(566) Human Transit [Book review]

Human Transit CoverHuman Transit: How Clearer Thinking about Public Transit Can Enrich Our Communities and Our Lives
Jarrett Walker. Island Press, 2011.
244 pages, e-book & softcover ($35.00 CAN)

We finished up reading Jarrett Walker’s manual of transit common sense while taking Mississauga Transit’s 42 bus on a Sunday.  The new blue bus took a while to arrive at our stop because the route serves industrial and commercial areas on the edge of Mississauga near Pearson airport and the Brampton border.  Luckily, the roads were quiet so the bus verily wailed along and we caught our transfers right away. Couldn’t have asked for a better Edge City demo of the basic tensions in transit geometry.  Frequency versus coverage is a major issue, so is connectivity and routing and stop placement and span and headway.

These things, and more, make up the content of Human Transit, released in 2011 and again this spring as an e-book.  If you read the introduction HERE you’ll see why this volume needs to be required reading for anybody going anywhere near the transit file.  If only Toronto, struggling with a rotating set of election-time transit schemes, all compromises when compared to what the city actually needs, could find the clarity Mr. Walker has earned on the job from Portland to Sydney as a transit consultant.

Clearly thought out, appropriate public transit helps protect us against poverty, suburban or otherwise.  Again and again on suburban-poverty.com we come across the tyranny of time and distance.  The very essence of public life in the sprawl is about this difficulty too often.  Human Transit is the way out.

Quality of thought badly needs to be applied to how we get around our cities and suburbs.  Pressure for this elusive commodity seems only to grow by the hour as gasoline prices move upward with the excuse of recent new fighting in Iraq.  The time is now.  Our recommendation “read this book” has almost never been so easy to apply.

Sure, this stuff is kinda technical but the outcome of clarified thinking about public transit is better living for nearly all of us.  We like the ease with which the author’s good sense approach wraps around the technical matters of how to do transit geometry.  Almost any political decision maker, planner or activist should come away from a reading of this book with greater strength in what they are doing.  It all comes down to a set of surprisingly simple things: once we pull our heads together, that is.

Transit really can enrich our lives and communities.  General readers who use transit could find this book insightful if they are willing to embrace the details.  Transit enthusiasts are probably already on this book.  If Human Transit could make one reader’s bus ride across a big corner of Mississauga more exciting and empowering ( in a down-to-Earth kind of way ) imagine what that might mean at the scale of millions…

Human Transit: the professional blog of public transit consultant Jarrett Walker