Operating practices can have a significant impact on operating costs, and hence profitability, fare levels, service capacity, reliability and frequency.
Scheduling procedures are particularly significant. If bus services are operating on schedules, which are designed to ensure that service frequencies are commensurate with demand at different times, services can be operated with a minimum of excess capacity, thus maximizing revenue per kilometer.
Sophisticated scheduling techniques can maximize bus utilization, by deploying a bus on more than one route during the course of the day. In certain circumstances, particularly with routes operating at low frequencies, this can significantly reduce idle time.
A major problem with a scheduled operation, however, is difficulty in adhering to schedules when there are frequent and significant, but unpredictable, delays caused by traffic conditions.
In many cities, buses are not operating on a schedule. They operate on the full-vehicle-dispatching principle. This means they wait at the terminal until they have a full load of passengers, and then depart. This ensures a good load factor, but results in long periods of waiting, particularly at off-peak times, and reduces capacity along the route.
Full-vehicle dispatching can increase costs by reducing the proportion of running time to idle time. It also usually reduces revenue, since there is insufficient capacity to carry all the passengers wishing to board along the route. Many of these passengers end up walking instead of using the bus.