NACTO Celebrates 21st Century Transportation Planning in New York

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood addresses the NACTO Designing Cities conference in New York. (Courtesy NYC DOT)

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood addresses the NACTO Designing Cities conference in New York. (Courtesy NYC DOT)

Planning and transportation wonks from around the country gathered at NYU’s Kimmel Center this morning to mark the beginning of three-days of the NACTO Designing Cities conference, emphasizing new and innovative ideas for designing streets and public spaces. To jumpstart the event, the National Association of City Transportation Officials released the Urban Street Design Guide, collecting design principles, strategies, and case studies from across the country on how to best design and implement everything from cycletracks to bus rapid transit.

NACTO President and perhaps the most revered transportation official ever, NYC Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan served as event host, praising efforts to rejuvenate cities across the country. “Our nation’s strength lies on our cities, which are proving grounds for innovation and bold ideas from the curb line to the skyline,” she said. “As we unveil this first-ever playbook for innovative, sustainable streets, we’re also seeing time and again that these investments deliver incredible economic benefits as they build safer, more attractive streets.” While stressing the important role cities are playing and will continue to play, Sadik-Khan pointed out what many have observed throughout the current election season: the seemingly third-rail quality of the word “city” in national politics. She stressed cities must not wait for the politicians to come to them, and instead lead their own way toward urban reinvention.

The keynote was delivered by U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, one federal player not afraid of tackling urban issues. As he has throughout his tenure, LaHood looked ahead to the future of transportation policy and design, placing added emphasis on finding new ways of infrastructure financing.

The three-day Designing Cities event covers every topic a transportation nerd could love, from 8-80 Bikeways to Open Streets to inclusive urban design, occasionally delving into the more esoteric concerns of traffic light signal phasing and parking payment policy. At this morning’s “Complete Streets in Constrained Corridors” session, leaders from Chicago, Boston, and San Francisco shared case studies from their respective cities, highlighting new trends in managing street interactions (such as how cyclists and buses and streetcars can get along safely), working with the public to increase engagement and understanding of complete streets designs, and the differences in the regional approaches to complete streets policies.

If three days with the likes of LaHood, Sadik-Khan, Tom Vanderbilt, and Bruce Katz weren’t enough, the Museum of the City of New York is hosting another transportation-related event this evening with RPA’s Robert Yaro, historian Kenneth Jackson, and Jonathan Peters from the College of Staten Island. Staten Island Traffic Report: The Moses Legacy and Beyond kicks off at 6:30p.m. at the museum.

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