Voices from Emerge 2015: Transportation

Voices from Emerge 2015: Transportation



Guest post from Emerge Class of 2015 graduate Erin Smith.
Erin works for the Texas Legislative Council.



“[Transportation] is the glue of our daily lives. When it goes well, we don’t see it. When it goes wrong, it negatively colors our day . . . curtails our possibilities.”  — Robin Chase

This video on Transportation was prepared by a team who examined the different modes of transportation available in our community. Please take a minute to watch.

Before seeing my Emerge classmates’ video and participating in our class discussion about transportation in Austin, this quote above from Robin Chase perfectly captured my attitude toward transportation. I thought about it rarely and never talked about it except to complain about it. My complaints about the traffic became my go-to icebreaker at whatever meeting, party, or event I was attending. Safer than even discussing the weather, the awfulness of Austin traffic was something I could commiserate about with just about anyone.

Then, I watched the video and had the chance to engage in an actual meaningful conversation about transportation. And, as happens on so many occasions in Leadership Austin, I began to think about the issue more deeply and from a different perspective.  While I have always prided myself as a person who solves problems rather than someone who contributes to or complains about them, I realized that this was not the case when it came to the driving that I do every day.  I am a part of the city’s traffic problem and, therefore, it is my responsibility to rethink how I get around.

Fortunately, I wasn’t made aware of this new responsibility without being given the means to take it on. Jarred, Danielle, Omar, Casey, and Morgan showed that incorporating transportation alternatives into my commute is possible and maybe even easier than I thought. In the words of Capital Metro‘s Gerardo Castillo, they used “every tool in the toolbox” to get around the city: rapid transit, carpooling, walking, biking, and riding the bus. I appreciated their acknowledgment that, as is the case with so many community issues, there is no perfect solution. There are pros and cons to every alternative. But, we can all play a small role in effecting positive change.

Seeing my classmates make small changes to help alleviate Austin’s traffic problem inspired me to do the same. In the months since our class discussion about transportation, I have made a conscious effort to rely on carpooling and walking more often. I have tried to pay more attention to the city’s transportation projects and initiatives and to educate myself about innovations in transportation. I’ve truly enjoyed discovering new restaurants within walking distance of my apartment and office, saving time and money by carpooling downtown with friends, and learning about the self-driving cars that I keep seeing around my neighborhood.

Ultimately, instead of seeing transportation as a limitation to all that I want to accomplish in a day, I now see it as a system of which myself and every other person moving around the city are a part. And, remembering that I share at least this in common with everyone I meet has led to a lot more interesting small talk than how the traffic is moving on I-35!

NOTE: The opinions of Leadership Austin alumni, faculty members, and guest bloggers are their own, and do not represent an official position of the organization.

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