Pennsylvania Tour Recap

One of the major benefits of being part of the Strong Towns team is getting the opportunity to travel.  While we’re on the STROAD, we meet a lot of amazing people and see a lot of fascinating places.  Our recent trip to Pennsylvania was no different.

The trip was made possible by individual donors from across the state and beyond.  It all started with a blog piece Chuck did regarding an award PennDOT received for their $77 million ramps built in Chester, PA.  The post received widespread distribution and we were asked by a number of people to come to Pennsylvania for a series of Curbside Chats.   Since resources were limited, we held a fundraiser and ultimately raised enough funds to make the trip happen thanks to many generous donations.

Over the course of a week, we Chuck gave ten presentations between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.   Each of the locations we visited had a local contact that helped set-up and promote the events.   The trip would not have been successful without those people; we can’t thank you all enough.  Liz, Sari, Eusebius, Dennis, Sara, Ron, Mary, Donna, Skyler, Diane, Leah, Sandy, Eve, Joe and Jeb:  thank you, Thank You, THANK YOU!!!

We could not be happier with both the amount of people we reached, and more importantly, WHO we reached.  The size of the audiences ranged from just a few participants in Scranton all the way up to 150+ attendees in Lancaster.   The people that attended the presentations are passionate about their towns and are actively making changes to their communities to make them better places.   Audience members included college students, civic leaders, elected officials, city/county staff, recovering engineers and planners, passionate citizens, developers, bloggers, retirees, and many more. 

My favorite part of the tour was getting to know people after the presentations.  I made many connections with a lot of different types of people.  They enthusiastically shared their personal stories and how they related to the Strong Towns message.  It was interesting to hear what people had to say from different perspectives (rural townships to dense urban areas) and how Strong Towns has impacted them at both personal and professional levels.  

Besides meeting a lot of truly amazing people, we also got to soak in some spectacular architecture.  Although Chuck has been immersed in this stuff throughout his travels, this was the first time I was able experience (first hand) buildings constructed while our country was first being developed.  I was particularly amazed by the structures in York.   Each building was unique but still fit into the overall “fabric” of the City.   I had a chance to walk the streets of York at night during Chuck’s presentation there.  The next day, we decided to make a quick return trip there so we could see the City in the daylight.

Even though Chuck received a ticket from the Philadelphia Parking Authority and I forgot to grab a toll road ticket (we don’t have those here in Minnesota) before getting on the interstate, the trip was a huge success.  We planted the Strong Towns message throughout Pennsylvania and met a lot of great people along the way.  We are very thankful for those that made the trip possible and for everyone that attended the events.   We wish you all the very best.  Keep doing what you can to build Strong Towns!


The following is a sample of some media coverage Strong Towns received throughout the tour: 

"Engineer recommends a trip back to the future for America’s towns and cities."

"Communities must commit only to projects that "add value," he said. Traditional urban development tends to be more valuable than big-box stores or fast-food restaurants that can only be used in one way, he said."

"The group was invited to come to Scranton but no city leaders turned out for the presentation."

 "American cities have for too long used a "Ponzi scheme" development style that's led to costly and inefficient sprawl focused on cars instead of people, according to an engineer and land planner."

"York City Councilman Michael Helfrich said he thought the presentation was going to be on how to fund government projects, but was pleasantly surprised that it focused on problems created by wasteful project funding."

"Part of Marohn’s talk focused on the value of individuals, and efforts that begin not with big government, but at the grassroots level. There’s plenty of dispersed yet important knowledge accumulated over time, he said, and we need to harness  it."

"When it comes to prioritizing public dollars on transportation, infrastructure or development projects, Charles Marohn has a message for struggling cities like Scranton: think smaller."

"If you care about the future of your community and you participate in no other event in 2013, this is the one you should not miss!"

"Marohn, a nationally recognized speaker on the subjects of planning and development, will attempt to break through planning lingo to give what he called in a news release an “easy-to-understand, back-to-basics” description of the importance of community investment." 

"Years from now I look forward to telling my grandchildren I was a witness to one of the most important events in modern Lancaster County history, one that radically changed how the community manages growth.

I'll tell them how I was there, in the front row, because I didn't want to miss what Charles Marohn Jr. of Strong Towns had to say."

"What needs to happen, Marohn argues, is we need to take a hard look at what he calls the American suburban experiment and the affect it has had on our communities."

 "citylab presents: strong towns curbside chat 1/11: Join us for a free brown-bag lunch and Curbside Chat  "

"As a result of the Scranton Times article, I visited the Strong Towns website and found a wealth of sound fiscal reasons for smart growth.  So even though Marohn only addressed five people in Scranton, he influenced me and I'm sure many others.