Watch: Transit Expert David Bragdon Says Technology Isn’t Revolutionary, Serving Public Interest Is

IPhones alone won't revolutionize transit, Bragdon says.

For eight years, David Bragdon was the President of Metro, Portland's regional planning government. In 2010, he left his post to serve as the chief of sustainability for New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg.

Now the head of NYC think tank Transit Center, Bragdon returned to Portland in April to speak at Willamette Week's Techfest NW.

He says the revolution that's needed in the world of transportation doesn't start with technology, but with governance and institutions.

"I'm talking about issues like: What do we subsidize?" Bragdon said, "And what are we subsidizing today that maybe we ought to tax?"

The answers to those questions, Bragdon says, depend on breaking down a outdated public versus private binary that currently exists in American transportation.

"The question for us," Bragdon says, "is: Does technology allow us to start breaking down that binary and combine aspects of both?"

Within the public sector, Bragdon says we need to "reinvigorate the term 'public interest.'"

While technology has changed, Bragdon notes, "Some of the structural racism and classism—the things that drove I-5 and every other interstate in the system through black and low income neighborhoods, the whole system that disadvantages people in terms of barriers to opportunity—are not things of the past."

Moving cars, Bragdon says, is the old way of thinking. We need to be thinking about progressing public interest.

"If we can make that alignment," Bragdon says, "that—not the iPhone—will be the real revolution."