Job! (Deadline Extended) Transit Planner and Project Manager with Our Firm

(New content appears below this post.)

UPDATE:  Deadline extended to April 30, 2021.

Yes, it’s time for us to look for our next senior colleague!  Here’s the listing. Please spread far and wide.

A small, creative, and growing transit planning firm seeks a Senior Associate or Principal based in Portland, Oregon or Arlington, Virginia who wants to lead interesting bus network planning projects and potentially develop a public profile as a leader on transit issues.  The job requires experience managing public transit planning projects, preferably as a consultant but possibly for government or other entities.

About us

Jarrett Walker & Associates is a small firm (14 employees) built upon Jarrett Walker’s 25 years of experience in transit network planning, and the techniques and approaches outlined in his book Human Transit.  Founded in 2011, we have twelve professional FTE and are in a phase of growth.  We are based in Portland, Oregon with a satellite office in Arlington, Virginia.  We are looking to add someone to our team who is available to work from one of these locations once public health conditions allow us to return to the office.

Our mission statement is: “We foster clear conversations about transit, leading to confident decisions.”  We specialize in planning that integrates public and stakeholder conversations.  The goal is that plans fully reflect both the values and priorities of the community and the geometric facts of how transit really works.   An ability to distinguish between values and facts is critical to our practice.

Network planning studies – both short term and long term — are the core of our business.  We have a long track record of success in these studies across North America and overseas.  We are also frequently hired to lead visioning processes, workshops, and training programs, and provide expert advice to senior executives and political processes.

In expanding our staff we also value adjacent areas of expertise, such as transit finance, scheduling and operations, transit agency management, paratransit and demand-response planning.  However, you must be able to step into management roles in network planning projects.

About the job

We are looking for a project manager and transit planner at our firm, with the title of Senior Associate or possibly Principal, depending on your level of experience. In this role, you will manage consulting projects with minimal supervision and help grow the firm through marketing and business development.  This role includes:

  • Being the client’s primary point of contact.
  • Managing all staff working on the project.
  • Monitoring budget and timeline.
  • Making decisions about how to approach the work within the context of the agreed scope, budget, and timeline.
  • Networking with potential clients and following business development leads.
  • Responding to RFPs and building teams with partner firms to complete proposals.
  • Participating in firm management tasks, as assigned.

Travel is part of the job.  Once public health conditions allow, the applicant should be prepared to travel 5 days per month on average.

Compensation and title will depend on experience, but will probably be in the range of $80,000-120,000/year. Our benefits program includes medical, dental, and disability insurance; a 401(k) program; subsidized transit passes; paid medical leave (1 hour per 30 hours worked); and paid time off (120 hours per fulltime year, which is also used for holidays).  We are extremely flexible about work hours, with staff working anywhere from 28 to 40 hours a week and being compensated accordingly.

Qualifications needed

The right candidate has all or almost all of the following:

  • At least 4 years of professional experience in transit planning.  This could be in bus service planning and analysis, but adjacent specialties such as corridor planning, transit scheduling, demand-response planning and transit policy are also valuable.  We may also consider candidates whose primary experience is in related fields like development planning and bike/ped planning, but you would need to (a) demonstrate expertise that we can successfully market in the context of transit planning, (b) demonstrate commitment to transit planning as a primary career goal.
  • At least two years experience as a manager of significant projects or work efforts, either in consulting or government agencies.
  • Excellence at writing, and conceiving visualizations, for a non-technical audience.
  • Excellence in public speaking, including situations where you must answer questions, handle objections, and “think on your feet.”
  • A passion for public transit and its role in city-building.
  • Evidence of independent and creative problem-solving, especially in the network design, service analysis, facilitation, outreach, policymaking or explanation/education.
  • US citizenship, legal residency or other legal permission to work long-term in the US.
  • Absolute fluency and clarity in spoken and written English.
  • Availability to begin work no later than June 1, 2021.  If you can start then but need more time to move, we can discuss.

The following are also very advantageous.

  • Evidence of ability to attract clients through your own skills and experience.
  • Familiarity with transit service and market analysis techniques.
  • Experience facilitating group decision processes, including of staff, stakeholders, and/or formal boards, councils and committees.
  • Experience in teaching or training.
  • Foreign language fluency, especially but not exclusively Spanish.
  • Familiarity with Jarrett Walker’s writings and our firm’s approaches to transit, combined with a readiness to engage critically with these ideas and help us sharpen and/or discard them. If you have not encountered Jarrett’s work before, read at least the introduction to his book Human Transit and some of the articles in the “Basics” section of his blog humantransit.org.

We seek diversity in our workforce, and welcome all applicants regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, age, sexual orientation, gender, or gender identity.

How to Apply

If you’re interested, we’d like to receive:

  • A cover letter describing how your experience and skills match the requirements and preferences listed above. Please state also where you are available to work (Portland, Oregon or Arlington, Virginia.).
  • A resume describing your relevant experience.
  • Up to three pieces of writing you’ve done that show your ability to explain a complex issue to a broad audience. This could be a professional report, an executive summary, an academic paper, a blog post, or an advocacy document.  If it’s a long document, the introduction or executive summary will do.  If it is a document written collaboratively, please select a section that was primarily your writing, or submit text that you drafted it even if it was later revised.
  • If available: Video or audio (files or links) of you doing some kind of presentation, preferably one addressed to a general non-technical audience.

Please email the application to [email protected] with the subject “(your name) Senior Application.”

Apply as soon as possible and no later than April 15, 2021.  If we have not found the right candidate by then we will announce deadline extensions here.  You will hear from us by April 30 or two weeks after you apply, whichever is earlier.

Updates

For a little more about my thoughts about this position, see this Twitter thread.

Do I absolutely have to be in Portland or Arlington?  We won’t hire someone to start a new office who hasn’t spent a lot of time with us. If we’ve already worked with you, it’s a little more conceivable.  Would we consider it if you were amazing?  Never say never, but you’d have to be head and shoulders about the crowd on all the things we’re looking for, and you’d have to spend a lot of time in Portland for training.  Really, yes, we do want you with us in person.

Please share this with anyone who might be interested!

 

 

Miami: Explore your New Bus Network

Our collaboration with the amazing folks at Transit Alliance Miami has reached its conclusion: A new bus network coming for all of Miami-Dade county.  Here you’ll find maps and info about the new network, and at the bottom of that page you’ll find all of the reports we produced along the way, scheduled to be implemented later this year.

For the central area, here’s the existing system:

Colors mean all-day frequency!  Purple = 12 minutes or better.  Red = 15. Orange = 20, Blue = 30. Green = 60.

And here’s the new network.  Fewer routes, less duplication, more frequency.

 

(This is not our mapping style, by the way.  It’s from a tool developed by Kittelson Associates that lets you move a slider back and forth between the two maps, so that you can see how different they are in the same place.  It can be a little clunky.  Look close for a vertical grey bar and you’ll find you can slide it left and right.  If it isn’t working, reload.)

The plan lays out meager resources for bus service in a more equitable way, focusing on frequent service on a one-mile grid across the denser inner parts of the county.  It will dramatically expand where people can get to quickly across the county, although often people will have to walk further to better frequency.

My biggest regret about the project?  Most of the bigger cities in the region have their own municipal transit systems, and we had wanted to get better integration between them, which would have created even more improvement in access.  We had good staff engagement with three of the four biggest municipal operators: Miami, Miami Beach, and Doral.  In the end, though, the Miami City Council didn’t support redesigning their shuttle system to work with the revised bus network.

I hope that in the future the cities will look closer at how to build better local networks that work with Miami-Dade transit instead of duplicating it.   Los Angeles County is a good model:  There’s a regional agency and lots of municipal ones, but region and cities have worked together to decide who’ll run which segment, and how to make it all work as a single network that helps everyone get where they want to go.

 

 

 

 

Dallas: A New Bus Network Proposal Seeks Your Feedback

We have been working with DART in Dallas for almost two years to develop a new network concept for the bus layer of the DART system. The agency covers the City of Dallas and 12 surrounding smaller cities.

You can now review the draft plan here, in English or Spanish.  You can also download our friendly and readable Draft Plan Report to understand the plan and its benefits in detail, as well as the process and public conversation that led it to look as it looks today.

Some key facts:

  • More frequent service.  The plan doubles the number of residents and jobs on 15-minute service.
  • Expanded access!  The average resident can get to 28% more jobs in transit in 60 minutes.
  • Equity: The access benefit is identical or better for the average Black or Hispanic resident.
  • The plan retains service to 97.9% of existing riders within 1/4 mile, and 99.6% within 1/2 mile.  Why not 100%?  That’s a result of a Board decision about the balance of ridership and coverage goals, which was the result of a public conversation last year.

There is also a fun and helpful tool that you can use to explore the network and see where you could go in a fixed amount of time.  Just select a location and click “60 minute travel.”  It will show you a blue blob of the area you can get to, with light blue meaning new area you can reach in 60 minutes and grey meaning places you can no longer get to in that time.  The box also shows how many more jobs you could reach in 60 minutes.

If you live in the DART area be sure to fill out their survey at the link above.  Remember, if you like the plan, you must say so!  Too often, people who like the plan are silent, so the survey results make it look like everyone hates it.  Comments are open through June 8.

Basics: Access, or the Wall Around Your Life

What if we planned public transit with the goal of freedom?  Well, it’s hard to improve things that you can’t measure, but now it’s becoming possible to measure freedom, or as we call it in transport planning, access.

Access is your ability to go places so that you can do things.  Over the last few years, I’ve come to believe that may be the single most important thing we should be measuring about our transport systems — but that we usually don’t.[1]  Access isn’t a new idea, but as our data gets better it’s becoming easier to measure, and it could potentially replace many other measures that are groping toward the idea but not quite getting there.

We calculate access, for anyone anywhere, like this:

 

Whoever you are, and wherever you are, there’s an area you could get to in an amount of time that’s available in your day. That limit defines a wall around your life.  Outside that wall are places you can’t work, places you can’t shop, schools you can’t attend, clubs you can’t belong do, people you can’t hang out with, and a whole world of things you can’t do.

We chose 45 minutes travel time for this example, but of course you can study many travel time budgets suitable for different kinds of trips.  A 45 minute travel time one way might be right for commutes.  For other kinds of trips, like quick errands or going out to lunch, the travel time budget is less.  For a trip you make rarely it might be more.

But the key idea is that we have only so much time.  There is a limit to how long we can spend doing anything, and that limit defines a wall.  We can draw the map of that wall, and count up the opportunities inside it, and say:  This is what someone could do, if they lived here.

Access is a combined impact of land use planning and transport planning. We can expand your access by moving your wall outward (transport) or by putting more useful stuff inside your current wall (land use).  We can use the tool to identify how much of a place’s access problem lies in the transport as opposed to the development pattern.

We can calculate access for any location, as in this example, but we can also calculate the average access for the whole population of any area.  In the first draft of our bus network redesign for Dublin, Ireland, for example, we found that the average Dubliner count reach 20% more jobs (and other useful destinations) in 30 minutes.  To discuss equity, we can also calculate access for any subgroup of the population: low income people, older or younger people, ethnic or racial groups, and so on.

Why Access Matters

People come to public transit with many goals that seem to be in conflict, but it turns out that a lot of different things get better when we make access better:

  • Ridership tends to be higher, because access captures the likelihood that any particular person, when they check the travel time for a trip, will find that the transit trip time is reasonable.  Ridership goes up and down for all kinds of other reasons, but access captures how network design and operations affect ridership. [2]  In our firm’s bus network redesigns, we’ve been using access as a key measure of success for about five years now, and it consistently leads us to ridership-improving network designs.
  • Emissions and congestion benefits all improve, because they depend on ridership, which depends on access.
  • Economically, the whole point of a city is to connect people to abundant opportunities.  People come together in cities so that more stuff will be inside the wall around their lives.  When we measure access we’re measuring how well the city functions at its defining purpose.
  • As for equity or racial justice in transit, well, isn’t equal access to opportunity at the core of what these movements are fighting for?  Access describes the essence of what has been denied to some groups through exclusionary development planning and exclusionary transport planning, so it helps us quantify what it would mean to fix those things.  This, in turn, could help justice struggles avoid a lot of distractions.  Because in the end, access is …
  • Freedom.  Where you can go limits what you can do.   If we increase your access, we’ve expanded the options that you have in your life.  Isn’t that what freedom is?

When we improve access, with attention to who is benefiting most, we improve all of those things.  It’s this remarkable sweep of relevance that makes access analysis so interesting and potentially transformative as a way to think about transportation.

Access Compared to Common Measures

Most methods for studying or improving transit assume that we should care about (a) what people are doing or (b) what people want to do.

Data about what people are doing includes travel behavior data, which are the foundation of much of the accepted methods of transport planning.  In public transit, ridership data is in this category.  Ridership is the basis for transit’s benefits in the areas of congestion and emissions, and also of fare revenue.

However, what people are doing isn’t necessarily what people want to do, or what they would do if the transport network were better.  Much of what people do is just  be the least-bad of their options given the city and transport network as it is.   This problem leads to various methods of public surveying to “find out what people want,” in some sense.  But there are lots of problems with that, mostly lying in the fact that people are not very good at knowing what they’d do if the world were different in some major way.

Access takes us outside of both of those frames.  Instead of asking “what do people do?” or “what do people want to do?” it asks “what if we expanded what people can do?

Access analysis does not try to predict what you’ll do.  In fact, it doesn’t need to predict human behavior at all, which is a good thing because human behavior is less predictable than we’d like to think.  Access calculations are vastly more certain than almost anything emerging from social science research, because they are based almost entirely on the geometric patterns of transport and development.  [3]

Instead, access starts with one insight about what everybody wants, even if they don’t use the same words to describe it.  People want to be free.  They want more choices of all kinds so that they can choose what’s best for themselves.  Access measures how we deliver those options so that everybody is more free to do whatever they want, and be whoever they are.

What Access Analysis Can’t Do

Will access analysis of transit put the social sciences and market research out of business?  Of course not.

  • We need to understand how different users experience public transit, and how the experience can be better designed to meet those various needs.
  • We need to know exactly who won’t be served by access based network design so that we can decide what actions to take for those people, if any.
  • We need to keep exploring the relationship between access and ridership so that we can identify the factors that sit outside that relationship and must be considered.
  • Access analysis would also become more powerful if we had better data on the locations — to within 1/4 mile (400m) or so — of various non-work destinations: retail, groceries, medical, and so on — so that we could better assess people’s ability to get to such places.

But in 30 years of listening to public comment, I’ve heard enough times that people want to go places so that they can do things.  So let’s measure how well we’re delivering that, and let’s ask ourselves if that’s more important that some of the things we measure now.

Further Reading

This post could have been much longer; in fact, I hope it will become a book.  Meanwhile, here are some great resources:

  • The 2020 Transport Access Manual is the first comprehensive explanation of access and how it can be applied to various questions.  It’s the work of a team led by professors David Levinson (University of Sydney) and David King (Arizona State University). Full disclosure: I had a role and wrote some snippets.
  • The University of Minnesota’s Accessibility Observatory, founded by Levinson and now led by Andrew Owen, is one of the main research centers on the topic.  For several years they’ve been publishing Access across America, which are essentially atlases showing where people can get to from various places by car, transit, etc..
  • On the philosophical issues about freedom vs. prediction, and why it’s important to separate physical knowledge from social science knowledge, see my fun Journal of Public Transportation paper, “To Predict with Confidence, Plan for Freedom.”  Seriously, it’s fun.
  • On what high-access public transit tends to look like, here’s a fairly evergreen 2013 post of mine, with downloadable handout, on how some of the big debates of transit planning line up with a goal of high access for a community.

I will update this post with further links.

 

Endnotes

[1]  In the academic literature, what I’m calling access is usually called accessibility.  Both of these words have contested meanings, because both have been used specifically to refer to the needs and rights of people with disabilities.  I follow the recent Transport Access Manual in using access as the less confusing of these two words.  Of course, we are talking here specifically about spatial access — the ability to do things that require going places — which is not the only kind.  However, a lot of the ways that people are cut off from opportunity do turn out to be spatial.  Transportation (i.e. access) is a major barrier to employment in the US, for example.

[2]  This paper, for example, establishes a relationship between transit access and public transit’s mode share, one that is especially strong for lower income people.

[3]  There are exceptions.  Traffic congestion, for example, is a human behavior that affects the access calculation.

The Bus Arrives at the New York Times

Well, this was great to see! A piece by the always-wise NYT columnist Farhad Manjoo.

What I like about the piece is that he runs through the typical confusions and prejudices about the bus.  It’s kind of like he’s driving, well, a bus, picking up each reader in the neighborhood of their own assumptions before delivering them all them to his point.  Having gathered his readers, he takes them to London, and points out that the most important thing about London’s buses isn’t just that they are iconic, or sustainable, or easy to pay the fare on.  The important thing is that there are lots of them.

But the major innovation in London’s buses is less technological than numerical. The magic is one of scale — there are simply enough buses in London to allow for frequent, reliable service to the parts of the city that people want to travel to.

This is the point.  Successful transit is mass transit.  If it doesn’t scale, it doesn’t matter.

Yikes! I’m in Wikipedia

Well, I certainly didn’t expect this, and I don’t know who wrote it. Thanks to whoever did!

As of right now (March 10, 2021) it has several objective problems, including fanboy diction, some confused writing, and an emphasis on obscure citations instead of major ones.

If you want to wade into editing it, I’m happy to provide facts but not bias.

Richmond, Virginia: Expanding on a Redesigned System

In June 2018, Richmond, Virginia and its transit agency, GRTC, launched a new BRT line and a redesigned bus network that we helped design. That new network was intended to help increase ridership, and it did. From June 2018 through February 2020, ridership increased every month, a huge positive growth, topping out at 29% increase in ridership from February 2020 versus February 2018. The pandemic has reduced ridership but much of the ridership decline is concentrated in commuter express routes.

During and after the redesign process, the adjacent suburban counties participated in a longer-term planning process to consider expansion and improvement in each jurisdiction and those conversations coalesced into a ripe political moment to find dedicated funding for GRTC. In early 2020, the Virginia General Assembly created a new regional entity, the Central Virginia Transportation Authority, with dedicated revenues from sales and gas taxes, and 15% of their funding will go to GRTC.

Much of the new money goes to other things, including reducing the contributions that local governments already make. In the end, the measure funds about a 20% increase in bus service. Many local transit advocates argued for a higher percentage of the regional funding to go to GRTC, but the resulting legislation was a compromise between many differing regional interests. Initially expectations were high for how much this new funding could expand service across the region, but given how many different things the new funding is trying to do, it’s ultimately not a really big expansion of service.

As a result, the hard choices arising from transit’s basic geometry still need to be thought about, particularly the ridership-coverage trade-off. How should the region prioritize its new investment? Should it expanding routes as far as possible across the region, even if that means lower frequency service that we know few people will find useful? Or should it invest in more frequent services that will help more people get somewhere soon and connect most people to a lot more jobs and opportunities?

Those are the basic questions before the public, stakeholders, and leaders of the region in the Regional Transit Plan Concepts that we’ve helped to design for GRTC.

The Coverage Concept spends the new dollars on spreading service farther to more places, but does so mostly with service running just once an hour. While it would extend service to 50,000 more people, those long wait times mean that the jobs reachable in 45 minutes for the average person would go up by only 4%.

 Residents close to serviceJobs reachable in 45 min
Coverage Concept+50,000+4%
Ridership Concept+15,000+16%

This concept shows how new regional funding might be used to expand the bus network with 20% more service if Coverage goals were the primary focus for new investment.

The Ridership Concept concentrates investment in services running every 10, 15, or 30 minutes in the most dense and busy places in the core of the region. It expands access to jobs by 16% for the average resident, but only extends service to an additional 15,000 residents.

This concept shows how new regional funding might be used to expand the bus network with 20% more service if Ridership goals were the primary focus for new investment.

So regional leaders face the eternally difficult trade-off of how to invest limited dollars in transit. If you live in the Richmond area, weigh in with the online survey so GRTC and your regional leaders can know how you want your transit system to expand. If you know someone in the Richmond region, send them the link to the project website and this post. These concepts are here to help people decide what values they want transit to prioritize. We can help the community understand the options and the outcome, but it’s ultimately their decision.

 

 

 

Fixing US Transit Requires Service, Not Just Infrastructure

TransitCenter has a new video and article with some powerful images saying what I say all the time:  If you want to transform public transit for the better in the US, there’s useful infrastructure you could build, but the quickest and most effective thing you could do is just run a lot more buses.

(Remember, US activists: Don’t just envy Europe; start by envying Canada.  The average Canadian city has higher ridership than the most comparable US city, not because they have nicer infrastructure or vastly better land use, but because they just run more transit.)

TransitCenter’s work uses access analysis to show what’s really at stake.  Increasing bus service by 40% (an aspirational number that still wouldn’t match many Canadian peers) would massively expand where people could go, and thus what they could do.

For example, here’s how 40% more service would expand where someone could get to from a particular point in metro Atlanta.  (The concentric colors mean where you could reach in 10, 20, 30, or 45 minutes, counting the walk, the wait, and the ride.)

Source: TransitCenter (graphic by Remix)

Source: TransitCenter (graphic by Remix)

With a 40% increase in service someone in this location can reach ten times the number of jobs in 45 minutes.  (These analyses use jobs because we have the data, but this means a comparable growth in the opportunities for all kinds of other trips: shopping, errand, social, and so on. )  I would argue that someone at this location would be 10 times as free, because they would have 10 times more options to do anything that requires leaving home.

The transportation chatter in the new administration is about infrastructure, partly because there’s lots of private money to be made on building things, and because building things is exciting.  But if you want to expand the possibility of people’s lives, and seriously address transport injustices that can be measured by this tool, don’t just fund infrastructure, fund operations.  Just run more buses!