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Deep Thoughts from a TRB Virgin

If you haven’t heard about the War on Cars yet, I have a feeling you will soon. I’ve heard of the War on Christmas (thanks for that one, Fox News), but a War on cars? On cars? The automobile is one of the most American things there is! I love my car. Why would we wage war on that? Let me attempt to explain...

I live in the historic Old Fourth Ward in Atlanta. Once known as Dr. Martin Luther King’s old neighborhood, it has become famous recently for its Beltline, Historic Fourth Ward Park and Ponce City Market (coincidently, where the Citilabs office resides) reuse projects and has become a hot part of town for development and redevelopment. Since 2012, more than 1200 new apartment units have become available here and another 1000 are scheduled to come open in the next two years. At first, I was dreading all the new development I saw springing up around me, thinking, “Ugh, it’s going to get really crowded around here.” It was sort of the same feeling I get when I read about yet another “mixed-use” development going in somewhere. Enough already!

 

One man’s brainwashing is another man’s awakening

But since starting at Citilabs a few months ago and attending my first TRB last month, I’ve gained a better understanding of the important work our customers are doing in the area of accessibility, and my view has changed. One man’s brainwashing is another man’s awakening, right? I now applaud and even look forward to the new housing that is springing up around the park and the new jobs that will be housed in new offices going in on either side of Ponce City Market.

So, what changed? I was (only half) joking with a friend that I feel like I’m back in college again - I live in an apartment (very dorm like with all my millennial neighbors), I walk through a park 3 blocks (central campus) to my job in a huge 80-year-old brick building (like many on your average university campus). The grid of my life has gotten really small. But isn’t that the idea? I’m one less person or car on the road for an hour twice a day - as I was in my last job. I’m only one of a handful of people who is making this daily “commute” today, but with all the new jobs, condos and apartments coming in hopefully that will change soon.

 

And it’s not just me

At a recent Brookings Institute talk that Citilabs’ Matt Pettit and I were able to attend on Moving to Access, Adie Tomer made the case that accessibility suffers from a lack of real definition - in fact, the term “access” is already used for something else entirely in the transportation arena. I may not be able to define it any better than a Brookings Fellow, but the picture i’ve hopefully painted above is a great example of urban planning for accessibility rather than focussing on simply moving people faster.

I think of all that I absorbed over my week at TRB, that is probably the one that hits home the most. And that accessibility faces many challenges beyond simply definition is something we are tackling head-on with our customers like the Commonwealth of Virginia and their Smart Scale project. Transportation planning (public) and real estate development (private) have to effectively work together in order to really achieve solutions that improve greater accessibility and win battles in the War on Cars. That isn’t always easy, but greater awareness to how accessibility projects make life better for everyone - even if you’re miles away. Now I’m one less car you need to compete with around my old office - and even around my new one.

 

Now, who wants to throw the frisbee after class?

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Chris Moe
Citilabs Marketing Guy

Chris Moe is a 20-year marketing professional specializing in software and high-tech B2B companies. Prior to working with Citilabs, he lead the marketing organization at legal software company Aderant and led strategic marketing for the Sage 50 Accounting software (formerly Peachtree Accounting) division of Sage, all in Atlanta. Chris holds a bachelor’s degree in Marketing from Iowa State University.