Community planning meets technology and the web at Metropolitan Planning Council discussion


Ted Nguyen who works for the Orange County Transportation Authority, but was representing himself, said, “My version of E=MC2 is ‘Everybody is a media company times 2.” Photos by Ryan Griffin-Stegink. 

The Metropolitan Planning Council hosted a roundtable presentation and discussion on technology’s role in community planning. You can watch the video recording below. The speakers represented a diverse range of occupations:

  • Frank Hebbert, director of Civic Works at OpenPlans, a technology urban planning non-profit based in New York City
  • Ted Nguyen, manager of public communications at Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA)
  • Ben Fried, editor in chief of Streetsblog, which is part of OpenPlans
  • Thomas Coleman, mobile app developer for Parsons Brinckerhoff, Chicago office

John recorded some key quotes from the speakers:

Frank: “It’s tempting to say that [online] tools make it easier to do community planning, but they don’t make it trivial. They make it easier to add your voice and become more deeply engaged.”

Ted: “Everybody thinks that ‘plan’ is a four-letter word, but I love four-letter words and I love plans.”

Ted’s motto: “Life’s short so live big.” 

Ted: “Thanks to YouTube we’ve heard of ‘Gagnam Style‘. Has everybody heard about it? [Does the horse dance from the video] So if you’re thinking of ways to get across your message [via YouTube] and turn Gagnam on planning I think you’ve got a big hit there.”

Ben (in Q & A): “All of this stuff is a necessary supplement and not a substitute [for in-person community participation.]” Ben is skeptical that community input solely through social media and online tools could ever be a genunine two-way street.

Thomas: “The main reason given for why the Atlanta transit initiative failed was the high level of distrust between the population and government.”


Watch the MPC roundtable discussion on YouTube.

Ted Nguyen from Orange County, California, presented about all of the available social media tools. Afterwards he asked us in Federal Plaza some questions about Grid Chicago and our role in those discussions. We also mentioned how we use social media, including FacebookTwitterGoogle+Tumblr, and Flickr. View the short interview on SocialCam.


Frank Hebbert, Ted Nguyen, Ben Fried, and Thomas Coleman. 


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