My Intensive Course in Public Transport Network Design, by far the most fun way to learn about the choices and opportunities that arise in designing public transport networks, is returning to Australia in less than two months! My Australian colleagues at MRCagney are sponsoring two sessions, one in Melbourne (March 27-28) and another in Brisbane (March 31 and April 1). Locations in each city are to be announced, but they will be at central locations readily accessible by frequent public transport.
This year, my firm has been working on the System Reimagining for METRO, the transit agency of greater Houston, which will look at ways to redesign the bus network to better meet the changing city's needs and priorities.
We've now reached the point where we need to hear from greater Houston residents (living in the METRO service area) about their transit priorities.
If you want some background, here's a video of METRO Board member Christof Spieler (who chairs the Board's Strategic Planning Committee) outlining the goals of the study.
Then, please take the survey. It asks you to think about the real trade-offs facing Houston's transit planning, and to express your views on those. Please spread the word among Houston-based friends!
Deadline? The sooner the better! The Board is thinking about these issues now. The sooner you record your view the more influence it will have.
If you'd be interested in the sound of my voice, ruminating broadly about transit and cities in the serenity of my own livingroom, there's now quite a good podcast by Colin Marshall in the Notebook on Cities and Culture series. You can download an mp3 from Colin's site here, or get it from iTunes here.
Colin's a brilliant interviewer, asking great and often surprising questions. He draws me out on my own living arrangements, my complex relationships with Portland and with Los Angeles, some notes on my global transit travels, and finally onto really substantive topics about what transit is and how it relates to the larger question of what cities are. It's all feels very public-radio ...
Colin's whole series of downloadable podcasts looks like it's worth a look, as he's put me in some impressive company ...
My fun faux-debate with Darrin Nordahl last night, sponsored by Town Hall and Transportation Choices, has been covered by both the Seattle Times and the online journal Publicola. Both summarize the question as something like: "Should transit be useful or fun?" Put that way, it's easy to say yes to both, but there really are some choices to be made, because often we're asked to sacrifice the useful for the fun. As I said in the debate, I support all of Darrin's recommendations for a more joyous transit experience, except where the abundance and usefulness of service must be sacrificed to achieve them.
San Francisco artist Todd Gilens has four major works now on display in that city. To find them, though, you'll need a special bus tracker:
From the Muni Diaries:
Instead of thinking about buses an advertising space, Gilens wondered if buses can be a vehicle for visual impact. “We use buses without thinking, like using a paper towel, but what if we used images to transform the bus, to give an emotive quality to buses?”
They're quite beautiful:
Images of all four buses are here. Just click the little forward and back buttons.
Todd lays out the background for his work in a short statement here, and in a longer article in Antennae (PDF here). Here's his conceptual bridge from transit to endangered species, by way of urban form:
A way to think of settlement patterns would be: how can mutual needs or living space be courteously accommodated? Just as we do when crowded around other humans (as on a bus for example) being close enough to all fit while everyone gets at least somewhat of the space they need. In the framework of regional settlement, this means checking to see if the streams, the coyotes, the polliwogs or ferns are not getting trampled, and if they are, maybe shifting over a bit to give them some room.
It was courageous of Todd to even tell me about this project, given what I've written elsewhere about advertising wraps. I also long to see bus exteriors used for the primary mission of helping people figure out the bus system. I especially like simple color-coding schemes that distinguish fundamentally different kinds of service, such as the simple Los Angeles paint scheme where red means Rapid and orange means Local.
But as a temporary exhibit, which is what this is, I'm all for it. These buses operate through surprise. (True beauty is always surprising, which is why it can be hard to appreciate in a museum.) So even if the bus wraps were permanent, their beauty would diminish as people got used to them.
The four buses will be wrapped through the end of March and a bit into April.
It turns out that the excellent blog Portland Transport created a really clear video of the Portland version of my presentation, "A Field Guide to Transit Quarrels." Only tonight have I had both the time and the bandwidth to look at it, and apart from the well-amplified sniffles from my cold at the time, it looks and sounds pretty good. Thanks to Bob Richardson and everyone else at Portland Transport who made it happen.
Part 1: Introductions
Part 2: The Spectrum of Authorities
Part 3: Balancing Claims
Part 4: Example and Conclusions
Part 5: Q&A
If you saw the presentation elsewhere, you might want to check out Part 1 for Metro Executive David Bragdon's funny introduction of me. But other than that, only the Q&A will be new to you. Most of my answers in the Q&A cover familiar issues on this blog, but with Portland examples. At one point, though, I was asked about Personal Rapid Transit, and very unwisely, I gave an answer.
Yesterday, I had an hour with a cross-section of the staff at greater Vancouver's transit agency TransLink. I did a quick overview of service branding -- the crucial business of helping people recognize which services are likely to be useful to them. It was based on a presentation I did at the Inno-V workshop(Dutch, English) in Amsterdam a month ago.
It turns out that Jhenifer Pabliano, who manages TransLink's agency blog The Buzzer, was taking thorough notes. She's published a summary of the hour here, including not just my comments but the question and answer session.
I'm also speaking tonight at Simon Fraser University's downtown campus, details here. The presentation is called 'A Field Guide to Transit Quarrels' and is similar to what I did in San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle.