Jarret Walker is, hands-down, my favorite thinker on the topic of transit. And the e-version of his book is on sale for only $4.99 (here)! Because most of us come to transit from regular driving, we don’t have an intuitive sense of what makes sense in transit planning or what effect our decisions will actually have the experience of taking transit.
In a car, we’re all about speed. (I’m actually hoping to post about what I’m calling our “expressway culture” in the next few weeks.) The faster you go, the faster you get there, or so we think. So transit discussions tend to get caught up in how fast a service goes – you’ll hear this a lot in discussions of bringing high-speed rail to Michigan.
But from a transit perspective, the speed of a service may not be as important as its frequency. If you want to go from Holland to Chicago, you really want to just be able to hop on a train anytime and leave. You don’t want to have to plan it out days ahead of time, and if your meeting runs long you want to be able to take the next train – in an hour, not the next day. Since you don’t have to worry about parking or traffic and you can work on the way, you might not mind if it takes three hours rather than two just as long as the departure times are frequent enough to make sense.
Another way of putting it:
Imagine you’re standing on a platform, waiting for a bus to arrive. Which would you prefer:
a) Waiting an hour for a bus that will get you to your destination in 10 minutes once it arrives
b) Waiting five minutes that will get you to your destination in 30 minutes once it arrives?
In the first instance – where frequency is low but speed is high – your total journey time will be an hour and ten minutes. In the second instance – where frequency is high but speed is low – your total journey time will be 35 minutes.
There isn’t a right or wrong answer to this, by the way. And that’s one of the things that I appreciate about this book. Jarrett Walker clarifies what the decisions are that we’re making, but indicates at every step of the way that it’s just a choice. What the right answer is depends on our goals.
You can read his announcement here or buy it directly through this link. Note that that’s an affiliate link, but that I haven’t received any compensation for this recommendation. It is just a great book, pure and simple. Check it out, and let me know what you think!