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County Hall Corner: Our Future is in Fifteen Minutes

One of the recurring themes that is heard repeatedly at the Lycoming County Commissioners Meeting is about their concern for the future. It was brought up again at the most recent meeting on Thursday, June 1st, concerning the use of the federal ARPA Funds, which are being used for ‘generational’ projects.

The focus is well needed, as the latest 2020 census for Lycoming County has a population of 114,182, which was a 2.2 percent decrease from the 2010 census. More of a concern would be the area’s aging; 20 percent of Lycoming County’s population is 65 years and older. The commissioners are doing the right thing in improving the infrastructure for future development, but what will bring that development? Well, it might very well be that our area could become a haven for those who are tired of wasting time.

Obviously, no one likes to waste time. But in the slam-jammed world we live in now, the more people that want to live in a given area seriously impacts the quality of life. For well over a century, city planners have tried to find the right design to meet the various needs and maintain a decent quality of life at the same time.

It turns out that one man has hit on an idea that many believe might be the right answer. The man’s name is Carlos Moreno, winner of last year’s prestigious Obel Award for architectural contributions to human development all over the world. Moreno also won the award for best TEDx talk of the year.

An official TEDx Talk is a showcase for speakers presenting great, well-formed ideas in under 18 minutes. They are to be about something that’s new and surprising such as an idea or invention that your audience has never heard about. Or it could be a great basic idea with a new twist to it that is challenging to consider.

Carlos Moreno’s award-winning TEDx talk was on the 15-minute city. It is simple yet quite profound. Essentially it is an urban planning concept in which most daily necessities and services, such as work, shopping, education, healthcare, and leisure, are all designed to be within 15 minutes of your home residence.

This concept has resonated with so many city dwellers because sometimes half of their day is taken up just getting from point A to point B, and not just for work, but almost anything they do. Commuting from home to work, even by public transportation, can take hours and hours. The COVID shutdowns caused an awakening that many jobs could be done at home, but it still does not solve the backlash that is taking place in our country right now concerning personal time management.

What does this have to do with Lycoming County and Williamsport in particular? Let’s think about this for a moment. Are there work possibilities? The answer is yes, as there have been more and more companies showing an interest in our area. How about shopping? Same thing, there are very good stores around for many necessary and discretionary sale items. As far as education, our local schools have been under a battering ram a bit of late but are still as good as anywhere else in the Commonwealth. And the two colleges also continue to be academically sound and strong. There are housing developments in the works, there are some wonderful parks and beautiful surrounding nature, and we have two major hospital complexes throughout the area.

Now get this — all of this is accessible within fifteen minutes or so from at least 90 percent of the county residents. For major or even average cities to become “15-minute cities” will take decades of work, if it is even possible. So what will a person or family do if they want to get out of the hustle and bustle and begin to spend their time doing what they want and need to do rather than continually wasting time waiting and waiting and waiting? Williamsport and the surrounding area await!

The American artist Andy Warhol once said, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” Williamsport gets to be famous for two weeks every August as the world comes to the Little League World Series, but then they leave. Perhaps the future is coming to us and staying here, as we have the ideal 15-minute city.