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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
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
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 one or more people like this: Our firm plans to hire a transit planner and project manager, with the title of Senior Associate. Qualifications are in the bullet list below. The ideal location is Portland, Oregon but I would like to hear from strong candidates who would prefer to be in the Bay Area or NE Corridor (NY-DC segment). Odds are high that we will hire in Portland first, but we are beginning to think about... 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
Here's a great way to help people understand how a transit service change or project will affect them. Houston METRO has released a new tool to help people understand the upcoming major changes to the city's transit system. It puts two trip planners side-by-side: one routing via routes in the existing network, the other via the routes of the New Bus Network. Houston's transit network is about to change dramatically, and everyone is going to have to learn how to use the new one.This lets anybody quickly compare different trips trips to see both how a trip will go in... Continue reading
Posted Jun 5, 2015 at Human Transit
Have you just read another article claiming that public transit would be better off if we unleashed private innovation? Ask whether they're talking about privatized operations or privatized planning. These are totally different things, but it's currently fashionable to confuse them. Graduate student August Ruhnka, writing in the Denver Post, is the latest in a series. After reviewing the real cost and quality control issues plaguing US bus systems, he goes on to propose a fatal confusion between privatization of operations and privatization of planning. The remedy is simple. The city awards a route bus contract after a competitive bidding... Continue reading
Posted May 28, 2015 at Human Transit
On the inevitable problem of curb bike lanes interacting with bus stops: Generally, transit advocates are also bike advocates, but with regular on-street bike lanes, this conflict point becomes an unavoidable ally-versus-ally battle ... As a bicyclist, I am constantly on the lookout for oncoming buses even when I’m in a bike lane. As a transit rider, the mere seconds delay to wait for a biker can cause my bus to miss a traffic signal, which can cause me to miss my transfer, which can cause me to arrive 15 minutes late to work on the day where a coworker... Continue reading
Posted May 26, 2015 at Human Transit
Fifty percent of the workforce in the transit industry is set to retire or move on in the next five years so getting the word out that we want smart, driven, talented folks is critical for us. Mike Eshelman, Senior Planner, SamTrans In an interview with Hipmunk How to get into the profession? Here's my perennial advice. Continue reading
Posted May 21, 2015 at Human Transit
"Journey to work" mode share is a wretched way of assessing transit's relevance, and yet it's the one everyone uses. City Observatory is on it. Read the whole thing. Continue reading
Posted May 20, 2015 at Human Transit
It turns out there's a great video of my recent talk at the Congress for the New Urbanism conference in Dallas, including a great discussion with Mariia Zimmerman and Marcy McInelly. It's one of the better videos I've done, and if you have heard my talks in the past, you'll find this one pretty new. It's here. Continue reading
Posted May 15, 2015 at Human Transit
Today, Wake County (the Raleigh, North Carolina area) released our report outlining four possible directions that the community could take in defining a future transit network. Download it here. Happily, the local newspaper's coverage is clear and accurate. This begins a period of public discussion about the report and the choices it outlines. That discussion will give us direction on what form the final recommended plan should take. That plan, in turn, will form the basis for a proposed referendum on a sales tax increment to fund expanded transit. Actually, there are more than four possible futures, and the final... Continue reading
Posted May 13, 2015 at Human Transit
While I was at the CNU conference in Dallas, Charles Marohn of Strong Towns did a great podcast interview with me and James Llamas of TEI. We talked about the Houston network redesign, why it was needed, why it was hard, how we got it through to implementation, and what other cities can learn from it. It's here! Continue reading
Posted May 11, 2015 at Human Transit
On June 1 and 2 in Tampa, Florida, I'll be teaching another session of our popular Interactive Course in Transit Network Design. It's part of the Community Transportation Association of America conference, but you can attend the course without attending the conference. The price is $750 if you or your organization doesn't belong to CTAA, $650 if you do. Yes, this is higher than we charge when we teach it directly, but at this stage we don't have another direct offering until October in Portland. We designed this course to fill a gap in the training of most planning professionals.... Continue reading
Posted May 11, 2015 at Human Transit