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Beyond Traffic: What Will Transportation Look Like in 2045

Tonight, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx is sitting down with Google’s Eric Schmidt for a fireside chat, livestreamed on YouTube, to discuss DOT’s “Beyond Traffic,” which looks at the future of transportation in the United States. Through this effort, DOT is calling for ideas about what transportation might look like in the year 2045—how will we get around? How will that mobility be impacted by technology? And what kind of infrastructure investments should we be prioritizing to get there?

The Rockefeller Foundation welcomes this conversation and the change in thinking it represents. When the Foundation launched its Transportation initiative in 2008, the conversation around transportation in the U.S. was largely focused on building more and bigger highways and roads. But through our work with cities over the last several decades, we’ve seen the powerful role that transportation plays in shaping communities, access to jobs and education, and social and economic mobility—all vital elements in creating more inclusive economies. As such, we had a goal of shifting the focus from isolated infrastructure projects to building sustainable, equitable transit systems that provide all people—particularly the poor or vulnerable—with the access to opportunity that modern, efficient, and effective transportation provides.

We’ve pursued this goal in a number of ways. In New York City and Chicago, The Rockefeller Foundation is advancing public transit options like bus rapid transit (BRT) to provide a high-quality, low-cost solution that connects commuters to job centers, while in California we’re working to ensure that greater transit investment in low-income communities brings investment without displacement. Along with our grantee Transportation for America, we released a survey exploring the perceptions and attitudes of Millennials toward transportation, and the major role that public transportation plays in shaping where young people choose to live, work, and spend time—and thus, what cities must do in order to attract and retain young workers.

The Rockefeller Foundation also supported CityLab (formerly Atlantic Cities) to develop an ambitious nine-month long series focused on exploring the innovations, ideas, and technologies that are changing how people get around. One focus was around the future of the U.S. commute as we contend with underutilized public transit and aging infrastructure. CityLab recently published “The Future of Transportation,” a free e-book that collects the best stories from the series and highlights the range of outlooks on the future of transportation in this country.

The release of DOT’s “Beyond Traffic” framework is a great next step in the ongoing conversation around how to invest in transportation infrastructure for the 21st century and beyond, and it’s great to see actors from so many different sectors engaging and collaborating on both the challenges and opportunities. But whatever the ideas and their implementation, we will need to ensure that we’re fostering a transportation system in this country that is more dependable, more sustainable, and—most importantly—more equitable to create a more inclusive economy that meets the needs of all Americans.

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