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Jarrett at
Portland, Oregon
Transit planning expert with humanities background. Author of
Interests: Cities, natural history, botany, gardening, literature, languages. What am I not interested in?
Recent Activity
This image by Claes Tingvall needs to go viral. I had many years living as a pedestrian in cities designed or managed for cars, including most big American cities in the least century, and I've never seen an image that better captured how that felt. The bottomless void, in this metaphor, represents the essential unpredictability of the reckless or distracted motorist (there only needs to be one) combined with the destructive potential of their machine. The sidewalk is a narrow ledge on the edge of extreme danger. Crossing the street, even with a crosswalk, works when it works, but the... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at Human Transit
I talk a lot about altitude in planning and network design. But sometimes my airplane metaphor gets mangled a bit in translation, as in this otherwise fine article about our work in the Raleigh, NC area. So wherever you encounter it, here is what I mean: If you are higher up from the surface of the earth, you can see a larger area, but in less detail. At lower altitude, you see a smaller area, but in greater detail. Likewise, there are high-altitude planning projects, which look at a large area (a city, a county, an urban region) and identify... Continue reading
Posted Dec 10, 2014 at Human Transit
We are happy to be part of a new transit planning initiative for Raleigh, North Carolina, and vicinity, supporting local consultants Kimley Horn & Associates. The Wake County Transit Investment Strategy is an opportunity to think through the county's transit priorities in anticipation of a possible ballot measure to expand transit funding in the county. We're kicking off Monday, December 8, at the Raleigh Convention Center. Please join us at 6 PM that night for a series of presentations that explain what we're up to, what the big questions are, and how to get involved! Continue reading
Posted Dec 4, 2014 at Human Transit
A recent study from ITDP surveys the growth of BRT around the world over the past decade. Note that IDTP thinks of BRT as something that matches the performance of rail using buses. ITDP's BRT standard excludes many of the projects that the US Federal Transit Administration calls BRT, which amount to premium buses in mixed traffic with minimal speed and reliability features.* China has created the largest quantity of true BRT systems, but of course in per capita terms it's Latin America that is building true BRT most intensively. Fast-developing middle-wealth countries like China, India, Mexico, and Brazil are... Continue reading
Posted Dec 3, 2014 at Human Transit
Part 2 of my letter from Luca Guala, of the Italian consulting firm Mobility Thinklab. (Part 1, on personal rapid transit, is here.) Last summer, we tested driverless minibuses along a route of 1.3 km on a pedestrianized boulevard in Oristano, a small town in Italy. The idea was to test driverless vehicles mixed with traffic. Why minibuses and not taxis? Firstly, because it is much simpler to teach a robot to follow a fixed route, rather than teach it to go anywhere the passengers want to go. Such a system is already operational in Rotterdam ( and it works... Continue reading
Posted Nov 29, 2014 at Human Transit
Remember Masdar, the car-free neighbourhood in Abu Dhabi that was going to show the power of "personal rapid transit" (PRT)? I just received this interesting letter from Luca Guala, a transport engineer in Italy: Let me introduce myself. I am a transport planner and I am partner of a consultancy Company named MLab (, based in an obscure corner of Italy. Nothing to brag about except that I have had the chance to participate in two very interesting experiments that concerned automated, driverless vehicles: the Masdar City "Personal Rapid Transit" “automated taxi” transit system and the CityMobil2 experiment with automated... Continue reading
Posted Nov 27, 2014 at Human Transit
For over four years now, this blog has been encouraging transit agencies to map their high-frequency networks, and encouraging citizens to map them themselves if the transit agency doesn't. We've featured many over the years, including a rapidly rising number of maps by actual transit agencies. Just enter "frequent network maps" in our handy new searchbar. ---> Here's a new citizen entry, from Perth, Western Australia, by a Mr. OC Benz on the Bus Australia discussion board. And zooming in a bit: Although the definition does not include weekends, when Perth service levels drop sharply, the map is remarkable nonetheless.... Continue reading
Posted Nov 24, 2014 at Human Transit
Not from her extraordinary National Book Award acceptance speech (text, video), in which she challenged both the commodification of literature and the marginalization of science fiction, but for this [item 90]: We do have our nice Subaru, but we can’t drive it. I never could. I learned to drive in 1947 but didn’t get a license, for which I and all who know me are grateful. I’m one of those pedestrians who start to cross the street, scuttle back to the curb for no reason, then suddenly leap out in front of your car just as you get into the... Continue reading
Posted Nov 21, 2014 at Human Transit
We don't make endorsements, but beware politicians' promises about individual bus routes. Melbourne transit guru Daniel Bowen confirms that nobody is threatening to cancel the 822. The other team's plan involves removing some twists and turns on neighborhood streets, so that the route runs faster and is useful to more people. As usual, that plan asks some people to walk further to a more useful service, as virtually any access-improving network design will do. Those changes are fair game for debate, but remember: If you want to "save" every existing bus route exactly as it is, forever, then you're against... Continue reading
Posted Nov 20, 2014 at Human Transit
El Camino Real BRT Alignment Silicon Valley is easily viewed as a car-oriented place, where tech giants rule from business parks that are so transit-unfriendly that they have had to run their own bus systems to bring employees from afar. But one interesting transit project is moving forward: the El Camino BRT, a proposed rapid transit line connecting Palo Alto and central San Jose. El Camino Real ("the Royal Road") is a path defined by Spanish missionaries as they spread north through California. It lies close to the old railroad line now used by Caltrain, and the two facilities combined... Continue reading
Posted Nov 14, 2014 at Human Transit
From Streetsblog's Aaron Blalick in San Francisco: The latest of [San Francisco Municipal Transporation Authority]'’s efforts to speed up [major bus] lines to run into some neighborhood opposition involves its proposed replacement of stop signs with transit-priority traffic signals. Some Western Addition neighbors have protested a proposal to signalize five intersections on McAllister Street to speed up the 5-Fulton, one of the designated “Rapid” routes receiving upgrades under the Muni Forward program (also known as the Transit Effectiveness Project). Initially, the complaints were driven by fears that signals would bring dangerous speeding to McAllister. Muni planners responded by holding more... Continue reading
Posted Nov 10, 2014 at Human Transit
Is transit headed for a collision with self-driving cars? David Z. Morris in Fortune writes about how anti-transit Republicans are using the prospect of self-driving cars to argue against transit investments. Alarmingly, he quotes nobody who can actually refute this argument, except in the fuzziest of terms. Here is the recommended response: We are currently in that phase of any new techno-thrill where promoters make grandiose claims about the obsolescence of everything that preceded them. Remember how the internet was going to abolish the workplace? In any case, technology never changes facts of geometry. However successful driverless cars become, transit... Continue reading
Posted Nov 4, 2014 at Human Transit
(Updated with final version of map.) From Ilya Petoushkoff in Moscow, explaining this remarkably beautiful map (download this draft version here, or the final version here): Here I'd like you to see a beta-version of a result of a zillion-year struggle. Moscow finally is going to have a transit map with not only metro, but also regional rail and bus/trolleybus/tram connections between adjacent metro lines. From the beginning of 20th century and till nowadays there hasn't been any kind of common map. Presently we still have a metro-only map inside the whole metro system, and regional-rail-only map inside some 30-50... Continue reading
Posted Nov 3, 2014 at Human Transit
Trains would be just one layer of a comprehensive, multi-modal network that greatly enhances both neighborhood and regional accessibility for people all across the [Los Angeles] region. ... A singular focus on rail would divide the region into two: neighborhoods with rail and neighborhoods without. Such a future would perpetuate income inequality as housing costs rise near stations and station areas would be choked with traffic congestion. ... Getting our existing buses out of traffic is the quickest, most cost-effective means to bring high-quality transit to the greatest number of Angelenos. Juan Matute, UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies from a... Continue reading
Posted Oct 31, 2014 at Human Transit
Ask: Who does? From Mark Szarkowski: A common transit agency response to these pleas for improved service ... is that the problem is out of their control. And in some cases, such as "bunching" due to traffic, they're right. So do you think irate passengers would get more mileage by directing their pleas to the third parties that actually are in a position to fix issues that are truly outside the transit agency's control - say local {transportation and public works departments] that could improve signal timing or implement [transit signal priority], bus lanes, bus bulbs, and so on? Do... Continue reading
Posted Oct 28, 2014 at Human Transit
There is a lot of confusion out there about Park-and-Ride. Is it necessary for ridership? Are motorists entitled to it? Can it last forever? Let's start with the basic math. Really great transit generates high land value around stations. Free parking presumes low land value around stations. It's a contradiction. When a transit agency provides free or underpriced parking at a station where the land value signals that there is a higher use, it is subsidizing motorists in two ways. First, it is forcing a low-value land use to prevail over a high value land use, and second it is... Continue reading
Posted Oct 23, 2014 at Human Transit
Yesterday morning, just before my public lecture, I did an interview with Steve Kraske of the local public radio station KCUR. If you're interested, you can find it here! Continue reading
Posted Oct 15, 2014 at Human Transit
There should be nothing amazing about a new report on how easy it is for Americans to get to work on transit, but there is. Think about all the arguments we have about transit ... Does it fix congestion? Are streetcars better than buses? Is transit too fast? Should transit be cuter or sexier? How can we make transit attractive to "people like me"? – ... and ask: Why do we try to discuss these things in the absence of good analysis of the most basic question of all: Is transit useful? Does it help people get places in at... Continue reading
Posted Oct 7, 2014 at Human Transit
In the six cases examined, we conducted off the record interviews with public officials, general managers, and thought leaders in each region. One of the consistent themes that emerged was that the bus systems and bus passengers were an afterthought. In every region – Chicago, New York, Boston, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Dallas/Ft. Worth, and the Bay Area – rail was the primary focus of virtually everyone we interviewed. We also found that maps of the regional transit networks tellingly either included a jumbled mess of bus routes behind a clean rail network, or ignored bus altogether. It is likely this bias... Continue reading
Posted Oct 7, 2014 at Human Transit
Nothing. In today's CityLab, Eric Jaffe expresses concern about the fact that support for public transit in many American cities is far exceeding its ridership. Every transit advocate knows this timeless Onion headline: "98 Percent Of U.S. Commuters Favor Public Transportation For Others." But the underlying truth that makes this line so funny also makes it a little concerning: enthusiasm for public transportation far, far outweighs the actual use of it. Last week, for instance, the American Public Transportation Association reported that 74 percent of people support more mass transit spending. But only 5 percent of commuters travel by mass... Continue reading
Posted Oct 3, 2014 at Human Transit
A report from the TransitCenter has discovered something that's obvious to transit riders but not always to our urbanist elites: Transit succeeds when it is fast (in terms of total trip time and reliable). While we know this from the actual human behavior we call ridership, it's also nice to see it confirmed in people's conscious thoughts, in the form of surveys. Actual behavior is a better signal than surveys when the two contradict, but when behavior and surveys agree, the survey adds something useful: a sense that people are not only making certain choices, but are conscious of those... Continue reading
Posted Oct 2, 2014 at Human Transit
That's David Alpert's frame in a piece in the Atlantic Citylab today (links added): Jaffe, Walker, Yglesias, and Capps have no duty to support Team Transit [sic!] no matter what. They should speak their minds. And anyone who supports mass transit expansion should want it to be as close to perfect as possible. I worry about streetcar criticism that states that a streetcar without every desirable feature is worse than nothing. But streetcars also have another set of opponents: Those who simply don’t want to fund any transit at all, regardless of its specifics. They seize on any flaw to... Continue reading
Posted Oct 1, 2014 at Human Transit
We have ended up with one free seat in the Portland session of my Interactive Course in Transit Network Design, which is tomorrow and friday, 8:30 AM to 5 pm, downtown. The price is $395. If interested, contact me through email (button at right). Continue reading
Posted Oct 1, 2014 at Human Transit
The Edmonton Journal's Elise Stolte has been doing an excellent series on the city's debate about the future of transit. Unlike many transit debates, this one is about a real issue that affects the entire city: how to balance the ridership goals of transit with the competing coverage goals, where "coverage" means "respond to every neighborhood's social-service needs and/or sense of entitlement to transit even if the result is predictably low-ridership service." This is the great inner conflict in transit planning: Do we respond to demand (ridership) or to needs and expectations (coverage)? When I briefed the Edmonton City Council... Continue reading
Posted Sep 26, 2014 at Human Transit
Guardian journalist Bim Adewunmi recently traveled from London to New York and slammed the subway as compared to her beloved Underground. The blowback has been delightful. She seemed especially angry about the information system that isn't exactly what Transport for London would do. The city’s subway map is dense and needlessly complex. Where in London the Central line (red) is distinct from the Piccadilly (dark blue), which is markedly different from the Hammersmith and City line (pink), New York’s map has designated the same forest green to the 4, the 5 and the 6 lines. The B, D, F and... Continue reading
Posted Sep 25, 2014 at Human Transit