can “network primers” reduce grief about network design?

Tl network primer cover

Greater Vancouver’s transit agency TransLink has now published something called the Managing the Network Primer [Download PDF] and has a new webpage devoted to this and similar themes.  It’s a simple explanation of why effective transit networks are designed a certain way.  It pushes back on the confused and confusing notion that “buses are flexible compared to rail,” by emphasising the ways that all kinds of transit work or fail along the same geometric principles.  It can also be used to explain to a reasonable person why the bus can’t just deviate to serve (or avoid) her house, business, or development project.  I’m honored to have made substantial contributions to it, in the context of my ongoing work with TransLink.

Subliminally present in this document — and more explicit, I hope, in the next version — is that this is also a primer for transit-oriented land use planning.  If you want good transit at your home or development or senior center or business park, you need to locate it where transit can be efficient, and therefore abundant.  So by understanding what efficient transit looks like, you can get a better grasp of what truly transit-oriented development looks like.

So like my book, and like my course, this document will be interesting for transit geeks but is really meant for people in land use planning, development, architecture, and other related fields.  These are the people who are deciding how effective transit can be in the future — every bit as much as transit planners are.

Once again, TransLink is being careful not to tell any city what it should do with its land use.  Rather, this is part of a process of explaining the transit consequences of the choices a city might make.

If your regional transit agency is giving its city governments the impression that it’s telling them what to do, it may have something to learn from documents like this.  Getting this message right is something I’ve worked on for a while, and it was the subject of my recent keynote at the Canadian Urban Transit Association annual conference.   Let me know if I can help.

4 Responses to can “network primers” reduce grief about network design?

  1. Michael G. Hurston June 19, 2012 at 7:06 pm #

    Your blog is really great on covering interesting transport related topics. I would love to chat about an alternative transportation project we have kicked off here in CA called the BiModal Glideway, a hybrid high speed rail and auto combination that allows existing modified cars to use a high speed rail system installed in existing road lanes.

  2. bobney June 19, 2012 at 7:49 pm #

    OMG, a new gadgetbahn. There’s so much wrong with it that I don’t even know where to even start. And this is definitely not the right blog for this sort of discussion.

  3. EN57 June 20, 2012 at 6:58 am #

    This is a great document, and I think many transit agencies around the world would identify with the issues covered and appreciate the local social/political circumstances that would have motivated TransLink to prepare it. Reducing grief about network design would definitely be one of the aims.
    I don’t see this document being specially directed to architects or town planners because it also hits on most of those service provision issues typically raised by members of the public and resident groups when requesting, demanding or rejecting changes. I can see how this document would be very helpful in raising general public awareness and tempering the continual and often unreasonable demands of myriad stakeholders wanting to make changes to transit systems that may not be in everyone’s interests.
    TransLink reasonably states that it is not responsible for land use decisions. What I’m having trouble understanding is Jarrett’s suggestion that transit agencies ought to take a passive stance on landuse decisions and outcomes. Is this special advice for US readers? Where billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money has been invested in the building and operation of a transit system, is it right for that public investment to be undermined by landuse decisions that facilitate car use instead? Why shouldn’t a transit agency tell the city government what it ought to do about landuse-transport integration, to enable transit to grow and prosper?
    While Jarrett may identify good strategic reasons as to why transit agencies shouldn’t make forceful recommendations about landuse decisions in the US – does that advice necessarily apply to Canadian or Australian cities, or anywhere else in the world?

  4. Michael D. Setty June 21, 2012 at 12:06 am #

    Please keep the gadgetbahners off this blog. We don’t need their B.S. to pollute the mostly sane conversations that take place here.
    Gadgetbahners, you are NOT welcome here!