Weighing Needs to Create Equilibrium in Emerging Communities

September 09, 2008

While emerging—or perhaps more accurately re-emerging—communities are each unique, many face common issues. Resolving these issues often requires a balance between the needs of local residents and travelers. From the newly created tourist destination to the once-vibrant town seeking to redefine its sense of place, leadership, support, and/or funding typically define the success of these communities’ efforts.

Growth in smaller communities often creates more traffic than the transportation infrastructure is meant to accommodate. Development policies can help balance this demand, but they also have potential to create strain on the transportation system by pushing development out to less congested areas. This pattern of development unintentionally creates congestion by making driving more necessary. When growth is not managed in a contextually sensitive way, the solution that's identified may ultimately detract from the qualities what made the community unique in the first place.

When community leaders in Troutdale, Oregon, sought to revitalize their downtown, they knew the City’s parking plan would need to serve a broad mix of people with sometimes competing expectations. Convenient parking would need to be available to visitors, if the City hoped to see them return; however, local residents and employees would also need reliable access to downtown. Troutdale was able to balance these needs and continue on the path to successful revitalization by creating an effective parking management plan and remembering that the end goal and steps to achieve it were larger than parking alone.

The cities of Aberdeen, Cambridge, and Frederick, Maryland, are seeking to balance the needs of residents with the needs of travelers. Each city is interested in making bicycling a viable mode of transportation. Unfortunately, the lack of on-road facilities and bicycle parking, combined with the lack of driver awareness of bicyclists’ rights, discourages most non-enthusiasts from riding. Increasing demand on the transportation system, interchanges designed to serve regional traffic, and highways that run through their towns also create challenges for bicyclists. Despite the challenges, these communities have a unique opportunity to help steer development rules to move beyond the traditional methods for accommodating potential congestion by enhancing systems for alternative modes.

Railroads can also shape the development of and transportation within emerging communities. Community and railroad needs can generally be balanced through the implementation of rail corridor safety improvements, traffic signal/rail crossing interconnect and coordination, quiet zones, and emergency/rail interface/ITS communications. Perhaps the ultimate solution is to relocate the railroad outside the community or drop the rail line below road grade.

Identifying needs, determining their validity, and developing solutions are certainly challenging tasks for any leader. Each emerging and quickly growing community has its own set of unique needs, but there is also ample opportunity to learn from various overlapping similarities between comparable communities. By involving the community’s residents and relevant stakeholders, these leaders have an opportunity to foster understanding and strengthen the ties that bind the community together.

Share your thoughts

comments powered by Disqus