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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
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 5 days ago 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
... is here. It comes with a nice diagram you can put on your wall! Continue reading
Posted May 8, 2015 at Human Transit
This. Is. So. Important. We find that the size of the fixed-route bus system (measured as real per capita operating expenditures) is negatively related to employee turnover rates [for local employers]: An increase in bus systems’ per capita operating expenditures is associated with a decrease in employee turnover. Decreases in employee turnover represent cost savings to businesses by reducing the costs associated with training new workers and rebuilding firm-specific knowledge or better employee-employer matches. These results suggest that access to fixed-route bus transit should be a component of the economic development strategy for communities not only for the access to... Continue reading
Posted May 7, 2015 at Human Transit
For the next two weeks I'll be on a quick tour of Australia and New Zealand, with stops in Sydney, Brisbane, Auckland and Wellington. (You can track my movements in the little widget at right, if you scroll down a bit.). Unfortunately I have only one public event booked, which is in Sydney. It's an 11 AM event on Tuesday 12 May at the University of Sydney's Institute for Transport and Logistic Studies at their new home in the CBD. The topic? "Yes, You Can Erase Your Bus Network and Design a New One. Lessons from Houston, Auckland, and other... Continue reading
Posted May 7, 2015 at Human Transit
A transit planner in a suburban agency asks an eternal question: Do you have any examples of best practices in transit service in large business parks? I am looking for some creative solution, such as a transit to vanpool connection, or a site redesign for accessibility. If you have an opportunity, please share some examples, thoughts, etc.… Yes, everyone wants "creative" solutions in transit. But too often, "I want a creative solution!" means "You need to change the facts of math and geometry to suit my interests!" As with so many transit issues, the real answers start by understanding the... Continue reading
Posted May 5, 2015 at Human Transit
On the priorities for infrastructure in developing world "slums," the entry-level neighborhoods that tend to welcome new arrivals from the countryside: Sewage, garbage collection and paved roads are, for obvious reasons, vital, and can be provided only from outside. But even more important, in the well-informed view of slum-dwellers, are buses: affordable and regular bus service into the neighbourhood is often the key difference between a thriving enclave and a destitute ghetto. Doug Saunders, Arrival City: How the Largest Migration in History is Reshaping Our World. p 310. Continue reading
Posted May 3, 2015 at Human Transit
If you're at CNU today, please look up our panel "Learning the Language of Transit" at 3:45 PM today. Some of the material will be familiar to old fans, but I'm trying out a substantially new frame. Continue reading
Posted Apr 30, 2015 at Human Transit
Read Eric Jaffe's piece today on the effect of microtransit (UberPool, LyftLine, Bridj, Leap) on our cities. The question about all these private operators, seeking to create something between large-scale transit and the private car, is this: Are they going to work with high-capacity transit or try to destroy it? There are signs both ways. If microtransit co-ordinates with conventional big-vehicle transit, we get (a) lower overall Vehicle Miles Traveled, emissions, and congestion, and (b) stronger cases for transit-oriented land use and thus (c) better, more humane and inclusive cities. If they compete with it, drawing away customers from big... Continue reading
Posted Apr 28, 2015 at Human Transit
I'm writing this while our Interactive Course in Transit Network Design in Seattle goes on around me. About 25 people are huddled around maps having intensely animated conversations about what the best possible transit network would look like. Now and then someone comes up and asks a (good) question. This kind of workshop is not just "inexcusably fun," as one student called it, but it's also the best way to get a practical grasp of the transit tool. If you've actually tried designing a transit network, you have some knowledge of the material in your hands, not just in your... Continue reading
Posted Apr 17, 2015 at Human Transit
A few years ago we assisted San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency in rethinking how they talk about the various services they operate. Our key idea was to classify services by tiers of frequency, while also distinguishing, at the highest frequency only, between faster and slower services. In extensive workshops with staff, we helped the agency think through these categories and the names to be used for them. It's great to see the result coming out on the street. The old-fashioned term "limited," for example, been replaced by "Rapid," a new brand that emphasizes speed and reliability improvements as well as... Continue reading
Posted Apr 13, 2015 at Human Transit
When the physicist Richard Feynman found himself listening to a scientific talk in a field he didn't know well, he had a favorite question to ask the speaker: Can you give me a really simple example of what you're talking about? If the speaker couldn't oblige, Feynman got suspicious, and rightly so. Did this person really have something to say, or was this just fancy technical talk parading as scientific wisdom? ... Simplification is not just for beginners." Daniel C . Dennett Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking Intuition Pumps is best book on philosophy that I've read in... Continue reading
Posted Apr 13, 2015 at Human Transit
From John DeFazio. He's responding to this post, or maybe to this one. I have not edited for grammar or clarity. Jarrett, you write like a scholar, using you master's degrees to cleverly make readers feel sorry for Translink and vote yes, even if they are confused... you know the adage, "bullshit baffle brains", thats what you and your kind are doing... and how much are they paying you Jarrett? Nothing. there are many other ways that Translink can raise funding for transit and you bloody well know it... alternatively Translink should go public, make it competitive for private companies... Continue reading
Posted Apr 3, 2015 at Human Transit
We frequently fail to recognise that our own personal preferences are in most cases just that. And too often in urbanist discussions, that means white hipster preferences. As a result, we can end up doing a poor job of developing and selling pro-urban policies, even within the city. Aaron Renn, "In Praise of Boring Cities," Guardian Cities, 1 October 2014. Yes, Yes! Read the whole thing. Continue reading
Posted Mar 29, 2015 at Human Transit