2 Things Local Leaders Can Do to Fix Their City’s Broken Transportation

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Far too often, discussions about the American transportation system focus on what’s happening at the national level. For example, what’s the latest on the infrastructure bill making its way (or not) through a dysfunctional Congress? Yet as Strong Towns president Chuck Marohn recently wrote, whether we get a federal infrastructure bill matters far less to your city’s future than what you and your neighbors choose to do in your own community: “A nation of Strong Towns—one where the energy of Americans is not dissipated by the inconsequential horse race of political DC, but instead put to work making their own places great—is not something we have to wait for permission to build.”

From housing and economic development, to infrastructure and the pandemic response, local communities have far more power than they realize to build stronger, more financially resilient places. This is just as true when it comes to transportation. And that was the topic of conversation when Chuck appeared as a guest on Building Local Power, a podcast of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.

In this episode, Chuck talks with hosts Jess Del Fiacco and Stacy Mitchell about the two things local leaders must do to make transportation a generator of local prosperity rather than a drain on it. (First off: Stop framing every problem as a transportation problem.)

They also discuss the underlying assumptions of the engineering profession, and how being a planner (as well as an engineer) helped Chuck question those assumptions. They talk about how the suburban development pattern promotes a winner-take-all economy, why Chuck doesn’t use the word “pedestrian,” and what Chuck considers to be the “most deeply subversive insight” of his new book, Confessions of a Recovering Engineer.

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