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Tue Feb 18, 2014, 10:19 AM

The battle for mass transit’s soul: How will tomorrow’s greatest cities travel?

from Salon:

The battle for mass transit’s soul: How will tomorrow’s greatest cities travel?
Urban planners are in the throes of an ideological struggle that could fundamentally change the way cities look

Henry Grabar

Just after noon on Thursday, Feb. 6, at New York City’s Centre for Social Innovation, Jarrett Walker was three hours into his course on transit design and presiding over a scene redolent of a high school classroom. In a typically modest gesture, he held up his hand for attention, but the students chattered on. Only the hushes of their more alert peers brought the room to attention.

On the minds of these 30 urban affairs professionals was Newport, a U-shaped, peninsular city of Walker’s creation that looks something like an upside-down San Francisco. Their task that morning had been to design Newport a rudimentary bus system. Split into six groups, they hunched over poster-sized maps, plotting and rubbing out bus routes in colored sharpies on plastic tracing sheets. When the exercise concluded, the maps — laced with red, blue and green (bus frequencies of seven, 15 and 30 minutes, respectively) — were hung side by side on the wall. As Walker perused the six networks, the atmosphere grew tense, each group poised to defend the quirks of its design: an entire section of the city left out on one map, a lack of high-frequency lines on another, no downtown-airport connection on a third.

Over the past three years, Walker has taught his Interactive Course in Transit Network Design more than a dozen times, in four countries, and its hundreds of graduates are sprinkled across city governments, transit agencies and nonprofits in the U.S. and beyond. (The New York course, hosted by the Transit Center, gathered students from as far away as Barcelona and Prague; two more courses are scheduled for March, in Australia.) The material is linked to the contents of his 2011 book, “Human Transit,” and both are based on his experience as a consultant, helping cities from Sydney to Seattle get people from place to place. Last year, Walker spent one in three nights on the road, teaching, advising, speaking and so forth – the itinerant preacher of transit know-how. ........................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.salon.com/2014/02/15/the_battle_for_mass_transits_soul_how_will_tomorrows_greatest_cities_travel/

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