Posts Tagged ‘Transportation’

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Seeking Transportation and Finding Art

If you spend more than an hour with me, you quickly learn that I am a transportation nerd. Even when I go on vacation, I cannot stop myself from observing how people move. In July 2016, I traveled to Colombia with a DC-based church for a mission trip. I traveled to Colombia a few days earlier than the rest of the team because I wanted to see Mio, the public transportation system in Cali. Yes, my entire purpose for going to Cali was to see public transportation.

My first day in Cali, I set out on foot to find Mio. As I was walking down the street, I noticed a ten story mural. I did not want to stop and look, because I was on a mission to get to Mio. Eventually, I navigated my way to the main Mio route. When I saw the route, I witness that Mio does not operate in a bus lane. It operates in A BUS STREET. There was an entire street dedicated to the bus in a relatively narrow street curb to curb. I was as emotional as a five-year-old seeing Mickey Mouse for the first time.

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The challenge of Mio is that the ridership is so high, every bus was stuffed to the gills. Even though I came to Cali to experience the public transportation system first hand, when the bus doors opened and I was faced with the mass of people, I decided to pass. I do not do well in overcrowded situations.  With my plans to ride foiled, I walked back to the ten story mural.

After taking in the mural and all of its intricate details, I noticed another one not far away. I started walking toward the second mural. Then I noticed more. Needless to say I ended up on an adventure around the city to find the murals, which people in Cali call graffiti. I explored Cali by foot for several hours hunting for murals.  Here are some of my favorites:

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After getting back to my hotel, the experience reminded me about the importance of public art in cities. Murals, sculptures, and other forms of public art create a sense of place that, in supporting the community’s creativity, encourages walkability.  In the Ten Principles for Building Healthy Places, the Urban Land Institute found public art slows cars and make streets more attractive for shoppers and pedestrians. Other places can follow Cali’s example of encouraging murals as a tool for encouraging walking.

 

Veronica O. Davis, PE is a transportation guru who uses her knowledge to spark progressive social change. As Co-owner and Principal of Nspiregreen, she is also responsible for the management of the major urban planning functions such as transportation planning, policy development, master planning, sustainability analysis, and long range planning. In July 2012, Veronica was recognized as a Champion of Change by the White House for her professional accomplishments and community advocacy, which includes co-founding Black Women Bike.

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Planners Just Wanna Have Fun

Hi, my name is Christine and I’m a transportation nerd (Hi, Christine). At Nspiregreen we get to work on a variety of different transportation projects from ADA accessibility to streetcars, from bike lanes to bus planning. I see each new project we work on as a creative challenge. At the start of a new project, we like to begin with a little company brainstorming session or workshop. We get inspired by our travels to different countries, our experiences in other areas of the US, things that may not have anything to do with transportation or environmental planning, and sometimes –for me- pop culture.

You should know that Nspiregreen is a workplace that, despite the hard work we put into every project, knows how to have fun. Here you get to know the person behind the planner or engineer. I learned this my first few months with Nspiregreen. We were working on the moveDC plan, thinking of ways to engage people for the final round of meetings and I had an idea. See, I’m a tinkerer. I like to mix and match things in my mind and see what comes out, sometimes it’s food, sometimes it’s fashion, sometimes it’s art. But sometimes you’re riding the Metro to work listening to your iPod, inspiration strikes and well, you end up with a parody of Drake’s “Started from The Bottom” about DC’s long range transportation plan. Just a taste, here’s the bridge:

“(WABA’s like..) No new parking, DDOT we don’t need that,
Want more bike lanes and some real cycle-tracks
We don’t like to do too much of driving
Rather have complete streets that are thrivin’

No new parking, DDOT we don’t need that,

Want more bike lanes and some real cycle-tracks

We don’t like to do too much of driving
Rather have our streets be more safe and complete
So we…
Started out with no plan now we’re here,
Started out with no plan now our long range plan is here”

I also tend to have visions of what the video might look like: maybe there’s a faux-ruby encrusted DDOT logo medallion worn by the star of the video. Maybe there are shots of v-shaped Capital Bikeshare formations rolling down Pennsylvania Avenue. You deal with the details during planning and production.

This sometimes happens towards the end of other plans too. Take this excerpt from another parody of Justin Timberlake’s SexyBack for the streetcar study we worked on “StreetcarsBack”:

“We’re bringin’ streetcars back (yeah)
Those other cities don’t know how to act (yeah)
Streetcars are special, not just a throwback (yeah)
Un-crowd the buses, we’ll pick up the slack (yeah)

Take ‘em to the Bridge! (in the video you’d show hopscotch bridge)

Trolley babe
You see these tracks down
Oh yes, we share the lane
Yeah you can hop on if you miss your train
It’s just that no mode handles trips this way…”

But these are not all upbeat. Sometimes it’s serious business like Vision Zero, about the District’s plan to improve transportation safety and ways of reducing conflicts between all modes. So I had to slow it down a bit- and here is a bit of “Zero” sung to the tune of “Hero” by Enrique Iglesias:

“Would you dance if there’s a Barnes dance?
Before you merge will you take a look back?
Would you yield if you saw me crossing?
Would you watch for bikes when you turn right?

[…]We can get to zero, baby.
Implement away the pain.
We will keep you safe, forever.
You can play a part in this.

This “talent” isn’t limited to transportation alone. My husband’s company had a company-wide bake off and I was tasked to provide an anthem. What better than Taylor Swift’s “Shake it off” translated to “Bake it off?” I offer up the bridge of this one as well:

Hey, hey, hey
Just think while you been getting down and out about your diet
And the dirty dirty carbs of the world
You could have been getting down with this delicious treat

My cake pan baked some sweet oat bran
You’re like like oh my god
This is so delicious
And to the fella over there with the hella bakeware
Won’t you come on over baby we could bake, bake, bake”

I can almost hear the groans now, so I won’t quit my day job as a transportation planner. I may not be the next Kendrick Lamar, ghostwriting lyrics for the big names, but I look forward to having a little fun with each new project we are able to work on.*

*NOTE: No billable hours were harmed in the making of these parodies. See full lyrics below.

Christine E. Mayeur is an urban planner with a unique set of skills and interests. She has been called a “renaissance woman” by her coworkers and is interested in all things creative and challenging. Christine uses her history of working with communities through grass-roots organizations along with her planning skills to help plan transportation systems that meet the needs of all users. 





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