For the Fall 2021 semester I was invited by the Department Chair of Urban Planning at Ball State, Scott Truex, to develop and lead a class related to transportation planning. After about a thousand emails and several phone calls, we aligned on Plan 498/598, Exploring Modern Mobility.
Students were engaged in a semester long journey to think about mobility infrastructure through a variety of lenses intentionally developed to help them see beyond the physical impacts to the built environment. Mobility systems are complex and nuanced—decision making is not just about where to place a road or bus route or trail. In the end, students were challenged to develop a personal philosophy about the future of mobility and its impacts on community. Much of our experience was discussion based with students completing an independent mobility project, using transportation systems other than personal use vehicle; collaborated in a team project to propose a new model for funding transportation; and completed a final paper about their personal philosophy on the future of mobility.
Our journey was facilitated by a variety of guest speakers and panelists who helped students understand the past, present, and future of planning decisions related to mobility infrastructure (John Myers and Chris Kopp of HNTB); the fundamentals of transportation decision making and transit planning (Flaun’say Caver PhD of the Cleveland RTA); how transportation investment decision get made, are funded, and the policies perspectives that inform those decisions (Kim Irwin from the Coalition for Health Promotion and Ryan Hoff from the Indiana Association of Counties); debated if transportation is a human right (Taiwo Jaiyeoba, City of Greensboro and David Johnson of the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority); explored regionalism and evolving urban areas (Cain Williamson of The ATL – Atlanta Transit Link); learned about transportation networking companies and new models in mobility (Arjan Van Andel of Uber and John Donlon, of UZURV); and were challenged to think differently about measuring success in the mobility space with bestselling author Mark Aesch of TransPro.
The journey revisited the theme of the planners’ conundrum, that they are constantly trying to prepare for the future in response to the last 50 years of decisions. In the end, students presented challenging, thoughtful perspectives on the future of mobility that gives promise to the complex environment for decision making they will face as professionals.
By Ehren Bingaman
BURP 1999, MA 2003
View a mid-term project “Mobility Journey” from student William Snyder.