Scene from a previous course.
From a previous course. Photo JW+A.

I started reading Jarrett Walker’s book, Human Transit, the day it became available on Kindle, and sat down a few weeks later to write a review for the blog. Unfortunately, the review I wanted to write, “This book distills every sensible thought I’ve ever had or heard about transit down to a slim, cogent and enjoyable volume, which you should purchase and read immediately”, was too short for a blog post, and trying to drag it out longer just turned it into the kind of gushing, fanboy-istic prose I cannot bear to either read or write.

Fortunately for me, Walker recently announced a nearby session of his transit planning workshop, Transit Network Design: An Interactive Short Course, thereby providing me the opportunity to plug both the course and the book at sufficient length. Offered under the banner of his professional consultancy, Jarrett Walker + Associates, this course “is designed to give anyone a grasp of how network design works, so that they can form more confident and resilient opinions about transit proposals”. It’s offered in Portland, on February 7th and 8th and the cost is $395 per person, with some discounts available.

Its audience is specifically not limited to transit planners, but is “for people who interact with transit planning in their work but don’t do it themselves — including land use planners, urban designers, developers, traffic engineers, sustainability advocates, transit employees of all kinds, and people who work on transportation or urban policy generally. Advocates who want to be more realistic and effective will also find the course valuable, especially as a companion to my book Human Transit.”

I hope to attend, and encourage everyone else who takes an interest in transit to do so, if you can afford it, or you can get your employer to pay for it.

22 Replies to “Jarrett Walker Offering Network Design Course in Portland”

  1. Maybe I should read “Human Transit” I can find a way to criticise just about anything, even books I loved.

  2. …And of course anyone that would be interested in this course (me) would be in college learning to be a transport engineer. Why in the world would he be hosting this in weekdays in early February? He should go for winter break or summer or something.

    1. I suspect most people who’d take this course would be currently-employed professionals in a relevant field, who could schedule the days off.

    2. Also, colleges aren’t all on the same schedule. One school’s spring break is another’s finals week.

  3. I’ve taken the course, and enjoyed it. A special bonus was the focus on group work with other attendees, who were people from around north america in the transport and transit fields. Lots of different perspectives and experiences that came into play when trying to solve the problems presented in the course.

  4. I’m not going to be in transportation professionally anytime in the near future, but I’d love to take this class anyway. Unfortunately, I just don’t have the time.

  5. Okay, I am not pleased with the fee, though I do understand that consultants need to eat too.

    I’d gladly put something on that’s similar, and do it for free to boot.

    Drawing up transit networks is like drawing lines on graph paper. It’s what you do after drawing the lines that means something.

    If he was teaching how to apply the new FTA rules regarding Title VI and transit equality, it’d be worth 400 bucks.

    But he’s not, so it’s not.

    Brian Bradford
    Kennewick, WA

    1. That will probably be in Rail~volution, which will be in Seattle in October.

      Jarrett’s approach is absolutely right and necessary. This workshop is a chance to apply the concepts in the book, with peers and an instructor, in a dedicated time without distractions. That in itself is valuable. But that doesn’t mean it’s the only necessary factor. As we’ve seen repeatedly with Metro, the planning staff have good ideas but they often don’t make it out of committee or past the managers or County Council, because the status quo opposition is so large and/or vocal. So you need both good line design and good communication/marketing, and knowledge of evolving grants and regulations that may provide opportunities. Jarrett’s workshop covers the first; other venues such as Rail~volution can cover the others.

      1. Mostly what he said. It’s not Jack Whisner who needs the course. It’s Kevin Desmond, Joni Earl, and the entire King County Council and Sound Transit Board.

        But “Rail~Volution”… oy! Fitting that they’re holding the conference at SLUT Plaza, with the monorail sailing by out the window. Those guys have never met a half-baked rail scheme they couldn’t implement substandardly.

      2. I was surprised they’re coming to Seattle so soon. There will be a lot more to see in 2024. In 2013, our rapid transit/commuter rail/streetcar/bikeway systems won’t even be halfway as extensive as the cities it’s been in so far (Portland, DC, Los Angeles). I guess they want to show a city that’s earlier on its development curve. Plus, we do have one of the highest-ridership, most-extensive bus systems in the country after the Big Six or Ten, so that must count for something. People ride the buses even though they’re mediocre. (Even DP rides the buses even though they’re mediocre.) Jarrett Walker has written about how the city’s geography encourages this, and that’s also something Rail~volutionaries would be interested in.

      3. So DP has problems with Rail~volution too. Ayayayay! Rail~volution, and ST, and its counterparts in other cities, are the only ones who are bringing rapid transit to more cities, flawed as each system may be. And Mayor Villaraigosa of course. Without them it wouldn’t be a Boston T utopia throughout America, it would be nothing.

      4. I don’t know much about them other than that they’re a conference in which rail-expansionist types come to reinforce each others’ preconceived notions.

        I wouldn’t claim to be able to lay the blame for all that is lousy about the last 30 years of light-rail and streetcar expansion at their feet. But the seem to proudly proclaim their involvement in much that is working poorly on a daily basis, and their website is full of glossy images of Very Bad Modal Zealot Ideas.

        Call me when there’s a Get~shit~right~volution!

      5. Antonio Villaraigosa, on the other hand, should be president.

        The 30/10 idea was positively brilliant, and going down at 66.11% approval, Measure J was robbed!

      6. Sorry DP, I assumed you knew more about Rail~volution. I attended it three years ago in Portland. Almost all of the attendees work in transit agencies, urban planning departments, and related fields, so it’s definitely an industry association trying to realize the transit/walkability vision on the ground, not a bunch of half-baked activists tilting at windmills. I was the only one I saw there who was just a concerned citizen, and that presented a little difficulty in not understanding all the terminology or being interested in all the sessions. The reason Rail~volution exists and why they all attend it, is that real effective northeast-style transit/walkability has been seriously neglected in the rest of the country, and it just wasn’t getting done without them coming together to exchange ideas and success stories.

        I don’t know what they’re planning for Seattle or how they view the SLUT/FHS. They do always pick central locations near the largest multimodal hubs, and in Seattle that means either Westlake or International District station. So just because they’re meeting next to the SLUT (if they are), it doesn’t necessarily mean they think the SLUT is the epitome of transit utopia.

        You could perhaps set up a website with a highly-visible essay on what Rail~volutionaries should know about Seattle’s transit system and plans, the world according to DP.

      7. Perhaps the happy-go-slowly “new urbanist” images on their web are a bit misleading, then. Or perhaps the struggle between what looks pretty on an easel and what actually imparts freedom in the real world will play out internally within their ranks.

        Many hotels downtown offer ample medium-sized conference space; the chosen Westin’s position at one corner of SLUT Plaza doesn’t seem like an accident. But mostly I was just giving you grief for citing a conference with such a problematic name.

    2. Drawing up transit networks is like drawing lines on graph paper. It’s what you do after drawing the lines that means something.

      Absolutely not. If you draw the wrong lines, what you do afterward won’t mean diddly.

      Draw a bus network spaghetti, detour to the detriment of legibility and speed, make your map too dense or too sparse, and no implementation strategy in the world will overcome the fundamental flaws in your geometric thinking. Your transfers will forever suck, your freedom will forever be compromised, your modeshare will forever be in the sewer.

      Draw a from-scratch rail network around only the most disparate nodes, ignore foot access and transfer access in your core, and be prepared to spend billions on something that will make little difference to the city or the region, no matter how much Federal rubber-stamping you receive.

      If you draw those lines on that graph paper without a clue what you’re doing, the results will forever show your ignorance.

      I wish I could send Jarrett Walker back in time 30 years and force every once and future King County Metro and Sound Transit planner to take this course.

      1. Hey, here’s a thought. How about picking a particularly clueless politico or bureaucrat and chipping in a fund to give them a *gift certificate* to take the course? If they’d be willing to take it, that is.

      2. I’d probably wish to send the King County Executive, at whom the buck for Metro’s successes and failures is ultimately supposed to stop.

        But despite his curious reputation around these parts as a Great Progressive Hope (which I’ve never understood in the slightest), I honestly believe he’s too much of a lackadaisical dullard to get much out of it.

        [Insert additional obligatory joke about his illegally-parked Prius and his wandering male appendage. None of which I really care about. I just wish Seattle progressives would stop placing their eggs in his basket.]

  6. Dang and double dang! Yes, the workshop cost is a bit on the steep side, but I would totally spring for it and the vacation time to take this course. Unfortunately, I’m already going to be out of town those days. I can’t attend Rail~Volution either – by October, I’m hoping to be in graduate school out of state.

    Anyone know of any other workshops or opportunities on similar topics? For the record, I’m currently a working professional in an unrelated field, hoping to be a working professional in transportation in a few years.

  7. Thanks for the publicity, Bruce! Note that there’s also a session of the course coming up in Washington DC January 17/18, right after TRB, in case anyone reading is planning to be there. My website also has advice on how to help bring the course to your city. For all that see

    And thanks to the several commenters for the kind words!

    All the best, Jarrett Walker

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