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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
Note: This popular post is being continuously updated with useful links and comments. Come back and it may be improved! In the United States, but occasionally in Canada too, voters are sometimes asked to decide whether to raise taxes to fund transit improvements. I'm often asked whether I support these things. I don't like telling people how to vote, but I can point out some predictable patterns in the arguments, and some universal facts about transit that you need to keep in mind. 1. In growing urban areas, transit needs grow faster than tax revenues. This problem is mathematically inevitable.... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at Human Transit
This is the second most common question I receive, second only to "What do you think of ___ transit technology?" but a little ahead of "How do I become a transit planner?" While it's usually the client's decision, my preferred answer is a compassionate no. In my presentations, most of the content and tone arises from what I say, not what's on the slides, so releasing the slide deck without my voice attached carries a high risk of misunderstanding. Slides by their nature do not convey nuance, tone, or feel. If I prepared slides that were easy to understand without... Continue reading
Posted Jan 14, 2015 at Human Transit
By Evan Landman. Last summer, we covered an exciting new transit planning tool called Transitmix. Transitmix grew out of a Code for America project that sought to create a web-based tool to automate much of the complex yet mundane work that goes on in the background during transit planning. Cost estimation, line measurement, population and employment coverage analysis, are all examples of tasks that require time and effort such that they cannot all be carried out in real time during a planning meeting or workshop. The team at Transitmix reached out to transit planners all over the county (including our... Continue reading
Posted Jan 13, 2015 at Human Transit
We don't always kick off planning studies with a public event, but that's what we did for the Wake County Transit Investment Strategy in Raleigh, North Carolina. At a kickoff meeting attended by hundreds of people, I gave a presentation on how we'd approach the project, which is mostly how my firm approaches any planning project. While there are some local references, it's easy to follow no matter where you live, because it's mostly about the big-picture. Some time-stamps: 0:30 Remarks and kind introductions from County Manager Jim Hartmann and Capital Area MPO Executive Director Chris Lukasina. 5:18 Beginning of... Continue reading
Posted Jan 2, 2015 at Human Transit
I've long wished there were an computer game that would require players to figure out the basic facts of transit network design. I don't mean complex simulation games like Cities in Motion, Transport Tycoon or (shudder) SimCity, which simulate so many things that it's hard to focus on the network element. I mean a game that is simple but engaging the way chess is, and where the strategy you need to learn happens to also be What City-Makers Need to Understand About Transit (but Often Don't). Games are a good way of thinking about real problems (see Jane McGonegal's great... Continue reading
Posted Dec 29, 2014 at Human Transit
Understanding and decisionmaking in transit planning requires many inputs. These include agency staff expertise, all sorts of public input, performance and operational data on costs and ridership, and an array of supporting demographic information. However, when it comes down to questions of rights-and-lefts, at the lowest level of planning altitude, one source of information is critical: aerial photography. Transit design processes frequently involve very detailed questions that not everyone at the table has personal experience with. These sorts of questions: Is the traffic median of this boulevard wide enough for the bus to use to make an uncontrolled turn without... Continue reading
Posted Dec 29, 2014 at Human Transit
Any large transportation infrastructure project involves the temporary inconvenience of construction. While a new rail line or viaduct might be a lasting asset for a city, and one that continues to be useful for decades to come, short term impacts can prove disastrous for people involved in commercial activity around the construction zone, and disruptive to neighborhood residents. In some cases, business owners have even been driven to legal action by this issue. Part of the problem is that for the duration of construction, inconvience, noise, and rubble can come to define perception of the corridor where work is being... Continue reading
Posted Dec 24, 2014 at Human Transit
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 Dec 15, 2014 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