As we are faced with ever rising gas prices and mounting evidence that how we have planned and shaped our communities over last 50 years is a major contributing factor in the degradation of our natural and human environments, more and more people are beginning to recognize that this is a key moment to make wise transportation decisions that will influence our quality of life for years to come. This is imperative because America now faces a public health crisis; uncertain energy supplies; global climate change; loss of our natural environment; ever-increasing social inequity; and declining civic and community engagement. Planning transportation for community outcomes, rather than merely moving cars, will also help protect our nation’s irreplaceable cultural and historic resources and serve as an economic catalyst for towns and cities.

Towards this end PPS is undertaking a major campaign called ‘Building Community through Transportation..’

The overarching goal of Building Community through Transportation is to support Placemaking and transform federal, state, and metropolitan transportation policies and practice that currently prioritize moving people and goods over creating walkable, healthy and sustainable communities. This campaign is also focused on influencing the design of streets and transit facilities so they become assets and gathering places for civic life.

Through research, advocacy, training, and tool development, this campaign will inspire and organize citizens, policy makers, and the transportation industry to reshape community transportation networks and streets into places that provide greater economic vitality and more opportunities for civic engagement, as well as promoting the priorities of human health and environmental sustainability.

The campaign has three specific goals:

  • Goal 1: Help create a Placemaking-supportive policy, regulatory, and implementation framework at the federal level, through partnerships with national organizations and by influencing the 2009 Transportation Bill, which funds transportation design and development, and its implementation.
  • Goal 2: Help create a Placemaking-supportive policy, regulatory, and implementation framework at the state and local level (state DOTs, transportation agencies, city offices, etc.)
  • Goal 3: Stimulate and support grassroots transportation advocacy by empowering citizens, elected officials, communities and professionals to use Placemaking in their community planning.

The campaign will achieve these goals by focusing on two major areas:

Streets as Places

Approach: Transforming the design and construction of public streets into places that improve the quality of human life and the environment rather than simply move vehicles from place to place.

Thinking Beyond the Station

Approach: Influencing the planning and design of transit centers (bus, railway, subway stations) to become catalysts for increased economic vitality and environmental sustainability as well as improving health, civic engagement, and servicing people’s transit needs.

Why Transportation Needs Transformation through Placemaking

Over the last ten years, PPS has begun to address the critical role that transportation plays in the big picture of creating sustainable places and communities. As Carol Murray, former Commissioner of New Hampshire DOT, has often said, “Transportation is the game board upon which all other factors are played.”

The transportation system is everywhere, and its impacts are a major issue for virtually every community. If we can influence decisions on the dimensions and designs of transportation networks and facilities so that they are perceived as public places and improve the quality of the human and natural environments, rather than simply moving vehicles from place to place, we can open the door to visionary community planning and design. With an estimated 140 million new US residents expected in the next 50 years, community planning needs to change, and it needs to change fast.

The transportation industry, too, is poised for a change. More than any other government entity, transportation agencies possess the largest public works budget, giving them the greatest capacity of any government agency to reshape the landscape. DOTs have also begun to face project and program resistance brought on by regulatory change, community dissatisfaction, flat funding resources, rapidly decaying infrastructure, and pressure from reform advocates. This has led to increasing awareness that we need to find new ways of doing business which advance transportation programs while satisfying the triple bottom line of economic, social and environmental goals.

The transportation establishment has clearly organized itself into a well-structured, disciplined, and cohesive profession, designed to deliver on its perceived mandate to provide people with a system for high speed and safe travel. It only follows that if we transform the way the transportation establishment views its mandate, we can positively affect community building.