Our streets and highways are getting more congested as the population grows and more cars enter the transportation system. It is in the best interest of all to improve public transit service so that more travelers will utilize transit freeing up space on our streets, diminishing our dependence on fossil fuels, and improving air quality.

Transit Signal Priority (TSP) is a tool that can be used to help make transit service more reliable, faster, and more cost effective. TSP has little impact on general traffic and is an inexpensive way to make transit more competitive with the automobile. It is used extensively in other parts of the world, and is rapidly becoming more popular in the United States.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) has made it easier to choose TSP by financing workshops and documents to educate traffic engineers and transit planners on TSP implementation. This handbook is one of a series of documents created for that purpose. The first, entitled Overview of Transit Signal Priority, was a multi-year effort and was written entirely by volunteers under the leadership of ITS America. The volunteer authors included one traffic engineer and one transit planner for each chapter. Because it was co-authored by transit and traffic engineers, it was a ground-breaking effort that represented a new level of cooperation and consensus concerning the benefits of implementing TSP.

Capitalizing on the momentum created by the document, U.S. DOT financed a series of workshops to identify further research and educational needs and to reach out to the transportation community. Practitioners shared their experiences and worked with workshop participants to answer questions and build action plans for the participants’ own communities.

Transit Signal Priority (TSP) gives transit vehicles a little extra green time or a little less red time at traffic signals to reduce the time they are slowed down by traffic signals. It is a cost-effective method to enhance regional mobility by improving transit travel times and reliability.

Funded by the United States Department of Transportation: Prepared by Harriet R. Smith, Brendon Hemily, PhD, Miomir Ivanovic, Gannett Fleming, Inc.


This handbook, prepared for the U.S. DOT, has four objectives:

To outline a comprehensive process for planning and implementing TSP, based on a systems engineering approach, that identifies many of the issues that may need to be addressed in a TSP project
To provide more extensive information on the current state of the practice of TSP in North America
To document a number of case studies of communities that have implemented TSP in order to highlight the variety of issues that arise and solutions that have been developed
To provide a number of resources to those interested in TSP, including primers on traffic control equipment and systems, on key concepts (e.g. simulation and optimization), as well as on traffic engineering and transit terminology, to assist transit planners and traffic engineers in understanding one another

Executive Summary


The Overview of Transit Signal Priority was updated and expanded with information gathered from the workshops. The revised Overview of Transit Signal Priority was published in 2004 and is available on the ITS America Web site.

This handbook goes deeper into TSP and provides technical guidance. It does not repeat everything in the overview and is meant to be a companion document. The overview is a high-level document that explains what TSP is, why it is important, what the benefits are, and the important issues surrounding the topic. The handbook contains the steps one should follow to implement a successful TSP project. It relies heavily on eight case studies in which a great deal of information was gathered on topics related to planning, design, implementation, evaluation, technology, institutional issues, public reaction, and much more.

TSP projects are often complex enough to require professional engineering assistance. This handbook will help the public sector project manager provide better oversight. It explains a systems engineering approach with a logical sequence of steps that should be followed. It educates the reader on the inestimable benefits of working closely with stakeholders from day one to avoid problems later on. It equips the reader with vocabulary to communicate with both the transit and the traffic community. The handbook is a tool to help you navigate through a TSP project. Refer to it often. It is hoped that you will find in it the information you need to move you and your region toward TSP implementation.


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