National Summit on Design and Urban Mobility Recap

Last week, the American Architecture Foundation held its National Summit on Design and Urban Mobility. Instead of your standard talking-head conference, this particular summit was designed around workshops and meetings—the goal was to convene a wide variety of thought leaders in the transportation space to develop solutions to today’s transportation challenges. It boasted representatives from all levels of government, OEMs, TNCs, research, and experts of all kinds.


While there will be an official report of the proceedings published in June, CityLab’s Laura Bliss did a great job highlighting some of the ideas floated throughout the conference in a recent article. We thought three of the solutions that Laura lists are particularly notable and should be heeded by decision-makers in the mobility space.


First, it is important that cities start discussing ‘life after parking.’ While the car might still be king, its dominance is rapidly diminishing. In fact, the Seattle Times recently announced that Seattle has reached peak car and many other major US cities are not far behind. Parking garages are the best place to start. The way that parking garages are traditionally designed—with sloped ramps—make it difficult to convert them to buildings for other uses after they are no longer necessary. Cities should now be looking into requiring that new garages be designed to make that conversion much easier in the (not so distant) future.


Second, it is important to get a conversation started with community groups of all kinds. The coming mobility revolution promises to touch all parts of society, from the disabled to the low-income to the millennials to the tech-savvy to the boomers. It is thus important that everyone chime in with their needs and their priorities so that the resultant system is designed in the best manner for the largest number of people.


Third, and arguably most importantly, we need to take advantage of the mobility data. As Laura explains, “data already is an incredible valuable commodity.” But its value needs to be conferred on society instead of limited by companies. The way to do that is to have third party aggregators. Laura quotes Zipcar’s Justin Holmes: “[Third parties’] ability to independently aggregate and analyze anonymized data sets from across the industry has very little risk and a lot of reward.”


The AAF was clearly a very successful undertaking—these are exactly the conversations that we need to be having as mobility and its systems continue to evolve. Kudos to Laura for doing a great write-up and to all of the participants for sharing their valuable ideas and insights.