26 Oct


Figure 1: Lindsay Angelo (CONNECT), Kathryn Schlesinger (PCRG), Caley Yakemowicz (PCRG), and Chris Sandvig (PCRG) from left to right.

From September 17-21, PCRG staff – including Chris Sandvig, Kathryn Schlesinger, and Caley Yakemowicz – attended the Rail~Volution Conference in Denver, Colorado. Over the course of the week in the Mile High City, staff had the opportunity to meet transit enthusiasts working in a range of transportation related fields, explore a range of topics around the intersection between housing and transit, and most importantly, promote Rail~Volution coming to Pittsburgh in 2018. Overall, staff had a blast exploring Denver and learning more about the social fabric of the community, with the help of many native Denver residents, along with the various economic, development, and mobility challenges that Denver has experienced over the last few decades and continues to experience. Below are two of the biggest takeaways from the conference and are reasons why you should consider joining us at next year’s Rail~Volution conference.

Rail~Volution is so much more than just a transit conference. Though it’s easy to quickly assume, this is far from the case. Rail~Volution’s motto of “building livable communities with transit” is reflected through their effort of showing the intersection between placemaking, transit-oriented development, community development, land use patterns, health, and so much more.  The Rail~Volution Conference is an opportunity for a multi-sectoral approach, with attendees, key note speakers, and panelists ranging from community activists to transit officials and developers to elected officials. Dan Bartholomay, the CEO of Rail~Volution, demonstrated this approach when he announced Denver hosting Rail~Volution in 2017, stating that the “Denver community found the right mix of investments that lead to truly livable places – places that take care to ensure affordability and access to jobs, good homes and healthy lifestyles.”

Cities, Suburbs, and Rural areas across the United States are grappling with similar issues but there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution. From the east coast to the west coast, cities – of all sizes – are struggling to solve parking problems, spur equitable transit-oriented development, finance infrastructure projects, and identify solutions for mitigating the effects of gentrification and displacement. These are not problems that are unique to any place in the U.S but there are a number of factors that can impact the rate of the problem compounding:   geographic size, growth factor, density, amount of investment, rate of decay, socioeconomic changes, and political forces. Transforming an urban, suburban, or rural place is incredibly challenging and complex, particularly because each place holds unique historical, cultural, and architectural features, making it difficult to replicate from one place to another.

What’s next?

Next fall, from October 21-24, all eyes will be on the City of Bridges as we host the 24th annual Rail~Volution Conference and continue the tradition of showcasing real world examples and innovative solutions to the challenges the Pittsburgh region has experienced over the decades around mobility, affordable housing, and economic development. Ultimately, as the press release stated announcing Rail~Volution coming to Pittsburgh, “repositioning Pittsburgh’s transit system is not just vital to maintaining the region’s highly desired quality of life; it is essential to attracting tomorrow’s innovation economy while lifting up communities not benefiting from the region’s rebirth.”

Acknowledging and celebrating the progress Pittsburgh has made over the decades is essential in changing people’s perception of the city; however, Pittsburgh, like Denver and other cities, has a lot of work to do around creating inclusive development and providing affordable housing and equitable access to opportunities. As our very own Chris Sandvig says, “For us, it’s really about how we can turn something that’s highly utilized, but often overlooked, into a reinvestment opportunity that connects more people to the opportunities Pittsburgh’s rebirth is creating.”

Kathryn Schlesinger

Transit Research and Policy Fellow at Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group
Kathryn originally hails from sunny south Florida, where she spent her childhood and teenage years playing travel softball on the Lady Gators, dedicating fifteen plus years to classical piano, and exploring the outdoors as much as possible. Kathryn then attended the University of Pittsburgh where she enjoyed the change in scenery and the discovery of the existence of seasons. She graduated with a B.A. in Environmental Studies and History, as well as a GIS Certificate. Currently, she works within PCRG’s mobility initiative GoBurgh, but is also expanding her knowledge into land use and housing.