Transit Network Design Course

“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 one or two days. Longer versions can be developed on request. About 60% 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.

Recent Sessions

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

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

Auckland, NZ.  Two sessions in Nov-Dec 2013, sponsored by MRCagney consulting.

Portland, February and April 2013.

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

Australian Capital Territory Government, Canberra, Australia.  Two-day course for transport and land use planning staff across the territorial (city) government, October 2012.

University of Technology Sydney.  Sydney, Australia.  Two-day course for transport and land use professionals, March and October 2012.

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

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

TransLink in Vancouver, British Columbia.  Two-day session for internal staff, mostly not transit planners but those in adjacent fields including operations and marketing, in June 2011.

Simon Fraser University.  Surrey, British Columbia.  Two-day session for the public as part of City Program (continuing education),  June 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]