The Scenic Route: Getting Started with Creative Placemaking and Transportation

More than ever, transportation agencies need the engagement and support of local communities. Whether projects as basic as the redesign of an intersection or as complex as the construction of a new light rail line, meaningfully engaging the public so they have a say over the project ultimately makes the project more successful. Better engagement and support can help avoid 11th hour controversies and build the type of public trust that is more important than ever for advancing infrastructure plans and even winning new revenue for transportation at your city council, the ballot box or in your state legislature.

Creative placemaking harnesses the power of arts and culture to allow for more genuine public engagement — particularly in low-income neighborhoods, communities of color and among immigrant populations — in the development of transportation projects. Forget the traditional, staid public meeting format and instead imagine artists engaging community members using multiple languages to generate meaningful dialogues, capturing their creativity and local knowledge to better inform the ultimate design of the project.

Done right, creative placemaking can lead to both a better process and a better product, in this case integrating community-inspired art into the ultimate design of the project as so many of the case studies in this guide demonstrate. The end results are streets, sidewalks and public spaces that welcome us, inspire us and move us in every sense of that word. It doesn’t take much to get started, but it does require a new approach to public engagement along with intentional partnerships with artists, arts councils and community-based organizations. We hope this guide serves as your starting point to a journey that can truly transform your city.