CNU transportation summit focuses on changing transportation standards

Over the past three years, CNU’s

transportation task force has worked hard to reform engineering standards for major thoroughfares. Through a joint project with the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE), CNU has been translating the principles of the Charter of the New Urbanism into common transportation engineering industry design guidelines. The goal is to offer a manual for urban thoroughfares based on context-sensitive design that will be backed by the standard-setting Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the ITE. This manual is expected to become a recommended practice and will significantly streamline the process of implementing context-sensitive solutions.

At the third annual CNU Transportation Summit on November 18 and 19 in Kansas City, CNU members, transportation engineers, and others new to the CNU met to celebrate their recent accomplishments and discuss the coming challenges in implementing new urbanist transportation projects. Nearly 110 professionals from 26 states attended the event, which was hosted by Kevin Klinkenberg and his firm, 180 Degrees Design Studio.

Presentations ranged from an update on the status of the ITE-CNU context-sensitive design manual to an overview of local Kansas City new urban projects to an explanation of “pedestrian science.” CNU president John Norquist led a panel on transportation design recommendations from the recent Mississippi Renewal Forum and reinforced how the design of streets, highways, bridges, and rail lines will play a central role in setting the pattern of rebuilding and renewal in Mississippi.

Kevin Klinkenberg showed how some of the new urbanist principles in the context-sensitive design manual guided his design of the New Longview multiway boulevard in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, and the New Market traditional neighborhood development in Kansas City, Kansas. The boulevard design recommended narrower lane widths, and roundabouts with redefined entry and exit points to calm traffic on the boulevard. Ultimately, the design was modified to be more of a hybrid multiway boulevard, removing some street crossings and deferring more to the through traffic.

On the second day of the summit, CNU members gathered to work in small groups using a process called Open Space Technology. The conference management tool helps participants create and manage their own agenda of parallel working sessions. Participants posted their own discussion topics on a schedule board. They then combined similar topics and decided which discussions they wanted to join before dispersing into smaller groups. Participants were free to rearrange their schedule as the day progressed. Jennifer Hurley, CNU’s new Planners Task Force co-chair, spearheaded the process and got the groups moving. Members can see this format in action at CNU XIV in June 2006 and use it to generate their own ideas for CNU initiatives.

sessions on the fly

The summit participants quickly picked up on the system and created their own sessions such as “Light, Light Rail,” “Taming the Modeling Beast,” or “Communicating Context and Street Relationships to Non-CNUers.” The small groups shared their expertise on the subjects and created strategies for follow-up work.

“Pedestrian science” is one small-group topic members will hear more about in the coming year. Jim Charlier, President of Charlier Associates, led the group in a discussion on the need for better tools to address the pedestrian within varying contexts. “New urbanists need a more advanced vocabulary for pedestrian design,” says Charlier. “While the term ‘pedestrian-friendly’ has become more common in the public realm, its use in planning circles demonstrates a limited understanding of the various needs of pedestrians and how to accommodate them in various contexts.” For follow-up, participants in the group plan to review the new context-sensitive design manual from a pedestrian-design perspective to see what’s missing or what needs to be fleshed out in greater depth. They plan to use that study as a framework to develop a toolkit for pedestrian design and to focus future discussions at CNU XIV and at the next Transportation Summit.

Jim Charlier and Charlier Associates will host next year’s summit in Boulder, Colorado. The summit will have a special focus on standards for pedestrian design. Mr. Charlier is a transportation planner with extensive experience in designing pedestrian environments. Participants will have a chance to explore aspects of pedestrian science in the field during walking tours of Boulder.

To view presentations from the November summit and get involved in follow-up discussions, visit www.cnu.orgtransportation2005.html. CNU members will also receive a summit report in the mail in the first quarter of 2006, which will provide more in-depth information on various topics from the summit. u