Richard C. Harkness


This web site contains an ebook I have just finished plus several other prior writings.  The ebook deals with system dynamics and systems behavior with an emphasis on chaos, which is a form of oscillation within a system.  This non-mathematical ebook provides examples of chaotic behavior in the magnetic pendulum, Lorenz waterwheel, Rayleigh-Benard cells, solar systems, and molecules.  It includes new work in the form of an extensive analysis of chaos in the double pendulum.  Work is now underway on a broader science-based book about how systems self-assemble and behave that extends lessons learned to more complex living, climatic, ecologic, economic, and political systems.

My main passion has always been to develop analysis and a holistic understanding of the systems being affected so that public policy decisions could be based on solid alternatives.  Since the earliest days of my career I was a pioneering player in the fields of telecommuting and telework.  Developing hypothoses and analsis to showcase how telecommunications could be used to substitute for business travel and allow office work to be decentralized from city centers thus saving time, energy and money.

In my spare time, I have also completed a number of detailed analyses of the claims made by promoters of several public works projects including Sound Transit light rail in Seattle, as well as Sonoma Clean Power and SMART light rail here in the SF Bay Area.

My eBook

Systems Behavior and Chaos: A non-mathematical introduction and analysis
Over the course of the last few years I have been looking into the behavior of several systems in order to identify basic behaviors – including chaotic oscillation – that may apply to ecological, climatic, political, economic and other large systems. This eBook is the culmination of my enquiries and it contains no mathematics, making it suitable for any analytically minded person who knows high school physics and seeks to better understand how the world works.

Other Writing and Material

How Sound Transit Abused the Planning Process to Promote Light Rail

The System is warped; put light rail on hold
Published: Friday Dember 22, 2000
Original, Footnoted version

Let voters trust transportation planning
Published: Thursday, September 29, 2005
Seattle Times OpEd piece
Full article as PDF
Background & Research Sources

Published: May 1972

Telecommunication substitutes for travel : a preliminary assessment of their potential for reducing urban transportation costs by altering office location patterns
Thesis (PhD) – University of Washington, 1973$002f$002fSD_ILS$002f0$002fSD_ILS:365603/one?qu=Harkness%2C+Richard+Chandler&ic=true&ps=300

Office information systems: An overview and agenda for public policy research

VOLUME II. DETAILED IMPACT ANALYSES (A large study at Stanford Research Institute, funded by National Science Foundation)

In the News

Sound Transit bus decision questioned
Published: Tuesday, April 5, 2005

Cost of Eastside bus plan cut
Published: Thursday, May 12, 2005

Bus, rail seen as viable options across I-90
Published: Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Panel endorses Sound Transit data
Published: Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Light-rail tunnel gets key support
Published: November 27, 2006

Round she goes, where it stops, nobody knows
Published: June 11, 2007

Vote No on Phoenix Light Rail

About Rich Harkness

I first became interested in systems in grad school, where I studied for a PhD in Urban Systems Planning back in the early 1970’s. My emphasis was urban transportation. After a career in strategic and business planning in telecom and aerospace I began advocating as an ordinary citizen against a rail system on the basis that bus rapid transit would save billions of dollars.

As a citizen advocate, I testified at county council meetings, wrote an op-ed, and did extensive analyses. I came to realize in a very visceral and hard-earned way that the ordinary citizen isn’t just fighting to change the opinions of ten council members. Instead he or she is fighting an entire system, which includes consultants, contractors, county staff, newspapers, and various other interest groups. They are all linked in various ways and had reached a compromise decision on what they wanted to do. This system strongly resisted any attempt to change things.

I began to think we needed to see these invisible systems, to understand how they form and function in order to better manage them in the public interest. Now I want to share what I learned.


BS Electrical Engineering, Duke University
PhD Urban Systems Planning, University of Washington (Dissertation title: Telecommunications Substitutes for Transportation)

Worked generally as a strategic and business planner.

  • US Navy, officer
  • Ocean Science and Engineering
  • Boeing Aerospace Co.
  • Stanford Research Institute (Now SRI International)
  • Satellite Business Systems (IBM, Comsat and Aetna partnership)
  • Compression Labs (mfr. of video-teleconferencing equipment)
  • Boeing Computer Services

I am now retired and living in Santa Rosa, Ca. where I am an occasional citizens advocate for more fact-based and fiscally responsible local government, especially relative to local transportation and greenhouse gas reduction projects.