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NACTO Designing Cities: Where transportation ideas collide

The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) held their annual Designing Cities conference in Austin, Texas, and considering the sky-high attendance – over 600 in total – I’m tempted to use the “everything’s bigger in Texas” slogan somewhere in this post. But I won’t. If you’re a transportation planner, urban designer, or all-around city enthusiast, chances are you have heard of NACTO. For the uninitiated, NACTO provides a national voice to city transportation departments, allowing for the exchange of best practices in roadway design, transit, and safety across a 40-city network. Their street design guidebooks, Urban Street Design Guide and Urban Bikeway Design Guide, are published by Island Press, and have been a go-to for many cities looking to build better, safer roadways.

A topic of conversation during the NACTO Designing Cities Conference was bikeshare equity. Photo Credit: Tony Webster at Flickr.com

I was fortunate to attend this year’s Designing Cities conference, where some of the most influential thinkers in transportation planning and city politics discussed how shared mobility models, technology, equity, and health will affect how we get from A to B in the coming years. NACTO Chair Janette Sadik-Kahn opened the conference with an impassioned plea for safer roadways, particularly in the developing world, where rising rates of car ownership have led to greater numbers of traffic fatalities. Janette discussed how the forthcoming Global Street Design Guide could be an important tool for creating safer travel choices for all people. Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter (AKA “Mix-Master Mike”) provided the keynote on day two, discussing the role of community networks and social equity in sustainable cities, and why bikeshare must be accessible for all residents, regardless of location or income, to be successful. Other panelists and keynotes included former D.C. and Chicago DOT head, and Start-Up City author, Gabe Klein; NACTO president Ed Resikin; and Victor Dover from the planning and design firm Dover, Kohl & Partners.

Between all the great speakers, the fun-runs, bike tours, and walk-shops, Designing Cities was truly a focused and fun event. Not even a temporary relocation (thanks, NACTOrnado) was enough to dull spirits. Just the opposite: discussions continued, ideas were shared, and connections made. Until next year, NACTO.