General

Walkability, Weaponized

Some people will read a book from beginning to end, but many are browsers, nibbling here and there.  Some people also want to be told want to do, while fewer want to plumb the depths of why.  So it’s not surprising that we’re seeing more list-books, lists of things to do with only brief explanations of each.

The best list-books are by people who have written the long book first.  You can trust Michael Pollan’s fun book Food Rules — a set of memorable rules about how to recognize good food, each explained in half a page — because it’s a summary of his longer book on the topic, In Defense of Food.  Likewise, you can trust Jeff Speck’s Walkable City Rules because it’s a summary of Walkable City, one of the most important books in modern urbanism.

Speck calls his new book “an effort to weaponize Walkable City for deployment in the field.”  War metaphors are appropriate, especially in the US, where so many pedestrians die on the roads, and so many more are forced to drive because it’s too scary to walk.

These rules are practical interventions in the decisions that local governments make every day.  As with transit, great walkability is not the result of “pedestrian planning.”  It arises mostly from other decisions that seem to be about other things: zoning, development review, street design, housing policy, parking policy, and even law enforcement.

Imagine Speck striding through your city hall.  (He is quite tall and authoritative, though with a disarmingly soft voice.)  He glances into each meeting, listens for a minute, and then inserts the one idea that those people, working on that issue, need to hear.  That’s what the book feels like.

Of course, you want me to comment on his treatment of transit, but full disclosure: I had influence on this part of the book, including commenting on a draft.  Two sections (20 and 21) are based partly on my work and we exchanged ideas about some of the rest.  So while this is definitely Jeff’s book, written from the standpoint of an urban designer rather than a transit planner, it would seem self-promoting to single this part out for praise.  But it’s great.  It says important things and it says them well.

Walkability is foundational to transit, of course, because every transit riders is a pedestrian.  Speck and I disagree on a trivially small number of points (I defend countdown clocks at signals, for example.)  Overall, Speck brilliantly describes not just the challenge of being a pedestrian and how to make it better, but also exactly how to shift each decision, all over city hall, to achieve that.

Jeff Speck. Walkable City Rules  Island Press, 2018.

An “Opinionated Atlas” of US Transit by a Great Transit Traveler

The massive redesign of Houston’s bus system, which has helped grow ridership as many US transit agencies are losing riders, would not have happened without Christof Spieler. Within the Houston METRO Board, he was the one member who rode transit, thought constantly about transit, brought professional credentials as an urban planner, knew what needed to be done, and knew how to argue for it to people of many different ideologies and cultural backgrounds.  The Board, which was itself ideologically and culturally diverse, was inevitably guided in part by his expertise, passion, and patient persistence.

Since then, Christof has been traveling the US, studying and thinking about transit.  Every week, it has seemed, he tweets from some new city.  Finally, all that thinking has come together as Trains, Buses, People: An Opinionated Atlas of US Transit.  

The first two parts of the book are a sensible explanation of what good transit planning is:  Think about people rather than technologies.  Think about networks rather than lines or corridor projects.  Think about frequency rather than just speed.  These are arranged in simple one-topic pages, with a summary paragraph and bullet points — ideal for skimming.

Christof’s map of Los Angeles. Note what a small area has frequent service both north-south and east-west. (Orange lines are frequent buses, and all rail is frequent except the purple commuter rail lines.) (Island Press, 2018)

But it’s the third part, the atlas, that will really suck you in.  For the 50 largest metro areas in the US that have rail or Bus Rapid Transit (that’s everything bigger than Fort Collins, Colorado or Eugene, Oregon) he provides a loving description of the city’s network, its demand pattern, its recent history, and its issues.  Denizens of each city may disagree with what Spieler chooses to emphasize, but he certainly will start a lively conversation, not just within cities but about the comparisons between them.

What’s new about this atlas?  Spieler shows you the frequent bus network for every city, thus helping you see not just where trains go, but where people can go easily.

Christof’s map of Chicago at the same scale. Note the substantially larger area with both north-south and east-west frequent lines. (Island Press, 2018.)

For example, his Los Angeles map reveals that despite the vast area of moderate density in that city, a complete frequent grid (with both north-south and east-west lines near most people) exists only in a tiny area of about 7 x 7 miles (the size of San Francisco), extending roughly from downtown to the edge of Beverly Hills and from the Hollywood Hills to just south of I-10.  Everything else, including highrise centers like Century City, Burbank, Glendale, and Pasadena as well as vast areas of mostly 2-3 story housing, has frequent service in only one direction, if at all.  Another map of Los Angeles includes densities, and shows how much high-density area lies outside the frequent network entirely.

Spieler’s map of Chicago, by contrast, shows  a remarkably complete grid over very similar densities in a city with even fewer major destinations outside of downtown.

Spieler’s book is perfectly designed to be both readable and browsable — a great gift for an urbanist or transport geek and a great book for the coffee table.  You can read around in for a long time, exploring different cities, their strengths and their missed opportunities.  Let’s hope it produces a smarter conversation about urban transit.

Christof Spieler:  Trains, Buses, People: An Opinionated Atlas of US Transit: Island Press, 2018 

 

Sydney: The Committee for Sydney Podcast

While I was in Sydney last week I didn’t have a public event, but I did do this podcast, interviewed by Committee for Sydney’s Eamon Waterford.  Not the best sound quality, but it might be interesting.  It’s here.

Auckland: Let’s Talk about Freedom on 22 November!

I’m in Sydney and Melbourne the next two weeks, but sadly have no public events booked.  After that, though, I’ll be in Auckland, New Zealand.

I’m really honored to be invited back to Auckland City Council’s Auckland Conversations series, 5:30-7:00 PM on 22 November.  I’ll talk about “Transport Planning as Freedom Planning.”  Sign up to attend here!  It looks like there will be a livestream here.

The City Council’s website also did a nice little interview of me.

The event will include a panel featuring Jessica Rose from Women in Urbanism Auckland, the City’s senior hearings advisor Eddie Tuiavii, Auckland Transport Manager of Strategic Projects Daniel Newcombe, and my old friend Ludo Campbell-Reid, the head of Auckland’s Design Office and its official Design Champion (great title!)

Auckland has just finished rolling out a new bus network that I helped design back in ’12, and is one of the most exciting cities anywhere for public transport and sustainable urbanism right now.  I’m looking forward to riding some buses there!

Welcome, Atlantic Readers

If you’ve just landed from my piece on “microtransit” at the Atlantic, welcome!  Here are a few key things that will help you understand where that piece was coming from:

And for the big picture of what I’m about, try the introduction to my book!

Job: Come Work for us! Transit Analyst Position. Apply before Nov 15!

You get to draw cool visualizations, and invent new ones!


Our firm has a fulltime opening for a transit analyst.  (Also, watch this space for a senior planner and project manager position to be posted soon!)

Here are the details:

Jarrett Walker and Associates is a consulting firm that helps communities think about public transit planning issues, especially the design and redesign of bus networks. The firm was initially built around Jarrett Walker’s book Human Transit and his 25 years of experience in the field. Today, our professional staff of nine leads planning projects across North America, with an overseas practice including Europe, Russia, and Australia / New Zealand.

You can learn about us at our website (jarrettwalker.com) and at Jarrett’s blog (HumanTransit.org). For a sense of our basic approach to transit planning, see the introduction to Jarrett’s book Human Transit, which is available online. For a typical report of ours, showing some of the analysis we do, see here.

We are seeking a transit analyst based in Portland, Oregon, or Arlington (Crystal City), Virginia.  The position offers the potential to grow a career in transit planning. As a small firm, we can promote staff in response to skill and achievement, without waiting for a more senior position to become vacant.  Everyone pitches in at many different levels, and there are many opportunities to learn on the job.

Duties include a wide range of data analysis and mapping tasks associated with public transit planning.

Required Skills and Experience

For this position, the following are requirements. Please respond only if you offer all of the following:

  • At least two years of professional experience using the skills listed in this section, OR formal training in these skills (such as at a college or university). Directly-applicable coursework is valuable but not essential.
  • Fluency in spoken English and proficiency at writing in English. In particular, an ability to explain analytic ideas clearly.
  • Understanding of basic statistics and experience with analysis and visualization of quantitative and statistical information.
  • Experience in spatial data analysis (GIS).
  • Experience working in Adobe Illustrator.
  • Experience in cartography, evidenced in at least one mapping sample that is clear, accurate, and visually appealing.
  • Availability to start full-time work in Portland or Arlington on before the first week of January, 2019, at least 32 hours per week.
  • Legal ability to work in the US.

Other Desired Skills and Experience

The following are desirable but not essential.  Candidates with the required skills listed above but none or few of these desired skills are still encouraged to apply.

If you have any of the following skills, please describe them in your application

  • Experience with public transit issues.
  • Experience using analysis programming languages (such as R).
  • Experience with qGIS, Remix or InDesign software.
  • Experience in advanced database analysis. (Postgres/PostGIS, MySQL, etc)
  • Expertise with transit-focused routing software, such as OpenTripPlanner.
  • Experience describing issues from multiple points of view, including the perspectives of different types of people, and different professions.
  • Graduate degree in urban planning, transportation, or a related field.
  • Foreign language ability. Spanish is especially useful but other language skills are valued as well.
  • Experience working with minority and disadvantaged communities.
  • Experience managing small teams.
  • Experience and comfort in public speaking.

Compensation, Benefits and Place of Work

Compensation will depend on skills, but will start in the range of $25-32/hour depending on skills and experience.  Raises of over 10% in the first year are typical for excellent work.  Our benefits program includes medical, dental, and disability insurance; a 401(k) program; subsidized transit passes; paid sick leave; and paid time off.

This position will require working out of either our Portland, Oregon, office or our Arlington, Virginia, office. JWA does allow employees to set work schedules that include working from home or other locations.  This position requires travel, to work with clients directly, at least a few times per year.

How to Apply

To apply, please send the following materials to hiring@jarrettwalker.com .

  • 1-page cover letter, explaining your interest in the position.
  • 1- or 2-page resume, describing your relevant experience and skills.
  • Links or electronic files for up to three (3) samples of your work. If possible, please include a map, a piece of writing, and a demonstration ofa spatial analysis. (A single sample may satisfy more than one of these requests.)
  • Contact information for 1 to 3 references who can attest to your experience with the skills listed above.
  • Please do not include any information about your prior compensation.

We will be redacting from your materials any explicit information about your name, race, gender, or sex.

Diversity and Inclusion

JWA follows an equal opportunity employment policy and employs personnel without regard to race, creed, color, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender expression, age, physical or mental ability, veteran status, military obligations, and marital status.

This policy also applies to management of staff with regards to internal promotions, training, opportunities for advancement, and terminations. It also applies to our interactions with outside vendors, subcontractors and the general public. 

Timeline

The deadline for applying is 11:00 pm Pacific Standard Time on Thursday, November 15th. Submitting earlier is advantageous as we will review applications as we receive them.

We will ask a select group of applicants to perform a simple analysis and mapmaking test on their own, and then to join us for an interview. The test will be assigned on November 20 and due on November 27. We wish to hold interviews (in person or by phone/web) on November 29 or 30.

Thank you for reviewing this listing. Please share it with others you know who might be interested. We look forward to hearing from you.

 

Come Work With Us! Apply by Nov 15.

You get to draw cool images like these, and invent other kinds that nobody has thought of yet.


Our firm has a fulltime opening for a transit analyst.  (Also, watch this space for a senior planner and project manager position to be posted soon!)

Here are the details:

Jarrett Walker and Associates is a consulting firm that helps communities think about public transit planning issues, especially the design and redesign of bus networks. The firm was initially built around Jarrett Walker’s book Human Transit and his 25 years of experience in the field. Today, our professional staff of nine leads planning projects across North America, with an overseas practice including Europe, Russia, and Australia / New Zealand.

You can learn about us at our website (jarrettwalker.com) and at Jarrett’s blog (HumanTransit.org). For a sense of our basic approach to transit planning, see the introduction to Jarrett’s book Human Transit, which is available online. For a typical report of ours, showing some of the analysis we do, see here.

We are seeking a transit analyst based in Portland, Oregon, or Arlington (Crystal City), Virginia.  The position offers the potential to grow a career in transit planning. As a small firm, we can promote staff in response to skill and achievement, without waiting for a more senior position to become vacant.  Everyone pitches in at many different levels, and there are many opportunities to learn on the job.

Duties include a wide range of data analysis and mapping tasks associated with public transit planning.

Required Skills and Experience

For this position, the following are requirements. Please respond only if you offer all of the following:

  • At least two years of professional experience using the skills listed in this section, OR formal training in these skills (such as at a college or university). Directly-applicable coursework is valuable but not essential.
  • Fluency in spoken English and proficiency at writing in English. In particular, an ability to explain analytic ideas clearly.
  • Understanding of basic statistics and experience with analysis and visualization of quantitative and statistical information.
  • Experience in spatial data analysis (GIS).
  • Experience working in Adobe Illustrator.
  • Experience in cartography, evidenced in at least one mapping sample that is clear, accurate, and visually appealing.
  • Availability to start full-time work in Portland or Arlington on before the first week of January, 2019, at least 32 hours per week.
  • Legal ability to work in the US.

Other Desired Skills and Experience

The following are desirable but not essential.  Candidates with the required skills listed above but none or few of these desired skills are still encouraged to apply.

If you have any of the following skills, please describe them in your application

  • Experience with public transit issues.
  • Experience using analysis programming languages (such as R).
  • Experience with qGIS, Remix or InDesign software.
  • Experience in advanced database analysis. (Postgres/PostGIS, MySQL, etc)
  • Expertise with transit-focused routing software, such as OpenTripPlanner.
  • Experience describing issues from multiple points of view, including the perspectives of different types of people, and different professions.
  • Graduate degree in urban planning, transportation, or a related field.
  • Foreign language ability. Spanish is especially useful but other language skills are valued as well.
  • Experience working with minority and disadvantaged communities.
  • Experience managing small teams.
  • Experience and comfort in public speaking.

Compensation, Benefits and Place of Work

Compensation will depend on skills, but will start in the range of $25-32/hour depending on skills and experience.  Raises of over 10% in the first year are typical for excellent work.  Our benefits program includes medical, dental, and disability insurance; a 401(k) program; subsidized transit passes; paid sick leave; and paid time off.

This position will require working out of either our Portland, Oregon, office or our Arlington, Virginia, office. JWA does allow employees to set work schedules that include working from home or other locations.  This position requires travel, to work with clients directly, at least a few times per year.

How to Apply

To apply, please send the following materials to hiring@jarrettwalker.com .

  • 1-page cover letter, explaining your interest in the position.
  • 1- or 2-page resume, describing your relevant experience and skills.
  • Links or electronic files for up to three (3) samples of your work. If possible, please include a map, a piece of writing, and a demonstration ofa spatial analysis. (A single sample may satisfy more than one of these requests.)
  • Contact information for 1 to 3 references who can attest to your experience with the skills listed above.
  • Please do not include any information about your prior compensation.

We will be redacting from your materials any explicit information about your name, race, gender, or sex.

Diversity and Inclusion

JWA follows an equal opportunity employment policy and employs personnel without regard to race, creed, color, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender expression, age, physical or mental ability, veteran status, military obligations, and marital status.

This policy also applies to management of staff with regards to internal promotions, training, opportunities for advancement, and terminations. It also applies to our interactions with outside vendors, subcontractors and the general public. 

Timeline

The deadline for applying is 11:00 pm Pacific Standard Time on Thursday, November 15th. Submitting earlier is advantageous as we will review applications as we receive them.

We will ask a select group of applicants to perform a simple analysis and mapmaking test on their own, and then to join us for an interview. The test will be assigned on November 20 and due on November 27. We wish to hold interviews (in person or by phone/web) on November 29 or 30.

Thank you for reviewing this listing. Please share it with others you know who might be interested. We look forward to hearing from you.

 

Early Positive News from Richmond, Virginia Redesign

by Scudder Wagg

It’s been nearly three months since the launch of the Pulse Bus Rapid Transit line, and the bus network we helped design, for the City of Richmond and its transit agency.

The early news looks positive for ridership. For some context, the redesigned network was intended to shift the balance of the network from about 50% ridership focus to about 70% ridership focus.

Prior to the launch of the new network, weekly ridership was averaging about 141,000. The first week of the new network saw huge ridership, 226,000 for the week, but that was driven by free rides. Immediately after the launch, ridership remained near or above the pre-launch ridership levels (if you ignore the July 4 holiday week). And since August, ridership has climbed to about 157,000 per week, an 11% gain.

Any gain at this point is good news.  It’s normal for there to be a slight dip in ridership just after implementation, as people take time to adjust to the new network, and for ridership to then grow gradually over two to three years.

Some of this gain is attributable to the new partnership with Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). VCU has partnered with the transit agency by investing $1.2 million per year in exchange for transit passes for all students, faculty, and staff. VCU was drawn to this partnership in part by the obvious value that the new BRT and Route 5 (part of our network design) provided to the University. And its willingness to invest in the service is a good sign of the renewed confidence that many have in the usefulness of transit service in Richmond.

That confidence is reinforced by the expansion of service that happened this past weekend in adjacent Henrico County. The County decided this past spring to add evening and weekend service on three routes and extend service to Short Pump, the largest suburban retail and jobs center in the region. That expansion launched on September 16.

More time and data will help make clear how much ridership growth is attributable to network design and how much is attributable to other factors. But the early signs are positive, and we hope they continue in that direction and spur additional improvements in transit for Richmond.

 

Scudder Wagg, who played a central role in the Richmond project, manages the US East Coast practice for Jarrett Walker + Associates.

What is a Spine?

A spine is a really powerful network design idea that takes a moment to explain.  This is how a spine works, in an example from the Dublin bus network redesign proposal.

[That diagram is by Dublin-based graphic designer Kevin Carter, and uses a style common in the UK.  The National Transport Authority has hired Kevin to complete these diagrams for the other six spines.   If you’re on Twitter, follow him at @yascaoimhin.]

A spine is several bus lines designed to share a common segment, with the buses evenly spaced on that segment to deliver a very high frequency.  In this case, each spine branch runs every 15 minutes all day, so the common segment is every 3.75 minutes on average.

If you are in the inner city, where all the spines are running on their common segment, you just say “take any bus whose number starts with A”.  The result is a high-frequency network map that’s easy to draw a map of, and to learn, remember, and explain.

(That image is ours, from the summary report.)

In the case of the A spine, all four branches are every 15 minutes all day so the common segment is a little better than every 4 minutes all day.

The National Transport Authority also did an animation, here.

Many, many cities have a geography where this structure makes sense.  As you move out from the centre, the area to be covered gets wider but the frequency need gets lower, so you branch.  But you make it legible.   The inner city needs an extremely frequent line that’s easy to learn and remember, so we just explain that the A-spine is made of all the buses whose numbers start with A.  Presto.  You have a simple network of inner-city lines where the bus is always coming soon, exactly what people moving around in the core need.

Once you understand it, it’s simple.  But it takes a moment to learn, and different people learn it differently.