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October 03, 2017

Designing a Balanced Multi-Modal City

Metropolis Think Tank panelists Alan Greenberger, Andrew Stober, and Dena Ferrara Driscoll discuss the complexities of creating a city that equally serves all modes of transportation. Photo ©Rob Cusick

Last week, KieranTimberlake partnered with Metropolis Magazine to host a Think Tank discussion about new paradigms for planning and designing 21st century cities. The event, titled “Pedestrians, Bikes, and Cars: Designing a Balanced Multi-Modal 21st Century City,” was moderated by the magazine's Director of Design Innovation, Susan S. Szenasy. 
 
Using Philadelphia as a case study, Szenasy led a panel of experts to explore how the city might re-balance its infrastructure as equitable for all modes of transportation. The panelists were KieranTimberlake partner James Timberlake, former Mayor's Office of Transportation Chief of Staff Andrew Stober, Sarah Clark Stuart, director of the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, safe streets advocate Dena Ferrara Driscoll, and Drexel University professor and department head Alan Greenberger.

Summing up the complexity of the changing landscape, Stober offered, “We really have a 21st century set of demands. It's a lot more than just bicycles. We have unprecedented pedestrian volumes as we have more people living in Center City than ever before…We have record amounts of bicycle riding in that space. The private car is not going anywhere…Compared to 20 years ago we have more people riding SEPTA than ever before.” 
 
With commentary from the audience, the panel grappled with concrete design strategies for building a more dynamic infrastructure before probing larger questions associated with city life. “If you have a diverse population in the city, it means many ages, many races, many types of people,” Szenasy said. “You [can] create an urban environment that's walkable, that's accessible, that's good for the 5-year old as well as the 95-year old. So, how does Philadelphia make that happen? After all, you're the City of Brotherly Love, and some brothers are old.”  
 
Timberlake, though optimistic about interventions that might shape Philadelphia's near-term future, looked to an ancient city for contemporary inspiration. “Rome is three millennia old,” he cautioned. “Philadelphia is approaching the 450th year of its planning and inception. Rome wasn't built in a day, and Philadelphia won't change in a day. Still, we've seen great changes in the 45-plus years since I became a resident. In the 80 or so years since Rome has become inundated with cars, they have put the car in its place, not by removing them, but by creating a balanced walking, biking, and vehicle accessible city that is once again beautiful and safe to move through. Philadelphia can do the same.” 
 
The event was supported by corporate sponsors DuPont Surfaces, Sunbrella, DXV/Grohe, Teknion, and Corbett Inc/KI. To learn more about Metropolis' Think Tank continuing education series and upcoming schedule, visit the event page.