April 26, 2018, 12:00PM (ET)

To Predict with Confidence, Plan for Freedom

What will urban transportation be like in 10-20 years? How will automated vehicles interact with social and cultural trends to define the city of tomorrow? Will the vehicles of the future be owned or shared? How will pricing evolve to motivate behavior? What will happen to public mass transit? What other innovations can we expect that will transform the landscape?

This presentation, which is merely the outline of a larger argument, suggests three interconnected answers

  • We can’t possibly know. History has always been unpredictable, punctuated with shocks, but if the pace of change is accelerating, then unpredictability may be increasing too.
  • We can reach many strong conclusions without knowing. A surprising number of facts about transportation, including some fairly counterintuitive insights that would be transformative if widely understood, can be described and justified solidly with little or no empirical ground, because they are matters of geometry and physics or of nearly axiomatic principles of biology.
  • Prediction may not be what matters anyway. If we abandoned hope of predicting the future, we could still describe a compelling outcome of transportation investment, one that motivates many people who will never care about a ridership prediction or economic impact analysis. We could also predict it in the sense that we can predict the continued value of pi. That idea is freedom, as transportation expands or reduces it.

This presentation will discuss the main points of an article published in the Journal of Public Transportation.

Presenter: Jarrett Walker, Jarrett Walker + Associates

Jarrett Walker, Ph.D. is an international consultant in public transit network design and policy, with 25 years of experience planning public transit in North America, Europe, Russia, Australia, and New Zealand.  His firm Jarrett Walker and Associates, based in Portland, Oregon, provides transit planning and executive advice to clients worldwide.

His book Human Transit was published by Island Press in 2011.  The book offers an introduction to transit issues for the average reader, designed to help anyone form clearer views that reflect their own values.  In addition to his consulting, teaching, and speaking, he writes about public transit issues at HumanTransit.org.



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