Over the last century, most American cities have been designed and built out around the car as the primary mode of transportation. For many decades, until its own growth began clogging roads and intruding too heavily on neighborhoods, the individually owned automobile was a robust solution. Today, escalating traffic congestion is making our cities less livable. Residents' demands for greater mobility are making this issue a priority for mayors across the county.
Due to varying population densities, economic resources, weather and legacy infrastructure, no two communities will take the same approach. One that is tackling the problem head-on is Tempe, Ariz. As this interview with Mayor Mark Mitchell and the city's sustainability program manager, Braden Kay, shows, Tempe is using a variety of approaches. It's pursuing regional transit coordination, serving as a testbed for new technologies and focusing on long-range mobility solutions.
Tempe has a goal of becoming what's known in transportation and planning circles as a "20-minute city" -- one with a vibrant mix of commercial, recreational, civic and residential establishments that for most residents are within a one-mile walking distance, a four-mile bicycle ride or a 20-minute transit trip. Yet getting people out of their cars when it's over 100 degrees outside, as is so frequently the case in the Phoenix region, will make this a real challenge. Time, of course, will tell whether Tempe's approach is successful. But as a statement of work in progress, it's clear that Tempe's leaders are willing to break new ground. Moreover, their results may eventually serve as a model of how to plan and build a comprehensive, multi-modal transportation system.
Mark Mitchell is a third-generation Arizonan with deep roots in the Tempe community. Before being elected mayor in 2012, he served three four-year terms on the city council. He is on the board of directors of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council and serves as Tempe's representative on the regional council of the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG).
As Tempe's sustainability program manager, Braden Kay works with city departments on reaching sustainability targets in energy, transportation, waste, water, land use, local food, housing and social issues. He holds a Ph.D. from Arizona State University's School of Sustainability and served previously as the sustainability manager for Orlando, Fla.
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