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.