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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
Part 1 of this post gave an urbanist tour of Reykjavík, with photos. Iceland has no rail infrastructure. Public transit is buses, but they’re nice buses, as is usual in Europe. They blanket most of the city at a 30-minute frequency (blue below) but only two lines – linking the historic town centers, rise to 15-minute all-day frequency (red). These are the only places where the next bus is “always coming soon.” Here's my firm's frequency map (click to sharpen): Given the density, that's not much frequency. There are probably more opportunities to build high-frequency corridors that dramatically expand transit’s... Continue reading
Posted 7 hours ago at Human Transit
I recently returned from a week in Reykjavík, Iceland, working with staff of the regional association of municipalities on the frame of a future public transport plan. It was an opportunity to meet with key elected leaders – including Reykjavík Mayor Dagur Eggertsson and public transit authority chair Bryndís Haraldsdóttir – for a conversation about what they want public transit to be, and what choices might follow from those goals. I also ran a two-day workshop for municipal and national transport staffs, to help them explore their options for their transit future. (There was also some time off to ruminate... Continue reading
Posted 7 hours ago at Human Transit
From our good friends at Trillium Solutions, a cool company that does a range of IT solutions for transit agencies: Transportation Camp is coming to Rohnert Park on October 20. The format of Transportation Camp is an "unconference" focused around transit and technology. The event will serve the dual purpose of kicking off the Fall conference for CalACT, California's state transit association. Transit operators, activists, and technologists can come together to solve problems. What: TranspoCamp California. When: October 20, 2015. Coffee and muffins at 8:30. Event at 9:30. Sessions at 11. Happy hour afterwards. Where: DoubleTree hotel in Rohnert Park,... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at Human Transit
By Evan Landman Evan Landman is an associate at my firm, Jarrett Walker & Associates, and serves as a research assistant and ghostwriter on this blog. He tweets on transit and other Portland topics at @evanlandman. For years on this blog and in our projects, we've stressed the importance of highlighting and emphasizing transit agencies' Frequent Networks on customer information of all kinds. Portland's agency TriMet has traditionally been a best practice example here, given their extensive Frequent Network branding down to the individual stop level, but curiously, their system map has not embraced this idea so wholeheartedly. Today, TriMet's... Continue reading
Posted Oct 1, 2015 at Human Transit
I don't often get to do events in my home town, so I'm looking forward to a little gathering on October 6 in City Club of Portland's Leader Spotlight series. It's free, but the venue is small so be sure to RSVP! Details and link here. Continue reading
Posted Sep 29, 2015 at Human Transit
Grim header, no? Well, all that unhappiness is apparently turning people out for a Seattle Times event on the evening of October 29. Two hundred people registered in the first two hours for a panel featuring: Seattle Department of Transportation Director Scott Kubly INRIX CEO Bryan Mistele University of Washington transportation researcher Mark Hallenbeck and yours truly! It sounds like that notorious Texas Transportation Institute report may come up at some point, since INRIX did their modeling, so it should be a lively discussion. There's still time to register, here! Continue reading
Posted Sep 10, 2015 at Human Transit
The Association of Municipalities for greater Reykjavík has invited me to spend a week there working with them on public transport issues. On 22 September, I'll be doing a public talk on the topic, from 1500 to 1630, in English. If you'll be in Iceland then, please come! Please also pass this on to your Icelandic friends. It's at the auditorium (Salurinn), just north of the main Hamraborg public transport stop, in Kópavogur. It is very transit-accessible: From the city centre take bus line 1, 2, or 4 -- a short trip at high frequency. To confirm, go to this... Continue reading
Posted Sep 7, 2015 at Human Transit
If you care at all about visual communication -- and if you aren't blind from birth, then you do -- you should be following the remarkable debate about the New Zealand flag. National flags are so enduring that it is hard to imagine a graphic design task with higher stakes. Revising one triggers a profound argument about national identity, which ultimately comes down to a couple of questions: One or many ideas? Can the nation come together around one image or idea, or must there me a mash-up of several to satisfy different groups or points of view? Fashionable or... Continue reading
Posted Sep 6, 2015 at Human Transit
Every year, the Texas Transportation Institute’s Urban Mobility Scorecard describes the nation’s most transit-intensive and walkable metro areas as having terrible “urban mobility”. And every year, academic experts and smart journalists attack its indefensible methods and assumptions. And yet, every year, careless journalists describe the report as though it were news about the state of "mobility" or “commuting” in America. But you don’t need to study the analysis to understand what’s wrong with TTI's claims. All you need to do is look at their press release or summary, and notice that they want you to think of car congestion as... Continue reading
Posted Aug 31, 2015 at Human Transit
For over a decade, I've been encouraging transit agencies to be clear about how they balance the contradictory goals of ridership (as many customers as possible for the fixed operating budget) or coverage (some transit service everywhere, responding to needs rather than to demand). I lay out the tradeoff in the opening part of this explainer. Michael Anderson, the editor of the excellent blog Bike Portland, has a very thoughtful article exploring how, and whether, this paradigm applies to cycling infrastructure. Disclosure: It would be fascinating even if they hadn't interviewed Michelle Poyourow, a bike-and-transit planner who's also a Senior... Continue reading
Posted Aug 21, 2015 at Human Transit
I've been asked to do a one-hour course as part of the City Building Exchange, a two-day star-studded training program for city professionals in New Orleans, October 15-16. Their prestigious lineup of faculty includes Andres Duany, Ellen Dunham-Jones, and . It also sounds like a great chance to visit a city in the process of radical transformation for better or worse. Today is the last day for the discounted price ($475) as opposed to the regular price ($495). Details here. Continue reading
Posted Aug 20, 2015 at Human Transit
Tonight -- in the wee hours of August 16, 2015, it all happens. The complete redesign of Houston's bus network, the result of a design process that I led and of extraordinary Board and staff effort, goes into effect overnight tonight. Over a year of planning, months of difficult public debate and revision, and finally months of intense work at implementation, all bears fruit on Sunday, August 16, when practically every bus line in Houston changes. For the better. My favorite tweet exchange of this excited Saturday: sort of surreal that one day it just… changes. Reminds me of Continue reading
Posted Aug 15, 2015 at Human Transit
This urgent post will remain at the top of the blog until we fill our position. New material appears beneath it. Are you 2-15 years into a transit career but wishing you could be doing something more exciting or effective to change the state of the industry? We are trying to raise the standards for what counts as good transit planning, and we are looking for smart, motivated people who want to be part of that. If things go as they're now going, we'll be hiring at several levels over the next year. But our most urgent need is for... Continue reading
Posted Aug 14, 2015 at Human Transit
An important belated update from the world of ridesharing - Uber is now testing a feature they are calling "Suggested Pickup Points", which directs customers to walk to nearby locations that are easier for their drivers to reach, saving time for both the driver and (in the case of UberPool) for other passengers on board. Lyft takes this even further, offering discounted rides on its Lyft Line service for people who come to meet it. You may be familiar with an identical concept in the public transit industry, called a "stop" or "station" -- a location near to destinations, but... Continue reading
Posted Aug 11, 2015 at Human Transit
[This post is periodically updated as helpful comments roll in.] Have you ever picked up an academic paper and read, right there in the abstract, that you don't exist? We're used to reading rhetoric that defines us as the enemy, which is different. Rhetoric about the "war on cars" or "war on coal" posits an in-group of good people, including the author and presumed reader, and an out-group that is threatening to them. This is exclusionary language in its obvious form, and it's hard to justify in academia. But academics can slide unconsciously into a more subtle kind of exclusionary... Continue reading
Posted Aug 8, 2015 at Human Transit
When you hear the word integration in conversations about transit, it usually means making it easy to make trips that involve multiple transit agencies that are geographically connected or entangled. Another common word is seamlessness, which I like because it evokes the image of a well-made complete object. (Tip: Anglo-Saxon words like seamlessness usually sound less obscure and bureaucratic than Latin-derived words like integration, because it's easier to see how the parts of the word fit together to make the meaning.) The San Francisco Bay Area has long been one of North America's most difficult integration challenges, so it's a... Continue reading
Posted Aug 3, 2015 at Human Transit
... especially if you're into architecture, urbanism, philosophy, or literature. It's from a keynote to the Oregon Transportation Summit, sponsored by TREC at Portland State University last year. There are a few local Portland geography references, but nothing you can't follow ... Great questions too. I'm introduced at 10:34 by Professor Jennifer Dill, and I start speaking at 11:35 Maybe I was so "switched on" because it was so good to be at home in Portland. That happens when you travel as much as I do ... Continue reading
Posted Jul 23, 2015 at Human Transit
We had a great time this last winter working with the planning staff at Las Vegas's transit agency RTC. Las Vegas may not be your idea of a transit city, but many parts of the network are fantastically busy, and it's a time of great transformations including (a) the emergence of frequency branding, (b) the Maryland Parkway corridor project, serving the university and airport, and (c) a major study about the future of transit on the Las Vegas strip, already a fantastically bus (and profitable) bus corridor. They have a manager of transit planning position open! Have a look. Continue reading
Posted Jul 22, 2015 at Human Transit
For a while I've wanted to synthesize some material that's scattered through my book (and more recent work) but that needs to be presented more directly. It's long, but there are handy section dividers along the way, and pictures near the end. Comments welcome! This piece will be refined in response. Expanded a bit July 17, with the new "But wait ..." section. When transit is planned with the goal of high ridership, what does that mean? When you tell network designers like me to maximize ridership, what do we do? Maximizing ridership is like maximizing the number of customers... Continue reading
Posted Jul 15, 2015 at Human Transit
The main Los Angeles County transit agency, Metro, has released a set of "Blue Ribbon Committee" recommendations that show the agency trying to find its way toward higher ridership with the limits of its operating budget. These are not yet Metro's recommendations to the pubilc; the agency is still thinking about them, but they are out there for public discussion. The main presentation of them is a PowerPoint, not all of which may be easy for the average person to follow, but here are the big important points. (Full disclosure: I have advised Metro in the past on strategic bus... Continue reading
Posted Jul 7, 2015 at Human Transit
The Vancouver metro area has now reached the climax of a frenzy of orchestrated rage directed at its transit agency, TransLink. Over 60% of voters have rejected a sales tax increase for urgently needed transit growth, largely due to an effective campaign that made the transit agency's alleged incompetence the issue. There's just one problem. TransLink is (or was) one of North America's most effective transit agencies. Parts of the agency had made mistakes, and of course TransLink was struggling to meet exploding demand in one of the world's most desirable metro areas. Almost nobody defends TransLink's governance model either.... Continue reading
Posted Jul 3, 2015 at Human Transit
This is so important! Crosspost of an essay by Daniel Kay Hertz, from the excellent City Observatory blog, where it was titled "Urban residents aren't abandoning buses: buses are abandoning them." “Pity the poor city bus,” writes Jacob Anbinder in an interesting essay at The Century Foundation’s website. Anbinder brings some of his own data to a finding that’s been bouncing around the web for a while: that even as American subways and light rail systems experience a renaissance across the country, bus ridership has been falling nationally since the start of the Great Recession. But it’s not buses that... Continue reading
Posted Jun 26, 2015 at Human Transit
Antonio Loro is an urban planner who focuses on the planning implications of emerging road vehicle automation technologies. He has conducted research with TransLink and Metrolinx on the potential impacts of automated vehicles, and is currently with the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario. This article was written by Antonio Loro in his personal capacity. The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily represent the views of the previously mentioned organizations. As efforts to develop automated vehicles continue to speed forward, researchers have begun to explore how driverless taxis in particular could play a prominent... Continue reading
Posted Jun 21, 2015 at Human Transit
People often email or tweet to me asking me to "come help" their city. I really appreciate the sentiment, but I'm not an action hero. I'm a consultant, and consultants respond to some kind of invitation. If your city or transit agency is undertaking a transit-related planning project and you'd like me to be involved, please: Tell me about it. It is extremely difficult for three-person firms like mine to find out about planning projects that could be coming up, because they are advertised in more places than we can possibly keep track of. Don't assume I know what's coming... Continue reading
Posted Jun 10, 2015 at Human Transit
Here's an interesting chart: This is a year's trend comparing bus and light rail (MAX) service in Portland's transit agency, TriMet, from the performance dashboard at the TriMet Transparency and Accountability Center webpage. The metric here is operating cost per boarding ride. This is a good overall measure of how effectively a transit agency is liberating and moving people, where down means good. (I prefer this ratio upside down: ridership per unit cost or "bang for buck," so that up means good. but this is obviously a chart by finance people who always want cost on top.) This is a... Continue reading
Posted Jun 8, 2015 at Human Transit