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Event Recap: Key Takeaways from the 2019 American Planning Association Conference

With 6,400 planners in attendance, WGI played a large role in the American Planning Association’s National Planning Conference in San Francisco, California.

With 6,400 planners in attendance, WGI played a large role in the American Planning Association’s National Planning Conference in San Francisco, California.  Lisa Nisenson and Bridget Callea helped co-lead two workshops, spoke on panels, and engaged other attendees on trends in planning.

American Planning Association Conference

WGI Workshop and Session Recap

Lisa and Bridget helped develop and facilitate two workshops on disruptive transportation technologies. The first, “Transportation’s Missing Links: Planning Autonomous Shuttle Pilots,” revolved around an actual setting in Hawaii where shuttles could knit together a University campus, a traditional mall, and residential areas. Participants were required to assess feasibility, potential routes, and supportive site design.

American Planning Association Conference

The second workshop, “Corridors 3.0: Smart and Sustainable Redevelopment”, took a closer look at how emerging smart city and mobility technology can play a role in strengthening auto-oriented commercial corridors. The map-based exercise considered a city in Massachusetts that would compete for an autonomous bus rapid transit (BRT) grant. Participants were given a range of criteria, including economic development and ridership potential, and then asked to review whether the city could compete. One of the top lessons from the corridor exercise was that the city was not really a candidate for autonomous BRT, but should leverage existing technologies and improve access to the existing commuter rail line.

American Planning Association Conference

In the session “Anticipating and Governing Disruptive Change”, Lisa joined Adriane Jaynes from the City of Tulsa, Oklahoma and Brad Davis from Alta Planning + Design’s West Palm Beach office. This session took a practical look at planning tools, including scenario planning, predictive planning, and using small-scaled pilot projects to test new technologies (such as shared scooters).

Top Takeaways

Why Autonomous Shuttles? Planners are excited about autonomous shuttles as a nimble type of transit service for campuses and as “first-last mile” access to transit. With nearly 70 autonomous shuttle pilots underway around the country, they are also likely to be the first autonomous vehicle types providing service. WGI is ready to help communities plan and implement new shuttle services and supportive infrastructure. In fact, WGI is helping develop an AV Shuttle pilot checklist for planners though a Transit Cooperative Research Program project, due later this year.

Streets (and Curbs and Sidewalks) of the Future: Curbside management is a hot topic for both urban and suburban areas in the United States. This is thanks in part to technology and the rise in e-commerce deliveries, food delivery services, and ride hailing (think Uber and Lyft) creating congestion on curbsides. Autonomous delivery is on the rise and air and ground drones are expected to fill even more orders in the future. While roadway congestion is long established, WGI will help reshape the design and management of curbs, sidewalks, and possibly airspace as autonomous technology increasingly affects how both people and goods flow.

Getting in Front of Change: The conference featured an entire track on “Managing Change in Communities.” While technology is a big change driver, so too are climate change and economic restructuring, such as the “gig economy.” As such, expect a growing number of planning tools and methods that help anticipate and manage change. As a member of the Board of the Consortium for Scenario Planning, Lisa is on the front lines developing planning tools that incorporate trends such as new technology. The Consortium is a project of the Lincoln Institute for Land Policy in Cambridge MA. For more information on this, visit the Consortium’s website: (www.scenarioplanning.io/resources).

American Planning Association Conference

Finally, WGI was asked to participate in the conference’s Tech Zone in the exhibit hall and find ways to make emerging technology fun and engaging. Fortunately, WGI’s creative service and placemaking teams stepped up to the challenge to create “Connected Communities: the Board Game”. Lisa and Bridget play-tested a prototype of the game, which is part Monopoly and part BINGO, with attendees. While the main priority of the game was to teach technology lingo and how it fits with planning, attendees shared that they would also find value for using the game in charrettes and strategic planning sessions.

Contact Lisa Nisenson (lisa.nisenson@wginc.com) or Bridget Callea (Bridget.Callea@wginc.com) if you are interested in the game and how WGI can make it work for you.

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