The Inclusive Value of Transportation
Updated: Feb 11, 2020
Transportation has always been and will always be a vital component of our civic life. It is, undoubtedly, one of the fundamental elements of place. As I often like to say, you cannot have a good time at a place you cannot get to. Transportation is prerequisite to civic interactions of all kinds, whether commercial, recreational, educational, spiritual, or otherwise. Our sense of community and our ability to be inclusive in how we structure and operate our public institutions rely heavily on our ability to move throughout our community in order to reach each other. For all the obvious reasons, this becomes even more important our cities expand and become more metropolitan.
Our sense of community and our ability to be inclusive in how we structure and operate our public institutions rely heavily on our ability to move throughout our community in order to reach each other.
According to research conducted as part of the ForwardSGF planning effort, approximately two-thirds of Springfield's workforce reside outside Springfield's corporate limits and commute to work using the network of arterial highways that serve our region. While these important conduits of commerce and opportunity are largely maintained by the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT), each community lying along these corridors has tremendous influence over the future effectiveness of the system in how they regulate development occurring along the sides of these highways. Communities that properly manage access as they grow will do so to the substantial economic benefit of our entire state and region. Those who fail to adequately protect these corridors will pass along decades of costs onto our economy and our communities.
But it is not just commercial activity that is at stake here. Our transportation systems are also a major contributor to our quality of life in several other ways. Investments in walkability have undeniable benefits to people's physical health and vitality. Investments in transit contribute to social and economic equity that is critically important to social justice. The Springfield National Airport facilitates a great volume of economic activity and access. I could go on and on.
Unfortunately, like most urban cities, Springfield has grown over decades in ways that have facilitated exclusion as much or more than inclusion. At a recent ForwardSGF community engagement event, I was struck at how well some of us remain contained to our own little segments of Springfield. Only a quick review of the recently published ForwardSGF Issues and Opportunities report reveals that people of various experiences and statuses are somewhat concentrated into areas of the city wherein they, like me, most likely remain.
Breaking out of our comfort zones, figuratively and geographically, is vital to our civic health. If we do not find the means to move beyond our particular segments of our cities and towns, the inclusive community we are striving for will remain beyond our reach. We will continue to miss out on the conversations and interactions we need to be having with people if we want to grow up while we grow larger. We are fortunate to have organizations like the Ozarks Transportation Organization (OTO) leading in giving attention to improving access to people and places in all the various modes of transportation.
Breaking out of our comfort zones, figuratively and geographically, is vital to our civic health.
The Springfield region has a lot to offer, but people need to be able to get there to enjoy it. What parts of Springfield are we missing out on because we aren't getting there? Which people are we not meeting? What conversations are we not having? For those in our community who lack access to a personal vehicle, how are we reaching them and vice-versa? For university students residing on campus without a personal vehicle, how are they experiencing Springfield and are they experiencing it in a way that attracts them to stay when they graduate? Identifying what and where the barriers are that contain us to our part of town and prevent us from engaging the broader community is important to our long-term success.
Transportation and mobility is not the entirety of the solution to this problem, but will be a major component. The timing is good to be having transportation on our minds. Alongside Springfield's ForwardSGF planning effort, many other communities in our area are currently or have recently engaged in similar efforts. The Ozarks Transportation Organization (OTO) is currently working on it's long-range transportation plan for our entire urban area, aptly titled Destination 2045. Opportunities to be involved and have influence in these planning efforts are available in a variety of forms. I encourage everyone to get involved with a mind toward listening and learning as much as being heard. In doing so we will bring our community together to #BeCivicMinded.