Rethinking transportation has emerged as a necessity for our society and many great minds are at work in all corners of the earth to approach this challenge from different angles. These great minds converged on Chicago last week to put their heads together and amplify the message that we must collectively change our transportation habits in order to tame our carbon footprint and also counteract projected densification of already crowded urban areas.
The summit took place at the perfect venue: Venue Six10, which is powered exclusively by renewable clean energy and is a beacon of what responsible future development can look like. Other green efforts at Venue Six10 include composting, the use of local organic-favoring caterers and a rainwater-diverting green roof.
Panel after trailblazing panel featured shared mobility experts from government, trade, advocacy groups and nonprofits, and had attendees on the edge of their seats — as well as their Twitter feeds. Subject matter experts ranged from civil engineer and author Sam Schwartz to Center for Neighborhood Technology legend Scott Bernstein to Chicago’s African American biking advocacy hero Olatunji Oboi Reed of Slow Roll Chicago. The kumbaya sentiment was palpable, leaving attendees with the refreshing feeling that real progress had been made.
While primary headline transportation and congestion issues were addressed, the positive healthy outcomes of biking and walking emerged as key secondary benefits of changing the way we travel. Other recurrent themes included expanding transportation alternatives for the underserved and government/commercial partnership. An imperative that became apparent was that shared mobility thinkers must find ways to efficiently connect many transportation dots in order to convince our car-loving contemporaries to give up their single-occupancy vehicles in large numbers. Insightful first mile/last mile mobility solutions were examined as bridges from mass transit to work and home.
As was pointed out as an aside by one panelist, this summit was no shared mobility 101 event. Sessions included deep dives into issues such as infrastructure improvement needs, parking congestion, dictates for the future of suburban design and more. Takeaways included a reminder of the reality that no one entity, city or even country can solve this incredibly complex puzzle alone. Finding the right way forward will take continued and committed collaboration by motivated activists who understand the critical nature of what must be done.
An event like Woodstock doesn’t happen every day, but one would hope that the torch is carried with plans for another Shared Mobility Summit in 2016. For those who were fortunate enough to join #MoveTogether, what event highlights would you like to share?