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Freedom and Liberty Through Public Transit?

In PlanPhilly, a discussion on Jarrett Walker's brand of humanities-infused transit planning. The wonky stuff is all well and good, but in the end it's all about simple access and freedom of movement.
December 12, 2016, 12pm PST | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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Eric Fischer

"'Frequency is freedom,' said Jarrett Walker, earnestly in a philosophy lecture disguised as a talk on transit planning." [...] "'We all have a sense about freedom and imprisonment—It's about not being able to move. We are all in a prison, physically speaking, where the walls are where we can get to in a reasonable amount of time.'"

Jim Saksa writes about Walker's approach to transit planning, emphasizing the human dynamic before getting technical. For one thing, Walker insists on distinguishing between the "choice" rider (someone who has another option) and the "dependent" rider (somebody who must take the bus). "Imagine what kind of service the dependent bus rider would want, and deliver that, rather than trying to dream up a service for the choice rider."

Walker tends to eschew ridership predictions and overly-complex models. "It may be my philosophical training: I start with skepticism. [...] I start with what I know. That's why I start with geometry—I'm sure about that, and in a way that I'm not sure with psychology or human behavior."

Saksa suggests that SEPTA can take several lessons from Walker. "First, Walker emphasized the importance of maps—particularly frequency maps—in conveying the freedom offered by a transit system to its potential riders. Second, Walker noted that straight routes aligned in grid systems maximize a rider's abundance of access." 

Read more from Jarrett Walker at his blog, Human Transit

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Published on Wednesday, December 7, 2016 in PlanPhilly
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