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Panel discussion shares hope for the future of alternative transportation planning

The 82 Alliance, a not-for-profit mobility think tank, hosted a virtual panel session with partner host DS&MG. The session had registered attendees from across the country. Three thought-leaders were invited to discuss how cities and towns can plan beyond this pandemic and mobility trends in 2021 and beyond.

As we continue to navigate this pandemic, mobility is undoubtedly one of many areas that have changed dramatically. The panel discussed how cities and towns could plan beyond this pandemic? What type of technologies should be integrated to assist with mobility options? How do we prepare for “A Better Tomorrow”?

Speakers included:

Roger gave an update on Toronto’s MoveTO initiative. The initiative is a city staff action plan to help manage congestion and build a more resilient, modern, and safe transportation system. The initiative includes the proposed implementation of smart signals, intelligent intersections, advanced transit signal priority, construction hubs, and transportation demand management. Although we are amid a pandemic, the city has made TDM a priority. The MoveTO plan’s request for $110M will be spent mostly on transportation technologies over the next five years and was recently unanimously approved by the city council.

As the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Smart City Challenge winner in 2016, Columbus was awarded $50 million in funding and the designation as America’s Smart City. Jordan provided an overview of the Smart Columbus program and its vision during this pandemic. The primary goal is to close transportation gaps with a specific focus on equity.

Projects funded by the USDOT grant fall within three categories:

  • Enabling Technologies

  • Enhanced Human Services

  • Multimodal Trip Planning Application and Common Payment System

An example Jordan shared showed how the program has pivoted during the pandemic. The autonomous vehicle program that was previously used to transport people between a transit stop, a residential development, and a community center is now being used to transport approximately 100 boxes of food per week from the food pantry to neighborhood locations.

Their most significant initiative throughout COVID and beyond is developing and implementing new Wi-Fi technologies to close transportation gaps.

Ryan shared his experience on the Advisory Group for ReOpen DC set up by Mayor Bowser. ReOpen DC is about working together as a community to reopen Washington, DC, safely and sustainably.

The onset of COVID-19 was swift and unpredictable. Resulting in a once-in-a-generation opportunity to thoughtfully build toward a more equitable, resilient, and vibrant city, but it needs to be measured, data-driven, and deliberate to ensure a safe and sustainable return.

The question was asked, “Do you think this pandemic is an opportunity to change car culture and see transformative change within our transportation systems?”.

The group expressed that organizations can no longer assume what the public want. To get it right, we must listen to residents and customers to find out their needs to make inclusive changes within our communities that will last long after this pandemic.

Many businesses are unlikely to return 100% of employees to the worksite. This flexibility in schedules will dramatically change travel patterns. The commute will no longer be predictable, and the hope that alternatives to driving alone, such as biking or walking, continue to be used.

There is more willingness and acceptance of alternative transportation plans during this pandemic. Biking and pedestrian infrastructure has increased during the lockdown. Now that infrastructure has changed, there is hope that people will continue to use it once we return to everyday life.

“Thank you to our panel speakers for sharing your insight on how cities and towns can plan for mobility during this pandemic and beyond. It is exciting and hopeful to hear the creative ways cities are shifting transportation options for our communities.” Rob Henry, President, The 82 Alliance.

If you would like to watch the webinar recording, please contact Stacey Weiss.

Stay tuned for more webinars in our “A Better Tomorrow” webinar series as we continue to navigate this pandemic exploring future transportation options.

GVF formed The 82 Alliance, which is a not-for-profit mobility think tank that focuses on reimagining how we move our cities, towns, and people. During this time of social unrest, climate change, and the pandemic, we can and should be planning and creating a better tomorrow.


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