The Blog: My blog, my rules, my shifting interests. It started as a travel blog way back when; then I got Inkscape. Now I mostly use it to post transit maps.

The Man: Theo Ditsek is the alias of an aspiring travel writer/photographer/transit map designer who previously lived in Australia, Indiana, and Hong Kong. Right now he’s based in a suburb of Philadelphia, home to the best commuter rail system in the country. I know. I know. I’m scared, too.

Statement of Transit Planning Philosophy: In no particular order:

  • If you’re not willing to commit fully to a project, don’t commit at all. It’s all or nothing. Don’t ultimately give us terrible service because so much of the project is expendable.
  • Corollary: the cheapest alignment/mode is always the worst.
  • SEPTA is the best commuter rail network in the nation. The Washington Metro is the best rapid transit network in the nation. This should depress you.
  • There is no reason a new subway line should cost a billion dollars per mile. And it certainly isn’t because of the unions.
  • All new tram and (frequent) mainline rail lines should be double-tracked. No exceptions.
  • BRT does not equal “express bus without 24/7 dedicated lanes.”
  • You can fit an entire European town center in the Greenbelt Metro park-n-ride lot. Guess which would be a better use of that space.
  • The Kansai region of Japan is about as dense as New Jersey. There is no reason we can’t do here what they can do there.
  • Phase One of your project or network should not be a downtown circulator or serve an inconvenient/sprawly/generally not dense area or go from Point A to nowhere or just generally be The Cheapest Possible Option. Your long-term plan will only come to fruition if people actually use it.
  • The Washington Metro may have opened with five stations, but it would serve large, dense chunks of DC and Arlington just eighteen months later.
  • Transit should not be used as a way for rich people to colonize poor districts. With an increase in transit access comes an increase in property values. This is bad.
  • More generally, transit should not be a front in the class war. You are not done planning, designing, and engineering until you can answer the question “will this project inconvenience or disenfranchise poor people?” with a resounding, unequivocal no.
  • If you can’t justify at least 2 or 3 tph off-peak service on your new commuter rail line, or moving toward that goal in the very near term through (for example) double-tracking, you can’t justify having a commuter rail line.
  • BRT/trams must have signal priority. Always.
  • Likewise, if you can’t justify at least 4 tph off-peak service on your new rapid transit/tram line, you can’t justify having a rapid transit/tram line.
  • When branding your contactless farecard, give it a name that doesn’t sound stupid when used in the sentence “I have to go refill my _____.”
  • Don’t name your new service anything twee or kitschy. I get an aneurysm every time I see or hear the words “All Aboard Florida.” The tram in Phoenix gets by just fine as the “Metro Light Rail.” Litmus test: when used in the sentence “I have to take the ______ downtown,” does it sound stupid?
  • When in doubt, learn from France, Germany, and Japan. I cringe every time I hear planners sing their praises of Latin America, not b/c Latin America has nothing to offer us, but because I know they’re learning the wrong lessons from what they do there.
  • Don’t put rail lines in freeway medians.
  • Don’t make your contactless smartcard too complicated. Octopus works because it’s basically a standalone debit card that’s not connected to a bank account or online profile.
  • The number of routes that can fit on a certain heavy rail/light rail line is equal to the number of tracks on that line.
  • Segregate passenger commuter rail services from freight whenever possible. Corollary: be like the Shinkansen: separate high-speed rail services from regular rail services whenever possible.
  • Don’t wring dry people who use your airport rail link. Airport staff have to commute to work, too. There is no reason a trip from Midtown Manhattan to JFK Airport should cost $8.
  • The experience of the driver takes precedence over the experience of the passenger. The trains running on time is not worth putting your drivers through hell.
  • Finally, give me plenty of reasons to use transit. Don’t give me plenty of reasons not to.

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