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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
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 5 days ago at Human Transit
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
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
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
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
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
I don't have time to respond to everything that gets published on transit, but Robert Steuteville's must-read piece today on the Congress for the New Urbanism blog, which explains why we should invest in transit that's slower than walking*, certainly deserves a response. Fortunately, sometimes an email does it for me. From Marc Szarkowski: Hi Jarrett, Perhaps you've already noticed this piece and are already penning a response (even though several already exist on your blog!). It seems to be another example of the "urban designers are from Mars, transportation planners are from Venus" phenomenon you described some time ago.... Continue reading
Posted Jul 28, 2014 at Human Transit
by Evan Landman A sobering new report was released recently by Ride New Orleans, a nonprofit advocate group. It covers the erosion of the city's transit network in the years following 2005's Hurricane Katrina, revealing that while the city's population and economy have largely recovered, its transit services have not. Some key points from the report: In 2004, RTA's peak fleet was 301 buses. By 2012, that number had dropped to just 79. Revenue hours declined from over 1 million prior to the storm to fewer than 600,000 in 2012. By 2012, only 36% of the pre-storm daily trips had... Continue reading
Posted Jul 25, 2014 at Human Transit
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 Jul 20, 2014 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