LIVE: Allison Billings – The Power of Transportation to Transform Communities


Allison came to TEDxCharlotte today to talk about transportation and its power to transform communities — to make them safer and healthier. And to open our eyes to inequality right here in our our backyard.

When we drive our cars to work alone, or carpool, or telecommute, we miss the opportunities to engage with our neighbors. We miss the opportunities to experience new streets or visit local businesses that we might support if we walked, rode the bus, or chose to ride to work on two wheels instead of four.

76% of us are driving alone in a car every day. This lack of interaction is what’s driving us into social poverty.

In our cars we feel anonymous — everyone is faceless, and that’s problematic. We may not see the struggle of those who are working minimum wage, taking the bus just to drop their children at daycare. saving up for a car in order to access healthier food and better job opportunities

If we truly want children born into poor households to have the same opportunities that others have, we must step away from our auto-centric mentality.

After many years working in transportation, it comes down to this for Allison: “it’s not fair to focus on a mode of transportation that is not accessible to everyone.” Cars have a place, it’s just not the only place. We have to prioritize the comfort of pedestrians and cyclists first, and work from there.

There is good news — after decades of more and more people driving across the country, that tide has finally started to turn. People are riding transit in record numbers. Millenials are not buying cars like previous generations. People are choosing where to live because of balanced transit options.

Additionally there is a whole sharing economy to be found in transportation. These introduce ways to engage and interact while we’re in the car.

What are four things we can do to engage with our communities through transit?

We can ride transit — not every day, but maybe once a week. Get our friends and neighbors to ride transit too. We can all find a way to replace some short car trip with a walk or a bike ride. And we can educate ourselves further; electing officials who care at all levels of government.

Shake up your patterns. Experience some friction. Drive (or walk, bus, or bike) toward greater equality.


TEDx Photo Intro - Allison


About the Speaker…

Allison has over fifteen years of experience improving the livability of cities. As Vice President for Neighborhood Development, Transportation & Sustainability for Charlotte Center City Partners, Allison is responsible for advocacy on behalf of five urban neighborhoods and the small businesses therein and targeted infrastructure investments to support their growth and development. In addition to leading a team that supports Center City’s residents and businesses, Allison’s work has included developing and launching Charlotte B-cycle as well as the continued expansion of the program; crafting initiatives to improve access for transit, bicycles and pedestrians; and partnering on sustainability efforts including Center City recycling programs, best practices for green events, and Envision Charlotte.

Allison’s career has included developing and implementing numerous campaigns to reduce traffic congestion and parking demand while improving quality of life and generating economic growth. She has worked for clients including Bank of America, the Centralina Council of Governments and Triangle Transit.

From 2001-2008, Allison served as the Executive Director of Transportation Solutions, an internationally recognized Transportation Management Association (TMA) in Denver, Colorado. She was honored with the Association for Commuter Transportation (ACT) award for Outstanding TMA in 2006 and the 2007 Champions of Transit Award from the Regional Transportation District (RTD). Before relocating to Charlotte in 2008, the Denver City Council issued a proclamation recognizing Allison’s contributions to the City and her success creating win-win opportunities for developers and neighbors.

Allison earned a Master of Urban and Regional Planning from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a Bachelor of Arts in Ecology and Political Science from Emory University. She is a mom to twin girls, and her husband Stephen is an Assistant Professor of Economics in the Belk College of Business at UNC – Charlotte.