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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
Yes, that's not much notice! That's why it's called a pop-up event: That's 5:30 pm for a 6pm start, but the RSVP is important: ! Hope to see you there! Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Human Transit
Transportation planning is full of projections -- a euphemism meaning predictions. Generally, when we need a euphemism, it means we may be accommodating a bit of denial about something. Predicting the future, at a time when so many things seem to be changing in nonlinear ways, is a pretty audacious thing to do. There are professions whose job it is to do this, and we pay them a lot to give us predictions that sound like facts. I have the highest respect for them (all the more because what they do is nearly impossible) but only when they speak in... Continue reading
Posted Jul 14, 2014 at Human Transit
Just back from a great trip to Tucson, at the invitation of ten local organizations, including the transit agency, all put together by the University of Arizona's Drachman Institute. (Thanks to everyone I worked with there, including everyone in the crowd of 200+ who turned out on a Friday night to talk transit with me. I had a great time.) For reasons that I first explained here, I always encourage transit agencies to map their frequent network -- the network of services coming every 15 minutes or better all day. Since there wasn't one for Tucson, I asked our graphics... Continue reading
Posted Jul 12, 2014 at Human Transit
Here's everything you need to know. Look forward to exploring Tucson the next two days! (Click image to sharpen.) Continue reading
Posted Jul 9, 2014 at Human Transit
Is "reduced congestion" a positive environmental impact in cities? Is it good for the environment to have endless lanes of free-flowing traffic everywhere? It's a bizarre claim when you look at how prosperous, sustainable, and livable high-congestion cities are. (They tend to be places where you don't have to commute so far, by example, and their overall emissions tend to be lower.) Yet until now, all California transit infrastructure has had to conform to an analysis process that treats traffic congestion as a threat to the environment. A metric called Level of Service -- congestion experienced by motorists, basically --... Continue reading
Posted Jul 8, 2014 at Human Transit
For a client in the Middle East, we are looking for good examples of this situation: Two high speed streets intersect, and the intersection features sliplanes (shortcuts for right turns) which in turn create islands (in green above). The islands are big enough that bus stops can be placed on the island. Transit lines run east-west and north-south (not turning at this intersection.) One bus stop on an island like this is common enough, but I'd like to find examples of the situation above, where two intersecting bus lines stop on the same island -- one nearside, the other farside... Continue reading
Posted Jul 8, 2014 at Human Transit
Next time someone tells you that transit has to be rail in order to affect real estate demand, send them this paper [paywalled] by Elin Charles-Edwards, Martin Bell and Jonathan Corcoran -- a dramatic example of bus infrastructure profoundly transforming residential demand. Our scene is the main campus of University of Queensland, which is located on a peninsula formed by a loop of the Brisbane River. It's in the southwest corner of this image. The area labeled "Brisbane" is the highrise downtown. Most everything in between -- which is mostly on the south side of the river -- is dense,... Continue reading
Posted Jul 1, 2014 at Human Transit
Revised in response to early comments. Are you sure you know which of your transportation options is fastest? It depends on how you think about travel time. A recent Boston Magazine article about the private bus service Bridj featured typical "race" between two transit modes: the MBTA subway and Bridj, which provices luxury buses on fixed routes and schedules running only at times of peak commute demand. The newspaper sent someone by each path at the same time. The outcome of the race is supposed to be decisive: Why is this not a fair race? Well, it depends on when... Continue reading
Posted Jun 30, 2014 at Human Transit
I should not have taken the phone call from LA Weekly. As soon as the reporter said that he wanted to probe "why so few white people ride transit in LA", I should have said no, I will not give any more oxygen to the divisive and pointless conversation that the question is trying to encourage. I had already given the factual answer to that question in my article on "bus stigma" in the Atlantic Citylab, and I should have simply referred the reporter, Chris Walker, there. Still, there's nothing wrong with the LA Weekly article: [Jarrett] Walker tells L.A.... Continue reading
Posted Jun 25, 2014 at Human Transit
Another interesting web transit app, this time from a group of Code for America developers: Transitmix is a sketching tool for transit planners (both professional and armchair) to quickly design routes and share with the public. Transitmix is simple way to think about transit in terms of bus requirements and real costs. Basically, the user draws a route on a map and plugs in span and frequency. The app then calculates a vehicle requirement and cost in both hours and dollars, factoring in an adjustable layover ratio, average speed and dollar cost per service hour. Transitmix is very similar to... Continue reading
Posted Jun 19, 2014 at Human Transit
Are you a professional transit planner with 3+ years experience and a commitment to breaking through old paradigms and raising the standards of the profession? If so, my New Zealand colleagues at MRCagney may be looking for you. They are open to hiring from worldwide, so if you've ever dreamed of living in New Zealand, this may be your chance. Here's the listing. I have a keen interest in this hire, because I'll probably be working with this person! MRCagney is small and focused sustainable transport firm with offices in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Auckland, and Singapore. Built around a group... Continue reading
Posted Jun 16, 2014 at Human Transit
If all infographics were as wise as xkcd's, I'd be a fan of the genre. So why are so many infographics uninspiring? Xkcd has answered that question too! Continue reading
Posted Jun 14, 2014 at Human Transit
Is there someone in your life who really needs to understand transit better than they do? Do you secretly wonder if you understand transit well enough? My friendly, readable book Human Transit may be what you're looking for. Over in the sidebar to the right you can explore the introduction and contents and decide for yourself. This weekend only, you can get the ebook on sale, for the ridiculously low price of US$7.99! Find it at Island Press, Barnes & Noble (Nook), Apple, or if you prefer, it's also at that other gigantic company. In whatever form, I hope you... Continue reading
Posted Jun 12, 2014 at Human Transit
Grad students Mike Barry and Brian Card have produced an impressive new set of interactive visualizations of Boston's subway system. It's worth having a look for yourself here; much is lost when these are reduced to a screenshot. They've looked at key transit metrics like travel time, passenger volume, vehicle delay, and station congestion among other topics, all drawn from MBTA's open realtime data, in a style inspired by the content-first approach of design guru Edward Tufte. The image below is an example, showing the time of point-to-point trips of individual trains through the day. In this chart, the steeper... Continue reading
Posted Jun 12, 2014 at Human Transit
I'm just home from Indianapolis, where our firm is beginning work on something called a Comprehensive Operational Analysis (COA) update. The project is shaping up to be an important step in the transit vision for the city. Many parts of Indianapolis are seeing a remarkable revitalization. Dense housing is growing fast in and around the walkable downtown core, galvanized by public works like the Cultural Trail and a strong base of downtown parks, monuments, state government, universities, and cultural institutions. There are even canals lined with housing, much like the Dutch might build. Many neighborhoods are also vibrant and growing.... Continue reading
Posted Jun 11, 2014 at Human Transit
Columbus, Ohio's metro transit agency, COTA, has now released a new network plan for public comment. As in the recently unveiled similar plan for Houston, I led the network design task on this project as part of a consulting team led by IBI Associates. Again, the core idea is to expand the Frequent Network -- the network of services that run every 15 minutes or better all day -- so that more people have service that is highly useful. Here's the existing Columbus area frequent network : And here is the Draft Proposed Frequent Network: In Houston, we achieved similar... Continue reading
Posted May 29, 2014 at Human Transit
Paris-based Serbian designer Jug Cerovic tipped me off a month ago to his remarkable work on subway maps, collected at his website and since hailed at Atlantic Citylab. If you want to geek out on beautiful detail, go to his website now. Here, I'm interested in looking from a fuzzier distance. His work interests me because I'm always trying to help people see underlying principles of network structure, such as the high-frequency grid in all its forms, and often contending with the seductive allure of its opposite, the seemingly endless loop. Cerovic's eye has picked out these forms, and fondles... Continue reading
Posted May 17, 2014 at Human Transit
Yesterday, Houston Metro began seeking public comment on what may be most transformative transit plan in its history. I'm honored to have been a part of it, as the network design lead* on the consulting team. Read all about it, in as much detail as you want, here. Explore the detailed map here. Note that the pulldown menus in the black bar lead to lots of cool maps and diagrams, as well as extensive data about the plan. The plan shows that without increasing operating cost, Houston's frequent network -- the network of services where the bus or train is... Continue reading
Posted May 9, 2014 at Human Transit
CHK America has done some of the better transit network maps I've seen in North America lately, like this one for Washington DC. They also do a range of other graphical information tools. If you're experienced in this field, now's your chance to join them in sunny Santa Barbara: CHK America is adding to its staff. We are looking for an experienced senior information designer who has advanced skills in Adobe Illustrator and InDesign. Understanding of public transportation systems and service is required. Person will be working in a fast moving production environment and must be able to complete tasks... Continue reading
Posted May 5, 2014 at Human Transit
From Henry Mulvey, of Massachusetts: Hello, my name is Henry Mulvey, I am a tenth grader. I am a huge streetcar fan and I love the old Boston Elevated Railway. I hope to attend M.I.T. for urban planning then work the M.B.T.A. or the state on a big replica streetcar plan for the city of Boston. I just read your article saying streetcar aren't what they seem and I have some rebuttal points. I'm going try my hardest to be civil because I am a die-hard streetcar fan. The two things I see that you either underestimate or don't mention... Continue reading
Posted Apr 25, 2014 at Human Transit
The Regional Plan Association, the New York-region planning think tank, has produced a great new map as part of their Fragile Success report: This map takes the travel time methodology regular readers of this blog know well, but then within that area of access shows all of the jobs, categorized by sector, as a dot density map. The effect is to visualize the quantity and number of jobs that can be reached from a give point in a given time, by walking, transit, cycling, or driving. The map is also able to quickly calculate the number of jobs inside... Continue reading
Posted Apr 24, 2014 at Human Transit
TypePad, our host, has been undergoing Distributed Denial of Service attacks that have interrupted this blog and many others. A particularly ghastly side-effect of these attacks is that all domain names using TypePad (such as are leading to an "Unknown Domain Name" error, giving the false impression that we're out of business. TypePad writes on their blog: While most blogs are available and the application is up, some mapped domains are showing a message that the domain is "unknown", but there is no problem with the domain itself. We're working to correct the error on our end. For the... Continue reading
Posted Apr 21, 2014 at Human Transit
Are your transit authority and city government working together to make buses as functional and useful as possible? A new TRB report summarizes the industry's own consensus on where the easy wins are for improving bus service. Peyton Chung has the rundown: A recent report on “Commonsense Approaches for Improving Transit Bus Speeds“ surveyed not just the scale of the problem, but also solutions. In it, 59 transit agencies across America shared how they have responded to the scheduling problems presented by ever-slower bus routes. The agencies report on the most successful actions they’ve taken to improve bus speeds and... Continue reading
Posted Apr 18, 2014 at Human Transit
On the personal blog, some reflections on Valparaíso, Chile from my 2003 visit there, in commemmoration of the terrible fires that have damaged its poor-and-poorly-planned-but-spectacular hillside districts. Continue reading
Posted Apr 15, 2014 at Human Transit
It's much too soon to panic, but I did send this inquiry to the US Federal Railroad Administration. Dear FRA, Your 4/9 press release says: "WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) today announced its intention to issue a proposed rule requiring two-person train crews on crude oil trains and establishing minimum crew size standards for most main line freight and passenger rail operations." The rest of the press release is about the safety risks of big oil trains, which gives the appearance that this reference to passenger rail was added at the last minute. The... Continue reading
Posted Apr 11, 2014 at Human Transit