Webinar Tomorrow March 21!

On March 21 is my next webinar about the new book, sponsored by the Smart Growth Network and the Maryland Dept of Planning.  This one is a little longer than some recent ones: 90 minutes, of which about half is me speaking and half is Q&A.  Hope to see you there!  Register here!

Los Angeles: Two-Day Course in Public Transit Planning, April 10-11

We used to give a two-day course in public transit planning, designed for professionals in both transit and adjacent fields, and we’re trying to get back into the practice.  This April 10-11 in Los Angeles, Access LA will sponsor one of these course, taught by me.  You can also get AICP credit (details here).  This one is free, for professionals in all of the city building professions, including transportation or land use. That’s a bargain, because usually the course costs about $500/person.  The course location is a short walk from El Monte busway station.

Registration is now open at this page.  Note that they have this set up with separate registrations for the two days, but day 1 is a prerequisite for day 2.

And if you’d like sponsor a similar course in your city, get in touch.  Click the envelope on the black bar at the top of this page to email me.

Human Transit: Preface and Contents of the New Edition

(Note:  New material appears below this post.)

The new edition of Human Transit is now on sale!  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.


  1. What Transit Is and Does
  2. What Makes Transit Useful? Seven Demands and How Transit Serves Them
  3. The Wall Around Your Life: Access to Opportunity
  4. A Bunch of Random Strangers: Planning for Diversity
  5. Lines, Loops, and Longing
  6. Touching the City: Stops and Stations
  7. Peak or All Day?
  8. Frequency is Freedom
  9. The Obstacle Course: Speed and Reliability
  10. Ridership or Coverage: The Challenge of Allocating Service
  11. Can Fares Be Fair?
  12. Connections or Complexity?
  13. From Connections to Networks to Places
  14. Network Design and Redesign
  15. Be on the Way!  Moral Implications of Location Choice
  16. On the Boulevard
  17. Take the Long View
  18. Epilogue: Geometry, Choices, Freedom


A Great New Book on North America’s “Lost” Rail Transit Systems

If you are looking for a gift for a transit-lover or urbanist, here’s something even better than an ugly sweater.  I can heartily recommend Jake Berman’s beautiful and engaging book The Lost Subways of North America.

Berman has constructed beautiful period maps of North America’s many “lost” rail systems, including the original streetcar networks of many cities and the numerous rapid transit maps that were sold to voters, often unsuccessfully, over the years.  But this is also a fine introduction to the history of rail transit in 23 North American cities.  The chapter on each city tells some aspect of the story of how the rail transit, or lack of it, came to be.

The book has a blurb from credentialed transit historian Nicholas Dagen Bloom (The Great American Transit Disaster), so you can feel confident in Berman’s work as history.  The tale of each city’s transit wars is both truer and more interesting than the old conspiracy theory about General Motors.  Throughout the middle and late 20th century, countless leaders worked hard to create the transit renaissance that they knew had to happen sooner or later, and that in many cities is finally happening now.  The failure of some of these schemes, and the success of others, makes for a lively read.

Berman is fully aware of the dangers of his title, and his section on terms suggests that he’s done time in the trenches of grim arguments over what subway, streetcar, and light rail really mean. The title Lost Subways suggests an ideal world of fast underground transit that’s routine in Europe and East Asia but that was abandoned or stillborn in most of North America.  But much of North America’s rail transit is on the surface or elevated, and it moves at a variety of speeds, from giant BART trains rushing under San Francisco bay to cable cars and streetcars in traffic that are sometimes not much faster than walking.  Rail, in short, is a poor shorthand for speed or even usefulness, and in a few cases, as in Los Angeles and Pittsburgh, Berman acknowledges where busways have become a critical part of the rapid transit network, as they are across much of the developing world.  But Berman gracefully deploys the hook of his title without being hung up on it himself.  At the end, you’ll come away with an appreciation for the diversity of North American transit problems, and it will be clear why “subways everywhere” has never been the right answer to every city’s needs.

Ultimately, all transportation problems are land use problems, and these problems were created by zoning and other development policies.  Berman takes every opportunity to point out where these policies have shaped cities to be better or worse transit markets.  The point is most dramatically made in comparing Dallas and Houston.  The Dallas area built the nation’s largest light rail network but maintained a culture of strict zoning controls that prevented much development from happening around the suburban stations.  The result is an overstretched low-ridership network that currently runs only every 20 minutes, and a huge need for a robust bus network to go where the development actually is.  Houston has much less light rail but more permissive zoning laws, which has allowed development to respond to transit more rapidly and at scale.  So while Houston’s network goes fewer miles, the stations it serves are more likely to be your destination.  Berman weaves the zoning story into the transit story in a way that must be done to explain why North America’s transit situation is what it is.

While it tells many frustrating stories, this is not a sad or angry book, as many books on this topic justifiably are.  The short chapters and beautiful maps make it a pleasant browse, arousing curiosity and encouraging the reader to want to know more.  It’s a beautiful addition to a library, or a coffee table, in any home where people care about cities.

Miami: The Better Bus Network Is Here!


A slice of Miami-Dade’s Better Bus Network. See the link below for the full map.

On November 13, the greater Miami area will see the biggest transformation in where you can go on public transit since Metrorail opened almost 40 years ago.  Not a new rail line, but a huge redesign of the bus network that will make it useful to more people for more trips, all over the County.  A complete map of the new network is here.

Miami-Dade County’s buses run in patterns that have often been the same for decades, even as the county has grown and many new destinations have appeared.  It’s hard to change bus service, because even the most inefficient bus route has people who depend on it and will object to any changes.  So, to redesign a bus network, we have to show big benefits that make the change worth the trouble, and that’s what this redesign does.

The plan is the result of a planning project that begin in 2019.  In an unusual partnership, Transit Alliance Miami funded much of the work and hired us (Jarrett Walker + Associates) to lead the planning process in partnership with the County. We led a public conversation around key trade-offs, by sharing contrasting network design concepts that showed the consequences of different possible goals.  Based on the response to that process, we developed a Draft Plan in early 2020.  We were then rudely interrupted by Covid-19.

Since 2020, the County has worked to finish the plan and as published a revised plan, with 30% more service, in 2021. Unfortunately, the transit industry was hit by the labor shortages of the post-Covid era, and the plan had to be reworked to manage with a smaller workforce than previously imagined. Even with the changes, the final plan now being implemented still delivers great results for huge swaths of the county, its residents, workers, and visitors.

With the new design, a frequent grid will cover large parts of the county with huge benefits. The simplest measure of that improvement is how many people or jobs are near service. The chart below shows the change in residents or jobs near service by the frequency of service at midday on weekdays. The number of residents who live near frequent transit will increase from 380,000 (14 of the County’s residents%) to 814,000 (30%) during weekday service. The new network will bring frequent service near almost 60% of households without cars; that’s 20,000 additional households without cars near more frequent service. And jobs near frequent service will increase from 29% to 43% on weekdays.


A key measure of a network’s usefulness is the access it provides, or how much stuff you can reach in a reasonable travel time. The animated map below shows an example of this change from Little Haiti.

In pink is the area you can reach in the Existing Network in 45 minutes. In blue is the area you can reach with the Better Bus Network. The blue area is larger, but more importantly it has a lot more stuff in it: 30% more jobs and 60% more residents. So if you lived near this place, you would effectively be 30% more free. And if you owned a business here, you’d now have access to 60% more customers, or 60% more workers.

We can measure this exact thing over and over again across the whole county and when we summarize the results we find that the average resident will be able to get to 28% more jobs (or other useful destinations) in 45 minutes. The benefit is even greater for lower-income residents and people of color.  That means more people, when they look up a trip they might make, will find that the travel time is reasonable.  For more on why we use this measure, see here.

The other big improvement in this new network is a major increase in frequency of service on weekends. Across the country, we’ve worked on network plans that have increased service on evenings and weekends and they’ve often shown huge ridership gains. People value flexibility and spontaneity. Everyone wants the ability to get home outside of the traditional 8-to-5 workday. Critically, though, people working in retail or restaurant jobs often need to work on weekends. A route that runs infrequently on the weekends is missing the peak time for people in these industries, and there are many, many people in these industries in Miami-Dade.

Implementing Big Change

Our team has been working closely with Miami-Dade staff to assist with a range of implementation needs. How does a huge change like this happen overnight? Months, sometimes years, of planning leads up to a big day like this.  These efforts included:

  • Work by staff across County government to help people find out about the change, and can learn about it easily.
  • Briefings of elected officials including partners in the city governments.
  • An analysis of compliance with Title VI, the US Civil Rights law that ensures racial equity in transit planning.
  •  Siting of new bus stops and removing old stops.
  • Writing new schedules for customers and bus operators.
  • A big effort by operations and safety teams working on testing turns, reviewing stop locations, working with operators to learn new routes, and much more.
  • Finally, an infusion of temporary staff near the change date, to be out on the street helping people find their way.

It takes an enormous team effort and County staff have worked hard for a long-time to make this day happen. Transit Alliance has continued to partner with the county to help with communicating the network changes to the public and we’ve been please to assist in that process. Our team has contributed in a few key ways:

  • A new system map with routes color-coded by frequency. These maps will start showing up in shelters around the county soon.
  • An interactive trip comparison tool to help folks find out how they can make their trips on the new network.
  • Developing bus stop signage to inform riders at each stop about which routes are changing.

We’re excited to see how people respond to this new network and we hope it helps set the stage for many transit improvements to come as the County implements its long-term SMART plan.

New York: A New Bus Network for Eastern Long Island

Great South Bay Bridge near Babylon, NY,  Photo: Adobe Stock

by Scudder Wagg

Suffolk County is a vast and variegated place covering the eastern two-thirds of Long Island, New York. It includes a range of historic towns like Babylon, Huntington, and Port Jefferson, many of which grew up around the Long Island Rail Road. The western two-thirds of the county is largely developed in an car-oriented suburban pattern.  That area includes about 90% of the county’s 1.5 million people and 520,000 jobs. The eastern third of the county is much more rural and includes the famous Hamptons, summertime retreat for many elite New Yorkers, the well-known Montauk Lighthouse, and protected Pine Barrens Forest.

On Sunday, October 29, Suffolk County Transit will implement a new bus network that we’ve worked with them to design. The redesign process began in mid-2020 with our team working with County staff to analyze the existing system. One key issue that arose in our initial work was the extent of reliability problems across the system due to outdated speed and travel time assumptions. The need to correct for slower speeds, sparked a conversation about investment more in transit to achieve better outcomes in many ways.

In early 2021, we worked with staff, stakeholders and the public in a conversation sparked by our Choices and Concepts Report. This report focused on key trade-offs, like ridership versus coverage, and showed two contrasting concepts for how to redesign the bus network, and assumed 15% more service to account for slower speeds. Based on feedback from the public, stakeholders, and staff, we developed a Draft Plan that prioritized higher ridership, and resulted in some loss of coverage. A key feature of the Draft Plan was much more consistent spans of service, with more evening and weekend service across most key corridors in the county.

While overall response to the Draft Plan was very positive, there were some specific concerns about coverage loss on some roads and the Final Plan was tweaked to add service back to a few areas. To address these coverage needs, and maintain the improved frequency and span , the County has made a commitment to increase overall service levels by nearly 30%, joining agencies like Tri-Met in Portland, Santa Cruz Metro, and Dallas’s DART in expanding service in the post-Covid transit recovery period.

While the increased service is a major boon, it is not enough to create a network of every 15-minute service in the vast areas of moderate density across western Suffolk County. A major focus of the plan, therefore, is to build a series of timed connection points, or pulses, in strategic locations across the county, like Amityville, Central Islip, Patchogue, and Riverhead. You can see those location on the network maps below as they are marked with a clock icon.

You can compare the old and new networks at this cool data viewer that we developed.  Below are static maps of the existing network followed by the new network.  Note the frequencies in the legend, without which these maps make no sense.

Old Network. Line colors indicate frequency. (See legend.)

New network. Line colors indicate frequency (see legend).



With more frequent service on many corridors, and timed connections, the average resident will be able to get to 50% more jobs in 60 minutes and low-income residents see an even bigger gain.

In addition to developing the network plan, we’ve been thrilled to provide continuing support to County staff as they’ve worked to implement this new network. We’ve helped to develop

  • New schedules and printed timetables with more reliable travel times and clearer maps and information.
  • An updated detailed network map for use at information kiosks across the county.
  • A new schematic map (below) showing the overall structure of the network.

We’ve also provided a range of technical support and other materials to help County staff prepare to roll-out the new network and two of our staff will be on-site to help riders learn the new network in the first week.

So, thanks and congratulations to everyone at Suffolk County who worked hard to get this done. We hope that everyone who lives in, works in, or visits Suffolk enjoys the SCT New Network and we encourage locals to stay involved in advocating for more and better transit, as there are plenty of ripe opportunities to increase frequency, span, and coverage with more investment in transit in Suffolk.

Scudder Wagg is a Principal with Jarrett Walker + Associates and the head of our Arlington, Virginia office.

PS by Jarrett:  If you’re wondering why the buses aren’t scheduled to meet the Long Island Rail Road trains, there’s an explainer for that!

More Microtransit Marketing Confusion

Just found this ad through APTA‘s members-only Knowledge Gateway, from Passio Technologies. Ignore the words. Look at the picture.

But that’s not a photo of microtransit.  That is a photo of an elite fixed route commuter bus called Leap that existed in San Francisco for a few months in 2016-17.  I wrote about that project here. You’ll recognize the bus from the video at that link.  I wonder what the folks at Passio were thinking.

Greensboro: A North Carolina City Imagines a “Car-Optional” Future

Greensboro, North Carolina is a pleasant city of 300,000 with two big universities, located in the Piedmont Triad northeast of Charlotte.  The city has  already adopted a goal to be “car-optional” by 2045.  What kind of public transit would that goal require?  Working for the City (who runs the local transit service through the Greensboro Transit Agency), we at Jarrett Walker and Associates are seeking public input on two alternative conceptual transit networks.  Both conceptual networks have than twice as much service as today.

How would this giant increase in service be funded? In North Carolina, larger counties are allowed to ask the voters for a half-cent sales tax to fund the expansion of transit. Voters in Mecklenburg (Charlotte), Orange (Chapel Hill), Durham, and Wake (Raleigh) have endorsed transit sales taxes in the last 25 years. Our firm was part of the planning process that helped lead to the successful 2016 referendum in Wake County. Here in Guilford County, the potential funding would be split between Greensboro Transit Agency (GTA), High Point, Guilford County, and the regional agency: Piedmont Authority for Regional Transit (PART). The GoBORO Concepts show what could be done with the slices of funding for Greensboro and PART.

The Greensboro News & Record has an article summarizing these Concepts, and it particularly highlights the low level of transit service in Greensboro today.

We often frame transit conversations around a ridership-coverage trade-off, instead of starting with recommendations. That framework can be as relevant in this visionary plan with more resources, as it is in a budget-neutral redesign. We are asking what it means for transit to be an option to cars. Does it mean that:

  • Most people have a transit option that is very useful for reaching many places in a reasonable time? Or
  • Everyone has a transit option, but it may not be very useful for many people for reaching many places in a reasonable time?

Here’s the existing network.  Remember, the colors indicate frequency, as shown in the legend.  It’s all half-hourly and hourly routes, converging on a downtown transit center.

(Line 73 is a shuttle funded by the University of North Carolina. Route numbers starting with P are the regional transit agency, PART.)


Here’s the Ridership Concept. It has a lot of service focused on frequent corridors in the densest, busiest parts of Greensboro, though it also covers a slightly larger area.

The Coverage Concept focuses instead getting service close to more places, including industrial destinations in the far northeast of the city.   At this service level, we can still afford some very useful frequent service on a few corridors.

As always, these are two ends of a spectrum, and not an either-or choice.

If you’re used to seeing this tradeoff mapped using the low existing service budgets of agencies, as we did in Miami, Atlanta, Cleveland, and many other cities, you are used to seeing painful choices, where the Ridership concept removes low-ridership services that a few people depend on.  This is a different exercise.  We are trying to create a vision of a future network that the people of Greensboro can get behind, so we are asking the community to help us define the balance of ridership and coverage goals that should drive that vision.The large service increases such a tax can fund would have dramatic effects on the usefulness of transit. The Ridership Concept increases median access to jobs within 45 minutes by 140%, and the Coverage Concept increases job access by 86%. Both Concepts also invest in vastly better evening and weekend service. Today, all GTA routes run hourly service on weeknights and weekends. By using these outcomes to demonstrate the effects of investing more in transit, we want to ask the public: “Do you want to invest more in transit?”

If you know anyone in Greensboro, send them to the project website so that they can explore further and provide their input on the Concepts. We also encourage people to read the Choices & Concepts Report that details existing conditions, these Concepts, and the outcomes of service increase and the choices that shape transit networks.

A Next Step for Autonomous Buses?

Photo: David Wheatley

A fully autonomous bus is now in regular service in Scotland.  It still has employees, two in fact.  But if this technology works out, the ultimate goal is probably to run buses with no employees on board. In wealthy countries, the cost of running a bus is mostly the cost of the driver, so in theory, if and when all the bugs are worked out, a driverless bus could be far more abundant, for a given operating budget, than buses with human drivers can be.

That will be wildly controversial. I have mixed feelings about it. But driverless rail transit has existed for decades, starting in Vancouver in 1985. The lack of a driver is why trains in Vancouver come every few minutes even late at night. In emergencies people like for there to be someone in charge, but the voices coming over the intercom from headquarters often have a better picture of the situation than an on-board employee does. Driverless buses would definitely be part of a world where security is based more on electronic surveillance, and like many people I have mixed feelings about that.

But if we end up in a world with abundant and affordable autonomous taxis — still a big if — it will be very hard for cities to function without autonomous buses. When we remove the hassle of traveling by private vehicle, and reduce the cost, everyone will want to do it, and a city simply doesn’t have room for that.  The only other solution will be heavy decongestion pricing to make the affordable autonomous taxis less affordable, and/or bus lanes on every street so that buses effectively bypass autonomous-taxi congestion.  That may be the answer, but in the long run I’d rather see public transit be abundant, so that everyone can go places quickly in a space-efficient way.