In a day of inspirational, informative and thought-provoking presentations, Ryan Gravel’s keynote “Transit and the Next Infrastructure” tops the list on all counts! Ryan is the originator of the Atlanta Beltline, a soon-to-be completed circular trail around Atlanta that is already changing the way people live in the city. It’s “a corridor of humanity - built for people, not for cars”.
The Power of Infrastructure Change.
Like me, Ryan has lived and traveled extensively throughout Europe and given deep thought to the (in many ways) superior way of life Europeans enjoy. He talked at length about the inextricable relationship between infrastructure and culture, and has coined a new, insight-provoking term “infra-culture”. The pictures above show a Paris street as it was when Ryan lived there in 1995, and the same view after the infrastructure improvement in 2010. As evidenced by infrastructure changes throughout Europe and the US, and dramatically proved by the Atlanta Beltline, changing the infrastructure changes the culture. As he says “It is more than infrastructure. It’s our way of life.”
Anthony Foxx, US DOT Secretary called the Atlanta Beltline "a ladder of opportunity - a game-changer". Presenting the EPA Smart Growth Project of the Year Award, Gwen Keyes Fleming, EPA Chief of Staff made this comment: "What were once a deserted industrial landscape and an unused, overgrown and debris-filled rail corridor are now thriving, active neighborhood assets."
Ryan refers to community-life-changing projects like the Beltline as “catalyst infrastructure”, highlighting how a single change can inspire more positive change (my thoughts here as a systems-thinking engineer, it's a “virtuous cycle” - a reinforcing loop of positive outcomes.) He emphasized the need to engage and motivate multiple diverse groups with overlapping objectives in the process – and the complex changes of accomplishing this in a way that includes everyone and cultivates a sense of ownership across organizations, groups and individuals.
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Ryan is the founder of Sixpitch. You might wonder about the name – here’s the background: “Six is the smallest perfect number and to pitch an idea is to propose one. “Sixpitch” simply captures the notion that our response to any need can be shaped around many ideas. …Work at Sixpitch varies widely, but the common threads are ideas, vision, and the places where we live. … Our MISSION is to leverage the cultural momentum of our time through creative collaborations that will generate places where we all want to live. Our VISION is to promote human, community, and global health, economic prosperity, equity, and civic identity through the thoughtful adaptation of all the infrastructure in our lives.”
RYAN GRAVEL is the founding principal of Sixpitch and creator of the Atlanta Beltline, the reinvention of a 22-mile circle of railroads that began as the subject of his master's thesis. A designer, planner, and writer, he is increasingly called to speak to an international audience on topics as wide ranging as brownfield remediation, transportation, public health, affordable housing, and urban regeneration. Gravel lives with his family in Atlanta, Georgia.
You can learn more at http://ryangravel.com/sixpitch/. Ryan has written a book “Where We Want to Live: Reclaiming Infrastructure for a New Generation of Cities” that can be pre-ordered on Amazon. You can read more about the book here.