Thursday, June 7, 2012

Jarrett Walker in SF!

Last night I attended Jarrett Walker's enlightening presentation at the SPUR headquarters in San Francisco. (654 Mission St.) Themes he stressed were:

1. The core mission of transit as abundant access without personal vehicles over distances too far to walk - thinking of transit as a multiplier of walking. For this reason, he advocates for the placement of all transit stops (including bus stops) at least 1/4 mile or even 1/2 mile apart. Any inter-stop distance of less a 1/4 mile hampers the overall speed of transit while simultaneously competing with walking.

2. The five main qualities of transit service, which are:
A. Frequency
B. Span (operating hours)
C. Speed
D. Reliability
E. Capacity

Frequency and Capacity are largely technology-applicable. Frequency is very hard to describe to a motorist - there is no perfect analogy. Speed and Reliability are largely reliant on stop frequency, stop delays, and the amount of things getting in the way.

Frequency is the hardest thing to preserve - budget cuts will target frequency before all else.

3. "Listen to our tools" - deal with the choices presented by materials. The analogy is that one cannot grow a banana tree in Portland because the materials - the climate, the soil, the humidity, (the pollinators?) do not exist.

4. Moving from Symbolic or ultra-specialized transit (unsustainable and unefficient models that enforce a unimodal way of thinking about transportation) to transit that is designed for the majority of the population

5. Jarrett's regular themes: Be on the Way, the Potential of the Suburban Blvd. (in its transportation form, not in its zoning or architectural form)

An interesting question was brought up about Jarrett's thoughts on the 26-odd transit agencies, each with different fares and schedules, that make up the Bay Area. Jarrett said that he's ambivalent on merging systems. He doesn't mind that local communities take care of their own local systems, which makes administrative sense, but he did lean toward more integration on the regional level - he stated that Caltrain is "the perfect" opportunity to create a successful regional link but it's wasted because 1. Peninsula communities are too afraid of development and 2. frequencies are far too low and 3. Silicon Valley corporations don't take proximity to Caltrain into consideration when siting their campuses (e.g. Facebook. ugh.) One wonders how huge an impact Caltrain could make if it were funded to run 15-minute frequencies during the day (around the threshold for "frequent transit").

Overall, a great thought-provoking presentation and I'll post some of my own thoughts in a bit.

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