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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

4.37  ·  Rating details ·  663 ratings  ·  78 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
Kindle Edition, 244 pages
Published July 29th 2012 by Island Press (first published December 14th 2011)
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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  ·  review of another edition
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
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
I am going to be generous and give this book three stars, because if you are a driver who is only just beginning to consider the concept of public transportation, this is probably a useful book. As someone who does not drive and is deeply engaged with transit, I found it patronizing and tedious. That doesn't mean Walker isn't right; it just means he's telling me a whole lot of things I already know, and phrasing them as though they should come as revelations. ...more
Raja Ramesh
Mar 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant, an accessible guidebook for understanding public transportation! Walker breaks down the main areas of concern for evaluating transit proposals and disambiguates the value questions (he calls these plumber's questions) from the engineering analysis. Throughout he takes a technology-agnostic approach, choosing to focus on the basic geometry of transit systems rather than the choice between bus, streetcar, rail, etc. This leads to the development of an intuitive toolkit of questions, heu ...more
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Matthew Hall
A good general overview of conceptual frameworks if you care about mass transit-- what transportation planners mean they say things like 'ridership,' 'coverage,' 'frequency,' 'connections,' as well as some of the geometric thinking that goes into maximizing the efficiency of transit systems.

Walker places too much faith in real estate interests, exists in a bit of scarcity mindset around funding and he's not thinking particularly critically about the role class and race play in zoning, housing a
Feb 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mar 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A practical book for practical thinking.
May 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
For the month of March, I read the book Human Transit. The book discusses the most important considerations when evaluating public transit systems. I think it is important for us as citizens to be aware of these considerations and how they impact our communities. Even if you don't use transit yourself, it is good to know what to think about when transit proposals are presented to your community as well as when it comes time to cast your vote of how your tax dollars will be spent. Many of us in C ...more
Nishkala Sekhar
Jan 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 18, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
This is quite a good foundation in basic "how public transport works".

My favourite part was p.50-51, about barriers and chokepoints. I'd always thought of bridges etc as enormous obstacles, but this book has pointed out what should have been obvious: they are opportunities for connections.

I also enjoyed the following little factoid (p.175):

"A technologically required connection is sometimes the ghost of a political one. When the Berlin wall came down in 1989, authorities quickly reconnected th
Ansley Peduru
Dec 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've been following Jarret's Twitter and blog (@humantransit) for a while now and only discovered his book not too long ago. Human Transit is a succinct yet thorough primer on public transit system design that is a must read for transit nerds or anyone that appreciates the design process. It explores the benefits and tradeoffs that come with designing routes, schedules, stations, and everything else in between. Several real life examples are used to provide context that clearly illustrate a conc ...more
David Segall
Oct 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
This is a really excellent book for anybody looking to understand transit from a big picture perspective. Walker does a great job of explaining/defining the technical jargon, exploring the questions that are asked of transit systems, the potential answers to those questions, and the myriad of considerations and complications a transit planner might face. It reads like a “primer” by challenging the lay person’s car-focused perspective on transit all while staying on the theme of the subtitle - en ...more
Jan 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Joseph Sierputowski
For anyone that wants a primer on the value, function, and optimal design of public transportation, this is the perfect book. Coming in at just over 200 pages, and stuffed with helpful graphics, this jargon-light book is a wonderful primer on the importance of transit and how cities across the US can work to improve it. If you're looking to quickly learn more about urban design and transportation, this is a great place to start. ...more
Sep 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cities
Phenomenal! Jarrett Walker refocuses the discussion around effective transit and breaks it into bite-sized pieces. Practical, well written, and supported with simple examples, this was a pleasure to read. Living in a city whose transit network was recently redesigned by Walker provides additional real-world examples.
Dec 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an excellent and easy to read primer on public transportation. Jarrett Walker is fantastic at explaining transit to a lay audience. This book will answer most or all of your questions about why your local transit system does what it does.
May 27, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good way to explain how effective transit design works to those who do not work in the industry.
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