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Jarrett at HumanTransit.org
Portland, Oregon
Transit planning expert with humanities background. Author of HumanTransit.org
Interests: Cities, natural history, botany, gardening, literature, languages. What am I not interested in?
Recent Activity
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 3 days ago at Human Transit
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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Here's an interesting chart! It's from a study of commute times in Brazil, but there are enough world cities to make it interesting. Takeaways? 1. Viva Marchetti's constant! There are interesting academic debates around the edges, but the persistence of the 30-minute one-way commute, and especially the few cities with averages much less than that, echoes the observation of Marchetti and others that this seems to have been a tolerable daily travel time across both many centuries and many cultures. Average commute times in cities don't seem to get much below 30 minutes because most people don't seem to value... Continue reading
Posted Sep 25, 2014 at Human Transit
The publisher of Human Transit, Island Press, is holding a big sale on their titles through September 30, so if you've been putting off buying the book, now is a great time to pick up a copy. The hardback is marked down to $35.00. the paperback just $17.50! The sale is on at both IP's website and Amazon. If you decide to use Amazon, make sure to scroll down to the "Special Offers and Product Promotions" and click on "clip this coupon" to take 50% off. Continue reading
Posted Sep 23, 2014 at Human Transit
Are you an experienced public transit planner/engineer with 5+ years experience and a commitment to breaking through old paradigms and raising the standards of the profession? If so, my colleagues at MRCagney in Sydney may be looking for you. They are open to hiring from worldwide, so if you've ever dreamed of living in Australia, this may be your chance. Here's the listing. MRCagney is small and focused sustainable transport firm with offices in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Auckland, and Singapore. Built around a group of former transit agency executives, it now does a range of work but is closely associated... Continue reading
Posted Sep 16, 2014 at Human Transit
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Last spring, Jarrett Walker + Associates was contracted by IndyGo, the transit agency serving Indianapolis and Marion County, to lead an update of their last Comprehensive Operation Assessment. This project involves consideration of the design, performance and mobility outcomes of IndyGo's existing network, followed by an extensive public engagement and redesign process. Next week, we will be on the ground in Indianapolis for a series of meetings, asking stakeholders and members of the public to share their views on the future of the network, including one very fundamental question: to what degree should IndyGo pursue each of the competing goals... Continue reading
Posted Sep 10, 2014 at Human Transit
Our friends at the Transit Center are supporting a new ioby project to crowd-source ideas about how to improve the experience of commuting. If you aren't familiar with ioby, they are basically a crowd-funding platform focused on small-scale neighborhood improvement projects. Have a look at the promo video for the project: Similar to better-known sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, ioby users are able to upload a project and create a funding goal which people who visit the page can contribute to. Examples of projects funded in this manner include community gardens, playgrounds, and environmental education programs, but now, ioby is... Continue reading
Posted Sep 10, 2014 at Human Transit
Ever heard this line? A debate in Google's home town, Mountain View south of San Francisco, has turned up this response to an obvious idea of building more housing close to the city's business-park district, so that fewer people have to drive long distances to get there. No, some council candidates say, because there's not enough transit there. Well, there's not enough transit there because there aren't enough people there, yet. Transit is easy to add in response to seriously transit-oriented development, but as long as you have a development pattern that is too low-density or single-use for transit, you've... Continue reading
Posted Sep 8, 2014 at Human Transit
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Planning to register for our Interactive Course in Transit Network Design, coming up in Portland October 2-3? We now have only 8 places left, and they will definitely sell out! So act soon to be sure of a place! For more information on the course, head over to the website: http://jarrettwalker.com/courses/ "Thank you for your interest in our Interactive Course in Transit Network Design! We are sad to report that we sold out before we received your registration. But wait! Don't go away! Please email Zach Tucker zach@jarrettwalker.net and indicate that you tried to register. If we get more than... Continue reading
Posted Sep 8, 2014 at Human Transit
Does building a new transit line trigger ridership? Does it even make sense to talk about the ridership of a piece of transit infrastructure? If you say yes, you're expressing an infrastructurist world-view that is common in transit investment discussions. The right answer to the above questions, of course, is "No, but: Infrastructure permits the operation of some kind of useful transit service, which consists of vehicles running with a certain speed, frequency, reliabilty, civility and a few other variables. That service triggers ridership." To the infrastructurist, this little term -- "service" -- is a mere pebble in a great... Continue reading
Posted Aug 29, 2014 at Human Transit
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Salem, Oregon (metro pop around 200,000) is typical of a lot of small cities in America. It's a state capital and has some small universities, which help keep its downtown focused, but it's not an enviro-utopian place like Boulder or Eugene, nor is it besieged by demand for massive urban density like the bigger west coast cities all are. This is a town that much of North America could recognize as familiar. I love working on tranist in big cities, but I also love working in small ones. Often, it's easier to get things done. So I'm proud to announce... Continue reading
Posted Aug 21, 2014 at Human Transit
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For their piece on food deserts this week, National Geographic led off with this map of Houston. It shows where large numbers of people who lack cars are located more than 1/2 mile from a grocery store. "Public transportation may not fill the gap," the article says, but sometimes it can. The article doesn't mention it, but Houston METRO's proposed System Reimagining will actually liberate many people, but not all, from the "food desert" problem. One thing is for sure: When we're talking about errand trips like groceries, most customers don't have a lot of time. If there's a line... Continue reading
Posted Aug 17, 2014 at Human Transit
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Congratulations to Los Angeles Metro, the latest transit agency to make connections (also called transfers) free. There are footnotes: you have to be using a smartcard, but if you're in Los Angeles for more than a day or two you should already have one. The big point is this: The core of the Los Angeles transit network is the liberating high-frequency grid, which relies on the assumption that passengers can be asked to change buses once. Until now, the agency's policy of charging passengers extra to change buses was in direct conflict with the foundational principle of its network design.... Continue reading
Posted Aug 12, 2014 at Human Transit
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This October, my short course in network design will be returning to Portland for another two-day session, October 2nd-3rd! Early bird registration is $360, increasing to $395 after September 10th. We've got room for up to 36 people. Early fall is a great time of year to visit Portland, by the way! It's usually still warm but not hot and the chance of rain is still moderate. We're happy to note that we anticipate the ability to offer 14 AICP Certification Maintenance credits. Each time we've offered the course in Portland, we've had a great turnout of people from across... Continue reading
Posted Aug 4, 2014 at Human Transit
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This Friday 8/8 I'll be back in Spokane, Washington for two public events, among other things. "Back" because once I've led a transit network design for a city, as I did in Spokane in 2000-01, it means I've been all over it in detail, so it feels like home in a way. And once the design has been implemented, and has become the foundation for how the city gets around on transit, it's like having an offspring to visit there. I'll be doing two public events. Here's the one at lunchtime, which is likely to touch on downtown issues: Here's... Continue reading
Posted Aug 4, 2014 at Human Transit
I'll be leery of Toronto Star interviews in the future, because I explained my view carefully and that's not how it came out: Jarrett Walker and Rob Ford (see Rob Ford’s policard) don’t have much in common. One is an Oregon-based transit consultant, the other Toronto’s chief magistrate. One blogs avidly, the other disdains the media. Whereas Ford rails against the “war on the car,” Walker touts the virtues of buses. But on one issue, at least, the policy wonk and the conservative politician agree: streetcars are overrated. Walker is decisively on one side of a new debate in the... Continue reading
Posted Aug 1, 2014 at Human Transit
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