Jarrett Walker, International Consultant in Public Transit, To Speak at Florida Tech Today
By Maria Sonnenberg // April 3, 2018
F. Alan Smith Distinguished Lecture Set in Hartley Room at Denius Student Center at 6 p.m.
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BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA – Back in the 60s, Bob Dylan told us that “the times they are a-changin.” Half a century-plus later, the line remains true, particularly when you consider Brevard County traffic as mushrooming development continues to add snarl to the commute routine.
If you drove in local traffic even five years ago, you know that navigating the roads, too, is “a-changin.”
Change, in terms of more congestion and longer commutes, will continue to happen unless policy makers implement positive alternatives. More roads – and more cars – are not the answer, says Jarrett Walker, international consultant in public transit network design and policy.
Florida Institute of Technology invited Walker to get the wheels of thought rolling with “Abundant Access: Planning Urban Transportation for a Free Society,” the F. Alan Smith Distinguished Lecture on April 3.
Walker’s talk, which is free and open to the public, is part of Florida’s Tech F. Alan Smith Distinguished Lecture series which brings corporate executives from the transportation industry and other experts to campus for fall and spring presentations. The series is made possible by a generous gift from F. Alan Smith, who spent more than three decades in leadership positions at General Motors in the U.S. and Canada.
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“It’s normal to associate cars with freedom, but as traffic gets worse, that will stop being true, and right now, there are many people who can’t or choose not to drive and they are entitled to freedom, too,” said the consultant, whose Portland-Oregon based firm, Jarrett Walker + Associates, has helped develop public transit policy and design in 100 cities around the world.
A full-time consultant since 1991, Walker has led major planning projects across North America, Europe, Russia, Australia and New Zealand. He is the author of “Human Transit: How Clearer Thinking About Public Transit Can Enrich Our Communities and Our Lives” and runs a blog on the subject at humantransit.org.
Walker notes that while there is certainly room for improvement in Brevard’s public transit system, nevertheless it is on the right track.
“Your transit system may not be something that most people ride, but it’s not failing,” he said.
According to the National Transit Database, Space Coast Transit buses pick up 24 people per operating hour, for an average of one person every four minutes.
“That’s very good by U.S. standards in regions of your size,” said Walker.
However, he sees serious problems ahead with increasing growth.
“Your population has been growing at over one percent a year, which is very fast,” he said.
“The biggest challenge is that you need to think about what you want your community to be like when there are 10 to 20 percent more people. You can grow in a car-dependent way, like most of Greater Orlando or South Florida did, but traffic will still get worse because people will have to travel longer distances. And if you keep growing horizontally, you’re going to need more road space than most local governments can afford to maintain.”
The decisions the county chooses to make about transit will shape the look of the Space Coast of the future.
“If you decide to develop a bigger, more attractive transit system, it will affect how the area grows by making denser development attractive in certain places,” said Walker.
“Not everybody wants a big house and there needs to be great places to live for people who don’t.”
While Europe is considered the poster continent for efficient traffic system, Walker recommends looking closer or Down Under for ideas.
“If you want to see what an American city looks like with better transit policies, I suggest looking at either Canadian or Australian cities,” he said.
“You will generally find more transit in both places, even in communities that are very similar. You’ll see service staring earlier, running later, with more frequency. Because there’s more transit, there’s more ridership and more opportunities for people to live without relying on cars.”
Trends in transit, such as “microtransit: systems that utilize vans to pick up passengers at their doorsteps, abound, but in the end, Walker puts his money on the hardworking public buses.
“Fixed route bus service may not seem personally appealing to you now, but effective cities are doing everything they can to expand and improve it because it is so much more efficient in both its use of labor and of space than anything you can do with car of vans,” he said.
The public is invited to Jarrett Walker’s lecture at 6 p.m., Tuesday, April 3, at Florida Tech’s Hartley Room in the Denius Student Center on campus, 150 W. University Blvd., Melbourne. For more information on the lecture, call 321-674-8962 or visit fit.edu/distinguished-lecture-series
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