Shifting the Transportation Paradigm with Placemaking

How “alternative” modes can be leveraged to create places may be their most significant contribution to community development and to the ultimate success “alternative” modes.

Advocates are finally getting attention for issues like the impact and efficiency of the various modes of transport, the fair allocation of road space and spending, and the opportunities to create more seamless transportation systems and choices. These advances all need to happen, but advocated for and implemented alone may actually end up perpetuating the existing paradigm. Moving the discussion beyond the technical mobility solutions, and modal shifts, may actually be the best way to make these solutions feasible.Melbourne_Australia_Station_as_Place_ek_SMALL-530x326

The goal of transportation planning would seem to be (and used to be) to facilitate getting people to places – connecting people with destinations. Unfortunately most transportation planning has not only forgotten to create and support the places they are meant to bring people to, but have degraded these very destinations they are meant to connect. The people in charge of creating destinations have likewise planned in isolation, for isolation. Everyone is blaming the need for greater mobility.

If the point of transportation planning is to get people places they want to be, then all transportation planning should really start with placemaking. And if our planning efforts actually focused on creating places, we could actually meet the goals of getting people places, and getting things done, much faster. Great places are in fact defined by the ability to accomplish many things at once, often accomplishing many spontaneous, “unplanned” goals in the process. Even residential land-use and density can best be shifted from a suburban model through a broader focus on place rather than forced density, and mode shifts.Current growth strategies have been based on increasing movement of people and goods. The future of transportation planning needs to start with creating comfortable settings for all kinds of exchange between people. It is through re-envisioning our cities, transportation systems and economies around these transportation destinations that we will be able to truly make our world compatible with strong communities, economies and natural ecosystems as well as make feasible the more sustainable transportation modes of mass transit, walking and bicycling.

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