Please go on a quick journey with me: Just imagine that for every second it takes to read the first paragraph of this column, a cherry-red Tesla Roadster is moving seven miles closer to the asteroid belt in a thousand-year voyage to a new horizon. But this is not from a sci-fi story that takes place in the distant future. It's actually happening. This very moment.
Elon Musk has captured our imagination on space travel and his Space-X launches continue to excite and engage us in the idea of heading to the stars, providing us all with a glimpse of the not-too-distant future. There's that word – another that we need to reclaim and redefine. Like "community," the word itself, "future," also seems to be struggling under the weight of overuse. In the Upstate, we can't afford to think of our future as a bland and unexciting destination. The future, however, is not just a place in time, or a destination. It's a goal. An idea. A risk. A challenge. An opportunity.
We all want an amazing future in the Upstate. That's why Ten at the Top is convening the ultimate game changer: the Connecting Our Future initiative. The kickoff event launched last October to create a regional vision for transportation, mobility and connectivity in the 10-county Upstate. An advisory committee comprised of stakeholders representing education, transit systems, local governments, economic development organizations, health care, conservation groups and businesses is working closely with Kimley-Horn consultants to develop a regional vision and actionable strategies for transportation, mobility and connectivity.
Connecting Our Future is addressing these goals:
- Reduced congestion
- Increased connectivity and mobility
- Moving people and freight across the region safely
- Improving quality of life and health of Upstate residents by reducing emissions
The idea of tackling mobility in the Upstate is the Best. Idea. Ever. How frustrating is it to see where we need to be going but we can't get there? Think of the countless hours we might sit in an Interstate-85 traffic jam: Your exit is within sight but traffic is stalled. While a space car is moving at a rate of seven miles per second, it can seem like a thousand-year journey to travel just across the Upstate.
But developing a collective vision for mobility in the Upstate is not just about traffic congestion; it is really about ensuring that we plan for a future that provides accessibility to work and play for all of our citizens. Transportation is an equalizer and levels the playing ground for everyone; it can also mean the delivery of an economic advantage that provides us lift off – the rocket fuel to propel more jobs and us to new investment. This will help us create a region that can move people, goods and services while maintaining – and enhancing – our collective quality of life.
A rollout event is planned for the summer, but you can get involved now. Please consider participating in the March 19 Connecting Our Future Idea Exchange being hosted at the Michelin Conference Center. The event is free and open to anyone interested in mobility and connectivity in the Upstate. Please go to www.ConnectingOurFutureUpstateSC.org for more details and to register.
As leaders and community members we are creating the future that we want by redefining what it means. And just like the space car, that future we all seek is inching closer and closer to us by the second.
A new horizon is just up ahead. Let's find that future before it finds us.
Sue Schneider is the CEO of Spartanburg Water and the 2018-2019 board chairwoman for Ten at the Top.