6 x 9
3 photos, 56 illustrations
6 x 9
3 photos, 56 illustrations
Public transit is a powerful tool for addressing a huge range of urban problems, including traffic congestion and economic development as well as climate change. But while many people support transit in the abstract, it's often hard to channel that support into good transit investments. Part of the problem is that transit debates attract many kinds of experts, who often talk past each other. Ordinary people listen to a little of this and decide that transit is impossible to figure out.
Jarrett Walker believes that transit can be simple, if we focus first on the underlying geometry that all transit technologies share. In Human Transit, Walker supplies the basic tools, the critical questions, and the means to make smarter decisions about designing and implementing transit services.
Human Transit explains the fundamental geometry of transit that shapes successful systems; the process for fitting technology to a particular community; and the local choices that lead to transit-friendly development. Whether you are in the field or simply a concerned citizen, here is an accessible guide to achieving successful public transit that will enrich any community.
"Intelligent, refreshing, balanced and richly mindful of the unique settings of individual communities."
Douglas MacDonald, former Secretary, Washington State Department of Transportation
"Human Transit provides practical guidance for urban public transit system development in prose that is clear and entertaining without being simplistic. This book should be useful to anybody involved in public transit planning, design, or advocacy."
Todd Litman, Victoria Transport Policy Institute
"This book gives professionals, pundits and the citizenry the tools to have conversations that lead to real solutions rather than confrontations."
Terry Lee-Williams, Transport and Access Manager, City of Sydney, Australia
"Jarrett Walker pulls transit out of its specialist silo and treats it in layman's terms, as an embodiment of shared values and a partial answer to the vital question 'what kind of city do you want?' Human Transit is an engrossing narrative that explains the real choices that informed citizens need to make."
Ken Greenberg, author of "Walking Home: the Life and Lessons of a City Builder"
"It's difficult to categorize Jarrett Walker's excellent new book, Human Transit. It's not quite for a popular audience, though it's written with engaging ease. It's not for academics, though it's as thorough as most published research and far more approachable. It's not strictly for a policy audience, though it's fresh grist for any transit wonk's mill. Its closest literary cousin may be a good language book, for it feels capable of teaching anyone, beginner or beyond, to speak Transit more fluently."
"Human Transit is a choice addition for any social issues or urban development collection."
Midwest Book Review
"Walker leads the reader through these intricate considerations with dexterity and thoroughness."
"Walker...has produced a well-written, totally nonpolemical, very readable book describing the many tradeoffs to be considered in meeting local goals for providing transit service."
"Walker takes complicated and often technical subjects and presents them to the reader in layman's terms."
Urban Review STL
"Human Transit... presents itself as a sort of Public Transportation for Dummies, explaining in abstract, but remarkably clear, terms the logic that governs public transit systems and the choices—some technical, some ethical—that transit planners and operators make."
California Planning & Development Report
"Once in a while, a book comes along that summarizes most of what's important about a particular subject, and it does so in a way that's lucid and effortless. One such book is Jarrett Walker's Human Transit…This is an easy read. You can go through the whole book in a few hours. That makes its lessons more likely to be absorbed. Human Transit will serve you well as a source you can turn to for reference in the future. It will also make you a better new urbanist."
Better Cities & Towns
"Human Transit is well organized with short chapters and clear diagrams to illustrate some of the more complex concepts ... Walker does a good job of avoiding transportation planning jargon and makes careful choices about terminology... His writing style makes it easy to understand types of running ways, the reasons agencies are concerned about farebox returns, and the benefits of new technologies such as Smartcards."
Journal of Planning Education and Research
Chapter 1. What Transit Is and Does
Chapter 2. What Makes Transit Useful? Seven Demands and How Transit Serves Them
Chapter 3. Five Paths to Confusion
Chapter 4. Lines, Loops, and Longing
Chapter 5. Touching the City: Stops and Stations
Chapter 6. Peak or All Day?
Chapter 7. Frequency Is Freedom
Chapter 8. The Obstacle Course: Speed, Delay, and Reliability
Chapter 9. Density Distractions
Chapter 10. Ridership or Coverage? The Challenge of Service Allocation
Chapter 11. Can Fares Be Fair?
Chapter 12. Connections or Complexity?
Chapter 13. From Connections to Networks to Places
Chapter 14. Be on the Way! Transit Implications of Location Choice
Chapter 15. On the Boulevard
Chapter 16. Take the Long View
Epilogue: Geometry, Choices, Freedom
So we all want to write New Years posts about resolutions we should make — mostly resolutions we could have made last year and will probably make again next year. To me, this is a good time to make conceptual resolutions — not about what we’ll do, but about how we’ll think, and especially what questions we will ask. Two years ago, for example, I suggested a resolution against binary thinking — that is, to reject any formation of a problem that is “either-or” or “us vs them” or “win-lose”.
For 2016, let me propose a resolution that’s a little more concrete, maybe a little easier to bring to bear in any situation.
Whatever room I’m in, I resolve to ask “Who is not in the room?”
In other words, ask: What real points of view, and real dimensions of the human experience, are not represented in this conversation? How could their absence lead us to make a bad decision even with the best of intentions, and how do we compensate for that?
Why this? Because in many parts of society, including urban planning, the rooms in which decisions are made are getting smaller and less diverse, and that can make for worse decisions, no matter how well-intentioned the people in the room are. What’s more, creating a diverse room is harder and harder, because people are just less interested in spending any time in rooms with people who don’t share their experience — either physically or online.
So it is easier than ever, in this historical moment, for us to forge a seemingly complete society of people who think just the way we do. Not just on the internet, but also in physical space: Because I live where I do, and go where I go, I tend to meet people like me. Every day, I sadly scan my Twitter feed seeking some sentiment that isn’t just reinforcing my own beliefs. I have this reaction because I want to live in the presence of the real, and this constant emotional reinforcement of my opinions is the opposite. It makes me feel like a CEO or elected official who is only told what staff thinks they want to hear, and who therefore ends up completely unaware of what’s actually going on.
We can all identify urban planning disasters that arose from only certain people being in the room. One thing that happens in small rooms, for example, is that people agree too quickly that an ideal implies a technology or product. Tools are so cool that we mistake the tool for its purpose. For example: “freedom means cars which means more highways,” (even if that leads to freedom-destroying congestion). But another example is: “urban redevelopment means rails in the street, but done fast and cheaply, which means streetcars” (even streetcars that don’t function well as transit, because they are stuck in traffic or don’t follow real patterns of demand).
I suspect transit consultants notice the small-room problem more than the average professional does, because in our field we don’t have an organized circle of professionals who reinforce each other’s habits and ways of thought. Architects and traffic engineers and developers and emergency services planners spend lots of time in rooms with people like them, in conferences and professional organizations. But transit planning isn’t an especially recognized and accredited profession. Many powerful people have no idea that it even exists as an expertise. So transit planners don’t spend much time in rooms where everyone shares their professional knowledge and assumptions.
Like anyone, though, we notice decisions that were made in our absence. Decisions about street design (often arising from small-room project definitions like “add a bike lane”) may inadvertently wreck the transit operations. Ditto decisions about land use —such as putting a transit-dependent land use (medical center, senior center, social security office) in a transit-inaccessible location because the land was cheap there, and then expecting transit to run an expensive empty bus just to get to that remote location. (Businesses make those decisions in small rooms too. Sometimes they really do move from a downtown office tower to a remote business park, and then ask the transit agency: “Hey, what happened to our transit service?”)
Continue reading the full post here.
This blog originally appeared on Jarrett Walker's blog and is reposted here with permission.
Do you think bus service is never as “permanent” as rail service? Well, it depends on how much infrastructure you build, and how proudly it announces the bus service as an essential part of the cityscape, both as icon and as opportunity.
Each time I visit Paris there’s something new in its public transit, but these new bus stop signs, now standard across the city, are remarkable.
They’re around 4m (12 ft) high, towering over the bus shelter to which they’re attached. At night they are the most prominent informational icons in the streetscape, by an order of magnitude.
Every stop has a name, reaffirming your sense of your place in the city. (At night, these are actually the easiest locational signs to read, so they have navigational value extending beyond transit.) For each route, there’s the number, the endpoint (indicating direction of travel) and the number of minutes until the next bus arrives. If you know the network, you don’t even have to look down to know where you are, and when the next bus is coming.
Continue reading the full post here.
Buses are having somewhat of a moment. This spring, the Washington Post asked if riding the bus is finally becoming cool, while Lyft is beta-testing a shuttle service that many have compared to the bus, albeit one that may perpetuate problems of inequity. At Island Press, we're fans of public transportation, or anything that gets people out of their cars and reduces the need for parking. But buses are not above critique. To find out how buses can be better, we asked bus-commuting Island Press staff and authors: What would you change about the bus system? Check out their responses, and share your ideas for improving buses in the comments below.
"A reliable schedule app—one that really woks and shows when the bus is coming, weather-protective bus stop furniture that helps riders feel safe, too, and direct routing whenever possible."
—Chuck Wolfe author of Seeing the Better City and Urbanism Without Effort
"More attentive to folks waiting around the bus area. Sometimes while waiting for a bus I go under the shade of a tree or sign and the bus driver drives past because he doesn’t look anywhere but the bus stop itself, dedicated bus lane, and more routes while Safetrack is happening."
—Kyler Geoffroy, Online Marketing Manager
"On major arterial streets I would love to see dedicated bus lanes that would make the bus more reliable, faster, and easier to figure out where it goes; like rail with physical tracks. Also, smaller busses in neighborhoods that are size appropriate and more flexible in pickup and drop off. Last, a simpler naming system so it was more clear where the bus went, and a digital interface with simple payment, trip planning and transfer."
—Gabe Klein author of Start-Up City
"I would like accurate tracking of incoming buses (the current app estimations are not always correct), and perhaps a visual of the buses along the route to help understand how far away they are."
—Megan MacIver, Development Associate
"Bus service needs to be legible and frequent, and forming a connected network (including with Metro). Then, to the extent feasible, it needs to be protected from traffic. European buses are also generally better than US in terms look-and-feel and amenity. These things can all be gotten right, to deliver a 'rail-like' experience without the expense and operational hassles of rail tracks in the street."
—Jarrett Walker author of Human Transit
"Better bus tracking, no more ghost busses. Watching a bus vanish from the list of upcoming arrivals, with no new busses coming for a half hour or more, is the single most frustrating thing about bus travel for me."
—Rebecca Bright, Associate Editor
Katharine is the Publicity & Marketing Associate at Island Press.
A Changing Climate Means A Changing Society. The Island Press Urban Resilience Project, Supported By The Kresge Foundation And The JPB Foundation, Is Committed To A Greener, Fairer Future. This Article Was Originally Published January 18, 2018 in CityMetric.
Tech tycoon Elon Musk recently declared that public transit “sucks,” and is riddled with serial killers. In the Twitter storms that followed, there was much talk about Musk and his unconventional solutions to the mobility crisis.
We shouldn’t be talking, though, about Elon Musk. Instead, we should be talking about transit: what kind we have, who and what it’s for, and where it’s likely to go in the future.
Like almost everything else in 21st century America, transit is divided by class, and sometimes by race. Buses in the United States are thought to be for poor people, and the statistics largely bear that out. The people who ride buses are different from those who ride light rail and subways, and they are even more different from those who ride commuter trains.
Buses, however, also account for nearly two-thirds of all transit journeys to work outside New York City. And yet, most of the attention — and the funding — goes not to buses, but to their far more glamorous cousins, light rail and trolleys. And a lot of those projects, like Detroit’s much-heralded Q Line, actually have more to do with promoting redevelopment through real estate investment than with moving people around.
Instead of being defensive about people like Elon Musk, who — as others have pointed out — has absolutely no idea what he’s talking about, we should recognise that public transit in the United States is in serious trouble. For all the hype and the billions in investment, it’s still an exotic taste.
Outside New York City, only 3.5 per cent of work trips (and an even smaller percentage of non-work trips) take place on transit. Transit accounts for 10 per cent or more of work trips in only nine of the nation’s top 60 urban areas, and 10 per cent of total trips only in New York. Despite the fact that transit is heavily subsidised, many of our biggest systems are in poor shape or worse. Deferred maintenance, inadequate capital investment and fiscal woes are taking an increasing toll, as stories from New York, New Jersey, Washington DC and elsewhere over the past year or two have made abundantly clear.
While there is plenty of blame to go around, the most fundamental problem is that, for 60 years or more, we have systematically spread our population around our metro areas — yes, I’m talking about sprawl — in ways that are fundamentally incompatible with efficient, cost-effective mass transit. Many of our older cities have thinned out, while suburbia has spread further afield.
The city of Cleveland, for example, has only 40 per cent of the people it had in 1950, while ever-spreading development has formed a blob spreading 25 or more miles east and south of downtown.
This triggers what transit people call the ‘last mile problem.’ It’s a serious problem, and possibly insoluble by transit, despite a lot of creative thinking. People live — and their jobs are located — in such a dispersed fashion that, outside of high-density central areas, no plausible network of transit lines can get close enough to them to make transit preferable to simply getting in one’s car and driving off. And no, the solution is not getting people to walk more; that might work on a beautiful spring day, but not the rest of the time.
This problem is further complicated by two big developments in transportation: ride-hailing systems like Uber and Lyft, and the imminent arrival of autonomous, self-driving vehicles. Whatever else they may or may not do, these changes have already made it easier for more people to use cars, whether theirs or someone else’s, and will make it even easier in the future. After all, if solving the last mile problem through transit involves taking Uber to the bus, and then another Uber from the bus to the workplace, why not just take one Uber to begin with?
Transit is important, but I think we have to take a step back and ask ourselves why it’s important. Public transit systems serve a variety of different policy agendas, including:
All of these functions are relevant, and important. But they are sometimes in conflict — and even when they’re not, we may not have enough resources to address all of them. If we invest hundreds of millions in light rail systems whose primary role is to foster redevelopment, we will have fewer resources to help people with limited options get to jobs with reasonable efficiency. With the majority of urban residents today working in the suburbs, that’s not an insignificant concern, and in my opinion, should be the highest priority.
We need to start thinking differently about transit. For example, we assume that transit should be a monopoly, run by the MTA in New York, the CTA in Chicago, SEPTA in Philadelphia, and so forth. Yet a monopoly can be a very inefficient way to achieve the many different goals that transit is called upon to serve.
A few years ago in CityLab, Lisa Margonelli pointed out that “America’s 20th largest bus service — hauling 120,000 riders a day — is profitable and also illegal.” She’s talking about the hundreds of what New Yorkers call “dollar vans,” which cater to people and areas inadequately served by public transit.
Most cities have something similar. Most or all are illegal. Why not allow anyone with a properly licensed, insured and inspected van to pick up passengers on street corners and take them where they want to go?
In the end, it’s not about Elon Musk. Indeed, if his words encourage us to think more about what transit is for, and how to achieve those goals — plausibly, not through imaginary tech ‘fixes’ — that would make this entire Twitter spat worthwhile.
Alan Mallach is a senior fellow at the Center for Community Progress in Washington, DC. He has served as director of housing and economic development for Trenton, N.J. as a visiting scholar at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, and as a non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
Public transit is a powerful tool for addressing a huge range of urban problems, including traffic congestion and economic development as well as climate change. But while many people support transit in the abstract, it’s often hard to channel that support into good transit investments. Part of the problem is that transit debates attract many kinds of experts, who often talk past each other. Ordinary people listen to a little of this and decide that transit is impossible to figure out.
In the latest episode in our series of Urban Resilience Project (URP) podcasts in partnership with Infinite Earth Radio, host Mike Hancox speaks with consulting transit planner Jarrett Walker about how transit can be simple, if we focus first on the underlying geometry that all transit technologies share.
“Transit is an incredibly local thing…If we’re not allowed to talk about it at that local level, we’re never going to make good policy. One of the things I recommend people do is completely tune out any national debate about how much transit we should. Because there is no national answer to that question, there are only local answers.”
Check out our entire series of podcasts on urban resilience topics HERE.
Kyler Geoffroy is the Online Marketing Manager for Island Press
Public transit consultant and author Jarrett Walker uses the metaphor of the elephant and the wine glass to talk about the things we know are true about space in cities. Interview from The Rail~Volution podcast featuring the plenary conversation at Rail~Volution 2018 in Pittsburgh.
Jen Hawse is the Partnership Manager at Island Press. She’s a big fan of travel, craft beer, dogs, and eating amazing food. You can generally find her in the kitchen cooking with her partner, Jason, or trying to convince her friends to play a boardgame.