Annual Report: National Planning Conference

The buzz at APA's National Planning Conference in Seattle wasn't just the coffee. It was the energy generated by more than 6,400 people — close to record attendance — sharing their enthusiasm and ideas at planning's biggest annual event.

Looking ahead

APA's conference is dedicated to inspiring planners and preparing them to meet the future with confidence, knowledge, and skill. Ron Sims — former deputy secretary of HUD — set the tone resoundingly in Seattle, bringing the crowd to its feet with his opening keynote. His talk was so tweet-worthy it made #APA15 the city's top Twitter hashtag.

"Planners are charged not with the present but with guiding us into our future. You chose to be planners. You step up, you step in. You do what you love."


Head down to the Tech Zone and check out this amazing visualization mapping #APA15 tweets.

A video posted by APA (@americanplanningassociation) on


AARP launched its new Livability Index at a live session and free webcast. It was a first look at a dynamic new tool from the sponsor of the conference's Millennials, Gen X, and Active Boomers Symposium. APA is proud of its key role in introducing a new way to plan for an aging population.

"We're giving people numbers. What are you going to do about them? That's what this tool is about." — Deb Whitman, AARP's chief public policy officer

Keynoter Stewart Brand, founder of the Whole Earth Catalog, closed the conference with another look ahead — way ahead — at planning over the next 10,000 years.

Stewart Brand
"Cities are the greatest thing humanity does. When people move to cities, the environment recovers ... For planet-scale restoration to work, cities have to work. We're all counting on you for that."

Getting techy

In the Tech Zone, sponsored by Parsons Brinckerhoff and Autodesk, NPC attendees got hands-on demos of a driving simulator, an augmented reality viewer, a virtual reality headset, and other cool tools. Hackathon coders worked on software solutions to planning problems and APA's Technology Division sponsored the first-ever Planning App Challenge. Ohio State's team won $1,000 for an app that links planners and community members to project funds and volunteers.

New favorites

A new Masters Series of sessions offered deep content to experienced planners. The series was such a hit it's back for 2016. Also new and popular: Employer Connection, which will return in 2016's expanded Career Zone.

A panoply of planners

Kudos to the 2015 award recipients! HUD Secretary Julián Castro packed the house and then some for his address at the annual Awards Luncheon.

"Communities need to collaborate to compete. We need to help people not only make a living but a life… Done right, planning benefits people, pocketbooks, and the planet." 

Conference bike-boosters helped set another record in Seattle: the highest ridership ever for the city's Pronto! Cycle Share. Around the convention center, bikeshare stations stood empty as planners took to the streets.

Next up: Phoenix

Get ready for another epic event! Register now to join APA and thousands of your colleagues at the 2016 National Planning Conference in Phoenix, April 2–5.

"I always enjoy the opportunity NPC provides to be inspired by others' work. I am reminded that what we do is important and makes a difference for our communities."
"It was very useful seeing what innovative ideas other communities are pursuing. I learned a lot about the possibilities back at home through the experiences of others."
"I left the conference feeling refreshed and enthusiastic. Thank you!"

Photos: Joe Szurszewski

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