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A Powerful 48 Hours
My visit to Washington, DC was fantastic. The trip was a bit impromptu when I called the US Department of Transportation’s Office of the Secretary to see if I could meet with Secretary Ray LaHood. Within a few hours, I had a date and time and booking tickets to fly out. It is not every day that a local transportation advocate has the opportunity to get close to people who are setting national policy and determining funding allocations in a close and intimate setting.
My intent of the meeting was not to duplicate the efforts of our national advocacy partners, or to lecture the Secretary on what he needs to do change the “autocentric culture in our nation”. My intent was to share our local stories and provide reflection on how national policies impact us locally and to reinforce ways that the Department can work with local partners and municipalities to make smart transportation choices. To help make this point, I invited Noah Budnick, a colleague from New York’s Transportation Alternatives and Randy Neufeld, of the SRAM Corporation and our board. We were told we had only thirty minutes, so we knew we could only cover so much ground. When we arrived at the meeting Peter Rogoff, the Administrator of the Federal Transportation Administration, also joined us.
Given the Secretary’s interest in distracted driving, we shared local stories on our Drive with Care work in area high schools and expressed our support for building a pilot around Mobility Education – a strategy to expand driver’s education to include on street bicycle safety, pedestrian safety, and transit planning. Secretary LaHood was interested, asked good questions, wanted distracted driving addressed and then asked for a price tag. He followed with a commitment to look into the idea.
We also covered ground on Safe Routes to School in the urban environment needing tie ins to violence prevention, building momentum for a Safe Routes for Seniors program in future funding bills, and the need to find creative ways to fund tough projects specifically covering ground on the need to complete the Burnham Greenway Gap as part of the Southland’s regional trail network.
Our next steps are to follow up with key staff and see where the conversation takes us. I try to keep in mind that this one conversation is a beginning to many conversations and I hope that this only builds on an already good start.
While I was in DC, I also had an opportunity to talk active transportation with the US Department of Housing and Development (HUD), meet with the new 5th District Congressman, Mike Quigley, and talk Southwest trails with Rep. Daniel Lipinski, 7th District Congressman. In many ways, the meeting with HUD was the most productive. We spent an hour talking about details and strategies to create livable communities built on sound land use policy. We covered some exciting ground including teaching about Home Zones and job development opportunities for projects such as bicycle parking racks.
I plan on writing more about the experience in our upcoming Mode Shift newsletter. Let me close by saying that one of the most powerful things that I was able to say in the past two days was that I represent over 5,000 members throughout the region. Join that movement if you are not currently a member to help build that voice.
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