For this first time this year, the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) held its annual Designing Cities Conference in Canada. Three planners from the Urban Strategies team – Tony De Franco, Nithya Vijayakumar and Neil Loewen – attended the conference, which was held in Toronto from September 9 to 12th.
The conference brought together 900 municipal staff, city officials, urban planners, and transportation practitioners to share their experiences and collaboratively develop strategies to address today’s transportation challenges, including traffic congestion, pedestrian safety, equitable access, sustainability, and emerging technology.
Janette Sadik-Khan was among the special guest speakers who presented during the conference. The former commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation spoke about how if we design streets for kids – as safe, playful, comfortable and colourful spaces – we design a future that works for everyone. Mayor John Tory spoke that same morning about the King Street Pilot Project, which dramatically increased reliability and ridership on one of Canada’s busiest transit routes. Day Two of the conference included a panel discussion with three City councilors from across Toronto, which was moderated by Chief Planner Gregg Lintern.
The Urban Strategies team also participated in a series of “WalkShops,” which were organized walking or cycling tours showcasing exciting projects across the city. The WalkShops covered a range of themes, including complete street design, public transit initiatives, neighbourhood redevelopment, waterfront regeneration, active mobility, public realm design, and public-private partnership strategies.
One of the key messages that resonated throughout the conference was that streets have become more than just places for cars and transportation; they are evolving into places for all people to move through, gather, socialize, experience and enjoy. The future of transportation planning will certainly be interesting!