Transportation reform for the US- are Americans ready?


"Transportation reform for the US- are Americans ready?"
Thu. Aug. 21, 7 - 8:30 pm
by Gary Toth, Director of Transportation Initiatives for the Project for Public Spaces
@ LivableStreets office space, 100 Sidney Street, Central Square, Cambridge [ map... ]

free and open to the public, donation suggested, beer/sodas provided compliments of Harpoon Brewery!

"The decisions engineers make will affect people's lives. The street can't be looked at as just a vessel for cars. It's a place with many uses. What we want to do is try to help foster sustainable, livable communities," Toth says.

That's strong stuff coming from an engineer with 34 years experience inside the highway bureaucracy. And it's not just a line he throws out to soothe angry citizens' groups--Gary Toth during his tenure at NJDOT actually changed the way engineers think. In the old days, NJDOT would give most street widenings the green light, but Toth is dedicated to halting this vicious cycle. Instead of funneling all traffic from every residential and commercial property onto the strip, NJDOT is encouraging towns to create networks of streets with mixed-use developments, dispersing traffic over the whole system. The idea is to create livable corridors rather than endless sprawl. Sounds simple enough, but it's actually a revolutionary change in suburban transportation and land use planning. He notes how Kentucky, Utah, Florida, Vermont and other states are joining New Jersey in seriously studying Context Sensitive Solutions--the discipline's name for looking at streets and roads as something more than simply a way to move traffic. "It's becoming a national movement with 20 or 25 states already showing some signs of getting away from the same old myopia."

Gary has left NJDOT to focus on bigger transportation reform in America. He is an integral member of the T4America Coalition, which is working to shape the content of the next federal transportation bill. He is currently one of the eight instructors for USDOT's "Training Course on Transportation and Land Use." He is also a member of the Sustainable Urban Design Working Group of the American Public Transit Association and a member of the Strategic Highway Research Program’s Technical Coordinating Committee for Capacity. He was also part of the Sustainable Transportation Study Team charged with creating a conceptual plan for presentation to the US Congress, which ensures that the surface transportation system will continue to serve the needs of the U.S. throughout the 21st Century. Gary works part time for the Project for Public Spaces as Director of Transportation Initiatives.

Gary was featured in the article, "Rethinking the Urban Speedway," (For decades, highway engineers focused on designing wider, straighter, faster roads. Now, moving traffic quickly is no longer the sole goal), Governing Magazine, October 2005. "The traditional engineering solution to road problems is to make the road wider, straighter and faster," Toth says. "Well, wider, straighter and faster is not always better."

This event is sponsored by LivableStreets Alliance