Linking transportation to everyday

This morning I had the fortunate opportunity to hear from a neighbor about her experience with transportation; an experience framed by the way transportation impacts a senior. In the dialogue below I recount her story as best I can recall; paraphrasing and summarizing a two-sided story into a first-person narrative.

I've been looking for a three-wheeled bicycle; one that I can step thru and that I can move on my own to carry my groceries and my dog. Today, I found the tricycle I wanted. Just forty nine dollars, can you believe that?! It's in great shape, just a few spots of rust here and there, but I checked the brakes and everything and I just need it fixed up so I can ride home. I want to make sure it doesn't rust any more; I'll have to take the bus to Walmart so I can buy a tarp to drape over it on my porch. I don't have anywhere to park it inside, my apartment community doesn't offer storage, but the bike will roll right on to my porch. As long as I can keep it locked up safe, and covered I won't need to wait to get my groceries any more.

I take the bus often, but it only runs until 6:00pm. It works if I want to pick up groceries, but I have to make sure I plan so that it drops me off with enough time, and so that I'm quick enough to get the next bus in an hour. If I take more than an hour I'll miss the bus back, and I'll have to wait with my groceries for another hour and hope I didn't get anything perishable. I'm eligible for the call-a-ride program, but I can't use it unless I reserved a ride twenty four hours before. I don't like to use it often though, especially if I'm not sure how long I'll be. If you know when you'll be done it will pick you up on time,  but if you're not sure you get transferred to will-call and by the time you know you need to be picked it could be fifteen minutes or it could be over an hour.

The regular bus doesn't come on Sunday, and if I take it on Saturday to go a little further to visit my friends in the next city over I have to plan ahead. I can only meet them for a short while, it takes three buses and an hour of travel to go six miles. I only make the extra trip every once in awhile, its just too hard to get back and forth between the stops and have enough time.

I'm moving soon and I hope they don't mind that I'll be locking my bike to the community patio; I won't have a porch in the new home and I'm keeping my bike on the patio. This bike will be great for picking up my groceries, and my dog can ride everywhere with me. I won't have to wait on anyone else anymore, this will take me anywhere my legs will push it along.

Wellness Crowdsourced

Building Wellness - Community Wide

CPR has been working with a few wellness focused organizations in Champaign-Urbana to examine the use and practicality of a community system for identifying and utilizing active lifestyle resources.

What does wellness mean?

Definition of wellness in English : noun

The state of being in good health, especially as an actively pursued goal:

  • measures of a patient’s progress toward wellness
  • healthcare focused on wellness, not sickness

We've had to take into careful consideration what wellness means to a particular community. As we work to design a successful community based wellness initiative, especially in the context of Champaign-Urbana Illinois, we want to examine what the community already does and how that may inform what they would see as value-added.


Champaign-Urbana is made up of the core-communities of Champaign and Urbana, with a population 81,000+/- and 41,000+/- respectively as of the 2010 census. The two communities are home of the University of Illinois, which itself boasts a student body comprised of more than 44,000 students enrolled as of 2016.

Active Transportation

The Champaign-Urbana Urbanized Area Transportation Study performs multiple analyses of the entire urbanized population, and their Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) examines a few specific attributes of active transportation. The LRTP approved in 2014 found a core daily commuter bicycle population of 5.3% for Urbana and 2.8% for Champaign, which are both above the national average of 2%. With a small dense urban area it is relatively easy to change your mode of transportation to walking, cycling, or public transit and is only constrained by schedules, ease of use, and infrastructure.

While there are many people already commuting without a personal vehicle, this number is not nearly as high as it could be. When we started to ask people about their lifestyle, work life, and access to active living resources we found that a large proportion of respondents would be encouraged to lead more active lifestyles if it was easier to mesh active transportation with their work life. A few employers offer bike parking, showering/locker facilities, and incentives to walk or bike to work; these employers are in reality few and far between.

Existing Wellness programs

Of particular note, is the Champaign Urbana Mass Transit District (CUMTD), which has created a program for employees to reward them for leading an active lifestyle. While programs like these aren't anything new, this particular program seems to be well utilized by a cross-section of employees and also rewards employees for 'beating' their personal bests rather than ranking them against one another. Each employee that participates wears an activity belt, which they can wear throughout the entire day or for specific exercise routines available to them via CUMTD's in-facility gym. The monitor measures the employee's heart rate, and rewards points for actively maintaining or working up heart rate evenly through exercise.

While many employees seemed to enjoy this program there is a downside to the measurement device; employee's are rewarded only for strenuous activity that registers a change in heart-rate on the device. Therefore, activity like yoga, meditation, and walking at a consistent pace are not redeemable for rewards, which leaves out a fairly large subset of participants when these activities do not increase heart rate. These particular activities reduce stress, allow for (sometimes) low impact activity, and have demonstrated health benefits but lack a measured impact by this particular technology.

Creating wellness programs for the community

Many entities already provide low-impact exercise opportunities that bring about cost-free ways to lead an active lifestyle in and outside of work. The various cycling organizations (Champaign County Bikes, Prairie Cycle Club, Illini Cycling, The Bike Project) and businesses (Champaign Cycle, Durst Cycle, Neutral Cycle) provide open-to-the-public casual and medium-intensity rides. Common Ground Food Cooperative offers its patrons the opportunity to enter their name for a monthly drawing, with an additional chance being added to the drawing each time a patron utilizes active transportation (walk, bike, public transit) to visit the store.

Building upon these existing community resources is key in the development of successful community-wide wellness program, and allows methods people are readily familiar with to expand. There is one particular facet of the existing programs we've found to be instrumental to successful promotion; ease-of-use. Existing programs are relatively simple, requiring little long term commitment and provide regular rewards that the participants are informed about. Monthly or weekly promotions like the drawing from Common Ground are the most successful, require little forethought on behalf of the customer, and occur consistently enough to keep consumers engaged.


If a local businesses are interested in creating and applying a healthy lifestyle promotion, we encourage them to look at what health conscious organizations in Champaign-Urbana are already employing. Keep the program simple; write-ins and electronic tallies are simple to collect info and often integrate with existing point-of-sale hardware. Punch cards offer an easy way for customers to watch their reward attainment but these cards are often lost or forgotten, and if customers aren't reminded to collect the reward the program has little impact on the businesses healthy image.

Wellness Programs in Champaign-Urbana

*If you have a recommendation of an existing wellness program or would like to add your own program to this list, please email

It started with a playground

Build Day in Reid Park Neighborhood, Charlotte, NC  -  October 13th, 2012

My start in Community Development seems to stem from a number of factors, but building a playground was the most memorable event that I continue to refer to as a planner. The process started as I was finishing up my final year as a dual-degree seeking student, with majors in both Architecture and Geography. While Architecture allowed me to speak a varied professional vernacular, it felt inconsequential to my vision without adding a component that took a larger context of community into consideration. Upon entering my Geography tract I instantly took to the Urban Studies concentration, and registered in my first Community Development Workshop.

The Community Development Workshop was a pairing to Charlotte Action Research Project (CHARP), a university-community collaborative that put undergraduate, Masters, and Doctoral students together with neighborhoods, cities, and regional cooperatives. The Program Director for CHARP, Dr. Janni Sorensen, had worked with East St. Louis Action Research Project while obtaining her Doctorate in Regional Planning from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

In the opportunity to work with CHARP, we were paired with the Charlotte, North Carolina neighborhood of Reid Park. Reid Park is historic working-class neighborhood, located on West Boulevard minutes from Uptown Charlotte and Charlotte-Douglas International Airport. Over the years the neighborhood had experienced some of the effects of Charlotte's sprawling city limits, which left it locationally distressed far from affordable grocery stores, pharmacies, and other significant community resources. Exacerbating the problem, even the stores nearby were relatively inaccessible because Charlotte's sprawl meant that much of the city grew without sidewalks or non-vehicular transit options.

Despite issues related to crime, poor housing quality, and low owner-occupation rates the neighborhood remained largely intact. The residents of the neighborhood had deep-seated historical roots, and a group of long-term residents who were devoted to the neighborhood. The neighborhood had many valuable assets, including an in-neighborhood elementary school, a community center, and a brand new library branch just steps away.

Community Meeting in Reid Park - 2011

Community Meeting in Reid Park - 2011

In 2011 I worked alongside Arthur (Artie) Pryer to put together community meetings, and solicit ideas from the Reid Park Neighborhood Association and the community's residents for a new 'Reid Park' identifiable asset. The discovery of this process was the number of families and young children in the neighborhood that were walking long distances to find a safe space to play, and the lack of sidewalks and near-community assets that would fulfill this goal. Artie began the application to KaBOOM! towards the end of 2011, and we were able to get a successful bid and fund-raising campaign for Reid Park.

For the next few months we worked alongside the Reid Park Neighborhood Association and KaBOOM! to develop a work plan for the neighborhood's playspace. The months of planning included rallying neighborhood residents to come out for the design development, to volunteer for build day, and to structure a maintenance plan for the finished product. One of the most exciting days was working with Kristin Karsch on Design Day (gallery below), where we met with Reid Park's families to draw what they envisioned in their playspace.

The most fulfilling and everlasting piece of the puzzle was Reid Park's 'Playspace Build Day,' where over 300 residents and volunteers came together to make their playspace a reality. Working over just six hours we raised the playspace of out human strength, and were able to observe the transformation derived from our own hands.

Community Planning Resources - Guiding Mission Statement

CPR's team delivers a toolbox for local and regional community development services on behalf of public, private, and non-profit organizations and communities. We work in partnership with our clients to identify where their plans are not meeting their intent, and craft design and policy instruments to help them realize their vision. We bring together a range of highly skilled and innovative consultants to produce healthy and sustainable communities.