City project trackers: one way to keep citizens in the loop (and engaged)

Photo credit: New York City

Designed to keep citizens informed on the variety of construction, repair or maintenance projects occurring around them, project tracking programs aren't a brand new idea. But more and more cities are adopting them as a way to provide accountability and transparency — and to encourage citizens to be engaged in what's going on in their city. Is this an idea your city could use? — Doug Peeples


 New York City's NYC Rezoning Commitments Tracker is an interactive map that provides details on the city's progress with its numerous neighborhood-scale rezoning projects. Unveiled in late June, the Tracker is the result of a City Council vote to require continuous progress reports on the city's rezoning work carried out under the guidance of the city's comprehensive neighborhood plan. NYC's Tracker isn't just about building construction and streets. It covers projects related to housing, open space, community resources, transportation and related infrastructure and economic and workforce development, the topics citizens keenly interested in.

"By managing the NYC Zoning Commitments Tracker, we give communities a window into what is happening in their neighborhoods. This new innovative map is yet another example of how we are improving transparency and accountability in city government while creating real and lasting changes that make our neighborhoods stronger and fairer," said Emily W. Newman, acting director for the Mayor's Office of Operations.

It’s about keeping promises, too
In addition to keeping citizens informed, the Tracker also is intended to ensure the city lives up to its promises. "The new NYC Zoning Commitments Tracker will provide the accountability rezoned communities need and deserve to ensure that this administration and every administration moving forward sticks to the commitments promised to local residents," said Council Member Donovan Richards. "Thankfully, this tracker will serve as a tool for communities and elected officials to hold any administration accountable."

The user-friendly map, which will be updated annually, provides information on a little over a dozen city agencies, from Environmental Protection to the city's Parks Department.

As we mentioned earlier, the project tracker concept isn't a new one. But the practice does seem to be growing as cities realize the value of keeping their citizens informed. And the programs aren’t all the same from city to city (or state to state).

For example, the Tennessee Department of Transportation's State Project Overview Tracker provides updated details on all road projects in the state at a glance. The city of Eugene, Oregon's Road Work Advisories are the same idea with a different name. Eugene's advisories include project details, alternate routes, road closures and detour locations, as many other jurisdictions' programs do.

Doug Peeples is a Portland, Oregon-based writer specializing in technology and energy. Follow @smartccouncil on Twitter.