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Pulling this post closer to target--some cities do get reduced to their transportation infrastructure; fairly or no. New York? Subways. LA? Freeways. Chicago? The el. San Francisco? The cable cars. Portland? The streetcar.

Any North American cities out there whose name inspires thoughts of the bus system?

Jarrett at HumanTransit.org

@Scotty.  Boulder, mainly because of cuteness.  Brisbane, certainly, for the busways.  Los Angeles will probably the first in North America to make a bus network sexy, as there are no alternatives.

Alan Robinson

For me, living here, Chicago is the Lakeshore Path, late at night in winter. In one direction, the lights of the loop soaring high over land, bright, and the muted noise of traffic on Lakeshore Drive. The other way, staring out across the ice covered water, cracking with unseen waves and darkness off to the horizon.

While the Chicago reaches across the land, it is the crack of ice that every so often holds against the city.


At a slight tangent from what Scotty says, I often find myself strongly associating a city with one colour, and thinking of that colour whenever I think of the city; the colour being that of transit vehicles. London is most definitely red, and Helsinki is undoubtedly a dark green city. I never can associate a colour with Baltimore, whose buses and light rail vehicles are plain white.

To add to Jarrett's list, I've known a few people to visit Ottawa and come away thinking of buses, for much the same reason as Brisbane. Oh, and, of course, London! Few people have a clear idea of what a tube train looks like, but everyone thinks about the red buses.


Due to the coincidence of the timing of every time I've been there, I cannot help but associate Baltimore with humid, hazy heat and sunlight. The consequences of that go beyond just the way it looks in that weather. As a result of that heat, I've never experienced Baltimore as a place of energy and activity, but rather of heat-induced lethargy.

It is a city I've experienced as the view from buses and the atmosphere of coffee shops and parks, rather than as the sights, sounds and smells of exploration on foot. That said, I also know it for beautiful warm evenings, and so despite knowing it in the light, my most pleasant memories of Baltimore involve experiencing it in the dark.


I went to college in New England after being born and raised in southern California. I remember returning to New Haven in the fall of my sophomore year and having a feeling that something was "off." I couldn't put my finger on what it was until I realized that New Haven was inextricably associated with cold for me. My freshman year there was my first "real winter," so when I returned to New Haven in September, it was disconcerting that it was so hot and muggy, because it was so tied to wintry cold in my mind.

For me, Chicago is almost two cities: there's a blustery, frigid, snowy metropolis at night, and then there's a stiflingly hot lakeside beach with skyscrapers behind it. There doesn't seem to be much in between.


"Helsinki is undoubtedly a dark green city."

Interesting, but I suppose it's understandable, since the green-yellow trams are so visible in the center of the city. I wonder if the color would be bright orange for someone who uses the Helsinki metro daily. Possibly not, since the metro trains live almost completely in their own grade-separated world.

Btw. Helsinki is in the process of acquiring a new batch of trams, and the decision about the color scheme hasn't been made yet. It'll likely be one that shows continuity with the green, since previous attempts to change that have run into great resistance in Helsinki. Here's the manufacturers rendering of the new model in two hypothetical liveries approximately matching the two currently in use.

As a Finn, I must protest Helsinki being lumped in together with Edinburgh :) (Admittedly the blog post was about preconceptions.) Helsinki is five degrees of latitude, or over 550 km, further to the North compared to the Scottish capital, and the effect on the lightness of summer nights is noticeable.

Jarrett at HumanTransit.org

@Mikko.  My prejudice totally.  As someone who's far too wimpy to consider living over 50 degrees latitude, and not all that keen above 40, I inevitably stereotype all high-latitude lifestyles as requiring admirable hardiness, annual confrontations with mass-death (of plants at least), a realistic fatalism arising from the cruel cycle of seasons, and midnight picnics at the beach. 

Alon Levy

Isn't Vancouver at 49?

Jarrett at HumanTransit.org

@Alon.  Yes, and we have issues!

Brent Palmer

It seems that the further from the equator a place is, the more cultured it's likely to be. In relation to higher latitudes, areas at sub-tropical latitudes can engender a harsh mentality in the populace, as Brisbane proves.

Jarrett at HumanTransit.org

Brent.  There are other variables!  J


"I inevitably stereotype all high-latitude lifestyles as requiring admirable hardiness, annual confrontations with mass-death (of plants at least), a realistic fatalism arising from the cruel cycle of seasons, and midnight picnics at the beach."

Heh. That made me think of this video produced by the city of Helsinki about the development of three new districts in former harbour areas, which were freed up when the new harbour in Vuosaari opened in 2008. The computer graphics of the planners' visions show bright summer days, as you'd expect, and the filmed bits show a tow boat traveling to the new areas in a frozen-over Gulf of Finland. I suppose it's the difference between virtual reality and the... well, reality. For the record, the transit in the new areas will be based primarily on extensions of the tram network, the first parts of which are currently approaching completion.

Re. culture in the north, the northernmost university in the European Union is located in Rovaniemi, Finland, which sits on the Arctic Circle. The town is also home to an incredibly inane Santa Claus theme park, so I guess it's a mixed bag. (Latitudes: Edinburgh 55, Copenhagen 55, Helsinki 60; Anchorage, AK 61; Rovaniemi 66)

Paul Kidd

Jarrett, please put more of these type of posts on humantransit, I find them really interesting.

Interesting that you single out Brisbane as identified with its busways, we Brisbaners still regard the rail system as the backbone of our public transport, but it is much less unusual or remarkable to the outsider, I guess.

Speaking of our rail system and similar to your reference to Wrigley Field, I was able to win an argument with someone that there should be fewer rather than more car parks in inner city developments by pointing to our large inner city football field, Suncorp Stadium, which regularly holds upwards of 50,000 people on the doorstep of the CBD with almost no disruption to the city because they built it with a bus station, near two train stations and with no car parks. Great to have a living example of a transport/urbanist point.

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