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Human Transit: How Clearer Thinking about Public Transit Can Enrich Our Communities and Our Lives
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Human Transit: How Clearer Thinking about Public Transit Can Enrich Our Communities and Our Lives

4.35  ·  Rating details ·  420 Ratings  ·  59 Reviews
Public transit is a powerful tool for addressing a huge range of urban problems, including traffic congestion and economic development as well as climate change. But while many people support transit in the abstract, it's often hard to channel that support into good transit investments.  Part of the problem is that transit debates attract many kinds of experts, who often t ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published December 22nd 2011 by Island Press (first published December 14th 2011)
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Chris Ledermuller
In my days of transit advocacy, I had wished a book like "Human Transit" were around. It would have made my route and service proposals easier to understand and implement.

By coincidence, I had incorporated many of Walker's theories -- direct, grid-based routes whenever possible and using frequency to attract ridership -- but have never attempted to explain my logic behind my proposals. Even if I did, I wouldn't be able to explain myself as concisely and sharply as Walker.

"Human Transit" doesn't
Navaneethan Santhanam
I've read Jarrett Walker's blog on transit planning a number of times, and always found it insightful. He thinks deeply about transit and how to use to build great cities and communities. However, his experience and expertise (although quite broad) is limited to Western, developed countries.

The books has a number of different sections on various aspects of the passenger's experience of transit and how to improve them, what the pros and cons of various ideas are, and a fairly lucid explanation of
May 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: urban
Someone working on Google maps ought to read this book, and then make the following changes:

Once in transit directions mode, the map ought to show roads where there are high frequency buses as thicker or otherwise highlighted just as arterials and highways are highlighted for cars. If there is no transit service on a given road, de-emphasize it. Adjust for time of day as necessary. It should be possible to view this map even without having specific origins or destinations, just to see where one
Dec 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Unbelievable book. This is the holy grail for any transit enthusiast when it comes to planning a system. People who are not interested in public transit and drive everywhere would probably find it boring, though.
Adam Zethraeus
Jan 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
The book is written as a textbook for public transit. It breaks down transit planning into its fundamental tradeoffs, and takes an ostensibly neutral position in exploring them.

It explores the motivations behind public transit efforts, and implores you to hold them consciously and with an understanding of their impacts. e.g. If you want a system with full coverage for your community, that inherently comes at the expense of ridership, and so income. If you want to minimize connections you need to
Feb 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
I have just finished reading this book in advance of the Urban Milwaukee book discussion about it coming up soon. The author does a good job of communicating how the various local development choices that are always under consideration can be supported and enhanced by well designed transit. I have lived without a car for 10 years now and I found it fascinating to compare the changes I have seen in the Milwaukee County Transit System services in that time with the ideas discussed in this book. Hi ...more
Oct 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
Clarity. That's what Jarrett Walker's book promises in its subtitle: "How Clearer Thinking About Public Transit Can Enrich Our Communities and Our Lives" and clarity is what this book delivers. Public transport is a complex issue with many different considerations and interests at play. Walker breaks these issues down one by one and in simple, layman language, offers us different frames with which to analyse transport matters.

Chapter 2 breaks down the different (sometimes conflicting) demands p
Dec 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Placeholder review: this is a classic of the field of transportation planning and I'm really glad I have finally filled the gap. It's a classic for good reason. Walker gives a number of wonderful tools to evaluate transit options.

52 books in 52 weeks update:
book number: 47 / 52

scorecard (see below):
W: 23/26
NW: 18/26
NA: 18/20
D: 4/5
F: 22
NF: 21

Notes: I'm trying to read 52 books this year. To make sure I'm getting a broad range, I'm tracking some metrics. Op
Aug 31, 2013 rated it it was ok
Not technical enough to give a very deep understanding of transit, but too pedantic to be enjoyable for a lay audience.

To the first point, for example, there is no math in the entire book. There are not even descriptions of the mathematical underpinnings. Instead, he gives hand-wavey arguments for stop spacing and network design. Then again, I'm a civil engineer currently working on my masters in transportation engineering, so my perspective might be a little skewed cf most readers.

To the secon
Wai Yip Tung
Feb 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Transit services shapes our city and impact our daily life. Therefore many people may want to voice their opinion on the design and operation of transit system. But few people knows how to think about the working of a transit system systematically. Transit consultant Jarrett Walker's book provide excellent guidance to citizen and government alike to think about what they need from transit service. He explains the key points that makes transit useful. Then explores basic geometry and the implicat ...more
Rebecca T Marsh
May 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
The book is easy for laymen, like me, to read. But it's no Suburban Nation (a book), so it won't change your world view on the built environment.

Still, I gave it five stars, because it addressed all the questions I had. Questions like, why does transit work well (when it does) and how does it fail the transit user when it doesn't? What makes people want to use transit? If you live in an community with older residents, why would your transit system be different than the one in a community with y
Mark Abersold
Oct 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Human Transit is not about why we should build transit, it's about how to build effective transit. It deals mostly with the geometry of systems, where to place transit lines, and has interesting discussions over whether it is more important to go for coverage goals or ridership goals (or somewhere in between). I was hoping it would go into a little more detail of the merits of buses and when it's time to consider upgrading to rail from high frequency bus lines. Regardless, it still is a great bo ...more
Jul 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
I thought I already had a clear picture of the options for transit, but this book did a great job of laying out the terms and tradeoffs really clearly, and I can see a number of the choices in Vancouver much better now. Our city is doing a pretty good job... it would be nice if all the debates could be so rational.
Daniel Horner
Jun 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites

I'm giving this five stars, but for the record, you'll only enjoy this if you're a huge nerd who enjoys transport policy or engineering. If you are one of those people, this book if the best I've ever read on the subject.
Peter Manwaring
May 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Excellent book if you are interested in urban design and the way transit systems work. Easy to read with good examples.
Huyen Le
May 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
I would rate the book higher if I read it sooner. A great book for those who want to explore how the transit systems work.
Nishkala Sekhar
Jan 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a textbook for the curious but uniformed transit enthusiast. It lays out the skeleton structure for all the things that go into transit planning, how decisions are made, what are the inevitable trade-offs and how those choices are made in varying contexts. The ample use of case studies to draw out various scenarios of how different decisions have played out is extremely useful in both understanding how the options turned out in practice and why they failed or succeeded.
According to the
Jan 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: urban-planning
A complete introduction to transit planning and operation.
- Complete Introduction, includes every element
- Everyone (including kids) can read this book since there are not that many jargons
- Includes many pictures
- The writing is perfect (the author has a phd in Literature, I think)!

- After Elon Mask Called the author an "idiot" , there was a discount of 50%. I missed that opportunity
- Would be more interesting if more things about land use were included
Jul 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wonky, but very accessible for those interested in urban transport planning. Walker's a great writer and communicator.
Tracey Lin
May 27, 2017 rated it liked it
A good way to explain how effective transit design works to those who do not work in the industry.
Gavin Wang
Jan 23, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: planning
A good guidebook to transit planning, with some level oversimplification.
Oct 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book has definitely added clarity to my thoughts on Transit Planning. It is very technical, but explained well.
Oct 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: urban-planning
Engaging and presents the issues of transit in a clear, concise, comprehensive and compelling way.
Tobias Butler
Mar 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Basically a textbook. 3.5 stars.
Aug 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Well written and easy to understand concepts about public transport.
Oct 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
A very good book.
You see, generally in urbanism and public transport literature, that are two kinds of books: one is a left-leaning, granola eating, white middle class liberal manifesto without objective data, without real solutions and a lot of anecdotal/personal information; the other is a heavily technical, heavily inaccessible, academic article created by transit agencies, universities or public organizations. Human Transit manages to escape both categories, it is at the same time objective,
Michael Lewyn
Oct 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Most public discussion of public transit is not particularly sophisticated: much public discussion is limited to "for it" or "against it", or perhaps focused on the virtues of bus vs. rail.

Walker reminds us that there are a wide variety of tradeoffs even if we agree on these basic issues. For example, should we provide a few routes that run frequently, or a larger number of less frequent routes? Should routes stop every block or stop every several blocks to make service faster? To what extent sh
Jun 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
Transit delivers people from one part of a city to another as pedestrians. And the pedestrian is the foundation of modern urban transit, writes Jarrett Walker, who wants to raise the expectations of transit. Walker's information, facts and figures will correct the ignorance of common fallacies, he writes.

How to recognize transit-friendly places? By the quality of the pedestrian experience around the stations and stops. How to recognize good transit? By the frequency, with the best service on a
Oct 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is a very concise and clear presentation of public transit options in modern metropolitan areas of any size in any country. As a long time and frequent user of public transit in numerous cities in America and a few foreign ones as well, I found the presentation enlightening and crystallizing of what is already known to a frequent user. A similar transit user would most certainly benefit from reading it. Perhaps more importantly, non-transit users would gain critical insight to public transi ...more
Russell Romney
Jun 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favs-fam
There's a reason this book was cited frequently in three of the books I've read recently about urban planning: it contains the dense, focused information of a textbook while maintaining Gladwell-esque readability. The book even includes many pictures and maps to emphasize points and serve as examples, enhancing my understanding.
Walker aptly displays why he's a sought-after transit consultant.
Refreshingly, he takes the viewpoint of an economist on transit planning: there is no good nor bad, jus
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