Crosscut Tout: 2 serious students of transit will speak

For all the endless discussion of public transportation in an around Seattle, it’s all too rare that a forum presents serious students of transit practices debating basic orientations to transit planning unencumbered by hardened positions we locals often take in pronouncing what we know must be right for us.  

Darrin Nordahl (Making Transit Fun, e-published April 13) and Jarrett Walker (Human Transit, 2011) are both Island Press authors, and an excellent idea it is for their publisher, Island Press, to put them on the stage together, since they vigorously and energetically disagree. Nordahl’s title is his not-tongue-in-cheek prescription for building transit’s usefulness. Walker takes a different approach, urging that the right goal isn’t just to buy any particular transit technology (fun or not) based on its perceived standing in a hierarchy of transit modes. Rather, what matters are community-specific architectures of transit networks designed to deliver best value for money in all-important dimensions of frequency, convenience, and reliability that are the basic draws for ridership. 

Jarrett and Nordahl each have fervent admirers in planning and transit professional circles around the country. It’s a fair bet that part of the interest in the Town Hall event will be listening to the sidebars emanating from the audience. Transit Establishment Seattle is likely to be well represented. But real estate developers, neighborhood advocates, elected officials, labor unions, and construction engineering firms will be in the audience, not on the stage, for this one. Imagine what fresh insights might emerge to infuse our sometimes-stale and predictable civic discourse on transit goals and investments.   

If you go: From Island Press: Darrin Nordahl and Jarrett Walker: Perspectives on Public Transit, 7:30 to 9 p.m., Wednesday (April 18), Downstairs at Town Hall; enter on Seneca Street, $5. Click here for more information and advance tickets.

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