I'd like to be the devil's advocate for a minute and defend somewhat tighter stop spacing. Think of transit as an elevator: You're on the 7th floor and decide to walk up to the 8th floor, and feel that having the elevator stop there is a waste. However, someone who is getting on at the ground floor may also want to get off at the 8th floor, so having a stop there isn't a waste.
I'm not trying to say that transit should stop at everyone's doorstop, but there is a case for having a more local oriented transit with SOMEWHAT frequent stops. However, if demand and density is having your transit vehicle stop every 100m with a large number of passengers boarding at each stop, then it makes sense to use a higher-order transit vehicle with wider stops.
The easy answer to this is that if you can walk from the 7th floor to the 8th floor to get from one to the other, you can take the same walk from an express elevator that stops only at the 7th. But that may be too easy.
I personally am willing to walk as far to useful rapid transit (for a long trip across the region) as I will to a final destination. My personal mode choice algorithm (as far as I understand it) is that I want to (a) minimize total travel time and also (b) get exercise and (c) avoid waiting and especially passive uncertainty. So I'm as willing to walk the same distance to a place regardless of whether that place is my destination or I'm planning to catch rapid transit there.
Does my philosphical viewpoint on this depend too much on my own abilities and preferences? In other words, am I assuming that secretly everyone wants to be just like me? And if so, am I doing this more than anyone else does?
Obviously, as always, we need to recognize a portion of the population that can't walk far, but at the same time we have two widely articulated policy goals that push the other way:
- health goals that support encouraging people to walk if they can.
- sustainability goals that require transit with highways rather than with walking and cycling, which means competing for the trip that is well beyond most people's walking distance
Those considerations lead me to a provisional view that the main prioirty for public transit investment needs to be rapid transit that's worth walking to, not slow transit that stops near everyone's door and that looks intimate and friendly in a New Urbanist mainstreet. That was the core of my argument with Patrick Condon.
Obviously, there need to be mobility options for senior and disabled persons who have greater need for short-distance transit. There are also other logical markets for short-distance trips where very high frequency is possible (recalling that waiting time is often the disincentive for short trips) such as downtown shuttles.
But right now, a lot of transit (in North America especially) seems designed to compete with walking, rather than with the car. Do we have the balance right?
UPDATE! Ben Smith, the author of the dissent, has had an epiphany!