Author Archive | Evan Landman

Cleveland: See Where You Could Go

We’re excited to share the next stage in our work in Great Cleveland, where the transit agency, GCRTA, has hired us to help think through their goals and different ways that their transit network can be designed to meet these goals in the next few years, and to help imagine what the possibilities may be with modest increase in operating funds in the future. For our readers in Cleveland, our last system redesign survey on is now open.  Learn more about the networks and let us know what you think!

In May of this year, we made a post about two budget-neutral alternative networks that illustrate what the transit network could look like if the agency shifted its focus more towards attracting higher ridership, and what the network would look like if shifted towards maximizing coverage. You can find out more about these alternatives here.

We surveyed the public on these alternatives, and RTA conducted a series of public meetings throughout the county. The result of the public process suggested that many people saw the value of the frequency improvements of the High Frequency Alternative, but that most people would not be in favor of a reduction in coverage to achieve the frequency improvements.

Based on this input, we worked with RTA staff to design two network concepts that illustrate how the network could look if it were designed with a slightly greater emphasis on generating high ridership, but without reducing the overall coverage area from today.  These networks illustrate for the stakeholders and the agency’s Board of Trustees the potential outcomes of this policy choice using only today’s funding levels and illustrate what sort of network those same design priorities could produce with additional funding for bus service.

You can click each map below to explore a larger annotated version.

RTA Existing Network

Current Funding Concept

Expanded Funding Concept

Remember, ridership and coverage and the opposite ends of the same spectrum so at the same funding level and without reducing coverage areas, opportunities to add ridership-focused service are very limited.

The Current Funding Concept tries to do this by minimizing duplication in the network, and by making some difficult tradeoffs about where to increase and reduce frequency. While everywhere that is served today would continue to have transit service with this concept, some lower-density places would see their frequency reduced (usually from every 45 minutes to every 60 minutes). Some key improvements include frequent service on busy corridors like Detroit, Lorain and Kinsman (all currently every 20 minutes), and frequent crosstown service on E 93rd and E 105th (Route 10).

These and other improvements are possible by reducing service levels elsewhere in the network. For example, the Center Ridge corridor on the west side of the county would be served every 60 minutes by a branch of Route 26 (which continues via Detroit towards downtown). Today, this corridor is today is served every 45 minutes, so this is a reduction in frequency, but it does come with the benefits of a one-seat ride downtown, and an extension to the new community college campus at the edge of the county (Tri-C Westshore).

Closer to downtown on the east side, low-frequency crosstown services on E 55th and E 79th would be discontinued with this design. Today, because of the crosstown routes’ low frequency and proximity to downtown, many trips along these corridors can be made more quickly by traveling in and back out along more frequent radial services (such as the HealthLine BRT, or routes 1 and 3).  Yes, that would mean having to transfer, but as we’ve explained in a past post, “transferring” can be good!

These hard choices are characteristic of a no-growth redesign; in this case, the network was designed to improve ridership potential and expand the frequent network, within the constraint of maintaining the current coverage area.

The Expanded Funding Concept deploys about 25% more bus operating resources that today’s network. With this greater resource level, this concept can increase the usefulness of the transit network in almost every part of the county that is served. Some key improvements include frequent crosstown service on W 117th in the west and Warrensville Center in the east, and on key radials like St. Clair, Superior, Quincy and Cedar. 30-minute service would be provided on corridors like outer Lorain, W 130th, and Granger where only infrequent or no service is available today.

More Information

RTA is conducting a survey in English and Spanish and public meetings on these concepts now, so if you are in Cleveland, head on over to their website to find out more:

We’ve also put together an interactive webmap (similar to what we were able to deploy in Dublin in 2018) that you can use to explore the network and compare some travel time isochrones for each concept: 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 of each concept.

Here’s a quick comparison for the Tri-C Western campus showing the area that would be reachable in 60 minutes with the Expanded Funding Concept:

With the Expanded Funding Concept, 30-minute service would connect TriC’s western campus to the W 130th, Pearl, Ridge and State corridors. Since the campus is only served with hourly routes today, this produces a big expansion in the area reachable from the college (the blue area shown on the map).

Finally, much more detail is available in our mini-report, which you can view here:

Guest Post: Barcelona’s Bus Network: Better Access, If You Change Buses

Jacob Lynn is currently a data scientist at, and was previously Chief Information Officer at public transit start-up Via Analytics.

Bus network redesigns have been making waves in the transit world over the past few years. The new Houston bus network represented a massive redeployment of resources, and early returns suggest that bus ridership is increasingly roughly as expected, though ridership is also subject to broader economic forces. Portland’s 1982 grid restructuring was critical to the early success of the new light rail system. But Barcelona’s recently redesigned bus network, the Nova Xarxa, has [despite this Human Transit post] received less attention outside Europe than it probably deserves. New research indicates that the network started inducing new demand as soon as it was deployed. Even though it is only partially complete, the Nova Xarxa is demonstrating the potential of transfer-oriented high-frequency bus networks for providing an anywhere-to-anywhere mobility solution for a city.

Prior to the redesign, Barcelona had a spaghetti-like tangle of routes with many stops, low speeds, and generally low frequencies. In other words, like most bus systems, it was biased towards coverage over ridership. Of course, in conjunction with the Metro network and the suburban Rodalies commuter rail, transit has a very high mode share in Barcelona overall. But city officials felt like they were not making the best use of their bus system. Could something be done?

A central section of the local bus network in Barcelona.

A central section of the local bus network in Barcelona.

Enter the Nova Xarxa. (NB: Nova Xarxa means “new network” in Catalan, and Xarxa is pronounced “sharsha.”) Carlos Daganzo developed a simple mathematical framework to model a “hybrid” transit network, which combines features of grid and radial networks. The model could be optimized to minimize a combination of transit agency and user costs, including travel and wait time. This abstract model was then applied to the specific situation in Barcelona to determine the target spacing between routes in the grid, spacing between stops on a route, service frequency, and other parameters of the network. It turned out that a grid-like network with very frequent service, stop spacing of about 400 meters, and about 20 lines would serve the city well.

Once these basic organizing principles had been determined, Transports Metropolitans de Barcelona (TMB), the city’s transit agency, got to work developing the actual routes. The resulting network has been remarkably faithful to the original grid vision. (The Nova Xarxa was previously discussed on Human Transit in 2010 and again in 2016.)

The current Nova Xarxa, which is about 60% complete.

The current Nova Xarxa, which is about 60% complete.

By design, a grid network depends critically on transfers between routes to enable anywhere-to-anywhere urban travel. Transfers between bus routes have a bad reputation among the public, to the point where there is a large academic literature quantifying exactly how awful it is to have to wait for the bus, particularly when connecting between routes. But in big urban metro rail networks, transfers between lines are commonplace and often only a mild inconvenience. The key difference is the amount of time you have to wait for your connection. Many metro lines run at intervals of 4 to 8 minutes, making the wait for the next train much more palatable. So, if the buses come sufficiently frequently, the thinking goes, the “transfer penalty” may disappear, and the system will function as a well-connected network rather than as a collection of individual lines. (Of course, the transfer experience differs between a metro system and a bus network due to other environmental factors, but generally speaking, if the wait time is short, those other factors will matter less too.)

The Nova Xarxa is designed with this principle in mind, with scheduled headways between 3 and 8 minutes for the entire system. The currently deployed Nova Xarxa routes all have scheduled headways of 6 to 8 minutes, and most current NX routes are intended to have shorter headways once the full network is deployed. Shorter headways are enabled by several factors. Increased spacing between stops, as well as dedicated bus lanes where space permits, have provided key speed increases. Some intersections have traffic signals which prioritize buses. New articulated buses were purchased that increased capacity and in some instances (e.g. line H12) enabled faster multi-door boarding. Removal of overlapping routes allowed redeployment of existing resources. But the network redesign was not intended to be cost-neutral, and some of the frequency increases have come from simply running more buses.

The Nova Xarxa has been deployed in four phases. In each phase, pre-existing routes that had been superseded by the new routes were removed or redesigned to focus on local service. Five routes were initially deployed in October 2012, five new routes were added in November 2013, and three more were added in September 2014. Three more were deployed in February 2016, but data from that period was not included in this report’s analysis. The full deployment of the Nova Xarxa will consist of 28 lines, and it is currently more than half complete. The detailed routes for the 12 final lines were recently proposed by TMB, and should be deployed during 2017 and 2018.

A group of researchers, including Hugo Badia of the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya and Juan Argote and Carlos Daganzo from UC Berkeley, presented an analysis of ridership on the Nova Xarxa at the recent Transportation Research Board meeting in D.C. (As noted above, Daganzo worked with the city of Barcelona on the initial high-level network concept in 2010, but was not thereafter involved in the detailed design or deployment of the Nova Xarxa.) The research is publicly available as a working paper and is currently under review at TRB Part A. TMB provided the researchers with their key dataset: total bus boardings, broken down on a per-route, per-month basis, over the entire period of the new network. The dataset did not include detailed records of individual boardings, so the proportion of transfers could not be determined directly. But the phased deployment of the network allowed the researchers to use a clever technique.

Boardings on the Phase 1 routes generally reached a fairly stable level within a few months, but then jumped up sharply when Phase 2 was deployed, and then again when Phase 3 was rolled out. The authors infer that the increase in boardings on the Phase 1 routes was caused by riders who were transferring to and from the new routes. When the new routes opened, the old routes immediately became more useful, because they now provided access to more destinations with a short transfer. The researchers formalized this intuition into a simple statistical model, which allowed them to decompose each route’s ridership into two components: baseline demand for the route itself, and transfer demand for connecting routes.

Monthly validations on the NX, with routes grouped by their phase of deployment. As new phases were deployed, boardings on routes from previous phases jumped up, almost certainly due to transfers to and from the new routes.

Monthly validations on the NX, with routes grouped by their phase of deployment. As new phases were deployed, boardings on routes from previous phases jumped up, almost certainly due to transfers to and from the new routes.

So how much do transfers matter? The authors estimate that 26% of boardings on the current Nova Xarxa comes from transferring passengers — and once the entire network is deployed, they project that bus-to-bus transfers will represent 44% of boardings. This will be much higher than other major bus networks that overlay rail transit networks, such as Melbourne (16%), Boston (1.5%), London (13%), and New York (3%). (Note that this indicator is not always made public by transit agencies, and different agencies measure it in different ways.) Furthermore, comparing ridership on old routes to their new replacements suggests that corridor ridership has increased by 6% to 24%, due to a combination of increased connectivity, ease of use, and improved level of service. This figure should also increase as the rest of the network is rolled out.

Other factors have contributed to the success of the new network. In the early modern period, Barcelona, as the key city of Catalonia, was repressed by the centralized Spanish monarchy, fortified against revolt, and penned in behind its medieval city walls. Once these walls were removed in the mid-1800s, the city of Barcelona expanded dramatically beyond its medieval core under a strongly gridded street plan, known as L’Eixample. Thus, the idea of the “grid” has a strong resonance with the shape of the city for its citizens. Barcelona city officials have indicated that they believe that the disruptive Nova Xarxa plan faced less political resistance thanks to this intuitive preference for grids.

Beyond any speculative psychological considerations, Barcelona is a city of relatively spatially uniform population and job density. Within the city, there is no strong central business district generating demand for highly radial transit. Furthermore, the city is geographically constrained by mountains to the northwest, the Mediterranean to the southeast, and the Llobregat and Besòs rivers on the other two sides. Thus the overall urban density is quite high. Demand for space-efficient modes in Barcelona is intrinsically high and isotropic, making the Nova Xarxa a natural fit.

These results should not be too surprising. But it is rare that the real world provides us with such a clear-cut opportunity to test the principles of network design. Barcelona’s experience strongly suggests that a dense network with sufficient frequency for painless transfers can unlock anywhere-to-anywhere travel.

The authors of the original analysis, Hugo Badia, Juan Argote, and Carlos Daganzo, provided very useful feedback on early drafts of this article.

Portraits of Transit Professionals from across the US


If you’ve ever wanted to learn more about transit from people inside the industry, especially those in important roles at major US agencies, you may want to check out this new project. People Who Move People is an interview series with people occupying all sorts of roles in the field, including high-profile figures like current FTA Acting Administrator Carolyn Flowers, former US Secretary of Transportation Norm Mineta and LA Metro CEO Phillip Washington. This may be of particular interest to our readers who hope to join the transit industry, as these interviews show the great variety of paths available to people working in the field.

Guest Post … European Bus Maps: the State of the Art

Jug Cerovic is an Architect and Mapmaker. He leads the consultancy and workshop INAT Maps & Cityscape (

The notion that Europe has superb public transit does not always extend to the quality of public transit maps.  In fact, the struggle to improve transit maps is not much more advanced in Europe than it is in North America.  I have studied more than 250 European cities and their bus maps, and have also designed a few.  Here are some observations about the state of the practice.

All transit maps fall within two main categories: geographic maps that show the real scale and distances, and schematic maps that help you see the network structure. Some cities use geographic maps, some use schematic maps and some use both of them. The choice is up to each particular city, there is no national preference or link with population size or urban shape. Some tendencies appear though; in the South of Europe (Italy, Spain), geographic maps are predominant while Scandinavian countries and Switzerland prefer schematics. French and German cities tend to employ both.

Transit maps, both schematic and geographic, can be grouped into 3 distinct categories, depending on the primary meaning of color.

  • Color for technology.  These maps use one color for trams, another for buses, etc.
  • Color for lines.  Color is used to help you trace different lines through the network.
  • Color for frequency.  Color helps you identify high-frequency services, so that they stand out amid the complexity of less frequent services.


These maps assign a limited number of colors to each transport subsystem (bus, tram, metro) and do not separate single lines one from another.

With this kind of map, you can tell which street is used by public transport and which is not, as well as where the stops are located. It shows the space occupied by the network inside the urban territory but doesn’t tell the traveler how the network functions. With such a map it is difficult to plan even the simplest journey as you need to search for consecutive line numbers along a route. Complex journeys with transfers are next to impossible to plan.

Surprisingly enough, a lot of cities publish such useless maps, failing to inform the users about the real potential of the network.

I can only speculate as to why they do so. Perhaps they just do not care, and showing that the network exists and covers the entire territory is enough politically. Maybe they fear that showing the exact state of the network will reveal inconsistencies and provoke resentment or demands from citizen. Or, it may simply be that they consider the network to be too complex to be shown otherwise!

monochromatic: london and rome

Color-for-technology in a geographic map: London and Rome


Color-for-technology in a schematic map: Copenhagen and Munich


These maps show assign each line a particular color. You can therefore easily follow a line’s route from end to end, without any ambiguity or confusion. Seeing each line separately enables a traveler to visualize complex journeys with several transfers or modal changes. Instead of sticking to the one line you know best, you can plan an onward journey different from the backward one. Unlike monochrome maps, a multicolored bus map doesn’t show a territory occupied by public transport but a network of lines and their stations with all its details and potential journeys.

It works even with very complex and dense networks such as Paris even though the legibility hits a limit in some very crowded areas where more than 10 lines share the same street segment.

A major weakness of a standard multicolored map is the egalitarian representation of all lines which can be misleading when they differ substantially in frequency.  If you are on a line that runs every 30 minutes but there’s a useful line nearby that’s every 5 minutes, you’d never know from these maps.


Color-for-line in a geographic map: Paris and Antwerp


Color-for-line in a schematic map: Brussels and Zurich

Frequency Maps

The problems of the previous two styles of map are addressed by frequency mapping, which this blog has advocated for many years.

Not only does it single out lines and show the network, but it also assigns to each line a frequency marker, usually a difference in width or color, which instantly differentiates lines with frequent service from lines with less frequent service. This makes it possible avoid long waiting times. These new maps seem to illustrate a change of perception of the network, both by the operators and by the users. A general shift in working time and communication access has transformed the simple commute to work into a much more complex web of journeys. A frequency map is an information tool that enables such a complex travel pattern and also serves as a communication medium between the operator and its users.  It can also assist people in choosing places to live so that they will have access to good transit.

As of today, European frequent maps are found in only 5 clusters in Europe: Slovakia, Scotland, France, Germany and Benelux.

Slovakia: Bratislava, Kosice

Slovakian maps indicate a difference between Main lines and Secondary lines, with a difference in thickness and color. One can guess that Main lines are more frequent or faster than secondary lines but the legend doesn’t state it clearly.


Main lines map: Bratislava

United Kingdom: Edinburgh, Glasgow

In Scotland you can find some real frequency maps where lines are strictly classified as frequent or less frequent. Unfortunately both the Glasgow and Edinburgh maps suffer from 2 limitations: the bus stops are not indicated and the city center is shown only on a separate inset, leaving the most important part of the network blank on the map.


Frequency map: Edinburgh

France: Amiens, Bordeaux, Dijon, Grenoble, Lyon, Metz, Orléans, Reims, Toulon

France has enthusiastically embraced frequency maps, with numerous examples of both the geographic and schematic types. Most cities even publish maps of both types. The maps are comprehensive, with all necessary information about stops, routes and line types, sometimes even a bit too much, overwhelming the user with information.


Frequency geographic: Orléans


Frequency schematic: Orléans

Germany: Aachen, Braunschweig, Chemnitz, Dresden, Leipzig, Magdeburg, Onasbruck, Rostock

One of the best European Frequency maps is in Leipzig. Lines are singled out, a color is attributed to each of them and frequency is shown with a difference in width. But most of all, lines and colors are organized in a way that shows how the system really functions. The layout is focused on the centrally located circular loop surrounding the old town and all lines serving this area are color coded according to their common routes. This makes the network intuitive and unambiguous for the map reader.


Frequency map: Leipzig

Benelux: Luxembourg, Utrecht

Here, I must inform the reader that I am the designer of the new official maps of Luxembourg and Utrecht. These are frequency maps in full, with additional improvements in line grouping, symbolism and combined scales. Here in the thinking that led to these designs.

Line grouping

When two or more less-frequent lines share a long common route and when their timetables are synchronized, their frequencies add up and this common trunk route effectively becomes a single high frequency line. These lines are grouped on the map and assigned the same color; the trunk part is a thick line with thinner branches at each end. Lines are also color-coded and grouped according to their functions.

In Luxembourg, on the central corridor where more than 15 lines share the same street, lines are grouped by directions, forming only 5 thick trunk lines thus simplifying readability.

In Utrecht bus lines are grouped in 5 categories for legibility (terminal in the center, thru lines, university, tangent, local) and other transport modes have their own color (train, tramway). Line grouping is a way to simplify the network and intuitively convey its organization to the traveler.


Symbolic elements are highlighted in order to ease orientation and conform the map to the mental image of the city people may have.

In Luxembourg, the old fortress town, placed in the center of the map, is roughly pentagonal in shape and commands the angles at which avenues radiate from it. All line segments on the map are multiples of 18° as it allows for both orthogonal (18° x 5 = 90°) and pentagonal based (72°) axis.

In Utrecht the main landscape marker, apart from the old town, is the rail line cutting through the city at a roughly 60° angle. A 30°- 60°- 90° angle pattern  fits the street grid and overall layout marvelously.

Combined Scales

In both cities the network is very dense in the city center and sparser in the periphery. The city center is also the area where most pedestrian connections between lines are located. The map has to show two very different scales: the city center where walking distance is important, and the periphery which has fewer connections and can be simplified and distorted. Therefore on both maps the city center is enlarged and geographically accurate, streets and remarkable buildings foster orientation and enable pedestrian connections, while the periphery is shrunk and schematized while remaining topologically accurate.


Frequency map: Luxembourg


Frequency map: Utrecht

As these examples show us, European bus maps are witnessing an exciting new era of creativity and bus networks will benefit hugely from this improvement in representation, with maps that allow them to be perceived as comprehensive transport networks in their own right and not mere collections of independent lines.

Moscow: Reinventing Surface Transit in a European Urban Core


Earlier this year, the Moscow Department of Transportation asked us to help rethink the bus network in the innermost part of the city, an area about 3 km in radius centered on Red Square and the Kremlin.   The first phase of this project just went into operation, so this is a good time to share some of the details of why and how a bus network redesign of this magnitude happens.

Our work was a lively collaboration with DoT staff, local consultants at Mobility in Chain (MIC) and the excellent Moscow-based geographic analysts at Urbica.  As with our recent work in Yekaterinburg, I worked with local experts and DoT staff in an intensive multi-day workshop to hammer out the ideas.  We also helped with some of the analysis and storytelling, and developed the main ideas of the map designs shown here.

Buses Matter in Moscow

You may be thinking: “Moscow has an extensive, highly useful Metro network. Is surface transit even a big deal?”  Yes.  Even in Paris, with the world’s densest metro network, an intensive subway system doesn’t eliminate the need for an excellent and celebrated surface transit network.  Compared to Paris, Moscow stations are spaced more widely, and they are also famously deep, which means longer walks and escalator rides. It takes at least five minutes to move between the surface and a metro platform, or between one platform and another in a transfer station.  And if you’re making a 10-15 minute trip within the core, five minutes is a very long time. Together, these factors make trips using surface modes attractive, provided that the bus and tram network is designed to take people to where they need to go.

Let’s get oriented.  Of all the world’s major cities, Moscow comes closest to being an absolutely regular spiderweb or polar grid.  Major corridors are either concentric circles or straight radial links between these circles.  This is true of the whole urban region, but for now let’s zoom into the center:


From inside to outside, we have:

  • The Kremlin Ring, which orbits the Kremlin, Red Square, and world-famous citadels of religion and commerce.  It’s a wide, fast street and a key stretch of it is one-way clockwise.
  • The Boulevard Ring, consisting mostly of beautiful European-style boulevards with grand parks in the median.
  • The Garden Ring, a very wide and fast high-speed arterial for cars, featuring many grade separations and a generally awful pedestrian environment. Memory crutch: If it has gardens, it’s not the Garden Ring.
  • The Brown Metro Ring — a metro but not a street.  It is outside the Garden Ring on the north and west but follows the Garden Ring in the south and east.  This is the ring of intercity rail stations — just like Paris and London have — and it’s only orbital line in an otherwise radial metro network.


And here’s the bus network as it was until Saturday, October 8.  (Download the fullsize PNG for more detail.)  Wide lines in hot colors mean very high frequency.  The black line is a frequent tram.


If you look closely you’ll notice several problems, apart from the staggering complexity.  They all arise from the design of major streets.

Taming the Moscow Arterial

In its structure, inner Moscow is a mostly 19th century European city — reminiscent in many ways of Paris, Vienna, or Prague.  It’s beautiful and very walkable, except for the major arterial streets.  This is an old photo of the Garden Ring, and most of the ring still looks like this.

Garden Ring on the west side. Photo by

Garden Ring on the NW side. Old photo but typical of how most of the street looks today. Photo by


For years Moscow expanded and redesigned its major streets with the sole objective of moving as much car traffic as possible, at as high a speed as possible.  (It’s routine to see cars going 80 km/hr [50 mi/hr] or more on these streets.)  This goal of car traffic flow caused several decisions to be made that were bad for surface transit.

  • Grade separations: The Garden Ring has numerous grade-separations with intersecting roads.  These grade separations prevent transit on one street from stopping anywhere near transit stops on the intersecting street.  Sometimes your bus will miss a Metro station because it’s flying over or under it, unable to stop nearby.
  • Underpassages instead of crosswalks.   Many of the wide, fast arterials have no crosswalks.  Instead, there are occasional underpasses or bridges for pedestrians, and Metro stations also serve this purpose.  This means the two sides of one of these streets are very far apart, which means the two directions of transit service are not always serving the same place.
  • Forced Turns.  As arterials were expanded and sped up, secondary collector streets — often walkable used by transit — were turned into “right in, right out” where they touch these arterials.  This disrupted many logical bus routes that formerly ran straight across these intersections.  Along the Garden Ring in the map above you’ll notice lots of local routes making U-turns and bizarre looping patterns.  These are mandated by the forced turns.
  • Limited Turns and One-Way Streets.  As we see worldwide, when the goal is to flush cars through a city, you’ll see many one-way streets and restrictions on cross-traffic turns (i.e. left turns if you drive on the right as in Russia, right turns if you drive on the left).  This forces the two directions of a transit line apart — often very far apart so that they no longer serve the same places.  For example, try tracing route T1 (pale blue) from where it enters the map in the northwest.  It ends up serving completely different places in the two directions, all the result of one-way streets and prohibited turns.
  • One-way loops.  Very few people want to travel in circles, but that’s what the buses have to do.  At the very center of Moscow, the Kremlin Ring flows clockwise-only around the innermost core.   This is the biggest obstacle to transit of all.  There are no stops on the south side of the ring, which is essentially a freeway.  So a two-way line flowing across this area would be able to serve the core in the eastbound direction only.  Westbound it would fly nonstop past the core — missing all its major destinations and metro connections.  This is why almost all existing routes have to terminate in the core rather than flow across.  The entire structure of the inner city bus network was dictated by the one-way traffic pattern of the Kremlin Ring.  Indeed, this diagram shows pretty much all of the things that a bus could do at the Kremlin Ring, which is not much:


Fortunately, the Kremlin Ring has just been fixed.  A continuous bus lane has been built allowing buses to run two-way across all parts of the Ring.  Various limited-turn and forced-turn problems are also being solved through infrastructure projects, over the next few years.  (Even the Garden Ring is starting to be civilized, with help from our colleagues at Mobility in Chain.)

This changes everything, and allows for a totally new network that will be vastly more useful.

The New October 2016 Network

The new network, implemented on Saturday, October 8, looks like this.  For greater detail, download the file here.


At this early stage, most lines that could be connected across the core haven’t been connected yet.  Note the dark blue line from southwest to northeast, which is the only new one.  But the network has been reorganized so that it all flows two-way through the core of Moscow, serving the same places in both directions.  This is already a huge improvement.  Note the vast increase in the number of wide lines — meaning very high frequency.  (They are all colors in this map but only hot colors in the existing system map above.)

As always when you’re trying to expand liberty and opportunity for most people, the result is fewer routes running more frequently in simpler, straighter, two-way patterns.

And That’s Not All …

We got to this network by first designing a network for 2018, then backing up to identify the things we could implement immediately.  That means there’s more to come:  The next phase combines these routes into more patterns that run right across the city.  That means even more frequent and direct routes, even simpler routings, even better access across this dense and diverse urban core, all while reducing the actual volume of buses along the Kremlin Ring and vastly reducing the number of buses that need to park there at the end of the line.  We look forward to being able to show those maps soon!


Guest Post: Transit Oriented Development on a Small Town Scale

This guest post is by Hugh Mose, a transportation consultant who retired in 2014 after nearly 20 years as the General Manager of CATA, the transit provider in State College, PA (the home of Penn State). CATA transports nearly seven million passengers annually in a service area of less than 100,000 population.  For further information, contact Hugh at [email protected] or Eric Bernier, CATA’s Director of Information Services, at [email protected].

While transit oriented development is increasingly common in major urban areas, smaller communities are also working hard to ensure that public transportation can be a viable alternative to the single occupant vehicle. One good example is State College, Pennsylvania, where the Centre Area Transportation Authority (CATA) has been particularly successful in securing transit-supportive elements as part of new real estate developments. In State College and its surrounding municipalities, as in most small communities, there are no ordinances requiring new residential or commercial developments to incorporate any particular transit amenities. However, that hasn’t stopped CATA from working diligently for more than two decades to develop an informal support system, one which has produced uncommonly good results.

Why do they do it?

The guiding philosophy at CATA is that the development getting built today is going to be there for 50 years. Lack of sidewalks, light-duty pavements, tight turning radii, and cul-de-sacs rather than through streets are going to be there forever, so nothing is more important than getting things right at the time the development is designed, approved and built.

How do they do it?

Build the relationships. Over the years CATA has built up a network of support within the development review process – consulting engineers, municipal staffs, planning commission members, local elected officials. And, CATA has established a very high level of credibility throughout the community.

Then, commit the resources. CATA and the local planning agency share the cost of a transportation planner whose job it is to review and comment on development plans. Municipalities forward the plans; requests are made, meetings are held with the proponents, accommodations are negotiated.

What do they ask for?


Lighted pathway from apartment buildings directly to bus stop/shelter/pull-off.


Pedestrian pathway from Wal-Mart store to bus stop, totally separated from parking.


Bus pull-off and shelter constructed for CATA by shopping center developer.

A pedestrian network. Nothing is more important than a complete system of direct, accessible and lighted pathways between project buildings, connecting with adjacent sites, and extending to the bus stop(s). After all, every bus rider is a pedestrian (or a bicyclist) before they board and after they alight!

Location, location, location. The key elements that are considered include balancing passenger convenience with operating efficiency, avoiding conflicts with automobiles, integrating transit facilities into other planned amenities, and providing for safe and convenient street crossings.

Developer investments. Developers understand that they need to invest in roadways, parking, streetlights, traffic mitigations, etc. CATA asserts that transit amenities are no different. In addition, CATA offers to assume ongoing facility upkeep and maintenance – which removes a major objection.

Why does it work?

There’s a transit culture. Through successive projects, expectations have been established. The development community has come to understand that, even though there are no ordinances specifically requiring transit amenities, for project approvals to move expeditiously, transit has to be considered.

CATA is reasonable it what it asks for. Because the program has no formal “teeth,” CATA is very willing to compromise, to consider and balance the limitation of the site, and to work with the developer to find a location for transit amenities that, while less than ideal, both parties can live with.

What have they learned?

These are the important takeaways: Be persistent; CATA’s present success is the result of more than twenty years of effort. Be prepared to work hard; the time and effort required is not insignificant. Be reasonable; after all, the program is built entirely on relationships and credibility. Build on past successes; nothing is more persuasive in current negotiations than showing what others have done before. Be resilient; accept that you can’t win them all. And, don’t get discouraged – success will come.


CATA and Centre Regional Planning Agency staff reviewing site plans.

A new source for data on US transit

One of our longtime favorite transportation bloggers, Yonah Freemark over at the Transport Politic, has added an excellent new feature to his site: a set of interactive charts detailing key US transportation indicators called the Transport Databook. This does a great job of taking measures that are readily available in public data, though not always easily accessible, and compiling them into simple one stop shop for this kind of information. And the source data is also available in a condensed form that is likely to be easier to use for anyone unfamiliar with the original sources. These charts cover a wide array of transit and transportation trends beyond the familiar ridership, service hours, or VMT stats. For instance:


We’ve already noticed parts of this work fueling a number of Twitter conversations, and hopefully, this site continues as a good resource for people interested in informing themselves about long-term trends in transportation data.



Portland’s Division Transit Project: A New Kind of “Rapid” Urban Bus

For the past few years, planners at the transit agency TriMet and MPO Metro in Portland have been carefully shepherding the development of a new sort of transit project for the city.  It’s turning into a new sort of transit project, period — one that doesn’t fit in the usual categories and that we will need a new word for.

The Powell-Division Transit and Development Project extends from downtown across Portland’s dense inner east side and then onward into “inner ring suburb” fabric of East Portland — now generally the lowest-income part of the region– ending at the edge city of Gresham.  It was initially conceived as a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line, though one without much exclusive lane.  It would be a new east-west rapid element in Portland’s high-frequency grid, and also serves a community college and several commercial districts.

(Full disclosure: JWA assisted with a single workshop on this project back in 2015, but we haven’t been involved in over a year.).

Below is a map of how the project had evolved by 2015, with several routing choices still undetermined.  From downtown it was to cross the new Tilikum bridge and follow Powell Blvd. for a while  Ironically, as inner eastside Portland began to be rethought for pedestrians and bicycles, decades ago, Powell was always the street that would “still be for cars.”   To find most of the area’s gas stations and drive-through fast food, head for Powell.  As a result, it’s the fastest and widest of the streets remaining, but correspondingly the least pleasant for pedestrians.

Half a mile north is Division Street.  For the first few miles out of downtown, Division is a two lane mainstreet, and it’s exploded with development.  It’s on the way to being built almost continuously at three stories.  Further out, Division is one of the busier commercial streets of disadvantaged East Portland, though still very suburban in style as everything out there is.  (For an amusing mayoral comment on that segment, see here.)

Because dense, road-dieted Division is very slow close to the city but wide and busy further out, the project began out with the idea of using Powell close-in and then transitioning to Division further out, as Division got wider, though of course this missed the densest part of Division, which is closest-in.

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However, very little of the corridor would be separated from traffic. While this project was never conceived as rail-replicating, it was based on the premise that a limited-stop service using higher-capacity vehicles, aided by careful signal and queue jump interventions, could effect a meaningful travel time savings along the corridor, compared to trips made today on TriMet’s frequent 4-Division.  That line runs the entire length of Division and is one of the agency’s most productive lines, but it struggles with speed and reliability.

As it turned out, though, the travel time analyses showed that from outer Division to downtown, the circuitous routing via Powell cancelled out any travel time savings from faster operations or more widely spaced stops.

As a result, planners looked at a new approach, one that would seek to improve travel times by using inner Division, which had previously been ruled out. Inner Division is a tightly constrained, 2-lane roadway through one of the most spectacularly densifying corridors in Portland, and one that is rapidly becoming a prime regional dining and entertainment destination. This development has led to predictable local handwringing about parking and travel options. Here’s what that alternative looks like:

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Proposed Division station locations


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Current 4-Division eastbound stops

The new plan is basically just stop consolidation with some aesthetic and fare collection/boarding improvements. But the stop consolidation would be dramatic.  Note that one numbered avenue in Portland represents about 300 feet of distance, so the new spacing opens up gaps of up to 2400 feet.  If you’re at 30th, for example, you’d be almost 1/4 mile from the nearest stop.

Such a plan would be controversial but quite also historic.  It’s a very wide spacing for the sole service on a street.  On the other hand, the wide spacing occurs on a street that is very, very walkable — one of the city’s most successful “mainstreets” in fact.  And it’s basically the only way to optimize both speed and frequency on a two-lane mainstreet like inner Division.

At this point, it would be strange to call this project “BRT” (Bus Rapid Transit); even the project webpage refers to this alternative as “Division rapid bus”.

Disappointing as this will be to those who think BRT should emulate rail, it has one huge advantage over light rail.  In Portland, surface light rail tends to get built where there’s room instead of where existing neighborhoods are, so it routinely ends up in ravines next to freeways, a long walk from anything.  This Division project now looks like the answer to a more interesting question:  What is the fastest, most reliable, most attractive service that can penetrate our densest neighborhoods, bringing great transit to the heart of where it’s most needed?

This is such a good question that we shouldn’t let arguments about the definition of “BRT” distract from it.  Because it’s not a question about technology.  It’s a question about people.

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Line 72 stopping pattern (Powell to Division, approx. 0.5 mi)

Upgrading the 4-Division to a rapid bus line (without underlying local service, which is impossible due to the constrained roadway) should present a real improvement in quality of service (in terms of capacity using the larger vehicles, and in a 20-25% travel time savings), while at the same time being easier to implement and less disruptive to existing travel patterns.

It also provides a template for TriMet to consider stop consolidation and frequent rapid service on other corridors like the aforementioned Line 72. Rather than seeing this as a failure to design a rapid transit project, perhaps we can celebrate a process that has steered away from a path that would have resulted in a disappointing outcome, towards a more limited, more economical, but still meaningful improvement for riders.

How Does a Transit Plan Change Where You Can Go?

by Evan Landman, the lead data analyst at Jarrett Walker & Associates

For years, we’ve talked about the utility of isochrone maps as a method of visualizing the mobility impacts of different transit choices. The idea is to communicate in a simple, direct way, all of the places a person can get to from a point under different transit network scenarios. Much of our firm’s work involves leading cities and transit agencies through public processes where the outcomes produces by transit networks based on different choices are explicitly compared. We’ve come to rely on isochrone maps more and more as the technology to generate them has become more widespread and accessible. This has led to a proliferation of images like these:

These static images generated with Remix show isochrones from the center of Yekaterinburg, Russia, under an existing network (left) and a proposed network (right). The location, one of a series of 10, was selected because it was judged to be a well-known place relevant to many people’s travel patterns, and thus a place where the isochrone difference would be easy to understand.

Of course, no set of possible isochrone locations will accurately represent the places of interest of all people who would be impacted by a plan. Better still would be to offer a tool that would allow people to create their own isochrones from any location, and compare the direct impact of a proposed change on the places most important to their own lives and travel behavior.

With that background in mind, we’re excited to share a new tool designed by Michael Baker International, our partners working on a transit network redesign project in Richmond, Virginia.  Using GTFS files generated for three conceptual network options, this web map generates travel time isochrones for three different network scenarios. You can check out the live version here.  The point is to let people explore, for themselves, how the different options would affect where they could go, and hence the opportunities in their lives.

As more and more of the work of outreach and documentation of transit planning projects moves online, new opportunities have emerged to communicate the true impacts of these plans. Techniques first deployed by open-source software developers, stimulated by the ever-growing capability and adaptability of web mapping software and abundance of GTFS data, are now well-documented, established practices. We are constantly adapting these tools as part of our efforts to clearly explain the outcomes of such projects to the people who will be directly impacted by them.

As Scudder Wagg of Michael Baker International, who directed the tool’s development, put it:

We’re always excited to work on innovative tools and new ways of visualizing the value of transit.  We enjoy taking on new challenges and finding ways to help residents understand and explore how different transit concepts can change their lives. The technical hurdles to implementing this tool were not all that great. The biggest challenge was getting the right people talking to each other in a way they could understand so that our transit planners, GIS professionals and web developers could all understand the desired outcome and figure out how to get there.

Ready to Go — Without a Driver’s License

We’ve heard over the past few years that the driving boom is over in the US. People are driving less and a smaller portion of the population is choosing to have a driver’s license.

Michael Sivak and his colleagues at the University of Michigan recently released an update on the percentage of people with driver’s licenses in the US. In 2011, the original research found that the percentage of young people with a driver’s license decreased substantially between 1983 and 2008. What’s the latest on driver’s license trends? Continue Reading →