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Top 10 Insights from TTS 2016

  1. The future belongs to large regional metropolitan areas. Across America and the world, thriving cities and regions are connecting their activity centers, investing in multimodal transportation systems as a key component to positive transformation. Implication: We must work harder to unite Hampton Roads, and even look on to Williamsburg and the Richmond region as potential partners in forming a major megaregion.
  2. The “age shift” is fueling a growing battle between cities for young, educated talent. Speakers noted that cities are investing in integrated multimodal transportation systems, in part, to make their regions attractive hubs for today’s and tomorrow’s workforce. Several speakers literally said, “We want your kids and grandkids!” Implication: This region, too, is undergoing a profound age shift. It’s projected that the Hampton Roads region will actually have fewer 18- to 34-year-olds in 2030 than we have today. We must be more deliberate in making our region more attractive to younger generations.
  3. The competition for young people is reshaping the economic development model, making “placemaking” just as important as business recruitment. Successful areas today are dedicating financial and intellectual resources to create great places that attract people. Transportation is a key component of placemaking. Today’s college graduates often select place first, then look for a job. Employers follow talent. Implication: The concept of “placemaking” – and access to high quality transit as part of it – is currently and will continue influencing planning in cities across America, including in Hampton Roads, from downtown Norfolk to Virginia Beach’s Town Center, from Peninsula Town Center to Greenbriar and elsewhere across the region.
  4. There is a growing body of evidence that links enhanced transit, including light rail transit, to locational appeal. Christopher Coes released the latest research noting that 17 of the 21 cities with new light rail systems have experienced positive growth since the Great Recession, and “a 74 percent premium in real estate values when an area’s walkability score is over 70.” Companies are moving to activity centers to be near an existing and future pipeline of talent and customers. Implication: We must continue to organize and share the growing evidence that links a 21st-century transportation system with positive economic development and regional growth.
  5. Perceptions matter! Transit in Hampton Roads currently supports over $1.5 billion in annual economic returns, click here for details. However it’s near impossible to quantify all of the benefits and returns on investment that a more robust region-wide transit system promises. Our Speakers offered numerous examples. Implication: We must continue to organize and share the arguments and evidence that support light rail and other transit investments, not losing the significance of this moment: we are investing in the future of our entire region!
  6. You must have a vision for a strong regional transit system. A strong, well-articulated vision sets the tone, advances the conversation, and helps bring people on board the cause. Implication: Transit expansion initiatives across Hampton Roads should develop a galvanizing vision.
  7. You must organize and advance the right messages to the right audiences. The most successful initiatives not only advance the overall vision, they also share key messages for specific stakeholder audiences. Implication: In efforts to support extensions of better regional transit, including light rail in Virginia Beach, information must explain key aspects such as, an extension of light rail to Town Center is the second phase of building the spine of a comprehensive transit system, not just a three-mile track.
  8. In cases of transit ballot measures, you must have a well-organized communications campaign to disseminate information. Implication: Stakeholders need to determine the level of investment that is adequate to break through the background noise of the news and usual clutter so voters can make well-informed decisions. The Virginia Beach light rail proponents and opposition have both funded and launched information campaigns.
  9. Community leadership and partnerships are critical to success. Speakers noted that the most effective campaigns have an active coalition composed of a diverse array of actively engaged pro-transit organizations and community leaders – and that organizing this level of support requires a full-time community organizer. Implication: Success in Hampton Roads will be correlated to the degree that stakeholders are organized and to their level of active engagement and participation in advancing the cause.
  10. Momentum builds! Our guest experts left us with an enlightened perspective on timing: great regional transportation systems take time to build—decades, not years. As more and more people understand the overall vision, recognize the time it takes to build a comprehensive system, and see the initial parts of a regional system start to come into place, more will get on board, literally and figuratively. Implication: The Virginia Beach light rail referendum outcome offers a tremendous opportunity to build momentum for Hampton Roads’ 21st-century regional transportation system.

*adapted from closing comments by John Martin, President and CEO of Southeastern Institute of Research. For more info on SIR, visit sirresearch.com and generationsmatter.com.