Transportist 3000

Statistics tell me that I have now posted 3000 times to the Transportist (Transportationist) in its various forms, excluding posts by colleagues. I suspect the actual number is not quite right given deletions and repostings, but it’s close enough.

This also more or less marks 10 and a half years of regular blogging. Ten years is a long time. Ten years ago two of my children did not exist. Ten years ago I was in London. Ten years ago, the iPhone did not exist. Ten years ago Facebook was small but growing fast, MySpace was a passing fad, and Twitter was launching. Ten years ago, driverless cars were science fiction instead of in test-mode, and hybrid EV cars were set to rise significantly. Oil prices were rising, peak oil was around the corner, fracking wasn’t really a big thing, and the global financial meltdown had yet to take place.

I am not entirely sure why I started a blog at all. But I did it then and not earlier because I had tenure, and could at least risk pissing off some people without serious danger to career. Sure, it probably excluded me from elective politics, or better, from appointed positions, but I didn’t really want that.

The first real post on this blog (excluding back-dated retro-blogging posts thoroughly investigated by SEC, and the generic “welcome” post) was April 29, 2006: What is a transportationist? Reprinting it in full:

From my book with Bill Garrison The Transportation Experience:
An important thing we did learn was not to think of ourselves as transportation geographers, or transportation engineers, or transportation planners, or transportation policy analysts, or transportation economists, but rather, to coin a term, “transportationists”. The study of transportation is sufficiently interdisciplinary to warrant a discipline of its own. The movement of people and goods across networks over time and space is the unifying object of study. The central research questions in transportation concern what moves, why and how people and goods move, how networks operate, how the interaction of travelers and shippers and carriers and networks shape behaviors, how networks are (or should be) built and paid for and so on.
While in our forthcoming book Place and Plexus Kevin Krizek and I write:
We are transportationists. This means we are interested in understanding the transportation system holistically. While we both have training as transportation planners, transportation policy analysts, transportation engineers, and transportation economists, it is the subject of transportation (and in this book, its inter-relationship with location or land use) that is of interest. 
The key is thus what has traditionally been called “interdisciplinarity” in transportation, but may alternatively be viewed as redefining the discipline to be transportation-centered.
— dml

I think we are slowly moving in this direction. In practice, the transport non-engineers are beginning to get more technical and thus taken more seriously, the transport engineers are beginning to appreciate the value of things like the values embedded in their equations. Education remains a trailing indicator. Infrastructure changes slowly, as do professional paradigms.

The blog itself served various purposes over time:

  • Interesting links and news in the field (though this has mostly migrated to Twitter and the newsletter)
  • Announcements
  • What I am doing / have done
  • My longer form takes on the history, state, and trajectory of transport, which has led to 2 books at this point: The End of Traffic and Future of Transport and Spontaneous Access and two more in process: Elements of Access and The Political Economy of Access.

I don’t know if it has made much difference in the world. It’s hard to say ‘butfor’ the transportist blog, this would or would not exist. It did lead to And gets results. I also want to claim credit for the LRT running on a Washington Avenue closed to traffic (rather than in a tunnel, on a northern alignment, or on a Washington Avenue with traffic), but I don’t think the blog gets the credit per se, it was just too obvious, though of course the world misses many obvious things. More likely, it subtly influenced people about various things, moved the Overton window on some issues, and got some people interested in things that they would not have otherwise been interested.

Since I migrated to WordPress in mid 2013 there have been over 200,000 views. Which might amount to more than 200,000 minutes (or 3,333 hours), which is a human work year and a half. That’s an adequate Return on Investment, it didn’t take that long to write.  Google Analytics on the old site (Moveable Type, UMN Library hosted) gave me 55,339 views from October 2010 to mid 2013. Working backwards from that, at ~20,000 views per year before, there were probably another 80,000 views or so before I started tracking.

I don’t think this was the first transport blog, but there were a lot fewer, and most have not survived. I did once get a lot more invitations to events as “media” and offers to advertise on my blog than I do now. SEO has changed over time.

Anyway, it’s more reach than if I kept my virtual mouth shut and just muttered at my computer about how people are wrong on the Internet.