Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Show us the data! DC Government metrics (and comparing DC's presentation to the City of Los Angeles)

DC's Department of Transportation is not happy that an infrastructure investment campaign website for the White House says that 95% of DC's roads are in poor condition.

There's no question that the White House data is wrong, as a bicyclist I have a pretty good sense of road quality.  While there are many high quality roads in the city in terms of pavement quality, there are many roads in seriously poor condition--which can be hyper dangerous for bicyclists, compared to the ride capabilities of a typical motor vehicle.

DDOT counters the White House with a statement based on data using an industry standard measurement system, the Pavement Condition Index (PCI), that says 75% of DC's roads are in fair, good, or excellent condition. See their blog entry, "Three-Quarters of District Roads Are in Fair to Excellent."

First, fair grades, generally considered to be from 26% to 50% aren't considered passing grades.

Second, DDOT isn't providing access to the underlying data, except for summary data, which at least through 2010, doesn't support the DDOT statement, except for the fact that DDOT includes "fair" grades now, when the grades for "good" and "excellent" for most of the city's roads (1016 miles out of 1030) didn't top 58% as of 2010.

I've been meaning to write about this general topic, because of my frustration with the DDOT Dashboard.

While two of the buttons do a great job on providing access to a great deal of information, the other four do not. (I first wrote about this in 2010, in "DC DDOT transportation access portal doesn't really say anything.")

One of the "other four" buttons concerns road pavement quality.  It lists a summary quality score of 64%, but the only data provided to support the claim is four years old, and doesn't back up the claim if you do a calculated weighted average of the reported data.

On the other hand, the City of Los Angeles has a very good metrics webpage, much better than DC's, and for road pavement quality data too.

You can even drill down within the Los Angeles data on a block by block basis, which is far more useful than the data presented by DDOT.

This comes up too, because for awhile there, I was thinking about running for Ward 4 position on DC City Council, figuring that Muriel Bowser will win the Mayoral election, and that I might have a shot in a special election, because the voting conditions are much different than normal, where I would have no chance.

Anyway, I decided not to do it (meeting with people reminded me how much I dislike the people who are into campaigns, plus other people, even those who hold or have held elective office told me it's very difficult to "move a Council to better decision making" and that I could have more effect doing other things), but I had been developing an ideal ward-focused Councilmember platform, and one of the elements would be developing and publicizing ward-specific metrics, including road pavement quality, sidewalk gaps, bike path pavement quality, litter survey data, etc.
Pavement condition measurement on a street in Los Angeles
Pavement condition measurement for a particular street in Los Angeles, from the City of Los Angeles Performance Metrics website.

(That ward-specific platform is only in outline form now.  I will expand it into a position paper of some sort.)

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At 11:22 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

It is a great idea, but as you said before that is what DDOT should be doing as part of a "311" initiative rather than putting it into constituency service.

And again the disconnect between being a world class city and our current leadership. And gray is a step above these jokers in the council.

What is interesting about the history of DC is for a bit of time after the civil war this was the Miami of the day. And also, for a bit, the Silicon Valley (Hollereith, Bell, The smithsonian plane).

And I've argued before that we are Geneva right now with the number of international organizations. And spies.

(and yes, Chocolate city, but that is burned out now)

What I rarely see is a focus on being a world-class goverment (Singapore? Seoul?) which it is uniquely placed to be by virtue of being a city state.

And a the Newt Gringrich era of being a tax haven (Dubai?) would still be fascinating, although if people are complaining about housing prices now....

At 2:00 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

g-d, you are deep (note also that for a time, DC was the center for recorded music, CBS grew out of a record firm that was based in DC, hence the "Columbia").

wrt the point about "world class" cities, of course I share your thoughts on this.

... but I was shocked in the design advisory committee meetings in July for the 11th street bridge park project, when one of the committee members who works for a DC govt. agency said the same thing, that there is all this talk of being a world class city, yet the standards we set, the programs we propose, etc., are basically pathetic. (Not her words.)

I couldn't believe I was hearing this from a DC govt. employee.

2. otoh, I went to a presentation last week about a knowledge district in Rotterdam. A cool project, with one unique element, but in the scheme of "knowledge districts" not particularly special or unique.

Yet there was a gaggle of DC govt. employees there, partly because of the foundation, which has ex-DC planning officials in high positions, all talking about how amazing this project is, how we need to model what we're doing after it, etc.

One of these officials I used to think was pretty good, when we crossed paths in 2007-2008, but I was struck by how, while they are "in charge" of how DC deals with "the creative economy" it doesn't seem as if they have a very good handle on the literature and a wide range of examples/case studies.

... I still haven't gotten around to writing about Brookings' innovation districts report, which suffers I think from the same problem of a limited set of examples (even though one of the co-authors lives in Europe). My sense was that they weren't too familiar with some of the best practice literature from abroad, which I exposed myself to when writing those pieces on European cities.

At 2:26 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

I guess I didn't make a point clear about ward-focused metrics. They wouldn't be so much for directing the use of constituent service funds, but would (1) provide a good overview of the state of good repair in the ward and (2) provide a list of priorities and focus for how the exec. branch should do their job, and (3) an agenda, list of things for citizens and the councilmember to focus on.

... in Balt. County, I created a framework for district-level bike and ped committees, and the recommendations in the plan were outputted by Council district, not alphabetically, like the Eastern County plan.

The idea was that you have a list, of priorities, that advocates can advocate for, and the Councilmember can use with the DPW and the Planning Office and the capital budgeting process, in order to move projects from concept to implementation.

Without "an agenda" it takes much longer.


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