The new edition of Human Transit goes on sale February 6. You can buy direct from Island Press or through your favorite bookstore. Below is the preface, which explains what’s new in this edition. (If you don’t know the book, you can also read the introduction to the first edition online, but alas, I’m not authorized to release the introduction to the new edition, which is recognizably similar but does have a lot of updates.)
Tell your friends! Buy the book!
Preface to the Revised Edition of Human Transit
This book, aimed at a nontechnical reader, explores the challenging questions that you must think about when planning or advocating for public transit in your community. Ever since the first edition was released, public transit professionals have been thanking me for giving them something they can ask others to read, to help them form clearer expectations of public transit and see its real possibilities. Some public transit authorities have given copies to the elected leaders who make the big decisions. Over a decade later, the book is still widely read and used.
Why update it, then? The world has changed since the book came out in 2011, so there are some new issues to address. The new popularity of working from home, which began with the COVID-19 pandemic, has changed the patterns of travel demand. Some issues have become more urgent, such as land use planning and the suburbanization of poverty, so they are featured more. Rising concerns about racial and social justice have also driven an increased interest in free fares in some countries, so the chapter on fares is expanded to explore that issue.
Another big change since 2011 has been the flood of venture capital funding for companies attempting to “transform” or “disrupt” public transit in some way. These companies have unleashed enormous public relations campaigns to make us all focus on their inventions. They have produced both great innovations and a lot of hype and distraction, so in the opening chapters, I’ve put some energy into helping the reader sort through their claims.
Since the book first came out, I’ve continued working as a transit planning consultant, so I have another decade of experience to draw on. Our consulting firm, Jarrett Walker + Associates, now works in more parts of the world, so I have more international examples.
It’s become more obvious that people need help thinking about the diversity of people who find transit useful and resisting the urge to assign them to narrow categories, so I’ve added a new chapter on that, whose title comes from an instructive outburst by Elon Musk. There’s also a new chapter on my own specialty, bus network redesign.
The single most important change, though, is that in the last few years, I’ve become convinced of the importance of freedom, not just as a feel-good word but as a thing we can measure and plan for. So there’s a new chapter about access to opportunity—your freedom to go places so that you can do things—and many of the book’s arguments are restructured to refer to it.
But despite all these changes, the core idea of the book remains. The most important things to know about public transit—the purely geometric facts about why it matters and how it works—will always be current as long as we have cities. Explanations of these facts throughout the book are improved but need no correction. You can count on these things always being true, no matter what world events and technological disruptions come along.
I’m immensely grateful to everyone who’s told me how useful Human Transit has been for them, and those who have given me the feedback I needed to make it better. I hope this book is useful to you for many years to come, even after the next event or invention that seems, at first, as if it will change everything.
Table of Contents
NOTE: Bolded chapters are entirely new, but there are new sections and/or significant edits in almost every chapter.
- What Transit Is and Does
- What Makes Transit Useful? Seven Demands and How Transit Serves Them
- The Wall Around Your Life: Access to Opportunity
- A Bunch of Random Strangers: Planning for Diversity
- Lines, Loops, and Longing
- Touching the City: Stops and Stations
- Peak or All Day?
- Frequency is Freedom
- The Obstacle Course: Speed and Reliability
- Ridership or Coverage: The Challenge of Allocating Service
- Can Fares Be Fair?
- Connections or Complexity?
- From Connections to Networks to Places
- Network Design and Redesign
- Be on the Way! Moral Implications of Location Choice
- On the Boulevard
- Take the Long View
- Epilogue: Geometry, Choices, Freedom