Monthly Archives: November 2009

Pod Cars or Streetcars?

Here are a couple of links that got me thinking about different forms of “mass” or “public” transportation. These are topics we’ll be getting into with the Shaping Our Towns and Cities project.
The first is a recent NPR story on “PRT” or “personal rapid transport,” often referred to as “pod cars.” The other is an Oregonian story about streetcars (and a local manufacturer of streetcars being invited to Obama’s upcoming jobs summit). At first glance these transportation systems seem to be variations on a theme of emphasizing mass transit development rather than gearing everything around the automobile. But the more you think about it, they start to look like very different visions of mass transit with very different implications about the ways our cities or towns will take shape. Just think of street level development if you had a streetcar system–and then imagine what the pod car system might look like. These are some of the kinds of issues we’ll get into the project.

–Jeff Prudhomme

Parking and Downtown Vitality?

What’s the relation of readily accessible parking and the vitality of a downtown area? If you don’t live in a center city area, you might think about how much more likely a trip downtown would be if you knew you could find a parking spot. But here’s an interesting Hartford Courant article that looks at the demise of downtown Hartford that accompanied the drive to expand parking space. Here’s a key tidbit from a study by UConn’s Center for Transportation and Urban Planning: “Since 1960, the number of parking spaces in downtown Hartford increased by more that 300 percent — from 15,000 to 46,000 spaces. This change has had a profound and devastating effect on the structure and function of the city.” And “parking and transportation policy in Hartford has had the perverse effect of inducing an unending cycle of more demand for parking. Like a dog chasing its tail, the city is constantly playing catch-up — the more parking provided, the more parking is needed.”

How might we approach these concerns about accessibility and urban vitality? About transportation and livable city spaces? Just some of what we’ll explore in the Shaping Our Towns and Cities project.

–Jeff Prudhomme

An Overview of the Interactivity Foundation’s Activities

The Interactivity Foundation is a fairly young non-partisan non-profit devoted to helping people work together to think of more ways that our society might approach complex topics of social or political concern. Our core focus is on facilitating the discovery of possibilities by the discussion participants–not directing the participants toward solutions we have in mind. Over time we’ve evolved 3 main activities, long-term Sanctuary Projects, short-term Citizen Discussion Series, and Educational or Classroom Activities:

  1. Sanctuary Projects or Discussion Projects–these are projects where citizens meet for roughly a year to explore and develop contrasting approaches to public policy concerns. You can find more about our notion of “sanctuary” here.
  2. Citizen Discussion Series–these are small group citizen discussions where people meet for a few sessions to explore the ideas developed in a Sanctuary Project
  3. Educational Activities–these support the use of our approach to exploratory and collaborative discussions in educational settings (especially in higher education).

Here’s a short overview of these 3 focal areas. For the time being, my focus with this blog will be on the “Shaping Our Towns and Cities” project, which is a new Sanctuary Project that will start up this winter. I’m currently looking for 12-16 citizen panelists (whether a “specialist” on some aspect of the topic or not) to serve on 2 different panels. Curious about what it’s like to take part in a project? You can find out a bit more about being a panelist here. If you’re interested and would like to learn more, drop me a line or leave me a comment and I can tell you more about it.

–Jeff Prudhomme

Welcome to Think IF…

Welcome to Think IF… a blog site I’ll be using to support my work as a Fellow of “IF”–the Interactivity Foundation. The Foundation is a non-partisan non-profit that is dedicated to helping citizens explore and develop more possibilities for our society to approach emerging complex topics of social and political concern. We focus on exploring divergent possibilities, helping people to think about “what if …?” We help people to think more interactively, both in terms of thinking about the interactions of different aspects of complex topics and also in terms of interacting collaboratively with each other. You can find out more about this blog and what the Interactivity Foundation is all about in the About section of this blog and at IF’s official website.

The primary impetus for starting this blog now is to support my upcoming Discussion Project on Shaping our Towns and Cities: Public Policy and the Future of Where and How We Live. There’s an introductory description of the project under the “Shaping Towns & Cities” menu bar button above. I’ll be posting follow-up material about this project and about what it takes to be a successful participant. If you think you might be interested, please read through the introductory material and send me an email (prudhomme [AT] interactivityfoundation [DOT] org) or leave a comment. Oh, and if you know someone who might be interested in taking part, please share this information with them and encourage them to get in touch with me.

–Jeff Prudhomme