My name is Kanaad Deodhar, a third-year CE Major from Seattle, Washington. Seattle is the seat of King County, whose voters were prescient enough in 1973 to fund what has now become the eighth-largest bus transit system in the country by ridership. In 1993, an organization called SoundTransit was formed to create a regional transit system of express buses, commuter rail, and light rail serving the three counties on Puget Sound. A generally outdoorsy culture has also led to a vast system of trails and parks for recreation and transport, as well as a push for pedestrian and bicycle-safety in the downtown area. A limited streetcar network also serves the city, though its usefulness is debatable.
In addition to Seattle and Atlanta, I have spent considerable time in Toronto, Mumbai, London, and Nairobi, all of which can be generally grouped into three categories: North American cities, built for the automobile with generally half-baked public transit solutions; European cities that offer fully-developed multimodal infrastructure but with limited private options; and developing cities, which are somehow functional despite breathtaking disorganization.
Each offers its own benefits and disadvantages, but the basic goals of any transportation system remain the same: safety, efficiency, and comfort. And though those three qualities are what traditional transportation engineering has always strived for, I would like to offer another quality I think equally important: engagement. Pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure offers the unique benefit of encouraging cultural and economic exchange as a byproduct of the infrastructure itself, an impact that is often ignored in the pursuit of larger-scale solutions. If moving around a city does not foster connections with the people and places around you, then the largely serendipitous interactions that form so integral a part of the urban experience can no longer occur.
As a fierce urbanist and advocate of sustainability, the eventual life goal is to help implement such networks in cities that desperately need the forward-thinking development the Netherlands currently espouses. My goals for this class are to understand the policies and procedures that go into developing active transportation networks, and see first-hand the benefits and challenges of designing and building these systems.