March 30, 2017
While MURP students have much to learn in the classroom about urban and regional planning, Denver itself also offers a vast network of resources, organizations and opportunities for students to engage in real-life planning scenarios.
The Transit Alliance, a local non-profit organization dedicated to empowering citizens to transform Colorado’s mobility future, provides such occasions through its Citizens’ Academy, which is a seven-week workshop that brings together Denver-based transit advocates. The academy serves to educate and motivate community stakeholders by encouraging their involvement to advance transit, active transportation and increased freedom of mobility.
Daniel Jennings, current MURP student, participated in the academy in Spring 2016. “I had just applied to the MURP program and was eager to get involved in the world of urban planning…participating in the academy allowed for me to be introduced to other planning advocates, and got me excited about the program,” Jennings said.
As part of The Transit Alliance, which focuses on policy and advocacy through its work, the Citizens’ Academy is an avenue for community members interested in Colorado’s transportation and mobility options to build leadership capacity, participate in forums of constructive dialogue about transit, and meet others who share similar and different viewpoints about where they see Colorado’s mobility future.
For Jennings, the Citizens’ Academy—which took place one night a week for seven-weeks—introduced him to different topics tied to transit, with the program often featuring speakers working in greater Denver’s transportation arena, including representatives from Denver Regional Council of Governments, Regional Transportation District and Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation. The academy also featured field trips to experience mobility options in Denver, including a trip to Denver International Airport to ride the University of Colorado A Line that recently opened to the public.
“Overall, the goal of the program was to connect you with other people that had similar interests related to transit, and to get participants thinking about how they could become transit advocates in their own community,” Jennings said. For instance, each participant created an action plan for their own community, which could range in ambition from simply taking your family for a ride on the light rail to investigating how to promote bus rapid transit in Denver.
Given his specific interest in increasing walkability within communities, Jennings’ project focused on improving walking conditions in Denver’s Lincoln Park-La Alma neighborhood. Through The Transit Alliance and work on his action plan, Jennings was also introduced to other transit and mobility-related organizations in Denver, such as WalkDenver and the Community Active Living Coalition.
“The Transit Alliance was a great introduction for me to the world I was about to enter with the MURP program,” Jennings said. “I was able to talk with and learn first-hand from planners, architects and other community members. Since a big part of graduate school is meeting people who are working in your desired profession, the Citizens’ Academy gave me a head start.”
Since beginning in 2007, The Transit Alliance’s Citizens’ Academy has graduated more than 800 community members interested in improving mobility throughout Colorado.
To learn more about The Transit Alliance, visit: http://www.transitalliance.org/.