Michael Andersen blogs for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets.
When deep economic forces rumble through a country, all its cities change a little. But some of its cities change a lot.
What makes a city capable of changing a lot?
That’s the question being tackled this year by Shin-pei Tsay, director of research and development for TransitCenter. Her New York City-based nonprofit was commissioned by the Knight Foundation to take a close look at the recent history of 30 U.S. cities and find the patterns that have led to rapid innovations in urban streets, like dedicated bus lanes, protected bike lanes, and pedestrian plazas.
Tsay gathered her research into an 80-page report released last month called A People’s History of Recent Urban Transportation Innovation that looks closely at six cities: Charlotte, Chicago, Denver, New York, Pittsburgh, and Portland. We caught up with her on her speaking tour this month for an interview about how to line up the three constituencies that drive urban change: civic activists, politicians, and bureaucrats.
How and why did this report come together?
In the 2000s, a lot of people were really worried about the next federal transportation bill. But at the same time there was a lot of change happening in cities across the country. Small changes are happening in places like Memphis or Nashville or Akron. We were commissioned by the Knight Foundation to look at this question: How did these innovations happen?