Sunday, November 2, 2008

Conference by the Bay

As you know, I recently attended Railvolution in beautiful San Francisco. As always, the conference was stimulating and inspiring. I saw old friends and colleagues, met other transportation planners and advocates, and sat in on informative sessions. I highly encourage all of you to try and attend in Boston next year.

The conference was very clear on the point that the next year will be very important for transportation in this country. With the reauthorization of the transportation bill (or "authorization", as we were encouraged to call it) due next fall and an administration committed to change (both Obama and McCain have called for it), transit may hope to make gains next year.

We as citizens, however, must take action. In one session I attended, we were told that because the transit advocacy community was silent, transit was left out of the recent climate bill. We cannot delay in writing our elected officials and encouraging them to support transit as a way of reducing pollution and our dependence on foreign oil.

There were also speakers from the world of policy who are working to improve our urban areas. One of the highlights of both of my Railvolutions has been the speech by US Congressman Earl Blumenauer of Oregon. The Congressman is one of the tireless champions of transit in Washington and he is dedicated to working with the new administration to get transit moving in the United States. Also speaking was Janette Sadik-Khan, commissioner of the New York City DOT. NYC DOT has been making huge strides recently to reclaim urban space for pedestrians, cyclists, and transit users.

My favorite session this year, however, was the session on blogging. Even though I already blog, I found the session informative and engaging. I also thought it was the best-geared session (that I attended) for advocates. After all, electronic media offers so many new ways of displaying information and interacting with readers.

I do think that there were fewer advocates at the conference this year. Last year, I met many in the advocacy community, but this year the conference seemed to be more professional-focused. I think that advocates add a lot to the conference, and I hope that more of them are able to attend the Railvolution in Boston next fall.

Of course, I took the time while in the Bay Area to ride the transit systems out there. I plan on reflecting on these individually over the next few days, but the experience was very positive. I'd already ridden BART and Muni, but I was able to add to my list Caltrain, VTA light rail, ACE, and Sacramento's light rail. Incidentally, I also rode the Minneapolis Hiawatha Line during my layover there on my way home.

Adding these systems has furthered my goal of riding every rail transit system in America. I've now ridden 51% of light rail systems and 45% of commuter rail systems. (Yay!)

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