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Update on Human Transit, Revised Edition

First draft of the cover. Thoughts?

Whew! Last night I delivered the manuscript to Island Press for a Revised Edition of Human Transit.  It’s been a bigger project than I expected.  I started out thinking that I could just add some material and the rest would stand as it was, but as I got into it I saw more things that I could improve, and now it’s pretty substantially revised.  There’s nothing I would retract in the old version, of course.  Certainly, the geometry isn’t out of date.  But there are things I can say better now, so I do.

There are new chapters on planning for diversity, planning for access to opportunity, and network redesign, as well as new material on flexible transit (a.k.a demand-responsive transit or “microtransit”) and on Bus Rapid Transit.  And I’ve added some more pointed commentary about the challenge of sorting through technological claims that have been amplified by venture capital.

It should come out in February 2024.

Meanwhile, here’s the rough draft of the cover, based on a sketch by the architect Eric Orozco.  We were trying to capture the way that an abstract transit line turns into access which turns into human joy and possibility.  Let me know what you think.

And yes, now that that’s done I should be blogging more.

You Can Get Human Transit by Email Again!

The email subscription function on this blog broke unexpectedly late last year, but we believe we now have it working again.  At the right end of the black bar above, just click the icon that looks like this.  It’s between the envelope and the magnifying glass:

If you’re on your phone, click “Navigation” at the top of the screen and you’ll find the same icon, between the envelope and the house.

Let me know if there are still issues.


Welcome Your Advice on the Second Edition!

So I’ve just signed a deal with Island Press to do a second edition of Human Transit, expected out near the end of 2023.  A lot has obviously happened in the history of public transit since book came out in 2011, including real things like the pandemic, unreal things like the hyperloop, and some things that are real but overhyped, like microtransit.  So in addition to updating examples and graphics, I plan at least five new chapters:

    • Why does transit matter?  A simple explanation of the unique role of transit in the city, and how it relates to all the other transportation options.
    • The Wall Around Your Life.  This chapter explains the idea of access and is mostly content from this article.
    • Against Specialization.  This chapter would emphasize that transit succeeds when an extreme diversity of people find it useful: diversity not just of race/gender/age but also of trip purpose.  This explains why demands for specialized services, which transit agencies receive all the time, usually lead away from the best networks for everyone.  The chapter would caution against elite projection, argue against the binarism of choice vs captive riders.  This is also where the connection would be made to equity/justice frames.
    • Flexible or Fixed?  A review of the demand response service options, largely from this article.
    • Should we Redesign our Network?  How to recognize when a network needs redesign, and how to think about that.

Still, it’s a new edition rather than a new book because at least half of the book doesn’t need updating.  After all, much of it is talking about geometry, and that doesn’t change.

But I’d love to know what you think!  If you feel like perusing the book again, I’d welcome your thoughts, ideally organized by chapter, about what I should edit.  You can email me by clicking that envelope up on the black bar, or just leave a comment.  If your comment turns out to be really useful, you’ll get an acknowledgment.




Yikes! I’m in Wikipedia

Well, I certainly didn’t expect this, and I don’t know who wrote it. Thanks to whoever did!

As of right now (March 10, 2021) it has several objective problems, including fanboy diction, some confused writing, and an emphasis on obscure citations instead of major ones.

If you want to wade into editing it, I’m happy to provide facts but not bias.

10 Years of Human Transit

This blog is 10 years old!  Please help celebrate by perusing the new Basics page!  There, you’ll find links to all the articles I’ve done that are likely to be most useful to people thinking about transit all over the world.  (If you think I’ve missed one, let me know!)

The blog was started by a frustrated American transit planner living in Australia.  Its first two years gestated the book Human Transit (introduction here) which in turn helped create our firm, Jarrett Walker & Associates, which provides transit planning and policy advice.

We’re 13 people now, with offices on both coasts of the US.  We’re proud of our recent track record of network redesigns.  Ridership is up as a result of plans we (or I) worked on in Houston, Auckland (NZ), Columbus and Richmond.  Our redesign for San Jose and Silicon Valley (VTA) goes live soon.  We’re currently doing similar work in Dublin (Ireland), Kansas City, Miami, Cleveland, and (just starting!) Dallas.  We’re also proud of our record in many smaller cities, from Anchorage to West Palm Beach.  And we’ve had some more distant adventures, including advising on the massive Magistral redesign of buses in central Moscow and a sojourn analyzing the network in chilly but friendly Reykjavik.

Some data for fun:  This is the 1225th post and the blog has gathered about 20,000 non-spam comments, many of which have started great conversations and generally made me smarter.  The top countries by readership over the last 3 years are, not surprisingly:

  1. USA
  2. Canada
  3. Australia
  4. UK
  5. India
  6. Ireland

But the top countries by readership per capita (readership divided by population) are

  1. Ireland
  2. New Zealand
  3. Canada
  4. Australia
  5. Iceland
  6. USA

… all places I’ve worked! Not all of this is honest curiosity, of course.  A few people have been looking for things to attack me for. But that’s fine.  No such thing as bad publicity.

You may have noticed the rate of new articles slowing down, and especially this year.   I will certainly never return to the rate of posting of the early days, when all of my surplus energy went into the blog, but I’ll keep writing useful things as long as enough people keep reading them.

How to keep up?

  • You can subscribe using FeedBurner.  (In the bar under the banner above, it’s the symbol to the left of the “search” (magnifying glass) symbol.)  If you’ll click that you’ll see an option to get every post emailed to you.
  • Follow me on Twitter, @humantransit!  There you’ll find every post announced there, and you’ll also get a lot of other commentary.

I can’t say how grateful I am for all of the feedback over the last 10 years.  I look forward to continuing the conversation.



World’s Best Non-Institutional, Self-Funded Blog! How Nice …

best blog medalFeedspot has identified us as one of the world’s 100 best transit blogs, but more remarkably, we’re at #4 out of these 100, after the World Bank’s blog and two big industry new blogs, Mass Transit and METRO Magazines.  That means we can call ourselves the world’s best blog that’s not part of a big institution or journalistic enterprise, and that’s totally self-funded without advertising.  Yes, this blog is lightly associated with my (little) firm, but I still do almost all the writing, and it’s still largely my personal work.

There are lots of awards out there, but this feels like a real evaluation, based on a mixture of editorial quality and influence.

So, cool!  Thanks!  This is nice gesture!

How to Ask Me (or Any Expert) a Question

Every day, I get at least one email that looks more or less like this:

I hope this note finds you well and thanks for your time in advance. My name is X and I am studying/working at Y.  I’m writing something exploring the general topic of Z, and after browsing your blog I know you would be a great person to talk to. Is this something that you would be open to chatting about ?

I am a friendly but busy person who gets lots of these emails.  I enjoy talking about interesting issues with interesting people, and will spend some unpaid time doing that.

However, if you want a bit of that unpaid time, you need to offer me one of three things:

  1. Marketing.  You might be interested in having us do a study or a paid event.  Talking with you is part of my marketing budget, and I’m happy to do that.
  2. Influence.  You’re a journalist for a recognizable publication, or you want me involved in a major conference.  In that case, I’m trading my time for some influence in the larger conversation, which I’m usually happy to do.
  3. Intellectual Fun.  You can’t offer marketing or influence, but you want to have a conversation that’s interesting — to me and not just to you.  This can be fun and educational for both of us.

If you ask me a general question that requires me to explain things that I’ve explained in writing, and that I’ve said 1000 times in presentations, well, it’s interesting for you but not so much for me.   I repeat myself all the time on the job, and I’m happy to do it, but it’s not how I spend my time off.

In short:

  1. Explore about what I’ve already said on your topic.  (Search the blog, or peruse the Basics posts.  or watch some videos you can watch, or read my book, whose introduction is here.)
  2. Form interesting thoughts about that.  Reasoned disagreements are especially welcome.
  3. Start a conversation with those thoughts.

That’s what I did when I was in your shoes, as a geek and advocate with no relevant connections, job, or influence.  It worked.

So if I didn’t respond to your email, this is probably why.  (Though sometimes, I admit, I’m just too busy.)


How International is Human Transit?

While I live in the US now, we’ve always had an international readership, and I’m happy to say that this is more true that ever, as you can see in the table below.  In per-capita readership over the last year, the US ranks fifth, after four other countries that I’ve worked in extensively: Iceland, New Zealand, Canada, and Australia.  (The last two are also countries I’ve lived in.)

New Zealand has led these rankings for years, but Iceland’s population is so small that it wasn’t hard for it to take first place once I started working there last year.

Among developing countries, Malaysia just grazes the top 20 and the highest-ranking is Trinidad and Tobago, though given the small population, that could have been one avid reader checking every post.  Hey, if you read this blog in Trinidad and Tobago, say hi!  I don’t know who you are yet!

Per Capita Readership of Human Transit Blog, year ending 28 March 2016

Annual SessionsPop 1000sSessions/1k pop
New Zealand67994,6751.454
Hong Kong19517,3240.266

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 →