Global ideas to help build local mobility

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By Dean Hybl, executive director, Ten at the Top

While increased traffic congestion around our primary transportation corridors and lack of access to transportation for some Upstate employees have become growing concerns in our region in recent years, the reality is that other regions around the globe have been dealing with similar challenges for decades.

I was fortunate to be among a number of Upstate leaders who participated in the recent Movin’On Mobility Summit hosted by Michelin in Montreal.

Billed as the World Summit on Sustainable Mobility, more than 4,000 people from around the globe participated in the conference with the goal of bringing global, smart, sustainable, and multimodal mobility to life.

It is perhaps natural to think that other places have all the answers and that we are behind when it comes to addressing our transportation and mobility challenges in the Upstate. However, while there are communities with amazing, cutting-edge programs, one of my takeaways from the conference was that no place has all the answers. In fact, regions around the world are scrambling to figure out how to connect local transportation needs with dramatic innovations in technology and a desire to improve sustainability and mitigate harm to the environment.

While the theme of the conference was innovation and technology, many speakers spent as much time talking about the importance of creating a community culture to enable success. Building a vision and then collaborative partnerships with everyone who can play a role, even though many of those players may be competitors, was an underlying theme from presenters.

“Collaboration between the public and private sector is the key to the future,” Michelin CEO Jean-Dominique Senard said in the conference opening.

Adam Blinick, the director of public policy and communications for Uber Canada, said that “you need a vision of where you want to go first. Technology shouldn’t be the end.”

He added, “A joint vision is not a technical challenge, it is a collaborative challenge. You have to bring together all the transportation modes that play a role in mobility and work together to accelerate the trends we are already seeing.”

Joanna Kerr, executive director of Greenpeace Canada, moderated a panel about creating an inclusive transformation and said that “collaboration is becoming increasingly important in helping meet our mobility needs.”

Given that Upstate stakeholders have spent much of the past year working to develop a transportation vision, actionable strategies, and a framework for continuing to build collaborative partnerships through the Connecting Our Future program, you can certainly say that the Movin’On conference affirmed that approach.

However, it is also clear that we cannot stop with simply creating a regional mobility vision. For the Upstate to tangibly address our growing challenges, we must take the next step and continue building the partnerships and “community will” needed to turn vision into action.

Sampo Hietanen, founder and CEO of MaaS Global in Helsinki, talked about creating a dream for people that goes beyond simply owning a vehicle, but gives them aspirations about how having multiple mobility choices can positively affect their lives. He also said that to create sustainability, you have to focus not just on projects, but on enabling the market that will then allow for the cultivation of projects.

In an Upstate region where 94 percent of residents use a personal vehicle to get to work and our investment in public transportation is near the bottom of most rankings, our solutions are going to be different than in some other parts of the country and world. Yet, if we can cast a compelling vision for how multiple mobility solutions can positively affect the quality of life for all of us, over time we can create a future that enables greater mobility.

What we must do in the Upstate is continue to grow a coalition of partners and stakeholders who are committed to supporting and prioritizing the solutions needed to improve how we move people and goods across the Upstate. As was said multiple times by speakers at the conference, there is no “silver bullet” to fix transportation and mobility in a community, and having the right partners at the table to enable change will be crucial.

I invite you to join us for the unveiling of the regional vision and actionable strategies and the start of the discussion on “next steps” on Aug. 7 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the TD Convention Center. This event is open to the public, and you can register to attend at www.connectingourfutureupstatesc.org.

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