Transit Network Design Course

How to bring the course to your city

“Awesome! Clear and challenging!”Transit Network Design Course Exercise 1

“Well done! Would like to see this course widely advertised to municipal staffs.”

“Excellent instructor. A lot of information with a high degree of clarity.”

“Inexcusably fun!” 

Who’s it For?

“Transit Network Design: an Interactive Short Course” is designed to give anyone a grasp of how network design works, so that they can form more confident and resilient opinions about transit proposals.

The course is ideal for people who interact with transit planning in their work but don’t necessarily do it themselves — including land use planners, urban designers, developers, traffic engineers, sustainability advocates, transit employees of all kinds, and people who work on transportation or urban policy generally.   Advocates who want to be more realistic and effective will also find the course valuable, especially as a companion to my book Human Transit.

This course fills a critical gap in many people’s training.   It offers a fun, hands-on way of learning what makes an effective transit network, and what those insights mean for all the related professions.  Sadly, few graduate programs teach this material in a compelling interactive format.

Past offerings of the course — across the US, Canada, and Australia — have included everyone from transit operations staff to elected officials, as well as planners and advocates from the wide range of concerns broadly known as “urbanism” or “sustainability.”  All these perspectives have found the course both fun and valuable.

How Does it Work?

Most professional training in transit will teach you about quantifying demand, understanding statistics about what transit achieves, studying the features of the various transit technologies, and seeing hTransit Network Design Course Exercise 2ow transit relates to other goals for governments, individuals,and businesses.

All that is valuable, but there’s a critical piece missing: Few people get hands-on experience working with transit as a tool, understanding how to use this tool to build a transit network. Learning to think creatively with these tools is the essence of transit planning, and of transit-related planning of anything else.  If you’re going to interact with transit in any way — as a planner, a developer, an advocate, an elected official — you’ll make better decisions if you’ve played with network design a little, so that you have a feel for how the transit tool works.  This course is designed to give you exactly that taste.

I believe in teaching transit planning the way you’d teach carpentry.  A good carpentry class might involve a lecture about the structure of wood and how to not kill yourself with a saw, but after that, you’ll only learn carpentry by doing it.

The course is a built around a series of exercises where students work together to design transit networks for a fictional city, based on its geography and a set of cost limitations.  The exercises let students learn the basic tools and materials by actually working with them to develop creative solutions to a series of planning problems.  You’ll remember what you learn in this course because you’ll have discovered it yourself, and formed your own insights about it.

Issues covered include network design, frequency, right-of-way, basic operations costing, and interactions with urban form. This course is well suited for professionals, students, community leaders and local government staff.

The course is done in intensive format covering two consecutive days. Longer versions can be developed on request. About 70% of class time is in interactive exercises, while most of the rest consists of group discussion based on the results of the interactive work.

What Graduates Have Said

For tabulations of recent exit questionnaires, showing the overall evaluation of the course, see here.

“Jarrett Walker’s two day transit network design class explores the intricacy of designing transit networks, touching on elements ranging from maximizing the utility of a strained, underfunded bus system to planning high capacity bus and rail lines.  This is the kind of modern design that transit agencies should be using to attract new ridership.”  – Mike Cechvala

“The actual design of the games was fascinating and would be a very useful exercise for any transit system to employ in a variety of situations.” — Christopher MacKechnie,

“One of the most useful and practical transit planning courses I’ve come across, and thoroughly enjoyable too.”  – Stuart Johns, Queensland Dept. of Transport and Main Roads (Australia)

Future Sessions

See here for advice on how you can help bring the course to your city, and also about how organizations can sponsor or co-sponsor the course.

Where Has it Happened?

The course has been offered over 20 times in a range of commercial, university, and transit agency settings:

Auckland, NZ.  2015, internal session for Auckland Transport and City of Auckland staff, with MRCagney consulting.

Portland in 2014 (Jarrett Walker + Associates offering with assistance from TriMet)

Vancouver 2014, two internal sessions for TransLink (transit agency) and municipal staffs.

Toronto 2014 two internal sessions for Metrolinx staff.

Toronto 2014, sponsored by Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA).

Brisbane 2014, public offering through MRCagney consulting.

Melbourne 2014, public offering through MRCagney consulting.

New York 2014, co-sponsored by the Transit Center.

Wellington, NZ. Internal session of New Zealand Transport Agency staff in Dec 2013.

Portland, 2013 (Jarrett Walker + Associates offering)

Washington DC, January 2013, co-sponsored by Transportation Demand Management Institute (TDMI).

Canberra, Australia 2012  Two sessions of course for transport and land use planning staff across the territorial (city) government.

Sydney 2o12.   Course for transport and land use professionals, Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology Sydney.

Victoria, British Columbia, 2011.  Two-day session for internal BC Transit staff, mostly not transit planners but in adjacent fields including operations and marketing.

Seattle.  2011 One-day session for internal Sound Transit staff, in planning and related fields.

Vancouver 2011, internal courses for TransLink (transit agency) and bus operations staffs.

Surrey, British Columbia 2011.  Simon Fraser University City Program.  Two-day session for the public.

Halifax 2011.  Licensed Professional Planners Association of Nova Scotia, in association with Halifax Regional Municipality and Dalhousie University.  One-day session for municipal planning staffs in June 2011.

[Photos above: Heather Ternoway, Dalhousie University, Halifax]