LiveMove Member Reflection - Jarret Walker on the Role of Transportation in Public Freedom.
BY LiveMover Ethan Lockwood
For Jarrett Walker, public transportation is about much more than moving people from point A to point B, instead he holds that public transportation is an instrument of freedom. Walker is an outspoken advocate for public transportation and is the president of Jarrett Waker and Associates, an internationally known transportation consulting firm. In November of last year, Walker delivered a presentation to a packed house of students, citizens, and local transportation groups in downtown Eugene.
Walker explained that many public transportation systems see their service selection as existing on a spectrum between maximizing ridership (frequent buses on high ridership routes in the city) and maximizing coverage (infrequent buses of routes all over the city regardless of ridership). Walker pushes us to step away from this model and instead to think of transit in terms of freedom. Properly designed, public transportation can give us expanded freedom to get to the places we live, work, and play.
According to Walker, freedom is grown by expanding the useful area you can access via public transportation, bicycle, and on foot in a reasonable amount of time. And for public transportation providers, this is achieved through a dense interconnected network of frequent service lines that free us to explore where we live, work, and play. Walker's firm produces clear graphic maps (isochrones for the transportation data geeks), that show how shift along the ridership and coverage spectrum changes the size of this useful area.
While public transportation must always strike a balance between ridership and coverage, Walker’s model of public transportation as freedom can help communities visualize and think about the tradeoffs between these two extremes. As Eugene looks at its long term public transportation plans, it will be important that we think as a community not only about ridership and coverage goals, but about expanding the freedom we are providing to our citizens.