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My First Year at TransportationCamp

The Transportation Research Board Conference is one of my favorite times of the year. For me it’s like a big reunion where I get to see everyone who has moved away from DC (we’re so transient) or who I met through various transportation events throughout the years. This year, however, is the first year I attended TransportationCamp (yes, it’s all one word). I had no idea what to expect from this “un-conference”, but as I did expect, I had a great time and was introduced to ideas I had never considered.

One aspect of Transportation Camp that is very different from other conferences I’ve attended is that, after someone from the host organization, Mobility Lab, gave an introductory speech, they went around the room and almost every single one of the 400 attendees said who they were, where they worked, and three words that described why they were at the conference. I was pleasantly surprised that there were attendees of all ages (‘camp’ made me think ‘young’), in all different stages in their career, and from a wide variety of countries and backgrounds. And TransportationCamp had sessions to please all groups, including the planners, engineers, data crunchers, GIS specialists, and more.

TrnspCmpThe first session I attended was my coworker’s Christine Mayeur. I may be biased but it was one of my favorites of the day. Each of the five or so tables were given a Google Map printout and description of a particular area in DC, trace paper, and colored markers. She began by giving a brief presentation about how the widespread switch to autonomous vehicles will open up street space for other uses by reducing the need for parking and allowing for narrower lanes. Each group was then asked to redesign their area for how it could look once this change happened. The ideas were interesting and I can definitely see them happening if there’s enough will for them. For example, blocking off car access on H St NW in between 5th St NW and 7th St NW. Removing car travel lanes and parking would create room for a cycle track, bus lanes, and wider sidewalks, since the area is always crammed with tourists and residents. See the drawing below for all of the ideas for the area!

I also really enjoyed a session that focused on transit videos, not just because I got to watch some wonderful, horrible, bizarre, and hilarious YouTube clips, but because it made me really think about the best way for transit agencies to advertise themselves and provide public service announcements. One video that really stood out for me was an LA Metro PSA about a superhero called “Super Kind”. It would definitely fall under the bizarre category. I can’t really even explain it well – you’ll just have to watch it yourself – but I will say there’s a big furry monster eating Skittles on the train and a superhero girl trying to get him to stop. The first time I saw it I was turned off because of just how weird it is, but after the panel started discussing it I realized I was approaching it wrong. The whole point of the video was to remind people that they can’t eat on the train, and it sure imprinted that on your mind. One of the panelists shared how she showed it to her 4-year-old and ever since then he is adamant about not eating on the train and is upset with other people he sees doing it. I guess it has its audience. Was the production cost worth it, though? Not sure. What do you all think?

The video that was rated the highest, though, and my personal favorite, is from our own WMATA to advertise the opening of the Silver Line. It’s probably because I’m a transportation nerd, but every time I see it I get excited about the work we’re all doing to improve transportation around the country (okay, so it’s definitely because I’m a transportation nerd). But here’s the thing I love about Transportation Camp, TRB, and all of the other conferences I get to go to – we’re all transportation nerds who love getting together to bask in our nerd-iness and our shared passion for creating better transportation systems. I can’t wait for the next one!

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Reflecting on the Past, Ready for the Future!

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The new year is a time to reflect on the past and set goals for the future. The past year brought us satisfaction and challenges that allowed us to grow as individuals and as a team. We hope 2018 comes with opportunities to help communities become more sustainable.  

Over the past year, we have continued to grow in the region leading projects such as Vision Zero in Alexandria, VA, providing technical research on innovative beneficial reuse of dredged materials in Maryland while expanding our reach to our not-so-distant neighbor Philadelphia, PA to lead the University City District Just Spaces project.

At home in DC, we are continuing our work on projects such as the Southeast Boulevard and Barney Circle Environmental Assessment as well as the GreenWrench Automotive Pollution Prevention Program.

While these projects represent a snippet of the contributions we are making in the planning and environmental realm, we anticipate continued growth in this new year. Our main goal for 2018 is to continue developing and implementing creative solutions that will help communities achieve their social, cultural, economic, and environmental goals. As such, we look forward to working with new and existing clients; meeting other communities and leaders; and learning and implementing other methods and practices into our projects, such as public art.

We pride ourselves on being forward-thinkers; therefore, we believe that creative solutions are the most effective way to tackle the challenges facing communities today. Later this month, we will tell you a little bit more about our “refresh” for 2018. We look forward to an exciting and fulfilling 2018.

On behalf of the entire Nspiregreen team, we wish you a Happy New Year!

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Vision Zero Alexandria

Did you know that Alexandria, Virginia recently became a Vision Zero City? On December 16, 2017, the City Council voted to adopt the Vision Zero Action Plan. We are proud to have led the Plan’s process with the city and with our project partners at Toole Design Group. After leading the DC Vision Zero Plan process,  it is great to help the DC Metro region become safer for all users traveling on our streets.

This plan follows years of work that the city has done to improve safety on city streets with a complete streets policy adopted nearly 8 years ago. With this work, the city has seen a decline in serious injuries and fatalities over the last few years. However, along with national trends, 2016 saw a slight uptick in injuries and fatalities. To address this critical issue, we worked with the city to examine Vision Zero best practices, departmental operations,  gauge public perception of traffic safety issues, and present data analysis for their Vision Zero Action Plan. This document serves as their guide moving forward over the next 10 years to achieve zero serious injuries and fatalities.

Alexandria is doing things a little different, by breaking that timeline out into 3-year work plans that prioritize actions in order to allocate funding and staff resources. This allows the city to reassess efforts periodically throughout the implementation period and adjust wherever necessary.

Another key piece about Alexandria is their drive to create a culture of safety in the city, where it’s not just about signals, but about each mode and user looking out for one another. As Vision Zero states, human life is valued above all else. While Alexandria’s fatalities are low, no loss of life is acceptable and we are glad to have had a hand in helping the city bring that number to zero.

Find the plan HERE and see our handiwork. We look forward to continuing to help the region become a safer place to walk, wheel, bike, ride transit, and drive.

Christine E. Mayeur, AICP is an urban planner with a unique set of skills and hobbies, interested in all things creative and challenging. Christine uses her history of working with communities through grassroots organizations along with her planning skills to help plan transportation systems and environmental solutions that meet the needs of all users.





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