A New Years Letter, with Unsolicited Advice

This is our little consulting firm’s New Years letter to the world …

Friends, Clients, and Colleagues,

Jarrett's photoA New Years Letter is supposed to wish you all the best while talking about all our own wonderful news. We have some news, and I’ll share it below. But I also want to think with you about how to face a decade that could be the most challenging of our lives.

As we do transit plans in many cities, we’re hearing a lot of hope and a lot of anger, but we’re also hearing a word that I didn’t hear much a decade ago: emergency.

We have the “climate emergency,” an endlessly blaring alarm that unites all natural disasters into one. My Australian friends spent New Years Eve fleeing from 50-foot walls of flame. Young people come to our meetings asking what this thing we’re discussing will do for the climate, by which they mean: “Am I going to have a world to live in?”

But problems of social justice and inequality also look more like emergencies now. I spent much of November in Chile, watching “the most stable country in Latin America” explode in rage and chaos about an economic system that had been considered perfectly normal the week before. Social inequality, however you define it, is a potential emergency every bit as much as climate is.

Emergency is a frightening word. It says: “Do everything differently now, or else,” but people who just try to “do something” often do the wrong thing. Our challenge as a profession is to figure out how all these ringing alarms should affect how we do our jobs, and how we talk about them.

Most of us work in big organizations with complex webs of bureaucratic requirements and processes. We all spend time complying with rules, rather than solving problems or creating opportunities.

Most of those rules have purposes, and I am not calling for open rebellion against them. But to people outside our profession, it can look like we’re performing slow and mysterious rituals while the house is on fire.

So here are some new year resolutions we’re taking on as a firm. Maybe they’re useful to you.

  • I will act as if what I’m doing matters, because it does. Transit is a key tool that can ease many of the crises that are triggering fear and rage, so how you do your job is affecting the world. That’s true whether you drive a bus, design a bus route, audit compliance, or do any other of the thousand things that keep our industry running.
  • If something doesn’t matter, I will stop doing it and stop telling others to do it. Those of us who create procedures have a special responsibility to make sure that everything we tell people to do is actually helping make things better.
  • I will help people understand. Practice explaining what you do and why it matters in plain language. Transit is a widely misunderstood topic. We must be patient and clear in helping everyone see how it works, so that they can make decisions whose consequences they can see.

This, at least, is what we’ll try to do.

Our good news is that we’ve been fortunate to see our work improving people’s lives, and thus making transit more resilient and effective. We led the design process for networks that are now operating in Houston, Columbus, Indianapolis, Richmond, Anchorage and now, just last week, San Jose and Silicon Valley in California (VTA). Auckland, New Zealand’s spectacular public transit renaissance includes a network redesign that I worked on in 2012, and that finally rolled out last year.

We just finished our work on a giant redesign project in Dublin, our first job in the European Union, and we hope to see it on the street in a year or two. Right now, we’re in the midst of network design projects in Miami, Kansas City, Dallas, Salt Lake City, Chattanooga, and Alexandria, Virginia, among others.

But bus network design isn’t all we do, and 2019 was a year of branching out. We are doing more long range planning, including the Tucson Long Range Transit Plan this year. We’re helping universities and private companies think about transit. We’re providing crucial professional advice on land use plans, too many of which are done without deep thought about transit. We’re advising on a range of policy questions, helping people understand how decisions that are about other things determine whether effective service transit service will be possible.

So that’s our news. The new decade will be full of challenges, but I hope it’s also full of happiness and rewards for you. Let us all keep learning from each other.

Sincerely,

Jarrett Walker

You Won’t Want to Miss This Webinar!

So far, 857 people have registered for the January 17 webinar where I’ll be appearing alongside the celebrated urban designer Jeff Speck, author of Walkable City and Walkable City Rules.  It’s sponsored by the Smart Growth Network and the Maryland Department of Planning.

The cool thing about webinars is that there’s no registration limit, so you might as well come!

It’s Friday, January 17 at 1:00 PM US Eastern Time, 10: 00 AM Pacific.  You do need to register, so click here!

(Yes, the headline is clickbait.  I’m not good at clickbait but I’m practicing!)

New Year’s Resolution: Ignore Predictions

We’ve all been trained to view the confident prediction as evidence of expertise.  The expert commits to a prediction — “Blazers win by two, “Biden wins New Hampshire,” “We’ll all be riding driverless cars by 2019” — and we’re supposed to be impressed.  “If he’s so confident, he must know what he’s talking about” we are supposed to think.

He doesn’t.  The only statements about the future worth considering are those hedged with uncertainty and margins of error, where certainty is approached gradually through many people studying the facts.  That’s the long, slow, misunderstood process by which we got to the consensus on climate change.  But most practitioners of that craft don’t call this work prediction.  They speak more humbly (and accurately) of projections and scenarios. They tell us that things are moving in a direction, or that some outcomes are more likely than another, or that “if nothing changes” it will look something like this in 2050.

Prediction isn’t humble in this way.  Often it’s just a sales pitch:  “Buy this product and you will be happy.”  “Thanks to our product, public transit will soon be obsolete.”  Ignore these claims utterly.  They are not trying to make you smarter.  As always when you hear any statement about a patented new thing, lean into the wind.  The more you detect self-interest behind the prediction, the more you should doubt it.

When I say prediction-like things in my role as an expert, they are of two kinds.  Either I am predicting the continued existence of physical facts, (“In 2100, an elephant still won’t fit inside a wineglass”1) or I’m offering if-then statements that point to the listener’s power:  “If you do this, it will have this effect”.  I’m careful to stay in those bounds, where I’m certain. When journalists ask me “what will cities be like in 2030?” I decline.

Here’s the thing:  Prediction — by which I mean any non-trivial assertion about the future — is the opposite of moral thinking, because it implies we are passive receivers of the future instead of creators of it.

Predictions tell us that we will happen anyway if accept the future passively, doing nothing to change it.  But all credible, properly hedged projections about that future are dire.  So we will act, and our action will disrupt all the models and assumptions and prejudices that make prediction possible.

To feel powerful, then, you must resolve to reject all confident predictions that you hear.  Honor the projections and scenarios that reflect decades of humble work.  But don’t let anyone tell you they know what the future will be.  Nobody knows, and it would be cause for despair if they did.

 

(A much expanded version of this argument is in my Journal of Public Transportation paper here.)

Notes

1  A more relevant insight about urban planning than you might think, as I explain near the beginning of most of my public speeches — this one, for example.

San Jose and Silicon Valley: Welcome to Your New Network

Finally, the long deferred new network design for Valley Transportation Authority — which covers San Jose and much of Silicon Valley in the Bay Area, is going live as I write this, on December 28, 2019.  The plan arises from a major study that we led in 2016.

[Implementation was delayed so long due to delays in completing the BART rapid transit extension from the East Bay into San Jose, which the plan is intended to complement.  VTA planned on the line opening tomorrow, but a last minute delay (too late for VTA to postpone their plans) has pushed that opening into the spring, so express buses will be providing that link in the meantime.]

What’s new?  A massive high frequency grid covering most of San Jose, where transit demand is highest, but also bit improvements for the “Silicon Valley” area to the west.  A new frequent north south line runs through Sunnyvale and Cupertino.  Routes are simplified and made straighter. The light rail system was redesigned at the same time, to make it more gridlike as well.  Nothing new was built, but the service pattern is also more of a grid, with a new continuous east-west line across the north side of the region that will connect tens of thousands of jobs to BART for travel to the East Bay.

Here’s the old network, with red denoting high frequency.  (Click to enlarge and sharpen.)

The old VTA network. Red = 15 minute frequency or better. Note the lack of a high frequency grid apart from the lowest-income area in the far east. Map by Jarrett Walker + Associates.

And here’s the new one, by our friends at CHK America. The style is slightly different from ours, but still, high frequency is in red, and the broad colored lines (black in our map above) are the light rail network.

The new VTA network. Red=15 minute frequency or better. Map by CHK America.

Also, an historic event about which I’ll write more:  A two-segment very low-ridership light rail segment has been closed, between Ohlone/Chynoweth and Almaden stations in southern San Jose.  I believe this is the first time that a modern US light rail segment — i.e. built since the 1950s — was permanently closed, with the exception of a single station in Pittsburgh.  (Please correct me if I’m wrong!)

And yes, some low-ridership segments disappear, though very few people end up losing all of their service.  Often, the deleted routes provided some link inside an area that already had other service, and while some of these routes were fiercely defended by locals, there was no way to justify them when they achieved neither high ridership nor unique coverage.  Another important part of that story is that many of the wealthier Silicon Valley cities have their own transit services, and while of course they would prefer that the county pay for their service, they have the option of running some of these low-ridership links themselves if they decide it is important to them.

Meanwhile, the center of gravity of the network remains in the east, not just because incomes are lower there but also because the geography is more favorable to efficient transit, with fewer barriers to walking and a more regularly gridded street network.  Google’s move into the Diridon station area of San Jose is a great first step toward bringing jobs and prosperity into a landscape that efficient transit can serve well.

All this resulted from a clear discussion with the VTA Board, and the community, about the ridership-coverage tradeoff.  The old system was about 70% justified by ridership, while the new network is closer to 90%.  Getting to the right balance of ridership and coverage goals was the result of a long conversation, in which we showed the public alternatives and got their feedback before the Board made a decision.

To all of Silicon Valley and San Jose, welcome to your new network.  It’s been a long struggle (for VTA more than for us) but you can finally go places you could never go before, and soon.

 

Am I a Disruptor Now? (the Podcast)

“Getting excited about technology is often a way of distracting ourselves from the actual problems before us.”

I’m not known for the glorifying mass disruption, but I guess I’m a disruptor now.  Matt Ward’s podcast The Disruptors interviewed me this fall.  We talked about driverless cars, flying cars, Uber, scooters, “super mini micro smartcar pods,” and whether the whole interview was a Turing test.  Matt asked me especially tough questions about what might be possible in the future.

Something about Matt’s style got me talking a little fast, but it was fun.  It starts at 5:15 with John F. Kennedy pretending to be me, and then I get going at 5:30.  There’s one irritating ad early on, and then it’s uninterrupted.

It’s here.

 

Chile: Planning as Everything Changes

Santiago resembles Los Angeles in geography and climate, but the mountains are much higher, the city is denser, and of course there is much more poverty (not pictured).

My planned week in Santiago, intended to be for the CEDEUS conference, was wildly rearranged by the civic uprising that’s transforming Chile, which until a month ago was famously the most stable country in Latin America.  Bigger events than ours had to be cancelled, since nobody could guarantee security in the center of Santiago while the protests took their uncertain course.

You have probably heard about the appalling vandalism of the Santiago Metro and the destruction of businesses.  You may not have heard that these are massive protests whose underlying grievances have broad public support, even though almost everyone deplores the destruction.  Suddenly, the word on everyone’s lips is desigualdad — inequality.

But of course immobility is part of inequality, so around the edges I thought I might still have something to offer.  Some low income people in Santiago are over 90 minutes travel time from their jobs, giving them no time to either seek a better life or care for their families.  As always, this is both a transport problem and a land use problem, one I did my best to explain in purely geometric terms.

The graffito in yellow reads: “It wasn’t peace, it was silence.”

My host Juan-Carlos Muñoz of the Catholic University of Chile made an extraordinary effort to make good use of my time, even though nothing could be planned for certain.

We had planned an overnight trip to Concepción, for example, to speak at the university there, at the invitation of transport engineering professor Juan Antonio Carrasco. But Juan Carlos had to call me the day before to tell me there would be a general strike the next day, so while we could fly there tonight nobody knew if we would be able to get back tomorrow.  Also, there would be no public transport and students would be in the streets, so nobody knew if anyone would come to my talk.  He invited me to cancel, though he encouraged me to go.

The courageous, dashing consultant that I’d like you to think I am paused for effect and then said, in a gravelly voice: “Let’s do it.”  In fact I leaned hard on Juan Carlos’s optimism, and I’m glad I did.  Our spare time in Concepción was consumed by the work of getting around barricades and fires, so the only sightseeing we could do in that beautiful city was to gaze in shock at the looted and burned big box stores.  In the end, I was delighted to see over 40 people, including journalists, show up for my talk, and asked great questions.  Later I did a similar presentation back in Santiago (summarized in Spanish here) to a similar number. [1][2]

From left, Professor Juan Carlos Muñoz, I, Chile’s Minister of Transport and Telecomminications Gloria Hutt and Vice Minister José Luis Domínguez.

And there were great casual chats, including with activists from the sustainable transport advocacy group Muevete, and with dedicated and energetic staff from the government public transport authority, Transantiago.  Finally, beyond my expectations, I had an hour with Chile’s Ministry of Transport Gloria Hutt to talk about immobility in the context of the dramatic transformations in public transit that they are trying to achieve. [3]

Finally, there was a series of conversations with Lake Sagaris, one of the most fascinating people I know.  She’s now a Canadian-Chilean transport professor, but she was also one of the key journalists and authors who chronicled the Pinochet dictatorship and its aftermath.   Today, she’s a leading expert in the now-urgent task of fostering a constructive and inclusive public conversation.

One of the most remarkable features of the current crisis is the spontaneous generation of many thousands of cabildos, locally generated groups of people, beyond the usual interest groups, who gather to discuss the crisis and paths forward.  These groups, often organized by local government, are widely viewed as credible, and their ideas are strongly influencing the conversation as presented in the media.

Land use planning in Concón, Chile: a little too laissez-faire?

With such fractured but intense impressions, what can I say about Chile in this remarkable time?

The word revolution comes to mind but is too strong, and premature.  The Chilean media tend to call the recent events el estallido (explosion, outbreak, shattering), which conveys the force and disruption without implying a point of view on the grievances or a belief about how things will turn out.  The conservative government is showing openness to dramatic change, including a new Constitution, so perhaps things will evolve in a peaceful way.

Mostly, Chile is just deeply uncertain.  Uncertain in daily life:  Will we be able to travel tomorrow, and if so will we be able to come back?  Can a meeting in inner Santiago be planned for next week?  Will anyone come?  Will a random strike close a national park, stranding all the international visitors staying nearby?  And more deeply:  How much more violence and destruction lies ahead?  How real are the promised transformations?  What will the new constitution say? What kind of country will Chile be five years from now?

Chile presents a rapid alternation of the utterly normal and the utterly disrupted, and nobody knows where the future equilibrium is.  If there’s reason for optimism, it’s that there seems to be widespread consensus to deplore the violence but insist on the urgency of change.  And as always, equality isn’t just about how much money people have.  It’s also about mobility, access to opportunity, so land use and transport are at the center of it all.

 

Notes

[1]

The courageous, dashing consultant that I’d like you to think I am did all these events in fluent Spanish, despite not having studied the language at all until 6 months ago.  In fact, I was at a stage where I could give a prepared speech in Spanish but not really take questions in it. [2]  This is what I look like when I’m doing that.  Walking a tightrope, basically, or trying to invoke any available deity to give me the next word when I need it.  Note the heavily light of inspiration slightly missing me to my right:

[2]

A further challenge to comprehension is that the Chilean accent tends to omit vowels (which, to be fair, is a common complaint about the American accent in English.)  Thus I had conversations like this:

I:  A qué hora devolverán mi ropa mañana?  [when will they return our laundry tomorrow?]

She:  Awa owo.

I:  Um.  Otra vez?  [again?]

She:  Awa owo!  Eight!

I:  Ah!  “A las ocho?”

She:  Sí!  Awa owo!

This endless humiliation had its uses, of course.  It kept me from feeling that I could figure out the place too easily, and so slowed the inevitable slide from curiosity into judgment.

[3]

Chile is going through the same process that I was part of in Australia, New Zealand, and Ireland: bringing over-privatized bus services together into a single network that government controls and markets, while private companies still compete to operate the services.  It’s the only way to get a coherent and efficient network design that maximizes mobility while also yielding the benefits of competition in operations.

 

I Am Not a Bus Advocate

What, you say?  But you wrote an article in the Atlantic called The Bus is Still Best!  You redesign bus networks for a living!  You’ve been a skeptic about all kinds of new alternatives to the bus, from monorails to streetcars-stuck-in-traffic t0 “microtransit.”  Have you changed your mind?  

I am a freedom advocate[1], which means that I like it when people can go places, and therefore do things, and therefore have better lives more rich with choice and opportunity.  And when I analyze how to deliver freedom cost-effectively, the fixed route bus turns out to be the right answer in a huge percentage of cases.  It’s not right in all cases, and where it isn’t I don’t recommend it.  (Where a community has other goals, that too can yield a different answer, which is fine.  It’s their community.)

But it’s increasingly common to read things like this

Entrenched beliefs that the bus or rail is best, period — and that ridership and scalability are all that matter — stop us from seeing all the places where we can leverage technology and new ideas.

[UPDATE:  This article has since been revised in response to my objections.]

The word “bus” was a link to my Atlantic article, whose headline, “The Bus Is Still Best,” I dislike but could not control.[2]  The implication of this link is that I am “entrenched” in an emotional attachment to buses the way that many people can be emotionally attached to trains or airplanes or Porsches or whatever.[3]

Such attachments may also just be financial interests.  For example, huge amounts of venture capital are being spent making it sound like microtransit is a world-changing idea, and to attack those of us who honestly can’t make mathematical sense of that claim as being rigid, stuck in our ways, “entrenched.”[4]

In fact, I feel no emotions about transport technologies.  My shelves are not full of cardboard model buses.[5]  And where the right answer to the problem of efficiently providing freedom isn’t a bus, I don’t recommend a bus.  I have recommended all kinds of technologies in different situations. I want to achieve goals, and I look for tools that do that in each situation.

Above all, I hope I’m known for suggesting that our thinking should start with goals rather than emotional excitement about technologies, and that this requires some serious effort, because every technology salesperson wants us to do the opposite: first, get excited about a technology, then try to come with a goal that could justify it.  As soon as “innovation” becomes a goal in itself rather than a tool, we are headed down that slippery slope.

So I’m not surprised that I get attacked now and then, and now here’s a post as a ready-made response.  Next time you see someone say that I am (or you are) a “bus advocate,” or “entrenched,” just send them a link to this.  Thank you!

 

Notes

[1] Or, if you prefer, a mobility or access advocate.

[2] Never, ever link to something based only on the headline!  Headlines express the attitudes of the publication, not the writer.  (I am slapping my own wrist as I write this, because I’ve been guilty too.)

[3] … which is not to criticize emotional attachments.  I have them too about many things. As always, I am describing myself, not judging you!

[4]  This assumption about financial interest also gets projected onto me sometimes, so for the record: I have no financial link with any bus manufacturer, bus operating company, etc.

[5] … though if yours are, that’s wonderful!  As always, I am describing myself, not judging you!

Alexandria, Virginia: A New Network Plan

At about 15 square miles, the City of Alexandria is relatively small, but it is firmly within the core of the Washington metropolitan region with key job centers like the large Department of Defense facility at Mark Center, a historic Old Town that draws many tourists, burgeoning employment centers like Eisenhower East, and many leafy suburban neighborhoods. It grew and changed dramatically, along with the rest of Washington region, in the latter half of the 20th Century, much of it in an auto-oriented design. And like many of the inner suburban areas of the Washington region, Alexandria is trying to find its way to a more transit-focused future, because in the nations 6th largest metro area, there’s just not room for everyone to get around by car.

When looking at Alexandria in the context of the ridership recipe, a key feature is that most of the density is around the edges of the city, along the Metrorail lines to the east and south, and along I-395 to the north. But not all of that density is equally suited to high transit ridership. In the western parts of the city, much of the development is auto-oriented, with less connected streets and poor walkability. In the middle of the city is a large area of primarily low density residential that is not dense or walkable. This doughnut pattern makes the transit network design and planning work particularly interesting and challenging for Alexandria.

Old Town Alexandria (Photo: Ken Lund https://flic.kr/p/o5Pgtc)

Skyscrapers_on_King_Street West End Alexandria Virginia (Photo: Ser Amantio di Nicolao via Wikimedia.org)

In that context, we’ve been working with the City, its local transit agency (DASH), and the regional transit agency (WMATA), on the Alexandria Transit Vision since 2018. The City recently released the Draft Recommended Networks that we helped design.

The networks are designed around the policy direction from the DASH Board that, by 2030, 85% of resources should go toward high ridership service. The plan includes a short-term network that could be implemented as soon as 2022, with no new service hours. It also includes an option to improve evening and weekend service in the short-term with new investment. Plus, the plan includes the ambitious Vision Network, a 2030 plan to expand the frequent network and evening and weekend service to substantially increase access across the city, seven days a week.

A major focus of the plan is building up a frequent network from what is mostly a low frequency system with lots of one-seat rides today. That means some trips that a person can make today on one bus might require two buses in the future, but the frequency of service means that total wait time is the same, or less, than today.

The slices of the network maps below show the western part of the city, where today many overlapping routes provide low frequency service to many destinations, but you can’t get anywhere soon with such long waits. The 2022 and 2030 networks dramatically simplify service and increase frequency to expand liberty and access through connections to other frequent routes.

Existing Network

2022 Network

 

2030 Network

Outcomes

The 2022 Recommended Network would increase the number of jobs that the average person could reach in 45 minutes at midday on weekdays by 13%. That is with a network with zero increase in service hours, just reallocating existing DASH and WMATA services in the city.

An 8% increase in service in the short-term (2022) could improve evening and weekend service so more people could get more places all week long. Specifically, it would increase the percent of residents near frequent service on Saturdays from 36% to 65% and on Sundays from 15% to 59%.

The longer-term Vision Network for 2030 would increase job access even more, helping the average resident reach 18% more jobs in 45 minutes at noon on weekdays. Plus, it would increase evening and weekend service, brining frequent service to 79% of residents on Saturdays and 74% on Sundays.

The vast majority of people and places in Alexandria see substantial improvements in overall access and freedom via transit with these networks, but like any change there are some trade-offs. Some parts of the city, particularly in the lower density center, see a decrease in service and also a decrease in access by transit.

These trade-offs were part of the concepts phase where we helped the public, stakeholders, and city leadership think through what goals they wanted to prioritize for transit in Alexandria. The outcome of that phase was the Board policy direction telling us to put 85% of resources toward Ridership Goals and 15% toward Coverage goals.

Your Liberty

We’ve also put together an interactive webmap that you can use to explore the networks and see how they affect your liberty and access to opportunities: http://alexandriatransitvision.com/. The tool compares travel time isochrones for each concept and shows you the change in jobs reachable in 30 or 45 minutes.

In these maps, blue areas are newly reachable with the network concept, purple areas are reachable with both the existing network and the concept, and red areas are where you can travel with the existing network that is no longer reachable with the concept. You can also click the “View Routes” button to explore the network structure.

Here’s a quick comparison for the Landmark Mall vicinity showing the area that would be reachable in 45 minutes with the 2030 Recommended Network:

Screen Shot Landmark Mall Isochrone

The City is working with developers to remake this area of the City, adding new housing and commercial development. With the 2030 network, someone living here would be able to reach 76,800 more jobs than with the existing network. Of course, those jobs aren’t just places you could work, they also represent the shopping, education, recreation, and other opportunities you could reach in a reasonable amount of time.

More Information

There’s much more detail in the Draft Recommended Network Report and at the city’s website, including individual neighborhood details.

If you live, work, or visit Alexandria, you should consider these changes and take the survey about them here. At this stage there is no decision about whether to implement a plan such as this one.  Any final plan will be revised based on public comment that comes in over the next couple of weeks.  That means that if you like the plan, it’s important to comment to that effect, as well.

Santiago: I’m Coming Anyway

Photo: Carlos Figueroa, Wikimedia Creative Commons.

For months I’ve planned to be in Santiago next week, with a brief side trip to Concepción.  I was to speak at the annual joint conference of the Centre for Sustainable Urban Development and the Centre for the Study of Conflict and Social Cohesion.  I had visited the country in 2004, and looked forward to returning to one of the most stable and peaceful countries in Latin America.

So it goes.  Stability can always mask horrors that eventually have to come to light.  Chile’s extreme inequality had reached a point where a small increase in Santiago Metro fares sparked a broad social revolt. The initial outburst was violent, including looting of stores, burning of buildings, and terrible damage to the magnificent Santiago Metro.   The conservative government briefly tried out a confrontational response (“Chile is at war“) but backtracked the next day, apologizing, sacking much of the cabinet, and promising reforms. Today the protests continue as they should, mostly peaceful but with the inevitable scatterings of violence, and the country is debating profound reforms that Serious People deemed impossible even two weeks ago.

But the conference venue is right in the centre of Santiago, where protests are continuing, and the organizers have decided to cancel the conference, because, they write, “at this moment we do not have the conditions to complete the conference as it was planned.”  Instead, “we believe that the efforts of academics should lie in understanding and engaging in dialogue on the problems that confront our country, as well as cooperating to open paths to a more just country.”

I’m coming anyway. I’ll meet with some transport officials, and speak to a class at the university. In Concepción I’ll face the challenge of giving a talk in Spanish, a language I knew almost nothing of six months ago. I look forward to experiencing something even better than stability: a country transforming itself, as few countries dare imagine.