If the areas where we live/work/play (aka residential/office/commercial) are connected to effective mass transit, we reduce trips made by cars and reduce car dependency.
Reducing trips by cars will reduce GHG emissions contributing to climate change and reduce toxic pollutants produced by burning fossil fuels. Transportation currently contributes >50% of our emissions in SD. SD has the 6th worst air pollution in the nation.
Effective mass transit improves access for young people looking for jobs, elderly people lacking mobility, lower income people who can’t afford cars, and environmentally conscious citizens who do not wish to drive.
Cities for humans:
Reducing car dependency and prioritizing alternative modes of mobility allows us to rethink how we use our land. Currently ~50% of our land is devoted to roads and parking. This is a very inefficient use of land. Instead of cement, we could use the land for parks and gardens, public squares, creative workspace, housing, food venues, etc.
This unproductive use of land for car-centric infrastructure also means unsustainably high maintenance costs (ex. potholes and fixing roads), while depriving cities of generating revenue from other land uses (housing, retail, etc.) With cars as the dominant option, we also spend more money on daily transportation (car payments, maintenance, parking, fuel, etc.), which negatively impacts personal finances.
Effective mass transportation also necessarily means improving last mile solutions, making it feasible to get from your transit station or mobility hub to your final destination. This is achieved through creating better and safer environments for walking, cycling, and other modes of active transportation. Spending less time in your car and more time in active forms of mobility leads to healthier people.
Social cohesion and civic identity:
If we lead less car-dependent lives and more transit-oriented lives, we would also have more unplanned interactions at points of intersection (ex. mobility hubs, public spaces) with members of the community. This fosters better social cohesion and improves community identity and engagement.
Improve digital delivery of government services:
Citizens need to access services and process applications efficiently online. Cities need to comprehensively update digital service delivery in every department. Usability testing needs to be conducted collaboratively with citizens to ensure a good user experience.
Improve software used by city employees:
Cities need to undergo significant procurement reform to make it cheaper, faster, and easier to obtain modern software to manage government operations. Current processes lead to too much customization and feature bloat, making it prohibitively expensive to develop and even harder to scale to other cities. Cities should increase transparency and increase accountability for vendors who don’t deliver on contracts.
Hire people for 21st century jobs:
Many municipalities struggle to adjust to the changing nature of work in the 21st century. When government hiring procedures are restricted to specific job categories rather than managing talent and skill sets, it can very difficult to hire people needed to modernize the government’s digital operations. Arduous hiring processes take many months and will result in tech talent looking elsewhere for opportunity. Cities need necessary reforms to create a digital civil service.
Make data-informed decisions:
Cities need better data collection at all levels to have a better understanding of current realities in order to make better decisions. Transparency and access to good public data is key to the efficient delivery of public services as cross-sector data sharing reduces unnecessary spending. Open data also fosters sharing of content and knowledge, improving collaboration and innovation across public and private sector.
No Ugly Websites:
Implement web design guidelines to make government websites easy to navigate and obtain necessary information. Use principles of Human-Centered Design and iterative testing to build user-friendly websites. Ensure mobile optimization, readable fonts, modern aesthetics, and other basic front-end design practices.
Improved Community Outreach Using Tech:
Human-centered design requires participation from wide swaths of society. Employing modern technology (social media, tele-conference, crowd-sourcing public input) allows cities to rethink outreach to different subsets of the population. Urban geometry often makes physical distance a significant barrier to civic engagement, but technology allows us to mitigate some of those hurdles.