A Quick Note on Venue Access

Once in a great while, I go to concerts. Here’s what the experience of actually getting to the concert venue is like. For the record: the venues themselves and the shows played therein were all excellent.

Sydney Opera House, Sydney, NSW
[There for: London Philharmonic Orchestra, Fall 2009]

Getting there, Option 1: CityRail Sydney Trains CityRail to Circular Quay, then a delightful walk along the Harbour. When I was there they hadn’t rolled out the Opal contactless farecard yet, so whenever I found myself taking the train to Circular Quay I would buy a return ticket for about $6. Expensive, yes, but when you’re eighteen and stupid and only had a passing experience with mass transit up to that point it was worth it for the novelty.

Getting there, Option 2: Bus to Circular Quay. I lived in Ultimo, so this was occasionally an option as well, if I felt like using a TravelTen pass (then available at all good convenience stores). Cheaper, but it took a bit longer.

Getting there, Option 3: Hoofing it. An wretched hour-long shoe-destroying slog only attempted when truly broke and desperate.

Best Buy PlayStation Best Buy Theater, New York, NY
[There for: Blackfield, May 2014; Steven Wilson, May 2015]

Whenever I go to New York I always, always, always take the bus. No reasonable person attempts to drive into the Great and Terrible City. It’s ~$60 round trip from where I live, yes, but if it means I don’t have to deal with tolls, traffic, and parking, it’s worth it.

The theater itself is well-signed and located smack in the middle of Times Square, so it’s easy to get to (short walk from the PABT and nine subway lines) and fits right in, but it’s also located smack in the middle of Times By God Tourist Hell Square. You don’t go to Times Square unless (a) you work there or (b) it’s just before sunrise and nothing’s open.

Or you’re there for a concert.

The Fillmore, Philadelphia, PA
[There for: Frank Turner, January 2017]

Whenever I go to Philly I drive to one of the stations on the R5 (yes, I still call it that) and take the Regional Rail in. $14, round trip, plus $1 in quarters for parking if you’re there on a weekday. When I was there to see Frank I didn’t get back to the station until around 1 am, which brought no small amount of wondering precisely when one “day” ticked over into another in SEPTA Parking Land (even though this was late Friday night and Regional Rail parking is free on the weekend).

The R5’s off-peak frequency isn’t completely execrable at 2 tph but it ain’t turn-up-and-go, either. From Suburban Station, though, it’s a walk through the still somewhat gloomy pedestrian concourse to the 14th Street MFL station. The MFL, meanwhile, is delightfully frequent.

The Fillmore, a six-minute walk from the Girard MFL station, is separated from the rest of Fishtown by I-95 and way too much parking. In a better world those lots would still have homes and businesses on them. Many of the other people there for the show were also from the suburbs, and I was shocked and dismayed by how many of them drove in. Somewhat ironically…

Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, MD
[There for: Feed Me and deadmau5, April 2017]

Columbia, halfway between Baltimore and Washington, currently has no rail transit to speak of, and I can’t speak one way or the other about the frequency of the local buses because I drove there. The Pavilion is five to ten uneasy minutes’ walk from the mall and is surrounded by edge-city office buildings and the parking garages for those office buildings. What I’m saying is Columbia isn’t exactly walker friendly.

Naturally, access to Merriweather is autocentric, and here’s where things get interesting. When you buy your ticket on the website, you have to select which parking lot you want to reserve a space in. Problem is, 90% of Merriweather’s parking is actually parking for the surrounding office buildings (and thus not actually signed as Lot 4 or Lot 6 except on removable signs and banners), and because of that I wasn’t sure now they’d enforce having a space reserved, or whether I’d have issues because the time on my parking pass said 5:30 and I pulled in at 2:00. In addition, the lot I parked in actually isn’t one lot, but three separate garages sharing one office complex between them, something I wish the website made clearer. As a consequence, during the show I had this constant worry in the back of my head about whether I’d go back to my car and discover it had been ticketed or towed.

What I’m essentially saying here is that taking transit to concerts is awesome and driving to concerts is for the birds.

Posted in baltimore, new york city, philadelphia, Uncategorized, urbanism, washington dc | Leave a comment

A List

I’ve got a serious case of Mapper’s Block, so let’s list the rapid transit stations that can get away with having park-n-ride lots.

Any station with a park-n-ride facility not listed here would be better served by replacing the lot with shops and apartments and beefing up the local bus network to compensate. The list of cities is not exhaustive, but the list of stations within each city is. Although it’s not objectionable for these stations to have some manner of park-n-ride facility on the property, this doesn’t mean that aforesaid station can’t or shouldn’t be made more inviting or accessible to pedestrians, Quincy Adams. In addition, the thing most of these stations have in common should suggest who these park-n-ride lots should be for, namely, tourists.

  • Boston: Alewife, Oak Grove, Riverside, Quincy Adams
  • New York City: None
  • Philadelphia: None
  • Baltimore: Hunt Valley, Owings Mills, North Linthicum
  • Washington: Greenbelt, Shady Grove, Wiehle [until SV Phase 2 is complete], Vienna, Franconia-Springfield, Largo
  • Atlanta: Dunwoody, Doraville, Indian Creek, Hamilton E Holmes, College Park
  • Miami: Palmetto, Dadeland South
  • Chicago: Dempster/Skokie, Rosemont, Forest Park [or: None, if riding Metra doesn’t completely suck]
  • San Francisco: Pittsburg, Richmond, Dublin
  • Los Angeles: Norwalk, Chatsworth, APU
Posted in Uncategorized, urbanism | Leave a comment

Several More Things Make A Post


I’m working on the LA map, honest.


Anybody who knows King of Prussia knows that Phillymag piece breathlessly lauding the pleasant town-centerey redevelopment of that golf course as proof KoP is finally, finally getting a soul is complete baloney.

For starters, the development itself: it’s another phony town-center mall surrounded by an ocean of parking, except scaled up a bit and walled off from the outside world by that horrific 422/76/276/202 freeway interchange. It’s not even well-served by transit (3 bph—at peak!—on two routes that only touch the outskirts, and an NHSL extension that’ll avoid it entirely if it ever gets built). Even if it’s the most walkable suburban development on earth, it’ll still be inaccessible for anyone who wants to get there without a car.

In addition, it doesn’t matter what anyone says. The center of King of Prussia is, and always will be, the mall. And the King of Prussia Mall has all the human-scaled, walkable charm of a major international airport…that is itself surrounded by parking. You can’t even begin to rhapsodize about how KoP is becoming a Big Boy City until you replace almost all of the parking surrounding the mall with shops, offices, and apartments, and compensate for the loss of all that sweet car storage by not just building the NHSL extension but also substantially beefing up the local bus network.

Or, put more bluntly: King of Prussia won’t be a real city until it becomes impossible to drive there.


As I’ve said several times: the key to understanding Trump and Trumpism is to realize that Trump has the same casually racist mentality of a white rural contractor or car mechanic.* Talk to any of these people, if you can without barfing or flying into a rage, and the common theme is that they’re all bent out of shape because Obama gave the appearance of being the first president to not focus exclusively on them and their precious feelings for eight years.** This is why they saw even Obama’s meagre, almost toothless attempts at correcting racial injustice as an existential threat: because for all their talk about Racism Against Whites and White Genocide and other such things, they are, in fact, acutely aware of their white privilege, but see it as a natural extension of how the world ought to be.*** Their anger at being called racist stems not from an ignorance of white privilege, but a refusal to believe that white privilege (and, of course, the white supremacy that produces it) could possibly be a bad thing.

Chaffetz’ comments about people having to choose between a new iPhone and paying for health care was more than just a repackaged Welfare Queen dogwhistle. This was a call to support Trumpcare because even if you suffer, the systematic discrimination of people of color will not just remain intact but be reinforced, and Chaffetz is betting that’s what white people think really matters.

*This, then, means that all those pith-helmeted anthropological expeditions to places like Youngstown, meant to gin up coastal sympathy for these poor, put-upon fascists and fascist-adjacent people, missed the point entirely.

**A common refrain: “Obama only got elected because all those black people voted for him.” The line between those comments and Trump’s claim of widespread voter fraud in diverse D states need not be stated explicitly.

***They’ll deny it, and they won’t use those terms, but peel away the thin surface layer of I-don’t-care-if-you’re-white-black-green-or-purple fake colorblindness and it’s there.

Posted in philadelphia, social justice, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Three Things Make A Post

Or: reactions to things I’ve been seeing on Twitter this past week that demand something other than a Twitter-length response.


Lisa Schweitzer made a post about Measure S in LA and how a particular argument from the YIMBY folks is, er, more than a little counterproductive.

I don’t believe the YIMBY/NIMBY framing itself is particularly illuminating, as there’s no distinction made between whether what’s going in the back yard will drive local property values up or down, but let’s set that aside for the moment. The point is when what most people can see of your movement, regardless of its rights or wrongs, is a bunch of middle-class libertarian wonks barfing up simplistic Econ 101 talking points, your movement has a PR problem. If I live in a lower-middle-class neighborhood and see a shiny new condo tower or art gallery or some other Pricey Thing go up in my street, I begin to seriously wonder if I’ll be able to afford to live there in the next few years. What might be a sign of growth for you is a harbinger of doom for me. And if your response to those concerns is to act indignant that I’m not gratefully swallowing your Econ 101 talking points, to either lump me in with the rich idiots in Chevy Chase or mock my progressive bona fides or shove more Econ 101 stuff down my throat, your movement has a serious PR problem.

Because that’s all this is; PR. And you, in your infinite wisdom, are godawful at it. Average rent figures mean nothing to me. Neither does the promise that all those condo towers will actually be affordable in several generations’ time. I, the hypothetical LA resident at risk of displacement, want to know what your solution will do for me now, in 2017. Point is, the anti-S/YIMBY side would do well to actually address (not dismiss!) the concerns of people worried about getting pushed out of their homes and come up with a solution that doesn’t favor, you know, middle-class libertarian wonks. Some people are doing that already—I’ve been hearing stuff about public housing, dingbats, and subdividing larger lots—but that’s by no means the angle most people are taking right now.

As for where I stand on Measure S personally: if I lived in Los Angeles I’d abstain.


For a look at how things will go within the Democratic Party if Keith Ellison becomes DNC Chair, one need look no further than the slow motion train wreck that is the UK Labour Party under Corbyn.

To wit: if Ellison becomes DNC chair, the D establishment will then focus all their time and energy on, at best, making sure he isn’t able to actually influence anything, and at worst, oust him in a coup. They will, in essence, treat Ellison with the exact same respect Republicans treated Obama. This very visible internal discord will turn off any Democrat-leaning independents, not because of any distaste for the man at the top, but because they look at the Democratic Party as a whole and quite rightly see a paralyzed, dysfunctional trash heap that’s manifestly unfit for purpose. This isn’t Ellison’s fault, to be perfectly clear, this is the fault of the tantrum-throwing toddlers on top, but that doesn’t mean the dilemma isn’t there.

Here, then, are the Democrats’ options: elect another empty corporate suit as DNC chair and watch the pro-Ellison people stay home in 2018, or elect Ellison as DNC chair, have the party tear itself apart (read: have eighteen solid months of D Establishment obstructionism, sabotage, and subterfuge), and watch the independents stay home in 2018. Either way, the Democrats’ self-destruction will continue.

You could also purge the D establishment with extreme prejudice, so they have no impact whatsoever on policy from this moment forward. Just sayin’.

[UPDATE: Welp, looks like they went with the empty corporate suit. Great job, guys, hope you enjoy your continuing slide into irrelevance. Doesn’t mean burning the party’s right wing to ashes and then burning the ashes and then salting the earth so nothing can grow from the ashes isn’t still a good idea.]


This is at the bottom because it’s more petulant whining at my lack of foresight than anything else.

Yesterday I discovered the Denver RTD’s new in-car strip map looks an awful lot like my redesign of the network from 2015. While I’ll admit that it’s possible the person who designed that thing hit upon the same solutions I did independently (the routing of the A and B lines and the configuration of Union Station are different), it still really feels like someone at RTD looked at my map, ganked the actual route lines, and modified the thing to fit the RTD’s internal house style and the actual network as it exists in 2017 (and…not very well, to be honest).

Now, to be fair, my map’s been floating around the internet for some time and I have a nasty habit of not posting copyright notices on my stuff, but…it’s literally the fourth entry on the Google Image search for “Denver transit map,” and the site the image links to is the map’s review on the Transit Maps Tumblr, which review (a) attributes the map to me, and (b) has a link to this blog!

So, uh…RTD…despite the lack of attribution in the map itself, it’s not hard to find the source, so, uh, you couldn’t have asked first? It really wouldn’t have been that hard.

(I’m also peeved because I was planning on tweaking the map to address Cameron’s recommendations and selling it as a poster, and I don’t want RTD sueing me.)

Posted in denver, los angeles, maps, Uncategorized, urbanism | Leave a comment

San Diego / Tijuana Crayon Map


What DHS and the Border Patrol did to Friendship Park was a crime, for the record.

A test run for the design language I’ll use for the LA map, which if it wasn’t obvious is basically Metro’s in-house design language by way of Steve Boland and Kriston Lewis, here forced to do things it clearly wasn’t built to do, like show routes with more than two services running on them. The San Diego Trolley extensions are sourced from Wikipedia. The Tijuana LRT Line 1 comes from the current BRT plan for the city, and the other lines are based off what I assume is/was the city’s long-term rapid transit plan. The San Diego streetcar network implied but not shown here comes from this map. Other notes:

  • TJ’s starter BRT line, which so far as I can tell is caught in development hell, really should run down literally anywhere except a freeway straddling a river.
  • Likewise, whose bright idea was it to configure the tracks at 12th & Imperial such that the only viable service options with anything resembling decent headways are north to south and north to east. Not very flexible, that.
  • Consequently, there are bits in San Diego where there are three trolley services shoved onto two tracks, which makes for some rather horrible peak headways (which, yes, I know are the current peak headways on the actual Blue Line right now, that’s not something to be proud of) and tons of underutilized track.
  • A map detailing regional/intercity services will come with the LA thing. There’s something almost The-City-and-the-City-esque about two different services for the national rail networks of two different countries running along the same physical tracks but sharing no stations between them. (I think we can also safely assume this US somehow isn’t near as paranoid about immigration if something like that can even happen in the first place.)
  • I know absolutely nothing about Tijuanans’ mental map of their city, so I have no idea if a lot of those station names would mean anything to anyone.
  • As always with crayon maps, I make no claims about how viable any of this is in real life—probably not very—and is generally more of an exercise in imagining what our cities’ transit networks would look like if we as a nation weren’t actively hostile to the concept of transit to begin with.
Posted in san diego, tijuana, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Tale of Misery, Woe, and Elusive Contactless Farecards

Last month, I went down to Philly for the day. This isn’t exciting in and of itself—I live in the suburbs, so I go to Philly fairly often—except most of the time I wash up somewhere in Center City, so I basically never have reason to use anything other than Regional Rail. This time, however, I was in town for a concert at the Fillmore…outside Center City, five minutes’ walk from the Girard MFL* station in Fishtown. So I said to myself, self, today might be a good day to get a Septa Key.

So, like any good tourist, I checked the Septa website to see what’s going on with the rollout. I was aware it wasn’t completed yet, that you can only get new cards at certain places…one of which, it turned out, was Suburban Station. However, the website was considerably more vague on what options were available, and where. In addition, it didn’t look like it had been updated since fall of last year, so I then had concerns that the information on the website no longer accurately reflected the on-the-ground reality. Nevertheless, in my ignorance, I figured I would be able to get a Septa Key card with a wallet that day.

Upon arrival at the Suburban Station sales office, I asked the nice person behind the counter for a card. “Weekly or monthly?” she asked.

“One of the ones with the wallet?” I said.

“Not here. They’re at 1234 Market Street.”

So I went to 1234, had the same conversation with the gentleman there. Turns out, he said, there aren’t any Keys with wallets there, either, and a weekly pass is $24. Which, given how often I’m on the subway, would come to $8 a ride for me. So I gave up and went to Fishtown using tokens.


  • Their first mistake was marketing the Travel Wallet as a Special Feature and the Weekly/Monthly pass as the default. This is literally the opposite of how the civilized world does it. The Octopus Card in Hong Kong and Pasmo in Tokyo, for example, have what we’d call the Travel Wallet as the default and don’t treat it as anything special, just How Contactless Farecards Are Supposed To Work, and I think the Septa Key people’s failure to understand that meant the current [thoroughly avoidable] teething problems were pretty much inevitable.
  • Consequently, they should have rolled out the wallet first and the weekly/monthly passes later.
  • Information about what options are available where shouldn’t be buried deep in the website on a chart or an FAQ, it should be on a scrolling headline thing right on the septakey.org front page.
  • The information on septakey.org should clearly be current. When something that happened in August is referred to using the future tense, I begin to think what you’re saying is outdated.
  • This will likely be rolled out later, but you should be able to get a fresh Key using one of the vending machines. The machines at 15th, 8th, and 5th Streets only allowed for reloading an existing card.
  • As of today, you can get a fresh Key at 69th Street without having to buy a pass. I think. For a while I heard conflicting reports about that one.
  • This ship has long sailed, yes, but I still feel stupid calling it Septa Key. They should have branded it the Liberty Card when they had the chance. Reflects Philly’s role in American pop-history; nice mirror of PATCO’s Freedom Card, and so forth.

*Aside: that we’ve decided to shorten the names of our subway lines to “BSL” and “MFL” never ceases to amuse my inner puerile twelve-year-old.

Posted in my life, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Tokyo Railway Map, v. 2.0

[Note: due to the map’s size, I’ve done something a little different with the embed this time. The pdf version is here, and the png version is here. A pdf download from Cloudup is available here. Thanks again to Richard Archambault for helping me sort this out!]

Here it is. After six long months, here it finally is. Thank God.

I’m not going to sit here and pretend like drawing this was a pleasurable experience. Around a quarter of the way through Inkscape started seriously groaning under the weight of what is quite possibly the biggest transit map I’ve ever made, and from that point on my only motivation for finishing this damn thing was the satisfaction of getting it out of my head once and for all. Not that I’m unhappy with how it turned out, of course, but if I ever say I’m doing another Tokyo map I want you to reach across the Internet and deck me.

There. Histrionics over. Now then:

This is a map of the massive railway network centering on Tokyo, but also with (hopefully) every project ever proposed for the area since about 2010. Some of them are actively being worked on (Sotetsu/JR through link), some are proposed (new subway line to Odaiba), some are dormant (Metro Seven/Eight Liner, which if built will use a different technology that won’t allow the through-running with the Tokyu Tamagawa Line here depicted), some are dead (Kawasaki Municipal Subway), some are ideas some planner randomly tossed out in a meeting at some point and never seriously proposed (passenger service along the Musashino South Line). I also included bus links to airports and Shinkansen stations that weren’t directly connected to the railway network. It didn’t matter to me what the status of each idea was, if it was floated, it went in, because the goal here was to be The Last Railway Map Tokyo Would Ever Need.

The thing is that when I draw a map like this, I want it to be good for 20+ years, which can be a bit difficult when your city has a boatload of projects in the pipeline (cf. the Seoul and Paris maps, which are already out of date), so for this one I just threw in everything and the kitchen sink and the plumbing attached to the kitchen sink, just to be sure. 

Thanks especially to David Edmondson, Richard Archambault, Cameron Booth, Bernie Ng, Luke Bonnet, Emily, and anyone else who I’ve interacted with about this project on social media or in real life. Next big project will probably be a crayon map of Los Angeles.

Posted in maps, tokyo, Uncategorized | 3 Comments