’ section in the Pedestrian Network Guidance

Walking catchments

A powerful tool that practitioners can use to encourage the use of public transport is to enable compact urban form and permeable street designs (lanes, paths and road crossings) that provide access for walking and cycling). 

How far people are willing to walk to and from public transport can be affected by:

  • The level of service of walking facilities including factors such as pedestrian delay, amenity, directness and safety/security.
  • The level of service of the public transport, with higher frequency, faster services typically attracting people from a wider catchment than slower, less frequent services. 

The below table provides a general guide for distances people may be willing to walk to access different types of public transport services. As some people may be willing to walk longer distances than others, walking catchments do not have fixed boundaries. The percentage of people who walk to and from public transport stops tends to drop off significantly beyond the distances shown below.  

General walking catchments to stops with different levels of public transport service
(Source: South-East Queensland household travel survey)

Walking catchment


≤400m or 5min walk

Low frequency public transport stops

≤800m or 10min walk

High frequency public transport stops (a service at least every 15min)

800m – 1200m or 15min walk

High frequency and rapid public transport stops or stations

Public transport catchment sizes may also increase in areas that are particularly pedestrian-friendly as people are willing to walk further where it is pleasant to do so, and when the environment at the stop or station is also pleasant. This is supported by research which shows that people remember the walking legs of their public transport journeys more vividly than the in-vehicle legs, and perceptions of walking time are longer for less pleasant walking environments (refer Hillnhütter 2016, referenced at bottom of page). 

Guidance on spacing bus stops is offered in the Bus stop topic. It’s worth noting there are important trade-offs between ensuring stops are close and convenient for public transport passengers to walk to, and also spaced far enough apart to improve public transport travel time and reliability to create an attractive and efficient service.  

Case study

A Wellington case study shows the current walking catchment of a bus service (see image below), and how it could still be well serviced by more strategic placement of fewer bus stops, reducing public transport travel times.

maps showing how far people can walk to public transport

In this case study of Berhampore, Wellington a similar walking catchment can be served with less stops by strategic placement of stops, reducing total travel times on public transport (Images by Wellington City Council)

The analysis above found that consolidating stops with an aim of approximately one stop per 400m could result in increased efficiency of the bus service, with very little impact on the effective five-minute walk catchments. As such, any inconvenience from increased walking distances for some people was more than outweighed by vehicle travel time and reliability benefits.

Street environment considerations for walking

Designing safe and convenient public transport facilities for pedestrians involves considering safety, accessibility, directness, and amenity (or attractiveness) of the walking network. 

The Pedestrian Network Guidance provides extensive and robust guidance on planning and designing for walking. This section of the 'Getting to and from public transport guideline' provides a snapshot of some key considerations to get you started and is focussed on walking to and from public transport specifically. However, links to the relevant sections of the Pedestrian Network Guidance are also offered along the way. 

Safety and accessibility for walking

Consideration for walking includes the presence and quality of pedestrian infrastructure, including paths, crossings, and bridges. Traffic volumes and speeds are key considerations when it comes to pedestrian safety. Movement and place frameworks including the national One Network Framework can help identify where infrastructure improvements may be most needed to promote safe connections to public transport stops and stations. 

Perceptions of safety while travelling to and from public transport can be a strong influencing factor in peoples’ decision to use public transport. Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) audits can help identify opportunities to enhance actual and perceived safety. 

Safe and obvious walking routes that include step-free choices make the first and last mile accessible to a broader range of people. Accessibility considerations are particularly important for people with limited mobility and those who rely on public transport for their day to day activities.

One Network Framework

‘Universal design principles’ section in the Pedestrian Network Guidance

Directness and convenience for walking

Providing more direct connections to public transport will also increase the catchment area within a 510min walk of the service. Minimising delay at pedestrian crossings is important, so providing pedestrian priority wherever practical will make for more attractive walking connections to public transport. It is also important for access to the actual public transport platform or boarding area to be direct, rather than expecting people to take circuitous routes around parking or other infrastructure. 

‘Direct’ section in the Pedestrian Network Guidance

Amenity for walking

Increasing the attractiveness, or amenity value, of walking routes in the first and last mile is likely to increase the overall number of people who walk to and from their public transport service. As well as traffic and network considerations, amenity considerations, including lighting, planting, shade/weather protection (including at major road crossings), and wayfinding information, contribute to the pedestrian experience. 

Bridging the Gap urban design guidelines

‘Safe’ section in the Pedestrian Network Guidance

Related guidance