TRANSCRIPT: Rethinking Urban Mobility with Jerome Horne

Below is the transcript from my interview with Jerome Horne, Manager of Communications for the Baltimore Red Line. This transcript was generated by AI and lightly edited. Please listen to the full episode to experience the content in its native form.

JH - Jerome Horne, AMW - Awoe Mauna-Woanya

Awoe (AMW): Welcome to Fostering Our Earth, a space for imagining and detailing a sustainable future. I'm your host Awoe and I interview practitioners who are working to create this future in their own fields, whether it be energy, mobility, food, housing, and so much more. That clip you just heard was from my interview with Jerome Horne. Jerome is a superstar transit advocate extraordinaire in the transit space. His plethora of experience has ranged from working with the Transit Center in New York City, Indigo in Indiana, and Foursquare Integrated Transportation Planning in Baltimore. He's primarily focused on making transit a better user experience in hopes of making our cities more sustainable and just. Such a perfect fit for this podcast, right? I actually met Jerome a few years ago when I was an intern at MDOT, MTA and thought Jerome was such a legend. So to get to interview him now brings me so much joy. This conversation you're about to listen to filled me with so much life because not only able to think about what the future of mobility systems can look like, but really got to find comfort in my own transit and mobility experiences as a black man in America. There's so much intersection between our identities and our experiences in the built environment. So I want you to listen, learn and try to understand a lot of what Jerome and I talk about Before getting to the conversation. I want to point out that Jerome is joining me, representing himself and none of the organizations he may be affiliated with. Now, I'll be jumping in and out to narrate parts of this conversation, but for now, let's just jump right into it.

Jerome Horne (JH): Well, hello, I'm Jerome Horne and excited to be on the show today. Thank you so much for the opportunity. I'm really looking forward to the conversation. I have come to this work, having worked for the public transit system in Indianapolis, spent a little bit of time doing community engagement work, government affairs work, focusing on the user experience of riding transit, then little stints in the private sector, and then had the opportunity to work at a wonderful organization called Transit Center, which is a national foundation that focuses on transit, advocacy, policy and research. And so, you know, my my opinions and the things I think about are informed through my personal experience and also my professional experience as well.

AMW: Awesome, it's really great to have you, Jerome. All right. What is mobility? What does it mean to you and what would a sustainable mobility system look like?

JH: Yeah. what does mobility mean to me? Oh, wow. Well, I think mobility is something that is intrinsic to all living beings. And, you know, even trees, which seem to stay in one space right? they need room for their roots to spread. Right. They need to be able to move through the ground. And so, you know, we as humans, you know, all of us have this one to desire to to move from one place to another. And so, you know, at its kind of high level or even basic level, it is it is that that having that ability to move about the planet. I think, you know, when we began to look at sustainable mobility and and thinking about those systems, that means that any person, regardless of who you are, you know, regardless of your status, class, race, ability level, you have the ability to get where you need and want to go whenever it is you need and want to go. And how is that sustainable? While hopefully that system is one that, you know, maybe it's powered by renewable energy and it's one that is as efficient as it can be and is a system that is, you know, run in a way that allows people to, not only interact with one another, but also share. See, being shared is important too and I think that a sustainable system is also one that we are able to run continuously and consistently and reliably.

AMW: I totally hear you. I feel you. I've spent some time trying to think about what this system means, and the work that I do, I will like to ask folks to, what does this mean? And I mean, you're hitting on all these points. it's shared. it runs continuously. personally, I live in L.A. and I don't own a car right now. so I use the bus system. I use the metro system a lot. And there's nothing more frustrating than you miss a bus or like you miss the next bus and you open the transit app or whatever app. You know, you see that the next one is it for another 15 or 20 minutes even. And like that might not sound like a lot, but, you know, 15 or 20 minutes like that just throws off your own schedule and if a bus system or whatever your mobility system is that, you know, isn't running continuously or reliably, you know, like that impacts people and it makes it harder to, trust the system because like you said, we need to rely on it to allow everyone to be able to get wherever they need to go. Regardless of your background, your socioeconomic status, your race, you know, and so you're totally hitting on all these points and I guess my next question is what really are the main challenges preventing us from implementing such a system here in the U.S.? I recently was in London and I never even needed to get into a car. From the time I landed at the airport all the way through, when I left the airport, it was able to get everywhere pretty easily. And, I always see stuff about folks in different countries and like mobility systems is so walkable and like all these components, like, why don't we have that here in the U.S.?

JH: Yeah. Oh, wow. Well, how much time do we have now? Well, yeah, there are a list of reasons, but I'd say that some of the the highlights one it comes down to there are political and ideological barriers that get in the way, and that is a real challenge, especially when it comes to mass transit and intercity rail and thinking about things like that. It can be a challenge to implement and fund these systems to, the levels that we really need to make them reliable and frequent. You know, the physical built environment is another factor. We have to reckon with the reality that a vast majority of the United States of America was built after and or for the automobile, and that a lot of people live in environments that are suburban, ex-urban or even rural. And that does present some challenges to providing traditional mass transit, but even other new emerging forms of mobility, whether it's thinking about e-bikes or scooters. You know, a lot of people live in environments where even if they wanted to commute or travel and in an option that wasn't a car, they really don't have a choice because maybe there aren't any sidewalks. There are no safe, protected bike lanes. There is no transit. Or if there is transit, it's very spotty and unreliable or extremely infrequent and limited. And so, you know, that is definitely something the land use of how we've actually built the country It is a big barrier, and it's something that we'll need to work through as we think about how to deploy these services, especially things, as I mentioned before, that are more like traditional mass transit. Now there are, TNC is right, Uber and Lyft, right, that those can play a role. You know, it's can be part of that equation as well, especially in places that, preclude walking, biking or transit. And then, you know, I sort of mentioned this when I talked about the sort of political and ideological but funding. Right. The reality is we simply do not fund transit or transportation to the levels that we could in this country. And it shows up in a lot of our systems not being frequent. A lot of our systems may be only running to a certain time. You know, we have bus systems that still don't run on the weekends in this country. We have busses that stop running at 8PM. Right. And we have a lot of people that work second and third shift jobs. Or maybe you're somebody you just want to go to the concert, you know? But you can get to the concert, but you can't get home. Right. Right. So it's only as usable as it is available. And I'd say education is another issue, you know, just educating people on, civics and understanding how sort of your local, state and federal government work. I think we could do a better job in this country of, getting people to understand how those things fit together and kind of unearth some of the mystery. Because I think part of our challenge is that some of how government works, how funding works. This stuff is hard to understand and comprehend, and you have to go searching for that information. It's not as readily available or even taught as in a way that I think it should be know our primary education systems. And then finally, I'd say user experience, right? There are barriers to using, whether it's transit or even thinking about scooters. It's whether or not you have to have a smartphone or you have to be banked. You have to have a certain level of proficiency, of understanding, you know, how to use, you know, a TNC, which, to certain people seems like, though, that's second nature. Everyone has a smartphone and a lot of people do now. And more people do have smartphones. Right. But do they have unlimited data? Right. So and then even if you can get on the system and you can pay, right? It's like, can I read that system map? Is the signage clear? You know, is the digital information matching up consistently with the physical built to world? Right. So those are probably some of the top challenges that I see in terms of implementing mobility systems here in the US.

AMW: Wow, you're so right. Honestly, like we could talk about each of those points more in-depth like it could be its own podcast series, its own show where we're like, let's talk about the funding, the education, the UX, the, you know, the physical, the built environment aspect of it, the safety components of it. And you're so right like that, it's a bit both frustrating and disappointing at each corner, you know, there's a different set of challenges, a different set of experiences. Yeah. Ultimately challenges that we're facing in trying to implement such a system with that, like, are there any cities or communities that are doing it or are able to do it in some? Capacity to some extent. Do you know of any or have you seen any that you're inspired by or even think if I had to pick any city this is totally where I'd love to go.

JH: Yeah. Oh, this is a tough one, because if I'm being totally, brutally honest, I'm not sure if there's any particular city as a whole that is doing this. Well, at least not yet. And and that's not you know, I guess it is a dig at us collectively as a country. But, you know, there may be pockets. And, you know, some of this is obviously we have our older cities, particularly the cities in the northeast of the United States, where a lot of them were mostly built out before automobiles. And so they kind of have these compact, walkable neighborhoods to a certain extent. Right. Obviously, I'm sitting here in New York City in Brooklyn, where, you know, it's unlike any other city in this country. But, you know, there is a huge swath of the population that can walk through a lot of things and has readily available transit. Now, we have our challenges here for sure. this is not a transit paradise, as some people may think it is. I'd say, you know, one thing that's exciting? in Phoenix there is a project I'm forgetting the name of this project. But they are basically trying to build a brand new neighborhood from scratch that is totally designed around walkability, access to transit and includes no new parking. And I just think that's really cool that a place like Phoenix, which is like the poster child for American sprawl and everything you shouldn't be doing, you know, you could even argue like, why did we put a city there? You know, but it's there. People live there, right? And then we have to figure out how we're going to make that work. But it is exciting that that project that I wish I can remember the name of this project, I'm sure somebody listenings would be like, it's this, but it's glad to see that, you know, even if it's a pilot on a small scale, it's being tried. And I think that's important that people get exposure to, what it could be. But I'd say, you know, collectively as a whole, I don't see where any particular city is getting this right now. I will say with that, we in New York City just celebrated ten years of Citi bike, our bike share system, you know, and it is one of the largest bike share systems in the world. You know, it's been constantly expanding there are still some huge parts of the city that are underserved that don't have the service. But, you know, it has really made a difference. And the number of people, I think they said it was around 85, somewhere between 85 to 100000 people a day, you know, that are now biking. And originally people were like, no one's gonna a bike. You're crazy. that's only going to be a toy for rich people to play with, you know? And it's turning out that, no, actually, this is a biking scene. And we've seen this, in cities across this country that no biking can be a real form of transportation that people can actually use to get from one place to another.

AMW: Absolutely. And you make a lot of really good points and. Right. We're not dissing any cities, you know, because no one city is perfect, but different cities have different components of which they're doing things really well. And the intention is there and you're so right about also Citi bikes. Like every time I go to New York City, The fact that it's just about everywhere, it makes it so much easier to just very quickly, go and be able to find a bike near you, ride it almost anywhere and then be able to drop it off also just about anywhere. it's a more complete system, you know, where you're able to just pick up and go. but There are still barriers that exist you know, one of your first points was that mobility for everybody, doesn't matter who you are, your race, your background, everyone should be able to have access to whatever mobility system exists, And there are racial and. Socioeconomic barriers to that. So this is the idea of arrested mobility. And Charles Brown, he's a professor of urban planning. And he coined this term "arrested mobility" And it's this idea that marginalized communities, you know, black and brown folks, particularly in our cities, have their mobility arrested, meaning coopted in some capacity, whether it's like, additional rules or policing in these communities, whether it's, additional policing of public spaces, you know, additional rule making in public spaces that make it harder for black and brown folks to be able to just exist in society and ultimately, have access to the same public spaces and or mobility systems that everyone should have a right to, I guess. Do you have any thoughts on this? have you witnessed it? How have you witnessed it? and what does it mean to make our mobility system truly accessible for everyone, if that makes sense?

JH: Yeah, I'm so glad we're talking about this, this is also a key challenge, right, of how we, roll out sustainable mobility This this is definitely in that category as well. Arrested mobility is absolutely a real thing. And It is another way that the reality of the history of systemic racism and how it shows up in the United States, this is another way that it manifests. and to your point, you know, Charles Brown has talked about this. And, you know, I'll start by saying that even me personally and for your listeners, if they don't know I am a queer black man in America and just that lived experience of showing up in that identity, right. As a black man in America and then, you know, being queer, that has its own implications. there a lot of days? You know, I think about, okay, how am I going to show up in the world today? I'm going out in the public. How am I dressed? How am I looking? How might be perceived by other people who I pass on the street? Oh, I'm walking through this neighborhood. Are they going to think anything? You know, it's like a high end neighborhood or a neighborhood, you know? And then literally, I've thought these things to myself of, oh, goodness, you know, I don't know how I'm going to be perceived here. You know, I'm a young black man. I'm really curious. I love cities. I love to take pictures of things, check things out. Are people going to think I look suspicious because I'm taking photos of cool buildings or architecture? You know, so even just like, as you said, just existing, just trying to, you know, move through the environment, right? the way that our society has been structured, you know, it has my brain already automatically thinking these things of, oh, I need to be concerned about this. Right. And so and that's coming from me, who to some degree has some levels of privilege based on my my own social capital and economic status. But, that doesn't preclude, skin is still brown, right. And that, it doesn't care how much money you have or who you know. Right. Like your skin is still brown, black or brown. Right. That that's always going to be a thing. And so I've seen it myself. And we know that this then manifests with, what I like to call black joy, where people who they could just be hanging out, a group of teenagers minding their own business, not messing with anybody, but because it's a group of young black teen, black or brown teenagers. Right. And they could just be walking down the street. Someone doesn't like the way, they look. Someone didn't like that. They're okay. They're being a little rowdy, you know, or something like that. And then someone's. I hope they're laughing too much. Laughing too much, you know? You know, they're just playing some games, you know? How dare how dare they exist, right? And then that's when you get, someone's like, oh, maybe I'm going to call the police. That doesn't know. Neighborhood watch. Let me pull up. You know, those app, whether it's next door or, you know, the you know, that whole phenomenon that we have in this country. So, you know, it is it is definitely prevalent. And there, you know, how do we how do we unrest people? Well, I'm not sure that I profess to have the answer to that. I think that, one, it gets back down to education and exposure. Right. Part of part of the reason this exists is because I think we in this country operate so much in silos. And a lot of people, you know, if you've grown up in the only exposure to certain people that aren't like you or maybe what you've heard in the media, but you've seen on TV, have certain perceptions or maybe, reconstructions in your head about folks. And, that is something that is a big challenge. And I think something that they, once again gets back to our education system and how do we talk about that and and do it in a way that kind of, lets people know that different doesn't mean bad. It could just mean different. Right. I think that's what a lot of this comes down to is like people have this idea that there is a certain standard or a certain way, you're supposed to be right. And we all, you know, to an extent, we're all sort of like assimilating into society. You know, there's as we like to call it, code switching, right. I know. I mean, here I'm I'm packing a lot. But we go into this ride of like these are the different components that are that are in here. So I you know, I just think we really have to figure out how do we get more people exposed and understanding that, there are people that come from different walks of life, different backgrounds and different ways that people experience joy, the different ways that people like to have fun and that different doesn't mean bad. I think that's the biggest now biggest ways we can work to begin to unarrest mobility. And that, of course, the other piece, too, we have to talk about law enforcement. Right. and how that plays itself as well. You know, that there is a ton of systemic racism built into that system. Right. And, we have to continue to press for police reform. Right. Police have a role to play. I'm not going to say that we need to get rid of police, but, you know, we need to address that, too, because that is a big part of, criminalizing behavior that shouldn't be criminalized. Right. and harsh penalties and punishments for things that should be minor infractions. Right. So that's a lot. But hey,

AMW: No you're all good. And you're hitting a lot of different points and hearing you share your experience, as a black man myself, like I'm also thinking about my own experiences, of how my own mobility is arrested and you know, just starting within the mind that the idea of not even just feeling comfortable in the space that you. Right. Just having to think twice about where I am and how I'm perceived, how am I perceived to whether it's a neighborhood I'm in or if there's law enforcement around immediately, like just thinking about all of that, and then on law enforcement and thinking about tying it with our mobility system, my first thought was having fares you know fares on transit and, we see stuff like, oh, people are not paying their fares they're jumping to the fare box or they're just going straight into to try and use mobility. And if we want mobility to be accessible to everyone and affordable, in some perfect world, it's free, and like why are we criminalizing something that, actively restricts this We're actively pursuing, again, marginalized black and brown people here. They're the ones who are more likely to be punished for a law, a crime we've made up. we're physically arresting mobility. We're socially arresting mobility. And yeah, you bring up a lot of great points and I'm feeling a lot of emotions and feelings just thinking back on my own experiences and how I feel about this. And so, yeah, these are these are good, really good points So far, Jerome has discussed elements of what a sustainable mobility system looks like, how they are accessible, continuous, reliable and powered by renewable energy. He's also discussed some of the challenges we face in implementing them, whether they are funding related, educational or even their system design for the user you experience. He gave the example of a forthcoming car free community in Phoenix, and in case you wanted to do your own exploration, it's called Cul de SAC Tempe and it sounds super cool. I'm pausing here just to reflect on this and focus a little bit more on the idea of arrested mobility. I hope that you're recognizing that mobility is a deeply personal experience that intersects heavily with our identities. Charles Brown's definition of addressing mobility focuses on the structural reasons how and why black and brown folks have their mobility arrested. But Jerome and I are hitting on the more subtle, the not so easy to notice side of arrested mobility. Jerome talks about how he thinks twice, about how he appears in public spaces, breeding a certain hesitation in him as he moves through society. I can't help but think back to my own undergrad days when I'd head home from the library after midnight, reminding myself to keep my hood down out of fear of appearing, threatening, or I think back to even my own commute, my daily commute and thinking about how I tense up. Whenever I see police officers or I think back to when I'm on my runs, in my predominantly white neighborhood. And in those moments, I can't help but think of folks like Ahmaud Arbery who had his mobility arrested. I'm curious as to how many of you all feel similarly and wonder how that impacts your comfort in public spaces. Now I'm using the term public space because our mobility systems are how we move through the built environment around us in our system. And all future mobility systems are not just environmentally friendly or efficient, but truly equitable, physically and being accessible, but also non physically. The feeling of belonging and comfort. What does that look like or being to you? How does your identity intersect with your mobility? Look, this is about as heavy as it gets. So let's get back to the conversation. With that. Let's talk about community engagement, because whether it's with arrested mobility or with general, education and informing folks about what mobility is, how we move, how people can get engaged. what role does community engagement play in facilitating this transition to a more sustainable system?

JH: Yeah, community engagement is huge. And I think, you know, there's always this sort of like, oh, we have to go out to the community, you know, Agency X and okay, we had our, four public meetings and we spread them around the city. one was a Wednesday and 6 to 8. And, maybe we tried to do one at lunchtime and. All right, cool. Now, granted, that's hyperbole. But, you know, for a while, that's really the system that we were operating in. Community engagement, sort of this checkbox. And, I think we have seen, several agencies and groups continue to figure out, well, what does it really mean to engage the community? What does that even mean to begin with? And what is successful community engagement look like? And so, you know, are we going out into the community and listening? Right. I mean, that's that's one of the big ones is like, are we listening or are we just assuming that we know what's best? And by we, I could mean like a government agency. It's like, oh, we have this plan, we did the study. This is the type of bike lane that we're recommending because we know what's best for everyone. And so community, here we are, we're going to impose this on you. But yeah, tell us you have some comments. Okay, great. You know, but I think what we really need to take a step back and go, well, okay. Yes, right. Agencies exist for a reason. We do have standards and we do you know, people do study and think about the design of something like a bike lane and how that might best work, you know, to keep people who are using that piece of infrastructure safe, you know, and there are some real things there that might not be well known in the community. And that gets back to like education, like why was this design the way that it was? But then, you know, we also depending on the community that we're going through, right? Do? What did we ask them? What they want? Do we ask them what their needs are? How do you like to travel? When do you like to travel? What if if we put in a protected bike lane, would that be of use to you? Do you even know how to bike? Do you feel safe on a bike? Are there even resources? Do you have a bike? Right. So now we're getting and I keep pursuing bikes because bike lanes have been a hot topic. You know, I'm a big fan of bike lanes. I like to bike myself I want more protected, separated bike lanes everywhere. But also realize, right, that there are so many other barriers and issues when it comes to something like a bike lane. And so good community engagement where we're actually getting out there and actively listening, talking to people, asking them what they need. And then when did we involve people? You know, we need to involve people early and often. There are a lot of, community organizations, community based organizations that already exist, that have their own meetings. maybe it's the neighborhood cookout that happens, and it's like, are agencies figuring out, well how do I get involved? The things that are already going on in the community, how do we just partake? You know, can we reach out to someone? Because one of the biggest things is getting buy in, right? Getting buy in is important. Getting that investment to feel like the folks that we want to engage with, you know, you know, building trust. Right. Because there's a lot of reasons why different people across the whole spectrum, may have distrust of a government agency or particular organization. And so I think it's really important that you build that trust in the most authentic way you can. And that's why let's go see what's already happening here and figure out how we fit in to that rather than us coming in and imposing what we think we know. Right. And once again, I want to be clear. There is expertize and knowledge that comes with planning cities and implementing infrastructure. But we also need to be make sure that we're open and listening as much as possible.

AMW: You're totally right. You know, that's where buy in starts by and starts with trust. And also like having folks who live in your community are also helping to make those decisions and engaging you. And it's, having multiple community meetings would be great, But you going to the community and like you being there and showing that you're present and this is all, different components of community engagement. And with this idea of also being a part of the community building trust, someone else actually interviewed a while back. Her name is Andrea Learned she uses this term climate influence where she talks about leaders who are displaying their climate influence in the things that they're preaching and hoping their cities to employ. At the start of our conversation, maybe it was before we recorded we briefly mentioned Holly Arnold at Maryland's MTA, and Holly is always posting that she's on the busses, that she's advocating for her transit in her city. And that is a great example of climate influence. And what that within your work, how important do you think it is for leaders to display this sort of climate influence, this sort of mobility influence in the cities that they live in and they they run? And ultimately, what role does that play in building trust with the community and how does this support community engagement?

JH: Yeah, I mean, you have to practice what you preach. You cannot be good at your job, especially I mean, if you're running a transit system, if you're not out there on the system, you're not riding it and you're not understanding the daily lived experience of the people using it. There's no way that you can be making the most educated decisions, are most informed decisions. And you mentioned Holly Arnold. she takes multiple busses to work, most of the time. Multiple Right. And I think that's really awesome because she's getting firsthand experience. if something doesn't go right or she misses her connection or transfer right, like she can understand what the riders are going through. And, it's really cool whether it's Randy Clark, who's the GM of WMATA in DC. we've got Brad Miller who's Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority down in Florida and Julie Tam out in Sound Transit, Seattle and others who I'm forgetting. But you know, these are CEOs of systems, leading systems that we see riding them and they ride them just about every day. And they're not just doing it, not, going in the morning at nine and coming back at five, two rush hour. Right. They're going to the game. They're out there at night. they've taken the time to be off on the weekends. Right. Understanding, because that's a big part of it, too. Right. It's like you can ride during the traditional commute hours and that's one thing. But if you're not, you know, if you're not standing out there, you know, at 10 p.m. at a bus stop, it's not well lit. Right. That's a totally different experience. And then depending on how you show up in the world, right, your identity, your gender, things like that, that's going to influence, right? How you may think, how you may feel safe. So I say all this to say it's absolutely important because when the community sees you out there and they know you're a regular rider you start to build that trust. For me, when I worked at the transit system in Indianapolis, one of the best things was that I did ride all the time, and so I got to know many of our regular riders. I got to know a lot of our operators, right. So that, you know, that gave me a lot of sort of cachet with them because they're like, Oh, yeah, we see Jerome out here. What do you do? And it's 11:00 at night. Why are you here? Like, I'm going home, I'm riding the bus, you know, and that's that's that's huge. That's really huge. It goes a long way with getting people to to, you know, trust you and build those relationships.

AMW: Absolutely. And this is just my pitch to, listeners that that matters what the next election comes around push our political leaders. ask them do they ride transit Do they are they involved in some capacity in the systems that we're advocating for, and that lived experience that they have, impacts the choices that they make so that when we're advocating for more bike lanes or more bus routes, then it makes it easier for them to be like, yeah, we I agree. Like, you're right. I totally didn't feel safe riding my bike down whatever main street or didn't feel safe riding or, the bus didn't come frequently enough at 11 p.m. after the game or whatnot. I totally feel that. I remember when I was interning at MTA, I was out there doing tons of community engagement, because we were working on a project. I remember early on, folks had mentioned different bus routes and some of the issues with them and ed. I'm here thinking how could I be trying to advocate and gather this information if I don't know what those bus routes are or which even like neighborhoods, those bus routes connected to that. My goal for the summer was okay, awoe be like, if I'm really going to do this, if I say like, I've committed to this, like I'm going to write every single bus and know every single bus route, know where it goes, which neighborhoods they connect, and sort of get the different feel for the neighborhoods. But like the systems and what it takes, the struggles it takes to get to different parts of the city. And again, that change is mired in perspective and experience. And I'm no transit leader but like impacted by work. And so I totally feel you. I agree with you, and I'm onboard with you. You formerly ran NUM TOTS New Urbanism Memes for transit oriented-teens. So you're one of the moderators. I want you to talk to me about the evolving role social media discourse is on transit in the transit world, the state of what community in the transit worlds looks like, of course. like meme pages are less of a thing now. what is public communication on transit mobility look like today and what does it take for us to be able to, effectively communicate because biking or these mobility and transit it being a train nerd it being, all these things they're no longer niche topics, and pages like NUM TOTs provided a space to, collectively grieve or complain about, you know, the issues in our different cities. But anyway, I'm taking your thunder.

JH: Yeah. Wow. it's amazing. NUMTOTs was and I'm not one of the original founders, but you're right. It's one of the I technically still about know that page was founded in 2017 that wasn't that long ago but in a short amount of time we have seen sort of this explosion of what we call urbanist and whether those are people who actually work in the profession, who are planners or engineers, community engagement, folks that, that are, private sector, public sector folks out there or people who are just interested in this subject matter because they're concerned about the future of society and their communities and they want to figure out how they get involved. And Num Tot was really a great tool. You know, it's still there. The page is still active. I'm no longer really active, but it really build this community of, you know, 20 and 30 somethings that just really immobilized and said, oh, wow, there are hundreds of thousands of people around the world that actually think this is really cool. I'm not crazy. Well, yes, maybe you are crazy, but you're not alone, and what we've now seen, we see major news organizations like CNBC, the YouTube channel, they're always putting out videos, you know, about transit or cities and talking about these issues that were sort of niche a few years ago. And now, as you said, it's beginning to become mainstream. Obviously, we have our recent 15 minute cities, you know, conspiracy theory. And it's just we started something so innocent, just turned, you know, was weaponized. Right. It turned into this thing. You know, that's an apparently that's a different type of arrested mobility. So like. Right, everyone just stuck in a 15 minute pod. You can never leave ever. it's great to see that we have, people becoming their own sort of influencers on TikTok and on YouTube, Instagram, all these social media platforms talking about, hey this street by me is horrible. There are no sidewalks. This sucks. I can't cross the street. Right. They're pointing out the history of cities they're talking about. Oh, do you know what redlining is? Oh, did you know that planning decisions here, we just, you know, plowed through this black neighborhood, but this highway. Right. And so I think it's great. And it's a tool to bring more of this information to more people, to get it in front of more eyes. And I think, it's still a little bit loose, right. If we can figure out a way, how do you take some of those influencers and, build a coalition of people and steer them, like in a collective direction so they're speaking from like the same language, that would be cool if we could figure that out. But I do think that social media has a big role to play. Obviously, we have to be careful, right, with the rise of artificial intelligence and and things that may not be verifiable as facts. And, you know, the fact anyone can just make a video and claim something. Right. But I think for the most part, when it comes to the urbanism side and talking about better cities, it's just so exciting to see more people coming on. the scene and putting these topics out there and engaging with people who may not have otherwise have been engaged. And so that when you see it on mainstream, right, it goes, okay. Now we're getting beyond just the enthusiasts, beyond the professionals. What now? Normal people are beginning to think, Oh, wow. Yeah. Why is it that I have to drive every where? Why? like, I need a gallon of gas, get a gallon of milk, you know? Yeah, it's ridiculous. And it's good. It's it's ultimately it's about building awareness and sharing our experiences.

AMW: So, yeah, excellent points. imaginary scenario or hopefully one day a realistic scenario, you're put in charge of a transit agency today. What are the first steps you're taking to implement or to transition whichever city you're placed in to a more sustainable mobility system? And really, what are you doing day one and what are you hoping to accomplish within a year? So you can take this as imaginative, like as creative as you want and sort of like switch the budgets are completely or what do you think is more like implementable today and within a year? Like realistically we can't finish high speed rail in a year's time. take it however you want to take it. What would you do?

JH: Okay. Thank you for clarifying because I was like, have we solved the fiscal cliff? Do I have unlimited money? You know? Yeah. Yeah. I mean, obviously, there are some things grounded in reality that are challenging today for sure. So yeah. Okay, this hypothetical scenario, I'll try to be realistic, but let's say we've solved the fiscal cliff and you know, we've got some good money coming in and I can do these things. I think first I would I would want I would take a look with inside the agency. Right. I would start with. What is the agency culture and am I taking care of my employees? Right. Because I want to make sure that we have got our house in order internally as an agency, because that's going to make a much better experience for the customers and the writers that we're serving on the outside. So that's like step one of like do people feel a sense of belonging? You know, are we are we paying our operators as much as we can? Right? Are we providing great benefits? Do we have a good, things set up to really ensure that good experience for the people who actually work for the organization. So that's step one. And then externally, I start looking at partnerships, right? Are we are we partnering with every community based organization? Are we partnering with the other organizations, other municipal organizations in the city? Right. if there are any local universities or colleges, right. Like, are we getting them to pay into the system so that all students there, if they're riding for free, but as part is baked into the tuition or something like that. Right. Or they're just paying a fee. Right. Do we have, fare discount programs? You know, maybe we can't quite get to free yet, but we need to be taking that step of like, all right. Can we implement a low income fare program? Right. Are there resources out there to allow that? Because as you mentioned before, fares are a barrier. I would, just really try to look there. have we looked at our bus system? are what are we running the most not only the most efficient bus system, but are we serving the people we need to be serving? So do we need to do a bus system redesign? Have we taken a look at where those routes are going? If we have the money coming in, great. Well, let's increase some of the frequency where we can right the amenities right to we have full rider amenities, the basics right at our bus stops. Is there a place to sit? Is there shelter? You know, where, where possible. So I think some of this is really kind of just going back to square one, And then beyond that, what I would love to do is set up the framework so that we're talking to their scooters on the ground. Is there a bike share system? Is where's the integration? Right. Can we integrate the fare system? Right. Can there be one system or can we at least be setting the foundation to work towards? You only need one card. You only need one account. And even if you're unbanked or underbanked, we have we're figuring that out too, so that you can go to your local whatever convenience store and reload a card or something with cash. Right. Have we working towards those things because that's that's another barrier as well is like how do we simplify making this system as easy to use as possible, integrating different modes, educating the public on, hey, did you know, okay, the bus doesn't all this bus route doesn't currently go there. But you know what, if you're able to, you can hop on a bike. And because you run the system, don't worry, you can use your same card and you'll get a five minute bike ride, to extend that journeys, you can get that last half mile or last mile or whatever it is, those type of things. So anyway, that's probably more they've actually do realistically in one year. But a lot of us like yeah, basically look at the internal agency, make sure that's right. And then those partnerships in the community, you know, making the system legible, easy to understand, you know, trying to really remove those simple barriers to user experience.

AMW: Well, I love it, I love it. I love it. it sounds realistic, It's not, like, overtly crazy, but at the same time, it's like, yeah, like all of this does make sense, like, why are there ten different types or ten different types of. Systems in place for me to be able before I could get to if I want to transfer it now, it's a different card or it's a different thing. all these pieces are they all make sense and everybody should have these components, it's so anyway, Jerome are thank you so much. This has been a really fantastic conversation. I'm here learning a lot. I'm here like reflecting on my experiences and just like, wow, we're so right and we have a long way to go. But you know what? We have folks like you who are advocating for these systems, these this better future. it also reassures me and makes me think that, yeah, we can do this and let's keep let's keep fighting the good fight.

JH: Absolutely. Well, it's been a pleasure to be on the show. Thank you so much. And, you know, we absolutely need people like you out there, right, who are bringing together, you know, these these folks and, you know, spreading this message continually get it out there. So thank you for what you do.

AMW: Of course. folks. That's it for this episode of Fostering Our Earth. I hope you enjoyed and learn something new about what a sustainable mobility system of the future can look like from the physical to the communities, the impact to the individuals and our identities. For more, subscribe to the bi weekly newsletter where I continue our exploration of the various components of this future. You can also find fostering our Earth on Instagram. Don't forget to rate and review wherever you're listening and feel free to hit me up if you have any thoughts. Until next time, keep fostering your earth today for a better future tomorrow.

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