I'm looking forward to the national Rail~Volution conference happening Sept 21- 24 in Minneapolis, where I’ll join 1,500 of my closest friends who share a passion for transit and great communities. One thing I especially value about this annual conference is its ability to bring together a diverse set of "practitioners." By which I don’t just mean planners, engineers or architects. Yes – they will all be there. But also the community practitioners who ultimately make this stuff happen: the elected officials, developers and financial lenders, community advocates and philanthropic partners. Creating vibrant and inclusive communities takes many hands – sometimes clasped and working together, and sometimes wrestling for dominance.
These conferences also remind me how much the field has evolved. Yes, we still hear about great community building efforts in Portland, Oregon but now we have so many more places to also discuss! What is even more exciting is how each community is doing this work in their own way. We get inspired by what happens in another pioneering city and then work to figure out what is relevant, transferrable and achievable in our own community.
City building is constantly changing and in some ways reminds me of my own parenting journey. Just when I think I've figured it out -- my sons' needs change. So, I’m constantly checking with my friends and family who have older kids to get their advice, reading parenting magazines and learning to trust my own instincts. So, too, those who feel passionately about their community are constantly learning and in the process testing and tweaking new ideas.
We’re seeing communities like Salt Lake City bringing together bankers, mayors and affordable housing advocates to try and create a new TOD Fund – building upon lessons learned in places like San Francisco and Denver who pioneered this work.
- We’re seeing regions like Seattle and Albany inspired by Atlanta, using federal planning funds to help local communities develop their own plans for neighborhood and station area development.
- We're watching Indianapolis and Oklahoma City gain national attention for their investments in bike lanes and complete streets, concepts that previously were the purview of places like Portland and Washington, DC.
- And we’re seeing places like the Twin Cities, host of this year’s Rail Volution, charting new territory to seed local community-based organizing to lead more inclusive transit corridor planning.
The result of these and other efforts, is an explosion of energy, ideas and new models to help communities better address the growing environmental, economic and social challenges we all face ... in regions large and small; red and blue.