On Tuesday, February 27, 2018, regional and nationally-renowned transportation experts came together for the first-ever Gulf Coast Safe Streets Summit, held at the Glazer Children’s Museum in downtown Tampa. The summit, hosted by the Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) with support from four other Gulf Coast area MPOs, Bike/Walk Tampa Bay, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), the Center for Urban Transportation Research at University of South Florida, and Walk Bike Tampa, brought together transportation leaders and representatives from the advocacy community to talk about the challenges and opportunities specific to the greater Gulf Coast region.
“It was so exciting to connect with people from all over our region who are working for safe streets that are complete and accessible to everyone. There is so much great work going on in Tampa Bay and around the country,” said Beth Alden, Executive Director, Hillsborough MPO. “I think we all went home with a little bounce in our step!”
National headliners included Leah Shahum, Founder and President of the Vision Zero Network, and keynote speaker, Ryan Gravel. Shahum shared background and key elements of Vision Zero, the goal to reduce traffic deaths to zero, and emphasized the importance of language, such as using “crash” instead of “accident” to describe traffic collisions. Gravel, whose master’s thesis became the original vision for the Atlanta Beltline, a 22-mile trail based on former railroad corridors, shared his insight about the project, which has become one of the largest, most wide-ranging urban redevelopment programs currently underway in the United States.
Additional summit highlights included a panel of regional city mayors, consisting of City of St. Petersburg mayor, Rick Kriseman, City of Palmetto mayor, Shirley Groover-Bryant, and former City of Temple Terrace mayor, Kim Leinbach, who also served as City Manager, followed by an advocate’s panel with Laura Cantwell from AARP, Charles T. Brown from the Vorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers University, and Melissa Wandall with the National Coalition for Safer Roads. FDOT also hosted a discussion with District 1 Secretary, L.K. Nandam, and District 7 Secretary, David Gwynn.
Perhaps the most encouraging take-away from the Gulf Coast Regional Summit is knowing that the conversation about transportation and safety in our region is expanding and our leaders are engaged. It was also an excellent reminder that we all can influence the safety of people using our roads.