I first became a member of Strong Towns thanks to a gift membership. Initially I found the posts, blogs and chats interesting but over the past year they have become invaluable to the volunteer work I do with my community.

My interest in traffic dates back many years but never as a professional planner, engineer or municipal employee. After chairing a committee charged with repurposing a historic school in Portland, I discovered that traffic, and how we manage and plan for it, can have a significant impact on the success of a project and the livability of the surrounding neighborhood.

Now, 20 years later, living in a smaller place, but a hotbed for tourism, I see firsthand the traffic mistakes my new hometown made in the past. Nominated, and now chairing, the city’s traffic safety committee I discovered the challenges faced by the staff, the politicians and attitudes of community members.

Like many cities, mine has huge shortfalls of revenue dedicated to street issues. A new four-year college being built is adding to the stresses the system already suffers. And the community is angry.

Strong Towns has been critical to helping me better understand these issues and help foster community understanding toward new ways of paying for and building smart solutions to our challenges. I’m much more comfortable discussing with professionals the nitty gritty. But, more importantly, the messages Chuck and the Strong Towns community share are very powerful for the people on the street—the voters. More often than not, when they hear this message they too become part of our movement. 

After sharing much of this philosophy with our city council, I was asked to work on a Technical Advisory Committee charged with finding solutions to most of the traffic trouble spots in our city. That work involves the county and state. And thanks to those sessions, I have been able to spread my message well beyond my little burgh.

But I’m not a member solely for traffic issues. Responsible long-term budgeting, taxes and expanding our Urban Growth Boundary are all hot button concerns in my city. Thankfully Strong Towns has provided me rationales and concepts to bring to city leaders that are helping us create new solutions rather than rely on doing things the way we always have. And this past month, thanks to recent Strong Towns concerns about parking minimums, my city is embarking on the first parking census in over 20 years, with an eye toward significantly changing how and where we provide it.

Frankly, without the resources and support that the Strong Towns community offers every day, I would just be another voice in the wind—without much direction or understanding and thus an ineffective volunteer. I cannot imagine continuing to help my community grow wisely without having the backing and knowledge my membership provides. 

Cover photo: Wikipedia

This member testimonial is part of our Fall Membership Campaign #1000Strong. We're very grateful to the members who contributed these posts. Our movement is full of articulate and passionate people putting the Strong Towns approach to work in their communities. Please join us and become a member today!

Jim Roberts is a retired golf professional living in Bend, Oregon. He is fascinated by the whys of transportation and how we can make our cities and towns better places to get around and live in. He is Citizen Chair of Bend's traffic safety committee. He uses that platform to help improve his community's multi-modal transportation system.