image: Lexington Avenue subway in New York City, 1970. Environmental Protection Agency image via Wikimedia Commons
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…
image: MARTA stop in Atlanta by pdxjeff via Wikimedia Commons
image: Richard Masener via Wikimedia Commons
An academic team with GPS and cell phone technology in hand went out across Nairobi’s informal network of privately owned buses recently. Their object was to map the routes and see how the network operates, how it might be improved and subjected to a reasonable level of regulation and licensing. A classic response to local needs and resources, fast-growing Nairobi’s Matatu-based public transit evolved into a sometimes chaotic thing, spurred as well by the collapse of a conventional bus system decades previously.
Students and researchers involved with the mapping effort came from the Computing For Development Lab at University of Nairobi, the Center for Sustainable Urban Development at Columbia University, and MIT’s Civic Data Design Lab. They found the scale and extent of the network is really quite something: a matrix of 120 routes converging on downtown. Could this open source example of transit provision, enhanced by digital technology, be pointing the way for other sprawling, fast-growing cities?
image: matatu via Wikimedia Commons
Free public transit is one of those good ideas that has been buzzing around for ages. Making transit free offers to strengthen cross connections in a community, reduce carbon footprints by cutting down on driving, gives low income people a break and is sought as a healthy and powerful stimulant to local economies.
Until now, only smaller scale or temporary experiments with fare-free transit have been undertaken. The first place to really go big is Tallinn, the capital of Estonia with about 430,000 people. All registered residents of Tallinn have had access to free public transit for a year now.
Critics and enthusiasts of the scheme have both had to temper their initial predictions of what would happen when Tallinna Transport went fare-free. Predictions of everything from the unemployed colonizing buses all day to radical reductions in auto traffic on major arteries were made. The real world effects appear less dramatic but are encouraging to those advocating an enhanced role for public transit. Apparently transit managers and city planners all over the world are beginning to watch this experiment with great interest.
Tallinn free public transport
tallinn.ee – English-language material & links
The Largest Free Mass Transit Experiment in the World
image: composite via Wikimedia Commons
A columnist in the online publication Urban Milwaukee registered concern in December about the findings of a recent report on the general prosperity there. It seems to have become increasingly problematic to link Milwaukee’s working people to suburban employment opportunities via diesel buses.
Major businesses expand out into the sprawl faster than the workers can respond. The result is hyphenated bus trips over long distances – when services are available. The resulting disconnection is a classic cause/symptom feature of suburban poverty.
The Disconnected City. New study shows no way for workers to get to jobs. What are its solutions?
Getting to Work. Opportunities and obstacles to improving transit service to suburban Milwaukee job hubs 47-page .pdf file from Public Policy Forum
image: “30 Downer” bus in Milwaukee by Vincent Desjardins via Wikimedia Commons
Adaptation is expected of the poor at all times. An example thereof was examined by a reporter for the San Jose Mercury News recently. Lacking income and shelter people in social difficulty are hopping on the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority’s #22 bus for cover after hours. It’s the only 24-hour route in the system and this double life as a rolling, diesel-engined night hostel has earned it the nickname Hotel 22. Submitted by a suburban-poverty.com reader this item illustrates too well the housing and transportation issues of those in difficulty in Silicon Valley.
image: AEMoreira042281 via Wikimedia Commons
In his weekly column on TruthDig Chris Hedges shares findings regarding the privatization of public transit in the United States and also in Canada where it is approaching like a bus with a cracked frame, no brakes, and a driver who has fallen asleep because he has to do a hundred hours a week behind the wheel to get by.
The column was read with interest at this blog where public transit fills the view finder as a primary feature of suburban poverty. A feature that is hardly addressed by corporate power and abuse. And how else to describe the accidents, declining service, rising fares, poor wages, long hours and huge profits that are part of a picture of privatized, globally-owned, anti-union bus and transit systems?
image: Pentagon-bound GMC bus in Washington, DC in the 1970s by YR Okamoto via Wikimedia Commons/NARA
The Brookings Institution is never far from these pages, …or our hearts, truth be told. This past summer they came up with another big paper directly related to social difficulty in the suburbs, this one about public transit and the economic health of America’s cities. We see suburbs as, yet again, difficult places for transit and therefore maintaining one’s employment, and generally encouraging job growth and invesment there, is correspondingly tough. The findings of the report are very mixed, in some places as little as six percent of typical jobs are accessible to public transit users. A major investment in public transit could only help the American economy and the people struggling along at the bottom of it we would think. Wouldn’t it help out all manner of business activity, too?
photo: Wikimedia Commons