The sustainable design of public transport services is a crucial issue that may affect the economy of local areas and the social inclusion of their inhabitants. Indeed, transport accessibility of households, businesses, and retail activities is one of the main drivers that influence location choices and sustainable development and where the public transport services may play a key (positive) role. Furthermore, the economic crisis of the 2009 and the current ones caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has further limited the funds available for public services, including the transport sector. In this critical context, sound design of public transport services assumes great importance, especially in light of financial constraints. Starting from these considerations, the aim of this paper has been to propose an innovative methodology for designing public transport services based on a rational decision-making process with stakeholder engagement, aiming to perform a sustainable development perspective. The proposed methodology combines technical aspects, social and political issues, equity perspectives, and it is aimed in obtaining a design solution that can be accepted by the whole community. The proposed theoretical design methodology has also been applied to a case study in order to verify its applicability to a real context, consisting of the design of the public transport plan of the province of Foggia in southern Italy. Applications results show that the sustainable design scenario is not only the best ones from a technical point of view, but also participated, equitable, and approved by both policymakers and stakeholders.
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