What “It doesn’t go anywhere” really means

10 Jan

In an outtake from his recently published book, Human Transit’s Jarrett Walker discusses a list of seven criteria that he says transit has to address to effectively compete with driving:

1.    “It takes me where I want to go.”

2.    “It takes me when I want to go.”

3.    “It’s a good use of my time.”

4.    “It’s a good use of my money.”

5.    “It respects me.”

6.    “I can trust it.”

7.    “It gives me freedom to change my plans.”

While no mode of transportation meets all seven demands perfectly, Walker says, “[t]he dominant mode in a community is the one that best addresses the seven demands, compared to the available alternatives, in the perception of the majority of people.”

That observation goes a long way toward explaining why so many people who live well within MARTA’s service area still drive most of the time if they have that choice. Walker’s list unpacks what they mean when they say MARTA “doesn’t go anywhere.” It’s not that people are looking for reasons not to use transit, but rather that they so often have more reasons to drive. In relatively low density areas, he says, “the automobile meets all seven demands handsomely.”

He also pulls apart the multiple meanings tangled up in the word “convenient” here.

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