As cities reimagine and reinvest in their streets to meet the mobility challenges ahead, they must also re-imagine and re-invest in their own internal agency structures and processes. All too often, doing things the way they’ve always been done limits cities’ ability to make the safety and livability changes that their residents desperately need.
Funded by Ford’s Greenfield Labs, NACTO’s Green Light for Great Streets project explores the structural challenges faced by transportation agencies. In Phase I of the Green Light project, NACTO developed a holistic assessment survey of its member cities, and conducted 89 additional interviews with transportation department staff in sixteen cities to gain a better understanding of typical internal processes, management structures, and project delivery challenges. Through this work, NACTO found a wide range of structures in place in city transportation departments around the country as well as clear markers of effectiveness for project delivery. These include:
- Defined and clear processes for implementation, and well-informed staff.
- Recurring or guaranteed funding sources.
- Project pipelines built around standardized designs that allow cities to expedite work.
- A strategic use of consultants to bolster efforts or train on unusual skills.
- A clear vision, strong political will, and defined metrics for success.
In Phase II, NACTO staff undertook in-depth Agency Accelerator work with two cities—Pittsburgh and San José—to help them work through a specific structural challenge that each city identified as a barrier to success. In San José, the work focused on developing and disseminating a survey to understand what marketing messages would work best to promote Better BikewaySJ, the city’s rapid downtown protected bike lane network build-out project.
In Pittsburgh, NACTO staff worked with Department of Mobility and Infrastructure (DOMI) leadership to create a framework for prioritizing projects. To support Pittsburgh’s efforts, NACTO spoke with seven additional cities to learn about their prioritization processes, and facilitated a
series of in-person workshops to build leadership buy-in on Pittsburgh’s fledgling prioritization plans. Key findings include:
- City project prioritization processes can be grouped into one of three paths, depending on local and political context. As a result, project prioritization is both an art and a science, and no one model guarantees success.
- In all cities, a strong vision from the top was at the core of successful prioritization.
- In Pittsburgh, ongoing and upfront communication across key agencies proved to be critical for developing buy-in on the project prioritization process.
- In San José, safety was consistently ranked as the most resonant message for bike
- In San José, the online survey captured a more diverse set of respondents than in-person
surveys at public meetings.