“Spend a little time with the book’s meticulously detailed maps, and you’ll see what he means. Metros like Seattle; Portland, Oregon; Salt Lake City, Utah; and even El Paso, Texas, connect their densest residential and employment centers with bus or train lines that run at least every 15 minutes during the week—exactly the metrics, in Spieler’s opinion, that should be used to judge a system. (Some cities publish data on route frequency online. Others don’t, so Spieler sometimes found himself manually searching through their transit schedules, charting how often a train or bus route makes its run.)”

Intricate maps reveal what US public transit get wrong — and right.” - Aarian Marshall, November 3, 2018


Transit planners, elected representatives, and transportation enthusiasts should all find something to love or learn in this honest and expansive status report. Most of all, Spieler hopes the book helps demystify the basics of sound decision-making. “We often treat transit like a highly technical and complicated set of choices,” he said. “But what makes it good is pretty straightforward. It’s about where to put a service, and what to prioritize about it.”

A U.S. Transit Atlas That Ranks the Best (and Worst) Cities for Bus and Rail.” - Laura Bliss, November 28, 2018

Mobility Lab

“Those who love the minutia of how individual cities handle transit will return time and again to the heart of the book: detailed discussions of the top 47 transit systems in the United States.  Perhaps even more useful, though, are the introductory sections and the conclusion, which provide invaluable advice for improving our country’s at times poorly conceived, under-funded, and under-utilized transit systems.”

“The Atlas is smartly organized.  Each section shows logos for all transit agencies in that location, rates each individual system, such as a specific bus network or a commuter rail, as high performing, low performing, or in between, and includes two maps, one showing the overall transit system and the second breaking down frequent transit availability, showing population and proximity. It even shows gaps where coverage is lacking, as is invariable for even the best system.  Finally, the book includes a thoughtful and detailed discussion of the history and capacity of each system, as well as assessing its strengths and weaknesses.”

New book from pioneer of Houston’s bus redesign is a transit wonk’s bible, “ Ethan Goffman, November 26, 2018

Talking Headways podcast

“This week we’re joined once again by Christof Spieler who recently wrote a new book, “Trains, Buses, People.” Christof talks about how transit isn’t a mystery and we all know what makes it work. But ultimately we’re not having the right conversations. We also review Christof’s time on the Houston Metro board and why it’s important to have people who ride the bus and think about it all the time as a part of the agency discussion.”

Talking Headways Podcast: Trains, Buses, People,” with Jeff Wood, December 20, 2018

Human Transit

“But it’s the third part, the atlas, that will really suck you in.  For the 50 largest metro areas in the US that have rail or Bus Rapid Transit (that’s everything bigger than Fort Collins, Colorado or Eugene, Oregon) he provides a loving description of the city’s network, its demand pattern, its recent history, and its issues.  Denizens of each city may disagree with what Spieler chooses to emphasize, but he certainly will start a lively conversation, not just within cities but about the comparisons between them.”

“An “Opinionated Atlas” of US Transit by a Great Transit Traveler,” Jarrett Walker,  on December 14, 2018

Mental Floss

“Trains, Buses, People: An Opinionated Atlas of U.S. Transit, a new release from Island Press, is undoubtedly a book for transit nerds. But everyone else could learn a little something from it, too. In just a few quick visuals, it's able to distill why transit use is common in some big cities in the U.S., while in others, people are chained to their cars.”

America's Best and Worst Cities for Public Transit,” Shauncy Ferro, Dec 10, 2018



“You should start with saying, “This is the kind of service we want to provide,” and see what technology can do that, rather than start by saying, “Here, we have this new technology, what could it be good for?” The technology isn’t the goal; it’s the service.”

The best and worst cities in America for public transportation, according to an urban planner,” Aditi Shrikant, Dec 7, 2018

Philadelphia Inquirer

“Christof Spieler, a former board member of Houston's transit authority, has a book out this year, Trains, Buses, and People: An Opinionated Atlas of US Transit, which looks at America's transportation networks with an eye to what works and what doesn't. Spieler was a driving force behind a major bus network redesign in Houston, which is serving as a model for a redesign now underway in Philadelphia. Houston's work was so influential that SEPTA hired the same consultant, Jarrett Walker.”

Philly transit has great bones but could offer better service, one expert says,” Jason Laughlin, November 24, 2018

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“Everybody who uses bus service has the right to a good ride,” he said. “We should be aiming service for everybody. Valuing everybody is really important for good transit.”

Transit expert gives Pittsburgh system good marks overall,” Ed Blazina, October 24, 2018

Urban Edge

After surveying 47 cities with light rail or bus rapid transit systems for his new book "Trains, Buses, People: An Opinionated Atlas of US Transit," Spieler said he saw lots of missed opportunities and missteps when it comes to transit planning. The book even includes lists like "Most Useless Rail-Transit Lines," which includes Nashville's Music City Star, Jacksonville's Skyway and Cleveland's Waterfront Line. And the book's beautiful maps that plot transit networks against density show just how often lines miss the major population centers they should be connecting. 

Missing From Transit Planning? Transit Riders,” Leah Binkowitz, November 15, 2018

D Magazine

“In Trains, Buses, People: An Opinionated Atlas of U.S. Transit, Spieler spends 250 pages judging the public transit systems of 47 metro areas across this country. He traces the history of these systems, cataloguing ridership and size to determine the highest performers. Dallas doesn’t exactly rank at the top in terms of ridership for any of its services, be that commuter rail or light rail or buses or streetcar. Despite being the country’s longest, it does not rank in the top five of total ridership. Per capita is even worse.”

DART Successfully Built For Sprawl. So When Will It Design For People?,” Matt Goodman, November 30, 2018


“Transportation expert Christof Spieler has observed public transit systems all over the county. After taking a look at the history of Philadelphia’s transportation infrastructure (a system he said was  “spectacular” in the early 20th century), Spieler concluded that the system’s enormous potential has not been realized. Today, we’re going to discuss some of the biggest issues facing the Philadelphia transportation system with Spieler. We’ll talk about the problems with public transit, including the subways, buses and the regional rails, what changes are in the works, and get some ideas to make getting across town easier and more pleasurable. “

Radio Times, November 29, 2018

Greater Greater Washington

Christof Spieler, an urban planner and former Houston Metro board member, has written one of the best transit/planning books I’ve read in a long time. Released in October 2018, his assessments of what makes for good transit and well-researched profiles of 47 metro areas give you the foundation necessary for having an insightful conversation about transit in DC, Baltimore, or wherever you might be.

The Washington region has good transit compared to others, a new ‘opinionated atlas” says,” Elizabeth Whitton, December 18, 2018

Streetsblog Denver

The book, which looks at public transportation systems across America, starts with a quick discussion about the essential but often neglected features that make transit successful. What follows in most of its 264 pages is a fascinating atlas that profiles 47 transit systems, including Denver’s Regional Transportation District. For each city, photos, maps and infographics complement easy-to-follow writing, illustrating what each city gets right — and where they fail.

Denver’s Buses and Trains Are Not Useful to Most People. A New Book Shows Why,” Andy Bosselman, Jan 29, 2019

Rice Architecture Tête-à-Tête podcast

This week’s episode features a conversation between Christof Spieler and our alumni specialist Jacki Schafer. Their conversation dives into Christof’s experience as an engineering student at Rice and how the campus community fostered many of his additional interests. These interests later developed into individual threads within his unique career.

Season 2 Episode 1 - Conversation with alumnus Christof Spieler,” with Jacki Schaefer, Jan 23, 2019