“Transit Unplugged” Interview with Me

Paul Comfort’s Transit Unplugged is a podcast for transit industry professionals.  He just did a two-part interview of me, where we talked about how our thinking about transit goals, and our measures of success, need to adapt to the post-pandemic world.  It’s in two podcasts

Part 1, from 7:10 to 22:10. (Ends at a moment of suspense!)

Part 2, from 8:03 to 18:10.

Hope you enjoy!

seattle media cover last night’s event

My fun faux-debate with Darrin Nordahl last night, sponsored by Town Hall and Transportation Choices, has been covered by both the Seattle Times and the online journal Publicola.  Both summarize the question as something like:  "Should transit be useful or fun?"  Put that way, it's easy to say yes to both, but there really are some choices to be made, because often we're asked to sacrifice the useful for the fun.  As I said in the debate, I support all of Darrin's recommendations for a more joyous transit experience, except where the abundance and usefulness of service must be sacrificed to achieve them. 

san francisco: transit and endangered species

San Francisco artist Todd Gilens has four major works now on display in that city.  To find them, though, you'll need a special bus tracker:


From the Muni Diaries:

Instead of thinking about buses an advertising space, Gilens wondered if buses can be a vehicle for visual impact. “We use buses without thinking, like using a paper towel, but what if we used images to transform the bus, to give an emotive quality to buses?”

Gilens raised money to wrap four buses in photographs of the Brown PelicansCoho SalmonSalt Marsh Harvest Mouse and Mission Blue Butterfly.

They're quite beautiful:

Gilens bus

Images of all four buses are here.  Just click the little forward and back buttons.

Todd lays out the background for his work in a short statement here, and in a longer article in Antennae (PDF here).  Here's his conceptual bridge from transit to endangered species, by way of urban form:

A way to think of settlement patterns would be: how can mutual needs or living space be courteously accommodated?  Just as we do when crowded around other humans (as on a bus for example) being close enough to all fit while everyone gets at least somewhat of the space they need.  In the framework of regional settlement, this means checking to see if the streams, the coyotes, the polliwogs or ferns are not getting trampled, and if they are, maybe shifting over a bit to give them some room.

It was courageous of Todd to even tell me about this project, given what I've written elsewhere about advertising wraps.  I also long to see bus exteriors used for the primary mission of helping people figure out the bus system.  I especially like simple color-coding schemes that distinguish fundamentally different kinds of service, such as the simple Los Angeles paint scheme where red means Rapid and orange means Local.

But as a temporary exhibit, which is what this is, I'm all for it.  These buses operate through surprise. (True beauty is always surprising, which is why it can be hard to appreciate in a museum.)   So even if the bus wraps were permanent, their beauty would diminish as people got used to them.

The four buses will be wrapped through the end of March and a bit into April.

A Field Guide to Transit Quarrels: The Recommended Video

It turns out that the excellent blog Portland Transport created a really clear video of the Portland version of my presentation, “A Field Guide to Transit Quarrels.”  Only tonight have I had both the time and the bandwidth to look at it.  Apart from the well-amplified sniffles from my cold at the time, it looks and sounds pretty good.  Thanks to Bob Richardson and everyone else at Portland Transport who made it happen. Continue Reading →