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By Dr. Beverly Kuhn P.E., PTOE, PMP posted 05-02-2022 03:03 PM

ITE describes itself as a community of transportation professionals that includes engineers, planners, consultants, educators, technologists, researchers, and more. The use of the word “community” is intentional and seeks to include all who work to improve mobility and safety for all transportation system users and help build smart and livable communities.

Merriam-Webster online defines community as either a unified body of individuals, a social state or condition, or society at large. A synonym is “neighborhood,” and words related to community include city, commune, hamlet, town, village, denizens, dwellers, inhabitants, residents, citizenry, culture, people, populace, public, and society. I recently read a series of articles in Forum from Phi Kappa Phi that explored the importance of different perceptions and experiences that help make a community.* The subjects of these articles span a diverse array of communities, including small towns, schools, films, a remote tribal village, corporations, health care, and even the animal kingdom. All these communities have an established culture among their residents. They are everywhere and have specific characteristics that make them unique. A common thread among them is a desire to support every member, including newcomers, visitors, and outsiders.

What is your idea of a community? For me, I remember the unincorporated town of my youth. In summer, my sisters and I would ride our bikes to the swimming pool with nary a helmet or bike lane to be found (frightening). When we reached the pool, we would call home on the pay phone (ring once and hang up to retrieve our quarter) to let our parents  know we had arrived safely. The teenage lifeguards and most of the adults knew us by name. We might leave and head to a friend’s house (cutting through backyards since fences were rare), ride the bike trails we had made in the vacant wooded lots, and more. The family rule? Be home before dinner. If you were within earshot of the homestead, you knew to head home when you heard the ring of the bell hung by the back door. While we were free-range kids, we knew that folks were keeping an eye out for us and would step in if we needed help. We looked out for each other to help achieve the common goal of reaching adulthood intact.

Reflecting on the ITE community, I see two distinct components: the physical space, and those who inhabit or use that space. As transportation professionals, we are what Danny Heitman of Phi Kappa Phi describes as a network of stakeholders who support one another in a common enterprise. That enterprise is helping ensure that the physical community—the space in which we live, play, and work—is as safe, effective, and productive as possible so that the human community can thrive. The ability to accomplish that goal is strengthened when we listen to all voices. As Martha White, the granddaughter of E.B. White stated, “[F]or the most satisfying sense of community, it takes all kinds of people, with a wide diversity of backgrounds, choosing to act in sync.”

Do you have a community anecdote or memory to share? Reach out to me on the ITE e-Community or on Twitter: @BeverlyKuhn.

This is the president's message from the May issue of ITE Journal.