On August 19, Pennsylvanians for Transportation Solutions (PenTrans), in coordination with McCormick Taylor, sponsored a webinar hosted by Gary Toth. During his 46-year career in transportation, land use planning, and placemaking, Mr. Toth worked to use transportation to build communities and enhance places and quality of life. As part of several national transportation organizations, Mr. Toth studied culture and issues facing state Departments of Transportation and local transportation agencies.
In the webinar, Mr. Toth explored how framing transportation solutions within the context of placemaking can better serve communities and transportation agencies. The presentation included an interactive question and answer session. He argued that shifting focus to community building (or placemaking) not only benefits our communities but saves money and expedites project delivery. Placemaking is a multi-faceted approach to the planning, design, and management of public spaces. In the context of transportation, placemaking includes streets and transit portals as places. Sociability, uses/activities, access/linkage, and comfort and image are the key factors that make a place great.
“People really have not lost their craving for great civic gathering spaces," said Mr. Toth. "They flock to civic spaces when they want to be with others, share ideas, or become part of the collective expression of an idea or point of view.”
The space needs to be carefully planned and designed. To be successful, it must be actively programmed and continually managed, and funds need to be set aside for that purpose. That is why not all public spaces realize their potential. That is why parks sit empty and why plazas in the middle of busy commercial districts are unused except by skateboarders and the homeless. If you build it, they will come—but only if there is something to do there and a comfortable place to sit while you do it.
Two publications that Mr. Toth suggests all transportation professionals should read include:
Smart Transportation Guidebook: Planning and Designing Highways and Streets that Support Sustainable and Livable Communities developed via a partnership between the New Jersey Department of Transportation and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
The purpose of PenTrans is to generate public and private support for balanced, multimodal transportation and mobility alternatives that improve our quality of life, so that state and federal lawmakers will allocate sufficient dedicated public transportation funding for Pennsylvania.
Through the enabling power of efficient, affordable, accessible transportation alternatives, Pennsylvania will develop more economically vibrant, environmentally sustainable communities where all people can move freely and safely to work, to shop and to all the social, cultural, educational and recreational activities of daily living.