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The Source for Public Transportation News and Analysis October 10, 2011
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IN THIS ISSUE: Coverage of the 2011 APTA Annual Meeting & EXPO in New Orleans!

‘How We Commute Matters’: Florida Keynotes General Session
BY STEPHANIE BRUNO, Special to Passenger Transport

“The systems you build and the battles you fight in the face of an unbelievably uninformed public are truly heroic,” Richard Florida told an audience of public transportation industry professionals at an Oct. 4 General Session during the 2011 APTA Annual Meeting.

Described by APTA Chair Gary C. Thomas as an “economist, futurist, and author,” Florida spoke passionately about what he refers to as “The Great Reset”: the seismic shift in what will propel future healthy economies away from what propelled them in the past.

“It isn’t just an economic reset,” Florida said. “It’s social, cultural, psychological. And central to it is accelerating the speed by which we move people, things and ideas.”

Florida referred to his book, The Rise of the Creative Class, in which he posited that a transition from “old-style industry to something new” has been in progress over the past few decades. He calls it a shift from a manufacturing-based economy to a knowledge-based economy, and argues that places—even “mega-regions”—that attract and nurture creativity are the ones that will benefit from economic prosperity in the future.

“Place and community are coming to supplant the industrial economy as the key social and economic organizational unit,” he said. “The idea that place matters is paramount. We have to invest in transit and other things that make place.”

Florida noted that thriving mega-regions transcend geopolitical boundaries and concentrate creative capital in communities.

“The world isn’t flat, it’s clustered,” he said, refuting a popular theory of how globalization has changed the worldwide economy. “Old patterns are crumbling. Places that understand how to concentrate and cluster people will prosper.”

Florida elaborated, saying that the new economic system will be built not around the automobile, but instead around public transit, high-speed rail, and other forms of public transportation that help the creative class cluster. “The way we build our transportation systems is critical,” he stressed.

Florida explained that traffic and gridlock resulting from the suburbanization of the nation in the 20th century are responsible for hundreds of billions of hours of lost time and productivity. He cited studies associating long car commutes with lowered happiness levels, financial instability, illness, and obesity. The move now, he said, is away from the suburban model and toward cities and regions where residents can benefit from public transit hubs.

“We need better transportation systems, better rail systems, to knit areas together,” he said. “How we commute matters.”

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