City Planners and Risk-Taking

Harriet Tregoning (right)

Harriet Tregoning (right)

Public officials are coming to realize the importance of sparking innovation within city hall, even though it often means overcoming an entrenched aversion to risk, according to Harriet Tregoning, the planning director for the District of Columbia. Sometimes great ideas will fail and that can be OK, Ms. Tregoning says — just fail fast, and move on.

The district’s experience with rebounding from failure is a case in point. In 2008, it became the first jurisdiction in North America to launch a bikesharing system, but the venture was short-lived. It “was a colossal failure,” Ms. Tregoning says. Instead of giving up, district officials studied their mistakes and started over with Capital Bikeshare, which was recently recognized as the nation’s largest bike-sharing network for the third year in a row.

Ms. Tregoning spoke at ULI’s 2012 Fall Meeting, held in October in Denver.

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