by Sarah Rudolf, Associate Director
From January 16 to 18, 2019, the Rail~Volution Board and National Steering Committee (NSC) met in Washington, DC, at the APTA Conference Center. (Thank you, APTA, for hosting us!) January is one of two times each year that the Board and National Steering Committee meet together. We kicked off planning for this year’s Rail~Volution transit and community development conference, scheduled for September 8 to 11, 2019 in Vancouver, BC. But not only that: the Board, NSC and staff also discussed a “recharge” or update of the organization’s strategic plan and the development of new programs. We also took a learning tour on the WMATA Red Line. Here’s a recap.
This year’s conference, the 25th, will be the first one hosted in another country! We heard from TransLink representatives Sarah Ross and Mark Seinen about Vancouver’s planning history, transit options and transit-oriented development, including in suburban areas served by rapid transit. Oliver Hartleben from IBI Group shared a humorous (watch this video) and informative presentation about cultural differences between Canada and the US, perhaps summed up by the each nation’s founding language – see the graphic below.
We closed out the 2018 Pittsburgh conference with a debrief and final report before working on aspirational goals for Vancouver this year. Then the NSC divided into five workgroups for conference planning. Conference planning will continue at steering committee meetings in March and June.
Learning on WMATA’s Red Line
As an organization that promotes ongoing learning, each of our Board and NSC meetings includes a learning tour (think mini mobile workshop!) The DC learning tour featured two adjacent stops on the Red Line at Union Station and NoMa. At Union Station we received a brief history on how political, economic and social forces impacted the building since its origins in 1907. We also learned about plans for future upgrades to the railyard and boarding areas to make way for future transit-oriented development (TOD) projects. At NoMa, we learned about the P3 and value capture financing that led to the development of this infill station which delivered more than $4.7 billion in economic development in the area between 2004 and 2014. Special thanks to Beverley Swaim-Staley and Kevin Forma from Union Station Redevelopment Corporation and Stan Wall from HR&A for being such knowledgeable tour guides.
Adopted by the board in 2014, Rail~Volution’s strategic plan set overall direction and began to define steps to broaden the organization’s work beyond the conference. Over the past five years, significant progress has been made to fortify the organization’s infrastructure and staff capacity, while also consistently offering a state-of-the-art conference (in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Dallas, the Bay Area, Denver and Pittsburgh).
During this same time period, we’ve seen major shifts in the transportation world, including the introduction of shared bikes and scooters and the mainstreaming of app-based ride programs. The organization is now well-positioned to launch forward with two programs beyond the conference: the Information Exchange, focused on year-round learning, and ACT2, focused on regional capacity-building. It’s an opportune time to recharge the Strategic Plan to reflect the current and future realities and priorities of both the organization and the field of transit and community development. Stay tuned!