EMILY SULLIVAN: Hello. I'm Emily Sullivan, and I interned this summer at Cornell Cooperative Extension in Tompkins County. I'm here to give a talk about getting you there. But as I realized this summer, getting you there is not something that anyone can promise. It's all up to you.
So really, Cornell Cooperative Extension and many other services, information services, support services-- their job is only to give you a sense of control so you feel like you can get there based on what's available, based on where you're capable of. So it's not about getting you there but giving you the feeling that you can get there.
I'm literally from a one stoplight town. It was a half hour to school by bus every morning, a half hour to the nearest department store, a half hour to the nearest food chain or going to the movies or seeing a friend. You needed a car. It was unquestionable.
Even living in the middle of nowhere, though, we are all acquainted with being a stranger to a new place. We have all moved around within a new area, even if just for a day or an event, and been surprised that no matter how small the world feels sometimes, communities are very unique. And even similar structures function completely differently.
Well, we've all got something to be and something to do there. And now, how is it every day that we get there? For many of us, a car should not be our first choice.
I on the other hand-- I had no choice. But in Tompkins County, there's an extremely sophisticated transportation system. There's big red bikes. There is active transport. There is a nonprofit-funded bus system. And all these things are definitely beyond the sophistication level that we could find in a regular semi-rural community.
So Ithaca and Tompkins County is unique. But individuals in the community at large can save tons of money, time, and hassle with a developed public transit system such as ours. Most of all, shared transportation modes increase inclusive citizen participation in society while significantly reducing societal impact on the environment.
Many large cities benefit from subways and metros. As according to the United States Department of Transportation, rail transit produces 76% lower greenhouse gases per passenger than private cars. And bus transit systems produce 33% less per passenger than a trip by a private car, on average. So these are significant numbers.
Unfortunately, in the United States, a private vehicle culture preceded sound research on efficient community and infrastructure development. Building a city to support active and public modes of transportation will save everyone money on the capital investment of a car, gas, parking permits, and general maintenance, be it the infrastructure that allows these private vehicles to-- like traffic lanes or parking, or the maintenance on the car itself, which is burdensome to any individual, especially those that we're considering in Tompkins County-- very low-income for many students involved.
So also, a developed public transit system allows-- it's a positive feedback loop. As soon as something is developed so that it will facilitate shared modes of transportation, there's less sprawl. And the physical development of this land will consume or take up less land itself. So the need for transportation is even reduced. So all around, a public transit system has much less burden on the environment than the infrastructure that is currently being developed throughout the nation.
If a community is public transportation-oriented, there's less sprawl. There's less land dedicated to parking spaces and traffic lanes. However, transportation services are only as effective as the information services that support them. There are numerous ways to get to and fro, but individuals will only consider the ones that seem most immediately and obviously reliable and convenient, because transportation is not something that anyone can take a risk with.
We cannot afford to take a risk with transportation. Transportation is fundamental. We make decisions about our mobility before every trip to the store, before each class or every shift. Transportation is intrinsic to all progress and development. Mobility is necessary for the benefits of participating actively in society, growing, and self-sufficiency.
Getting transportation right invokes the need of both individual and communal change, behavioral change. And to do so, we must stop relying on the information deficit model, but communicate with commuters in an integrated, engaged campaign. The communication theory of planned behavior can be applied directly to transportation planning behavior in a campaign to change single-driver culture, solving systemic issues of environmental degradation and social isolation.
Networking intelligence to influence sustainable decision making requires communication with the following characteristics-- accuracy, slash reliability, convenience, immediacy, convergence, and integration. I think that all of these characteristics, coined by a man named Don Tapscott, who wrote a book on the digital economy, really define everything that can be controlled on this screen. So things such as self-concept, experience, notions, beliefs-- these can be controlled with the concepts of immediacy, convergence, integration.
This can take form in using social media and improving a organization's online presence so that people feel as though this information or support service is immediately available and integrated with their lifestyle. They'll see this information without even asking for it. It'll be on their feeds.
And this is what we're looking for. We're not looking to find the people who will be already looking for us. We are trying to give as many people an inclusive definition of community and an inclusive definition of where an individual may be in their life while making this decision. We're trying to give them that sense of control, that sense of the information that they are looking for is already there, and it's reliable, so that they may use this information however in order to get themselves where they need to go.
This isn't about necessarily an anti-car culture or a pro-public transportation culture, but about giving the individual that sense of control and agency that they can make the most sustainable decision for them and the environment at large. A quote by this Don Tapscott, who created the book on a digital economy, will really bring this point home about why transportation and communication go hand in hand and decide the success of either.
"In order for the economy to succeed, it will be highly dependent on the way people perceive it and use it. There are issues of trust within organizations and between people, misunderstandings, linguistic barriers, and the entire social gamut of cultural dissimilarities, different values and beliefs, as well as plain and simple economics. Thus communication within the system will drive all decisions, and ultimately public transportation utilization."
Information visibility drives efficiency. Transportation can sound like an abstract or even bureaucratic concept. Our associations with transportation planning are muddled, but certainly not something that we understand as an active and individual decision that we make on our every day. For many of us, we walk to class or jump into the car thoughtlessly because we simply must. We must gather this inertia of this must with humility so that we are all-- so that we all understand our parts in the momentum to change single-driver culture so the other modes will be more reliable and inclusive. Thank you.
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Emily Sullivan presents on the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County, NY, as part of a series of TED talks for COMM 3080, "Capstone Course in Environmental & Sustainability Communication: From the Lab to the World."