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Obviously, you didn't write that summary, but I do have to take issue with this bit of it:

'But he urged planners to remember that 50 years from now, any economic development potential today will be distant history, but the travel time riders gain from a bus which can navigate around obstacles will endure.'

To write the opposed version of that sentence may make the error clear:

'But she urged planners to remember that 50 years from now, the increased density and realised economic potential will reap ongoing dividends, whilst the travel time improvements (reductions) will be a distant memory.'

If that hasn't helped, 'development potential' is a rate of change - the same as 'service improvement'. A fully 'developed neighbourhood' is a constant state, same as a good and 'frequent service'.



Jarrett at HumanTransit.org

Thanks, Jonathan!  I had trouble with that sentence too, but one learns not to quibble . ..

Case in Point

The following column illustrates many of the false contrasts between rail and bus transit that Jarrett Walker has worked hard to clear:



"It also includes this photo, which makes me look a bit like a preacher."

Now, you've tempted me to PhotoShop that image...



Thanks! I think this point - which usually gets expressed as 'permanence' - goes to the heart of the 'streetcar/bus' issue. You can sit in either the good high density supporting frequent transit equilibrium, or the bad low density with infrequent transit equilibrium. Kicking out of the bad equilibrium means co-ordinating efforts. First you add high-frequency transit which is perceived to be permanent, and rezone so dense development is possible, then you let the construction industry do its thing. In a few years it'll be good and self-sustaining.

Permanence is very important here – no homebuyer or rental company will buy if they fear the transit will not be there over a long period, and so no developer will build, and so you end up with frequent transit in low-density, which then gets underused and ultimately cut back.

The transit agency needs to publicly tie its hands in some way. Streetcar lines seem to work pretty well, having the duel function of costing lots (making it embarrassing to admit they were a mistake), and reducing operating cost (per passenger, in the high-ridership high-density case) meaning a cost-benefit analysis will always favour cutting buses elsewhere over the cutting the streetcar line (and people thinking about buying/building can do that calculation too). Similarly, the line can't be re-routed or combined with a bus line.

It's worth noting that this is all true only in the marginal case. In most cities, upzoning alone will spur higher density, which can then drag the required transit into existence. Because the transit comes 'second' it only needs to exists in the good equilibrium, not create conditions for transfer to the new condition. A few natural experiments across a sample of big towns and small cities could test this quite straightforwardly, but unfortunately I'm not the right kind of researcher.

Nathanael Nerode

Agreed with Johnathan (which is a case for rail, obviously), except even more so.

"It's worth noting that this is all true only in the marginal case. In most cities, upzoning alone will spur higher density, which can then drag the required transit into existence."

Except it costs more to build the required rail lines after the development is done than to build them upfront, because it's more expensive to build through dense areas (more existing infrastructure to move).

An exception is when the rail line is *planned* and ROW preservation and clearance is undertaken in advance, with the necessary relocations done (for instance) as a condition of redevelopment/upzoning -- this can actually make it easier to build the rail line later rather than upfront. If you're doing this, then it's fine to run buses along the "future rail corridor"; you are constructing the rail line in the most efficient manner. That requires a city government which *genuinely* has its act together though; I only see this sort of behavior in a few European cities.

If you're planning to develop an area substantially, you'll usually want to build rail sooner or later, and that means planning for it sooner. Jarrett really does have a bus bias, even though he refuses to admit it.

Adam Nowek

That's a loud tie. Just sayin'.

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the firm

Jarrett is now in ...

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