The Power of Transportation to Transform Communities | Allison Billings | TEDxCharlotte



in a time of increasing inequality in our country and in our community there has been a lot of talk about how to address the lack of economic mobility faced by people born into poor households you heard from John and there are task forces and Commission's working locally nationally all over the country trying to address the root causes of this complicated issue an economic mobility is a complicated issue it's going to require a variety of solutions that address the various ways that people who are rich or middle-income are segregated from those who are poor you often hear about this issue in schools but that's not the only place that's happening we have neighborhoods with little or no racial or economic diversity people's places of employment as a result grocery stores retail environments we have fewer and fewer opportunities to engage with people who bring home different paychecks than we do and this lack of a normal everyday interaction leads to an unhealthy friction because it is hard to consider people or lifestyles that you have no experience with and it's really easy to ignore problems that don't seem to affect you personally believe it or not though I'm not here today to talk to you about economic mobility I've been invited here today to talk to you about transportation but I fundamentally believe that transportation has the power to transform communities transportation can make our communities cleaner healthier safer and yes I believe transportation can make our communities more equitable – I'd like to start off by telling you about my car violet you'll often see me driving violet shuffling my kids too Shiva T is driving between meetings headed to the great outdoors on the weekend like most Americans I like my car and don't tell violet but she's actually just the latest in a long line of cars that have had names and personalities and have been the source of many fond memories over the years but I find that on the days I leave dear violet parked in my driveway and I walk or a bike or I use transit I see people I interact with folks and I engage and even if I don't have an opportunity to speak much to my fellow bus passengers I smile I wave I nod and I see the young mother who's taking her two-year-old and her newborn with a stroller and a diaper bag onto a cat bus to ride it for a couple of miles to get off the bus at a daycare facility to presumably turn right back around and return to that bus stop and wait 30 minutes for the next bus to arrive to get to her job across town something about seeing her impacts me the same holds true when we ride our bikes you're in a mode that's more connected to the environment around you plus the streets that are best for biking are not usually the same that are best for driving so when you bike you traverse different streets you traverse different neighborhoods you engage and connect in different places national research tells us that cyclists spend more money supporting their neighborhood businesses than car drivers – it's not because they have more money but it's because they're moving a little more slowly they're in a mode that's more connected and maybe also because they're a little tired or thirsty we certainly engage most with people when we're out for a walk this was really driven home to me recently when my seven-year-old daughter volunteered to babysit for a friend's guinea pig it had been a rainy day and was finally a nice evening I looked up her friend's address she lived less than a mile from us and I decided that we should walk there to get the guinea pig and though there was a time or two on the walk home as my husband and I are awkwardly carrying a much larger than anticipated guinea pig cage with a tiny terrified guinea pig in the middle and I wondered if perhaps the car would have been a better choice I'm really glad we walked because after seven years of living in the same house on our walk home we met a neighbor we had never met before and I'm pretty sure she was always going to remember us with our guinea pig cage I'd like to tell you about my friend Tim my friend Tim live less than two miles away from his office he purposely chose an office that's close to home and he has a variety of options to get there he's well served by a network of sidewalks by a bike lane by a bus route that more or less takes him from home to work so he can exercise if he rode his bike he'd burn almost 100 calories if he walked almost 200 calories and while it would take him a few minutes longer think of how many people he'd be able to engage with what if he was on the bus it would cost him a couple of bucks but he would still burn calories walking back and forth to the bus stop and he'd engaged with 20 or 30 bucks passengers each way but my friend Tim who knows that biking and walking and using transit are healthier for him and healthier for his community and she really cares about these issues my friend Tim driving alone to work each and every day we can't blame him can we we have created an environment where gas is cheap free parking is abundant and cars are the undisputed kings and queens of our road and that shouldn't surprise you this is how we spend our transportation dollars almost 80% of our transportation dollars are just to help be able to get around bicyclist pedestrian projects transit projects that's all left to compete for the crumbs so what's the outcome when you invest so heavily in vehicle transportation well people have to walk in environments like this there are cyclists contending increases like this and all across the country there are people waiting for the bus in places like this so what's the result of a built environment that's so hostile to pedestrians to cyclists to transit riders well Tim's not alone nationally 76 percent of us drive alone to work every day when you check on the people who are carpooling 86% of us are driving by ourselves or driving in a car you add on those lucky people who get to work from home in their pajamas and there's only a tiny fraction of the population that's walking or biking or using transit to get to work and the impact of this to our cultural fabric is staggering think about it when everyone who has access to a car which is most everyone except for the poorest and the most urban dwellers when we use our cars for almost all of our trips which many of us myself included are guilty of then we're missing out on this opportunity each and every day to engage to connect to interact with others and instead of doing that we're driving alone in a steel bubble we're engaging with no-one we're seeing nothing and we're listening only to those things we want to hear whether that's music we already know we like or talk radio that reinforces our own worldview and like I said at the beginning this lack of interaction is what's driving us into gender racial poverty think of our manners when we drive our cars think of how you behave or how someone else behaves if you get cut off on the highway you would never act like that if somebody walked in front of you on a sidewalk think about the litter on the side of the road could you imagine being in a park walking through watching someone walk towards you waiting so there right about here then dropping some trash on the ground no we would never do that but in our cars we feel anonymous and everyone around us is nameless and faceless too but this emphasis on driving on automobile traffic and automobile trips it's not just problematic because we're missing out on these opportunities to engage with one another it's problematic because it's not accessible to everyone try to save up the money for a car when you're working for minimum wage and supporting a family try to get a car loan if you have no credit and it's not just the poor think about the elderly or the disabled or children in many cases if you can't access a car you can't access healthier food job opportunities educational opportunities countless opportunities are passing you by because you can't get there in an automobile if we're sincere in our interest to overcome the death of the American Dream which is happening right now on our watch and if we truly want children born into poor households to have the exact same opportunities that our kids have well I'm not going to stand here and tell you that a more balanced transportation system is some sort of silver bullet because it's not but I will say this the current auto centric world we live in it's part of the problem and it's perpetuating generational poverty I know I said I wasn't coming here today to talk to you about economic mobility and at this point in my presentation I'm starting to feel a little disingenuous but here's the thing I started out in transportation because I thought that a balanced transportation system would lead to a more environmentally sustainable place I really believed it was the more economically sustainable decision and I knew that there would be social benefits as well but after all these years of working in transportation I've come to feel very strongly that it really just comes down to this it's not fair to continue to heavily subsidize a mode of transportation that's not accessible to everyone that is not who we are we cannot continue to accept single-use suburban development that's totally car oriented when we all know that it merits that place essentially inaccessible to the poor that's not who we are cars have their place it's just that it can't be the only place we have to think about cyclists pedestrians and transit riders first and prioritize their comfort we also have to stop pretending that this is some grand coincidence or that this is really just a reflection of our preferences what this is is a transportation system working exactly as it's been designed you see in 1956 President Eisenhower passed a landmark piece of legislation it was called the federal aid Highway Act and it created our interstate highway system and countless economic opportunities have come to our country as a result people and goods can travel quickly and easily between cities across state lines across the country but the problem is we all stand here or sit 60 years later and despite decades of rapid urbanization we are still funding our transportation network in the very same way the vision continues to be one where we fund automobile trips on highways and we fail to pay attention to what's happening inside the cities where people can engage and interact and commerce can happen which is the very reason that cities were created in the first place there is good news though and I'm happy to tell you about it after decades of more and more people driving for more and more of their trips watching more vehicle miles on more vehicles across the country that tide has finally started to change the tide has started to turn people are now riding transit in record-breaking numbers walking and biking for most of their trips Millennials are waiting longer to get their drivers licenses they're not buying cars in the same numbers that previous generations did and most importantly people are starting to choose where to live based on places that provide this balance of options where you have many different choices for getting around additionally there's a whole sharing economy that's emerging and transportation with services like uber lyft with car sharing with relay rides and get around there are more and more ways for people who didn't have access to a car to get access to one when they need it Plus these introduced the opportunities for people to engage and interact while they're getting around in a car but if you're like me we're like my friend Tim this is all really exciting and yet we still really like our cars so what can we do I have four things for all of us first we can ride transit maybe not everyday maybe not for every trip but we can each find a way to coorporate transit trips what if everyone in this room agreed to write transit once a week think of the impact that would have for those of you who already ride transit great please get your friends and neighbors to ride transit too we can bike or we can walk not just for exercise or recreation but to get somewhere we can all find a way to replace some short car trip with a walk or a bike ride maybe not to get a guinea pig for another we can educate ourselves further about these issues and we can elect policy makers that will prioritize them and then we need to hold them accountable this needs to happen at all levels of government and finally each and every one of us can find a way to shake up our everyday pattern and find ways to engage with the people who need our help most in this community and provide a hand up and an opportunity John gave us some great ideas didn't he we can coach we can volunteer we can mentor and we don't have to travel far to do it so once we've all found this place where we can plug in to help people who are born into poverty in our community maybe we could ride the bus to get there or we could ride our bikes thank you so much

2 thoughts on “The Power of Transportation to Transform Communities | Allison Billings | TEDxCharlotte

  1. Yeh, sure, she rode a bus, she saw the poor, and she quit driving.
    "I believe… I believe.. Let's do this.. and that,.. Let's help.." – B.S. Are u educated? Stop believing, start researching and computing, get results, validate them on the field and only then share your "epoch discoveries". She has none, but her cellulite-free legs and red dress to draw attention

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