Transportation has always been driven by and enabled by technology. From sandals to the wheel; from the stirrup to the internal combustion engine; from the turnpike and pavement to the synchronized traffic light—technology helps people get to where they want to go.

Each improvement in technology has helped people to move more and move faster. But each new technology has also created demands for more technology and more management. Wheeled wagons worked better with cleared paths which led to the technology of road-building. Building and maintaining roads, even in the age of wagons, required money so localities invented “turn pikes” that exacted tolls from wagons traversing paved roads. Tar and cobblestone streets and roads became part of city infrastructure. Cities invented one-way roads to keep traffic moving, and then invented sidewalks to give people space to walk away from horse manure on the streets. Horse-drawn buses gave way to motor buses. Trains went underground to become subways. Along the way, new rules and new standards were developed to make sure people could get to where they want to go.

Each new technology made the system more complex and required a change in the institutions that managed it. Departments of street sweepings became departments of roads and public works, and then became departments of transportation.

The rapid change ushered in by information technology-enabled transportation also requires a change in institutions. For SDOT, this plan is the roadmap to that change. While the institutional capacities may need to change, the remit does not: The goal is to ensure that whenever anyone makes a trip in the city, they are equipped with relevant information to make that trip easier, less costly, healthier, and more sustainable.

  • This effort though sets up other challenges, questions that SDOT needs to answer:• How will SDOT fund its transportation information investments?
  • How will SDOT develop the resources to train staff and acquire the institutional skills it needs to function in this new space?


As the primary infrastructure manager, SDOT needs to manage not just the physical (and jurisdictional) right of way, but also the information that flows into and out of it.

This is a guiding document for the department to prepare for and thrive through an uncertain future where generational transition, disruption, shifting economics, and oncoming environmental pressures will change forever the way people move through the city. We hope the plan keeps the depart technological meant resilient, and ultimately makes the city a better place to live both now and in the future.

Need More Information?

This is a draft plan. It was developed by Benjamin de la Pena, Mary Alyce Eugene, Alex Hagenah, and Sam Marshall along with their colleagues from across the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT).

If you have questions about this plan, please send us email via

If you have questions about SDOT, please visit our website at

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