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Transportation may be the sector most in need of radical transformation. As the largest contributor of greenhouse gasses, and a fundamental resource for people to access their basic needs, transportation is in urgent need of transformation for both stabilizing the climate and achieving equitable communities. 

Transportation has had various interventions made to reimagine it, yet these interventions have been largely driven by wealthy individuals and corporations.1 The communities that have been marginalized by transportation systems, and have the most at stake in the climate crisis, have also been marginalized in the research and planning of solutions. Yet for transportation solutions to work for all, they must include those who have the direct experience of inequities, lest these inequities be reproduced. 

Radical imagination is a framework for envisioning new ways of being, relating, and arranging social systems that do not reproduce persistent inequities of the past and present. Imagination is our ability to form a mental image of something that is not currently present to the senses, or has never before been wholly perceived in reality. Without imagination, people are unable to picture life without the issues they face, conjure various solutions to a problem, or construct and employ new narratives. Radical is defined as relating to or affecting the fundamental nature of something, returning to the origins or “root causes” of lived experiences. Origins of the term “radical” stem from the Latin word for “root.” Radical imagination is dreaming of life transformed in ways where the underlying values and structures are distinct from those dominant today. The purpose and promise of utilizing radical imagination as a resource for transforming transportation is tied to its incorporation of creative and artistic expression and community-led change. The framework is applicable to community engagement, rebuilding and establishing trust, increasing local involvement and ownership, organizational capacity building and policy development. 

Radical imagination is an opportunity to co-create a shared language between government agencies, community-based institutions, and community members through the creativity that is innate to all human beings. Establishing a shared language between diverse parties with a variety of needs and resources can transform the way we identify priorities, develop solutions, and implement actions/policies. In the words of poet and activist Amiri Baraka, “There is no distance between art and life.” A shared language makes possible the co-creation of new narratives about problems and solutions. This promises to open up alternative avenues to engage in transportation planning that remove barriers that have kept communities out.

After a year-long process the Transportation Equity Leaders-in-Residence alongside the Institute are happy to share this zine on Radical Imagination in Urban Planning. Inside you will find three different activities, prompts for you to respond, our thoughts and lessons learned, and original works of art by local community artists. For more information contact Jose Richard Aviles at jraviles@berkeley.eduDownload a digital copy of our zine.

  • 1 Marx, Paris (2022) Road to Nowhere; What Silicon Valley Gets Wrong about the Future of Transportation.