A group of current or emerging citizen leaders and other interested individuals from around the Washington region gathered recently to learn about how transportation decisions are made in the region and how to become more involved in the decision-making process.
The 19 individuals, each of whom has been recognized as a force of change in his or her respective community, met on Thursday, Nov. 29, and Saturday, Dec. 1, for the Transportation Planning Board's Community Leadership Institute, or CLI, normally held in the spring and fall each year.
The first CLI took place in 2006 after TPB staff conceived it as a way to help citizen leaders connect the interests of the local communities and organizations they serve with the broader challenges facing the entire metropolitan area.
Since then, the TPB has hosted ten CLIs. At the most recent one, Todd Turner, who attended a 2008 CLI and now serves as the Chair of the TPB, welcomed participants and encouraged them to get more involved in regional decision-making.
A diverse agenda of educational presentations, experiential group learning, and interactive discussions has always been central to the CLI curriculum.
Key presentations provide participants with information about the TPB and its partners, including state and local departments of transportation and elected officials, and help explain the many different processes -- at the regional, state, and local levels -- for developing and advancing individual transportation projects.
Presentations also describe some of the key transportation challenges facing the region, especially worsening roadway congestion, inefficient land-use and development patterns, and severe funding shortfalls.
One of the main interactive group activities at the most recent session emphasized the crucial link between transportation and land-use and highlighted the challenge of accommodating future growth in the region.
In the first part of the exercise, groups each proposed on a map where to concentrate the growth of nearly 700,000 new households and more than 1.3 million new jobs that is forecast to occur through 2040 and what transportation improvements need to be made to accommodate the new growth.
Groups also had to confront the region's funding challenges in the second part of the activity by adding up the costs of their proposed improvements and identifying sources of new funding to pay for them.
One of the other main activities in the curriculum called on participants to assume the roles of different neighborhood-level interest groups in tackling a fictitious local transportation issue. The activity underscored the obstacles and opportunities that exist in trying to build consensus among people who have differing opinions and perspectives.
Peter Shapiro, who served on the Prince George's County Council from 1998 to 2004 and as Chair of the TPB in 2003, facilitated the workshop.
On Wednesday, Dec. 19, during its next regularly-scheduled meeting, the TPB will hold a brief ceremony to honor the 19 "graduates" of this fall's CLI session.
The date of the next Community Leadership Institute has yet to be set, but once it is, the TPB and its staff will begin to recruit individuals who are interested in attending and invite them to submit a formal application.