Why Can't Urban Designers and Transit Planners Just Get Along?

Reflecting on his experiences at CNU's recent Transportation Summit, Jarrett Walker examines "the mutual incomprehension that plagues the relationship between urban designers and transit planners."
September 13, 2012, 10am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Walker disseminates some of his favorite discussion points from a session he participated in that focused on issues related to planning for transit networks. One of the topics of discussion, the fatal disconnect between urban designers and transit planners, is at the climax of Walker's influential book, Human Transit.

As Walker relates, "Phil Erickson, of Community Design + Architecture, made two of the best points:

  • Both sides of this incomprehension engage the other too late in the process.
  • Both sides assume that the other is more flexible than it is.

To these, Walker adds his own observations that

  • We are literally working in different dimensions:  Urban design is mostly about places.  Transit planning is about corridors and networks. 
  • We live in different timescales.  Urban design is about something that will be built and completed.  Transit planning is about eternal operations.

While he doesn't proffer an easy solution, Walker notes that, "the first step toward overcoming a divide is to really understand why it is so pervasive, and that requires both sides to think about their deep assumptions, and why different assumptions follow from the nature of the other party's work."

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Published on Tuesday, September 11, 2012 in Human Transit
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