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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 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 (an example of such an express pattern can be seen on the Gold Coast line). 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.
Limited stop bus service is sometimes viewed as a form of bus rapid transit (BRT), but differs in that it does not 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.