Making Communities Safe, Sustainable, and Vibrant
How do we make sure that our communities are safe, sustainable, vibrant places that are accessible to all? While we must all work together in our individual roles to contribute to the health of our neighborhoods, local government plays a key role in planning and implementing the ideas that strengthen the livability of our communities. The issues that fall to local government to tackle are numerous, and one of them is transportation planning and infrastructure.
As an Economic Development Specialist at Burlington’s Community & Economic Development Office (CEDO), Diana Colangelo has the opportunity to work on transportation-related initiatives in the City of Burlington. As a Graduate Research Assistant at the TRC during the 2009-2010 academic year, she worked with Dr. Asim Zia to analyze national commuting patterns using data from the American Housing Survey’s Journey to Work section. Although her work is no longer in the realm of research, she regularly uses the skills she developed at the TRC and in her Master of Public Administration program in her work for the city.
Tasked with fostering economic growth in Burlington and helping small businesses startup, grow, and expand here, the range of activities that Diana is involved with that relate to transportation and infrastructure is broad. Activities range from providing technical assistance to help small bike- related businesses startup, find space, and market themselves, to working with other City departments on long-term plans for infrastructure improvements. One example is the City’s Public Investment Action Plan, which will determine how tens of millions of dollars in waterfront and downtown public infrastructure investments will be made. The City has put out a Request for Concepts, and the deadline is approaching. That is the first step in a year-long process that will culminate in a public vote on a slate of infrastructure investment projects in March of 2014. Diana and other CEDO and City staff will be intimately involved with this project over the course of the next year. Many concepts will deal with transportation-related infrastructure on the waterfront as well as better physical connections between the downtown and the waterfront.
On a smaller scale, in addition to providing assistance to bike-related businesses, Diana has been involved with initiatives to highlight the contributions these businesses make to the community. CEDO’s “They Chose Burlington” poster series offers businesses the chance to market themselves and show the public why they chose to locate their business in Burlington. The posters in the series have featured Terry Bicycles and more recently Maglianero Café, a haven for bicyclists whose owner is a bicycling advocate and major part of the modern mobility movement. The images appear at the waterfront information kiosk, in City Hall, and at Burlington International Airport, bringing featured businesses in front of a wide audience.
Another example of small scale economic development that highlights the importance of our bike-related businesses is a “Welcome Budnitz Bicycles” ride that Diana helped to coordinate. Starting on the steps of City Hall, the Mayor welcomed Paul Budnitz to our community and riders biked down to Budnitz’s new headquarters at Maglianero Café, where the Mayor offered more remarks and attendees got a tour of the new store.
Diana also works with the Department of Public Works and area businesses on locating bike racks in front of commercial properties, as well as issues that come up for businesses related to parking and parking signage. Resolving parking issues for businesses can help drive more customers to their stores as well as create more effective and efficient parking in general for visitors to the downtown. Stay tuned for more on parking, which is a critical issue that Diana and other CEDO staff will be working on in the coming year.
Working at the TRC not only helped Diana hone both quantitative and qualitative skills, but it gave her countless opportunities to learn about the complexities of making transportation decisions in communities. From attending lectures and research expos to collaborating with other scholars, Diana’s experience at the TRC informed her perspectives and helps her to be a better and more knowledgeable public servant when it comes to transportation issues in the City of Burlington.