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Youth Transportation Summit centers young people’s voices and visions for the future

Attendees participate in the Youth Transportation Summit event on December 9, 2023. Photo: SDOT.

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  • On Saturday, December 9, the City of Seattle hosted its first-ever Youth Transportation Summit!
  • Young people aged 14 to 24 years old were invited to participate in the event to:
    • Share their personal experiences with transportation
    • Highlight what they’d like to see changed in the future
    • Discuss opportunities for climate-responsive transportation investments.
  • The summit centered young people’s voices and will culminate in a Youth Climate & Transportation Action Plan that will be presented to Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell.
  • The event was created as part of Mayor Harrell’s 2022 One Seattle Transportation and Climate Justice Executive Order.
  • We hope you enjoy hearing more about the important knowledge and aspirations shared at the event, including direct quotes from participants.

We were thrilled to come together with around 60 young people this past Saturday at the Youth Transportation Summit. We learned a great deal from the experiences and hopes shared at the event, and look forward to incorporating them into a Youth Climate & Transportation Action Plan that will be further developed in 2024.

A couple dozen people sit at tables in a large room. A woman presents at the front with a large screen and presentation in the upper left corner. A projector is in the upper right corner.
Youth Transportation Summit participants taking part in a full-group discussion. Photo: SDOT.

Some key themes expressed by summit participants included:

  • We need revolutionary optimism to address the climate crisis
  • Need for improved transportation infrastructure around hilly areas
  • Reliance on cars is harmful for everyone. We need to move away from car use to address the climate crisis as well as safety issues.
  • More opportunities for youth to be a part of these conversations and have meaningful conversations with decision-makers

Here are some direct statements from participants who shared what they’d like to see in Seattle’s future transportation system and the City’s work to address climate change.

“I came to this summit because I understand the urgency for collective action and more opportunities for economic equality. I have the energy for it. I didn’t hear anyone in here say ‘expand I-5.’ As I become more educated, I notice things differently. I see a road with four lanes and I think two of those can be bus lanes! I took away from the summit how educated and driven my generation is about these subjects and how much will there is for change. We need less cars and more human-centered infrastructure.” – Dinko de Forest, youth summit participant

“I was shocked that there were people here from all over – British people, people from Chicago, and people from all around the U.S. and the world. All of us are having the same problems, and most people don’t do anything about it or are scared to talk about it. Today we talked about it, and it was amazing to see the amount of power that our voices have.” – Japhia McRae, youth summit participant

A graphic shows a vision board titled "SDOT Youth Transportation Summit". The board includes words and icons suggesting priorities and interests for transportation, such as what is your why for being at the summit and must think about walking in other people's shoes.
A vision board sets the stage for dialogue and idea sharing by young people at the summit. Photo: SDOT

Here are quotes from leaders at the City of Seattle and King County:

“Young people are our future. They care deeply about the planet and the climate crisis we’re facing collectively in Seattle and all around the world. We convened this Youth Transportation Summit to hear directly from young people through conversations that spark creativity and ingenuity. Their voices will help inform the future of Seattle’s transportation priorities and help shape our upcoming Youth Climate and Transportation Action Plan. Thank you to everyone who participated and shared their experiences, perspectives, and priorities for climate justice and transportation.” – Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell

“Young people are important advocates for reliable, safe and sustainable mobility. Whether you’re cycling, walking, rolling, scooting or taking transit, there are so many ways to explore Puget Sound. I’m grateful for the great ideas of our future leaders.” – King County Executive Dow Constantine

“I am thrilled to hear directly from Seattle’s teenagers and young adults about what matters most to them for Seattle’s transportation system and our vital work to combat climate change. The thoughtful perspectives shared by these young leaders has inspired me, and I look forward to working together and transforming their priorities into meaningful action.” – SDOT Director Greg Spotts 

“Thank you to all the youth advocates for letting us know how important transit is to you and how we can serve you better. Making transit free to all youth through age 18 was a critical first step. More than ever, your experiences and ideas are helping build a new and exciting network so you can travel wherever and however you want.” – King County Metro General Manager Michelle Allison

We look forward to continuing to seek and elevate a broad and diverse range of perspectives in our transportation planning and climate change response efforts. This includes young people who play an important role today in shaping the future of our city for years and decades to come.

Thank you to everyone who participated in this inaugural summit and to those who may be interested in getting involved in future engagement opportunities. Please stay tuned for more information about the Action Plan next year.

Several people sit in chairs around two tables while a woman holding a microphone speaks to the group in a large room.
Young people participating in a facilitated discussion at the summit. Photo: SDOT.