Jarrett Walker is an international consultant in transit network design and policy, and was one of the designers of Auckland Transport’s new bus network.
As lead speaker at the Auckland Conversations event Transport Planning as Freedom Planning on 22 November at the Grand Millennium Hotel in Auckland, Jarrett will explain why he loves transport so much and how he goes about designing public transport networks.
We talked to Jarrett about his passion for designing better public transport systems.
What keeps you excited about this work?
I love it when people feel free. In a city, there's not enough room for everyone's car, so public transport has to offer freedom. It has to be useful to go more places, sooner, so you have more opportunities in your life. Those are the projects, like Auckland’s new network, that I love working on.
What cities do you think Auckland can learn the most from?
Vancouver is probably the most impressive system in a city that's comparable to Auckland. It pioneered driverless rail and has a huge frequent bus network including many electric trolley buses. Vancouver is much denser, but it's only become dense in the last few decades, by choice. They build towers around rapid rail and bus stations so that lots of people can use the great access those places provide.
What's a city that's improved public transport especially quickly?
Auckland! I talk about it all over the world. When I started working there a decade ago, Auckland had the worst public transport on the Pacific Rim, by all kinds of measures. The buses were utterly disorganised, all crowding into the city centre at 8am but not useful for most other trips around the city. The rail lines were often too infrequent to be worth waiting for. And of course, rail didn't go into the city centre at all. Now all that's changed or changing. It's an impressive advance in such a short time!
What do you like about working in New Zealand?
I love it. Kiwis are so practical. They don't get distracted by fads as much as others do. And the regional governments are the right size to solve problems.
What's the next big thing?
Same as the last big thing: The bus. While it's great that you have rail projects going on, the fixed route bus is the thing that can go where it's needed, providing freedom and opportunity to lots of people while making efficient use of space. Nothing you can do with small vehicles will match it. Getting the bus right is the most important thing a transport authority can do, and your new network is a great start.
To learn more and to register to hear Jarrett and a local panel with transport, design and planning connections, visit Auckland Conversations.
If you can’t make it on the night, you watch the livestream online.