Polly Dalton’s Senior Project literally hit close to home. Her presentation last Thursday, Jan. 9, titled “Connecting the Blocks—Transportation Policy and Planning in the City of Appleton,” revealed Dalton’s true infatuation with the Little Apple.
“I really like Appleton as a city and I think it is interesting because it has a small town feel, where you see people again on the street but there’s also kind of an urban feel with the transportation system, the bars, the library,” she said.
Dalton explored the intricacies of this small town enigma, specifically the city’s transportation network.
The focus of the presentation was on how public transportation policy and planning affects downtown Appleton. Dalton described how transportation infrastructure allows citizens to pass through places and how it is used as a way to reflect what a city is.
Polly explained that means of transportation were originally synonymous with automobiles. The interstate was created with efficiency of moving populations of people in mind. Through this, the transportation infrastructure began to evolve. Besides practicality, the aesthetic experience of transportation became a focus.
Dalton became interested in the city design of Appleton and began focusing on its transportation system. She conducted research into how a city can transport people in a way so that they have a positive experience in the city.
“Within our increasingly private lives, we have more and more ways to make ourselves independent. We need these public spaces to be more inviting so […] those interactions within a city look ideal and interesting,” said Dalton.
In studying ways Appleton can improve its social domain, Dalton was pleasantly surprised to find that the community was excited to make changes.
“First thing they were interested in improving is bicycle and pedestrian walkways. Not just creating and maintaining them but working to enhance how they connect to one another and the greater area.”
However, making downtown Appleton biker-friendly is not a priority for the city, as College Avenue is too busy for bicycle paths. Instead, the city plans to focus on getting people to and from the downtown area on bicycles, where they can then walk through the downtown area.
Dalton remains optimistic about changes taking place in the community. “You can still have a vision for what you want the ideal future to be,” she said. “You have to remember that it is a process.”
Above all, Dalton admits that transportation is a small facet of city life. She reminded her audience that transportation is never the solution to the problem. It is only the means of connecting all the places in the city that we value.
“I think what it comes down most to is that the city experience is really a social one. As much as we want to analyze the non-human elements of it, a city only exists because […] of people.”