In case you didn't know, I love public transit. I take the bus not because I must but because I can. I can identify by sight the make and model of the buses in the cities I've lived in. (I have a special place in my heart for New Flyer Invero models.) I've even worked on the operations and planning side of the transit industry for a few years. Needless to say, this is the sort of book that appeals to a person like me.
But it should also appeal to you
—the public transit layperson. Maybe you take the bus or the subway, but you probably haven't studied transit planning in great detail. (If you're interested in doing so, I highly recommend Vukan Vuchic's Urban Transit: Operations, Planning and Economics
; mathematics is one of my other loves.) The good news is that you don't need a civil engineering degree or extensive mathematical aptitude to understand public transit planning—Jarrett Walker's Human Transit
lays out all the details in clear and concise fashion.
Based partly on his equally interesting blog
, Human Transit
asks a few major questions: what is the point of public transit in the first place—is it a rush-hour traffic solution or an all-day safety net? Which is better: a direct bus or a connection? Does public transit exist to serve everyone or merely a subset of the general population? How much should a transit agency care about money, and how does that affect service?
Walker doesn't give specific answers to many of these questions, because answers don't really exist. (The question about connections is easily answerable, but the others are more thorny.) Transit agencies and governing bodies do things differently, and these decisions get made by whoever's in charge. But Walker outlines some simple guidelines and practices that, when followed, make public transit easier, more efficient and perhaps even more cost-effective.
If you've read anything by Paul Mees, Vukan Vuchic or the HiTrans Best Practice Guide consulting team, you're already familiar with integrated grid networks and pulse points. The good thing about Human Transit
is that it deals with these subjects in a very user-friendly manner. Walker lays them out in plain English—he has a Ph.D in the humanities, and it shows in his precise writing—taking care to show the reader both how
these setups work. If you've ever wondered why bus lines follow the paths they do, or why so many buses seem to arrive at a station at the same time, the answers are in the book and can easily be understood by a high school student.
If you're at all interested in buses, transit planning, subway lines or even land-use planning, Human Transit
does a good job of introducing these topics. You'll come away with a greater understanding of the issues facing transit today and you'll better understand its full potential. It's a book city officials should be reading so they can make more informed decisions about transit in their municipality. Senior management in any transit agency should have at least one copy of Human Transit
in their office—I've made sure that the transit planners in my city have read this, and the benefits will extend far beyond their desks.