I had a really cool experience last night. I spoke with a group of teenagers from Youth Leadership Spokane about Horizon 2040, the Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP), we’re in the process of developing. The MTP is a long-term “blueprint” for how our transportation system will develop over the next twenty years.

People who know me know that I have a healthy fear of children, particularly the sarcastic teenage variety. They’re great about the time they hit 25 though. So I was nervous about talking to this group. And boy was I wrong. To start with, the kids, ranging in age from about 14 to 17 I’d guess, were respectful and didn’t use their cell phones or other gadgets during our discussion, unlike many meetings I attend with adults.

They were also receptive to the discussion and amazingly well-informed. When I was that age, I didn’t know what route to take to the mall, but they were so well-spoken and knowledgeable about different kinds of transportation facilities, public transit and problem areas in our community that I was blown away.

I was giddy with joy when one young man pointed out that there are projections saying Spokane will grow by 100,000 people in the next 20 years and asked how we are going to get those people to their jobs and schools everyday and the services they need. He asked about the economy being able to support them and how transportation would contribute to that. Holy cow- someone actually put together the connection between transportation and the economy!

Another young man asked about the possibility of ever having a beltway or bypasses and several of the kids pointed out areas that are either unsafe, such as the Hatch Hill and Highway 2 near the Rusty Moose. There was much mention of public transit and what would get kids to ride it more often, such as extending service hours later in the evening and not discontinuing it during the day.

All in all, I was incredibly impressed by how well spoken these kids were, how well informed and how willing to participate in civic events. At the same time though, they were fun kids who talked about how busy they are just going to school, having a social life and just being kids. It was great to see that they’re trying to squeeze in civic responsibilities too though.

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