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Agenda for the National Gathering

This will give everyone a sense of just how important this is going to be for shaping the Strong Towns movement. Get signed up today.

Strong Towns National Gathering

An idea, a movement, ready for the next step.
Minneapolis - September 12-14



Friday will be devoted to what we are trying to accomplish as advocates for building strong towns.

1:00 PM Conference Kickoff, Founder Chuck Marohn
Chuck will give a brief history of the Strong Towns, introduce the Platform and talk about expectations for the Gathering shaping the future of the movement.
1:40 PM State of Strong Towns, Executive Director Jim Kumon
Jim is going to give an update on the re-organization of Strong Towns and how he and the Board of Directors are working to expand the movement.
2:00 PM Platform Discussion Kickoff, Andrew Burleson
Andrew is going to provide the rationale behind having a Platform and begin a conversation of its content among attendees.
2:10 PM Platform Discussion
Attendees are going to be asked to react to the Platform and work together to refine it. 

3:40 PM Break

4:00 PM Keynote: Monte Anderson on Incremental Development

We are honored to have Monte Anderson, the president of Options Real Estate, talk about his experience with incremental development, salvaging buildings and building strong communities.
5:00 PM Break for Dinner
Tables will be reserved at a number of nearby local eating establishments.
7:00 PM Attendee Presentations Pecha Kucha Style 
We invited attendees to share their Strong Towns–related work and insights with others. We have just ten slots available for a mix of local and national voices. If you would like to present, contact Nate Hood at hood@strongtowns.org.
8:00 PM Drinks and Conversations on the Street
There are a number of quality social establishments within easy walking distance where we can continue the conversation and wind down the day.


Saturday is devoted to refining our knowledge and adding to our shared understanding.

8:00 AM Coffee Meetups

8:30 AM Fellows on Focus

This is an opportunity for our fellows to present initiatives they are working on for feedback and refinement by members. If you have an initiative you would like to add to the agenda, send your request to Jim Kumon at jkumon@strongtowns.org.

1. Transportation in the Next American City – Questions to the Prime Minister

Chuck Marohn is going to present the long-awaited “mobility report” and then field hard questions/critiques “parliament style” from the assembled crowd. Attendees will get a copy of materials ahead of time and are asked to come prepared to be the steel that sharpens steel.

2. Launching the Individual Call to Action

Andrew Burleson is going to lead attendees in assembling a 6-12 month action plan for launching an individual call to action. What are the steps that Strong Towns, the organization, needs to take over the next year to mobilize individuals to live as Strong Citizens?

3. Being Active in a Strong Town - Active Towns Bike-shop

Join John Simmerman and local bike/ped enthusiasts in a bicycle tour of Minneapolis as a feet-on workshop of the Active Towns Initiative. The group will merge what it sees on tour with a dialog about what the role of active transportation system is in a Strong Town.  Materials will be forwarded ahead of time to prompt feedback and suggestions for refining and expanding the message along the way.

12:00 PM Lunch (with ongoing discussion)

Food trucks will be available at the Gathering location for some local eating.

1:30 PM Keynote: Mike McGinn

Former Mayor of Seattle (2010-2013) will set the stage for the afternoon burning topics sessions by weaving together his personal story as a neighborhood advocate, environmental and political organizer with the challenges that face today's towns, cities and regions. His term as mayor focused on reallocating resources to improve transportation access, safety and economic opportunity in city neighborhoods as the core investments to building a resilient community.

2:30 PM Burning Topics Forum 

There are a handful of pressing issues where attendees are going to be asked to refine and expand existing Strong Towns thinking and help set the direction of the organization. If you have an additional topic, please contact Jim Kumon at jkumon@strongtowns.org.

4. What is a Strong Towns approach to transit?

5. How should Strong Towns approach local elections?

6. How do we mature our existing places, and unwind unsalvageable places, without leaving people behind?

4:00 PM Break & Conference Photo

4:30 PM The Next Generation of the Curbside Chat

Gracen Johnson is going to update attendees on her work with the Next Generation of the Curbside Chat, an initiative to put the message of Strong Towns in the hands of every storyteller in America.

5:15 PM Break 

6:30 PM Dinner Gatherings

We have some interest for scheduling salon conversations over dinner. If you have a specific topic you would like to get programmed into this time, please contact Jim Kumon at jkumon@strongtowns.org. Otherwise this time is being left intentionally informal for attendees to continue their work and conversation.

9:00 PM Movie Showing – The Human Scale (tentative) 


8:00 AM Coffee Meetups

8:30 AM Synthesis and Action

The specific process and agenda for Sunday is going to be set Saturday evening. We intend to use this time to synthesize all we have done over the past two days and identify opportunities for attendees and members to be active in growing the Strong Towns movement.

11:30 AM Closing Remarks

Chuck Marohn is going to deliver some final remarks to bring the National Gathering to its close.

12:00 AM End of Gathering

There is an Open Streets event on Nicollet Avenue, between 31st and 42nd Streets, in Minneapolis right after the Gathering that attendees are invited to participate in.



  • For those arriving Thursday evening or are local to MSP, there will also be a pub crawl Thursday night in the Lyn-Lake District. More details to follow.
  • Friday morning there is an additional workshop (separate registration) being presented for continuing education credit. If you would like more information or to attend, please see here.
  • Venues are not listed on this agenda but will be included on the final program. Most all the activities will be along either Nicollet Avenue or 38th Street in South Minneapolis.  The Sabathani Community Center Auditorium will be the location for all of our keynote events.

Civic Center Crosswalk in Fremont, CA

Tactical Urbanism Creating Opportunities from Challenges to better move and connect people and businesses so that communities can THRIVE!

Level of service was a solution of the Federal and State Interstate Highway era. The LOS concept was introduced in the 1965 Highway Capacity Manual to help "appropriately" size and design Federal and State highways. Unfortunately that solution was quickly accepted as the standard of measure for highways and freeways (largest and most expensive public works project in United States history that still continues today) and was later modified and adopted by local communities to size and design their roadways. The difference is that local communities serve "people" and many of our interstate highways prohibit or discourage or scare most people from using them. So when the LOS HCM solution was used in communities, our roadways often became sterile of human life (except if people were in a car).  Our community "people moving and connecting" roadways started looking and feeling like interstate highways. These community roadways became bigger, wider, and faster contributing to hundreds of thousands of life altering collisions and as a result became barriers within communities to move and connect people, neighborhoods, schools and businesses. So maybe we need to redefine the problem we are trying to solve and how we as communities serve our people and businesses.


As a result, the people are starting to take action to take back their streets from vehicle (even their residential streets) back from this bigger, wider, and faster roadways mantra.

Fast forward, fifty years and communities are focused on revitalizing their downtowns, calming traffic in residential neighborhoods, creating economic vibrancy, building transit oriented development, struggling to identify ways to maintain their infrastructure, and focused on identifying ways to move and connect people and businesses more effectively and safely. And the Federal and State governments have created environmental regulations on greenhouse gases and air quality and are now providing public health care. Both of which are directly impacted by our built communities and how we move and connect people. The challenge is that there is this man-made "rule" called "LOS" that was developed to solve a different defined problem fifty years ago and this "rule" is perceived to be in the way, forcing us as planners and engineers to do things right rather than focus on doing the right things. How we define the problem will often determine the solutions and opportunities. Focusing on the right things and not doing things right is the difference in being effective and efficient. Because of how the problem is defined you could be doing the wrong things right and efficiently. I would rather my community be sustainable (economically, socially, public health and environmentally) and effective rather than efficiently building roadways based on the wrong set of solutions.  It is time to redefine the problem, change the rules, and focus on building sustainable and effective communities that better serve its people and businesses. California is doing just that with SB 743 and hopefully communities will see the many opportunities available to them as LOS becomes a distant vision in the rear view mirror.


In my first hour in the Public Works Director position with Fremont, CA, I was asked to solve a safety crossing situation for the Washington Hospital campus (largest employer in downtown Fremont) adjacent to the BART transit station where seven recent pedestrian-vehicle, life altering injury collisions occurred because of distracted motorists and pedestrians and speed of motorists. Both the City and Hospital were debating the solution, or the "what's", and the issue quickly escalated into what I call a "kidney stone" project; small but politically painful. Engineers were concerned about manmade warrants and policies and the old "we don't want to create a false sense of security for pedestrians." The hospital wanted something done to improve pedestrian safety crossing a city roadway that bisected their hospital campus and created a barrier between Fremont's downtown and a BART regional mass transit station. So, we brought a fresh perspective and took a step back to focus everyone on the "why" and when we came to agreement on the "why" the solution presented itself. The "why" was to improve pedestrian safety or in short make the pedestrian "King of the Roadway." When you make a roadway safe for people, the most vulnerable users of the roadway, you enhance the safety for all users of the roadway. We then utilized the Aim Frame approach of  "What is the current situation?", "What do we want to create?", and "How do we want to get there?" to identify the "how" and "what" to improve pedestrian safety.  The solution pictured below and shared in the attached video was implemented by maintenance crews within two months utilizing a "Tactical Urbanism" approach, in time for the State of the City speech by the Mayor. What was once a significant safety issue creating political confrontation for over two years, resulted in the Hospital CEO and Board President attending a council meeting with a 2' x 3' card signed by the entire hospital staff saying "thank you".

How many capacity enhancing vehicle projects receive "thank you" cards from vehicles? It takes people and businesses to write thank you cards. When we focus on serving the people and businesses our relevancy as engineers and planners becomes greatly appreciated and valued.

The Tactical Urbanism Project

The original four lane roadway designed for efficiency of moving vehicles that bisects the hospital campus and downtown Fremont from the adjacent BART station.

The above graphic shows the six vehicle-pedestrian collisions prior to the road diet (lane reduction from four to two lanes) completed in May 2013. After which another vehicle-pedestrian collision occurred in September 2013 so something additional needed to be done to enhance pedestrian safety at this midblock crosswalk.

The concept solution design to facilitate discussion between the Hospital leadership and City Leadership.

The concept plan implemented within 6-8 weeks by city professional street maintenance crews included plastic water filled planter boxes to create curb extensions and a median island to reduce exposure of the pedestrian crossing the roadway. Solar powered Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons with passive (pedestrian motion detection) and active (push button) activation were also installed to warn motorists of pedestrians.

Travel lanes were narrowed to 9' in width as 12-13' wide travel lanes are designed for freeway use at 55-80 MPH. Narrower travel lanes help reduce motorists speeds. And motorists' speeds have a direct correlation with severity of collisions on a roadway. Above the left-turn lane was closed to reduce the "multiple threat" collision of a vehicle blocking on-coming motorists of seeing a pedestrian crossing in the midblock crosswalk. Left-turn lanes and right turn lanes were originally created to enhance the capacity and efficiency of a roadway for vehicles but they also increased the distance and exposure of a pedestrian crossing the roadway.

Advanced "yield" lines and regulatory "yield here to pedestrians" were utilized to bring greater awareness to motorists crossing in the crosswalk and where motorists should yield to pedestrians. The red AC Dike was used in May of 2013 to implement the road diet (lane reduction). However, there was still room for planter boxes and bike lanes to help narrow the crossing and reduce motorists' speeds.

You might ask why the Pedestrian Grade Separated Overcrossing is not used by the thousands of pedestrians (from both BART and Washington Hospital) crossing in the crosswalk. And that overcrossing goes from the 2nd floor of one building to the 2nd floor of the other building. It is not the quickest or most direct path of travel for pedestrians. Many of the pedestrians are not employees or customers/clients of the hospital. In this picture you can see the buffered bike lanes and narrow travel lanes. Notice that the motorist is stopping at the yield line. And there is still plenty of space for all the transit buses going to the BART station and ambulances and fire trucks going to the hospital.

The result of the "tactical urbanism" implementation was an increase of compliance for motorists stopping for pedestrians from 20% to nearly 90%.

The counterintuitive question we asked when narrowing travel lanes was: “Can making the roadway feel less safe to a driver’s perception (while still safe by all design standards) by narrowing the travel lanes actually increase safety by enhancing a motorist’s focus and awareness of the roadway?”

The answer was yes. Asking questions is the first step to reaching new solutions.


Bryan Jones, PE, PTP, AICP is a Senior Associate with Alta Planning + Design and the former Public Works Director for the City of Fremont. He has also held leadership positions with the Cities of Carlsbad and Fresno where he has inspired bold visions and big campaigns and aligned them with a strategic implementation plans that delivered numerous pedestrian, bicyclist, and complete and livable street projects. Bryan is passionate about helping move and connect people and business so that communities can thrive. He strives to foster innovation and develop leadership so that we can move in the direction of our potential. He believes where challenges exist so do opportunities when we redefine the problem we are solving and bring a can-do approach and results-oriented focus. He also serves as a voting member of the California Traffic Control Devices Committee appointed by the State of California DOT to represent bicyclists and pedestrians statewide as it pertains to standards, guidelines and policies in the California Manual for Uniform Traffic Control Devices. He received his civil engineering degree from UC Davis and his MPA from Norwich University.


Come Build Strong Towns at the National Gathering

Fall is quickly approaching, and with it comes the first ever Strong Towns National Gathering. The National Gathering is going to be a major moment in the history of our organization, as it’s the first time we will have assembled so many of our people together in one place to grapple with the issues facing our cities and citizens. We’re expecting to have a lot of fun, and to get a lot of work done.

Today I’d like to encourage all our Strong Towns members and friends to join us for this event, for one simple reason: the gathering is a time when we’re going to put our ideas and our organization through the crucible, and what comes out on the other side will be different. Showing up to the gathering and participating in the work that takes place there is your opportunity to shape the future of our movement.

At the gathering we’re going to be focused on three major themes: what we want, what we know, and what we do.

What do we want?

To date, the curbside chat has been the best distillation of the Strong Towns ideas. In short, our cities and towns are facing economic crisis because of the broken way we build them, and we want that to stop. When Chuck first started sharing the Curbside Chat, “stop” was our only solid piece of advice.

Over the years our thinking has matured, and a broader platform for change has begun to organically emerge. At the National Gathering we’re going to crystalize the first official Strong Towns Platform, an affirmative statement describing and defining a Strong Town.

What do we know?

The most important thing in developing our ideas is to be humble and and honest about the limitations of our expertise. As we engage with more people in more places, we’re challenged by new questions and new situations. Our challenge is to do what we can to broaden our knowledge base so we can respond to some of these questions, and to stay honest about what questions we simply don’t have an answer for at this time.

At the National Gathering we’ll have two major exercises to help broaden and sharpen our knowledge base. First, we’ll take some of our newer ideas and put them through challenge sessions where we take the role of the opposition and do our best to pick them apart. Second, we’ll open the floor for recent “burning questions” that we don’t have a response for, and see if we can formulate the beginning of a response to these issues.

What do we do?

We’ll wrap the National Gathering with a hard look at what we’ve done with the Strong Towns Organization to-date, and what we need to accomplish going forward. We’re not satisfied just to spread information around, we hope to see real, positive change begin to occur in our citizens, cities and towns.

So how does the organization take the next step forward? How can we turn this from a sort of “think tank” into a movement, with the reach and critical mass to effect real change in our communities? This question represents the need for a paradigm shift in our organization. That shift is just starting to happen, and is going to be strongly shaped by what happens at the National Gathering.

The key ingredient in all the work we’re going to do at the National Gathering is the people who attend. We’ve lined up our key leaders and thinkers to come and anchor the event, but we’d love to have a broader group of members show up and add depth and breadth to our thinking. This is the best opportunity to make an lasting imprint on the DNA of Strong Towns, and we hope you’ll choose to come and be a part of that.

You can find registration information on our member portal.

Thanks, and keep doing what you can to build Strong Towns!