2. What guides this plan

Vision, Mission, Values, and Goals

The Seattle Department of Transportation’s vision is:

Seattle is a thriving, equitable community
powered by dependable transportation.

Our mission is to deliver a transportation system that
provides safe and affordable access to places and opportunities.

Our vision for our transportation information infrastructure is:

A system that informs every traveler with accurate, up-to-date information
when they need it, where they need it, and how they need it; and contributes to
a safe, seamless, secure and equitable transportation network.

Our mission is to implement a clear policy framework
for the delivery of transportation information
to and from travelers, operators, and regulators
of Seattle’s transportation system.

 

SDOT is guided by the values of Equity, Mobility, Safety, Sustainability, Livability and Excellence

This plan pursues and expresses these values as follows:

EQUITY

We believe transportation must meet the needs of communities of color and those of all incomes, abilities, and ages. Our goal is to partner with our communities to build a racially equitable and socially just transportation system.

Therefore, the transportation information infrastructure and ecosystem must be inclusive and serve all travelers regardless of race, income, ability, gender, and age.

SDOT transportation information infrastructure and the ecosystem should identify and mitigate potential inequities resulting from technology. In partnership with Seattle’s communities, it must put into place protections to ensure that potential disruptions to the transportation system are not disadvantaging groups of people. 

SAFETY

We believe everyone should be able to move safely through the city.
Our goal is to create safe transportation environments and eliminate
serious and fatal crashes in Seattle.

Therefore, the transportation information infrastructure and ecosystem
should make travel safe by providing relevant, usable, accurate, timely,
and accessible information.

SDOT must also use insights and intelligence from transportation information to improve safety of the physical infrastructure, and to guide the department’s programmatic and capital investments. Transportation information must be held to the highest standards of privacy and security protections, ensuring that information is used selectively and purposefully without jeopardizing every travelers’ right to privacy.

MOBILITY

We believe transportation choices are critical to access opportunity. Our goal is to build, operate, and maintain an accessible transporta-tion system that connects people, places, and goods reliably.

Therefore, the transportation information infrastructure and ecosystem must be driven by the information needs of the traveling public. It must facilitate the seamless transmission of relevant and necessary informa-tion between the operators and managers of the transportation system.

The ecosystem should also provide common means and methods for sharing information among different actors, enabling more strategic approaches to improving mobility.

SUSTAINABILITY

We believe environmental health should be improved for future generations through sustainable transportation. Our goal is to address the climate crisis through a sustainable, resilient transpor-tation system.

Therefore, the transportation information infrastructure and ecosystem must provide the necessary feedback mechanisms to show the con-sequences of our individual choices, and the transportation sector’s impact on the environment. It should guide future programmatic and capital investments to a more sustainable and resilient transportation system

The transportation information infrastructure and ecosystem must be designed and built so that it can deliver of critical information to travelers regardless of minor stressors, major disruptions, and other threats.

LIVABILITY

We believe transportation is essential to support daily life. Our goal is to manage our streets and sidewalks to enrich public life and improve community health.

Therefore, the transportation information infrastructure must help to prioritize people-first and community-first uses of our streets and sidewalks.

Transportation information should help everyone to understand and to facilitate how people use the right of way as public space.The algorithms used by the transportation information infrastructure and ecosystem actors must take into account that streets and sidewalks are public spaces and their availability to the commu-nity should not be compromised for transportation efficiency.It must support traditional and new methods of understanding how the people use the right of way to meet positive health and social outcomes.

EXECELLENCE

We believe in exceeding the expectations of the communities we serve. Our goal is to build an SDOT team committed to excellence and equipped with the skills to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow.

The transportation information infrastructure and ecosystem will enable SDOT staff to adapt strategically to new roles and develop new skills required for the future.

Therefore, the transportation information infrastructure and ecosystem must improve service by creating smoother flows of information throughout the system.

Information Imperatives

Apart from being guided by the above mission, vision, values, and goals, it is imperative that the ecosystem deliver accurate and complete information to address the most critical issues we face today.
Because the planet is facing a climate emergency, and in Seattle the biggest generator of green-house gas emissions is the transportation sector, the ecosystem should:

Our past shows that, absent these imperatives, the infrastructure and institutions we build will be shaped by hidden assumptions and the biased metrics in our information flows. Information that is hidden or withheld will create imbalances in the system and warp its outcomes. Information that is surfaced can change behaviors and shape institutions.

ACCELERATE DECARBONIZATION, so that all the actors in the system can understand their contri-butions to the climate crisis and can change their behavior toward sustainability and resilience.

Because transportation infrastructure and transportation investments have been instruments of racial and social injustice, the ecosystem should:

ADVANCE EQUITY, so that all the actors can understand their role in countering racism and bridg-ing inequity, and change their behavior to build a community that works for everyone, but especially for the most vulnerable and for those who have historically suffered injustice.

Because information systems that gather information about people’s behaviors can and have been used for massive surveillance and have been prone to breakdowns in security, the ecosys-tem should:

PROTECT PRIVACY, so that all the actors maintain the trust of users and do not expose private and personal information without the express consent of the individual, as subject to disclosure laws or court orders.

Because there are strong drivers for monopolistic behavior in aggregating information and this has led so power asymmetries that put the user at risk, the ecosystem should:

LEVEL THE PLAYING FIELD so that all the actors compete on a level playing field and prevent accumulations of power that can stifle innovation and even threaten democracy.

Our past shows that, absent these imperatives, the infrastructure and institutions we build will be shaped by hidden assumptions and the biased metrics in our information flows. Information that is hidden or withheld will create imbalances in the system and warp its outcomes. Information that is surfaced can change behaviors and shape institutions.

We present two cases:

CASE 1: REDLINING

In the 1930s, the newly-created Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC) issued geographic maps showing mortgage fore-closure “risks.” However, the only data they gathered on risk was racial demographics. The racist (and unfounded) assumption was that the ”whiter” a community, the lower the risk. These “redlined” maps directed government resources (in this case, home refinancing loans) away from communities of color. The information encoded racism into the financial system and later, the transportation system.

Banks used the same maps to deny loans to non-whites. This prevented communities of color from building equity. Homeowners’ associations wrote deed restrictions specifically to create whites-only, non-Jewish communities. People of color were constrained into small neighborhoods that suffered from a lack of investment in private homes and municipal investment in shared amenities.

Those same maps determined where urban highways would be built, enabling states and cities to tear down historically black and immigrant communities in the name of urban renewal, and in their place to build highways, to move more vehicles.

References:

1. Redlining in Seattle. Retrieved from https://www.seattle.gov/cityarchives/exhibits-and-education/online-exhibits/redlining-in-seattle

2. Semuels, A. (2016, March 18). The role of Highways in American Poverty. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/03/role-of-highways-in-american-poverty/474282/

3. Aaronson, D., et. al. (2019). The Effects of the 1930s HOLC “Redlining” Maps (REVISED February 2019). (Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago Working Paper No. 2017-12). Retrieved from https://www.chicagofed.org/publications/working-papers/2017/wp2017-12

CASE 2: LEVEL OF SERVICE

As our cities built our modern network of streets, roads and high-ways, departments of transportation (federal, state, and municipal) gathered information about the flow of vehicles. How fast and free was traffic? Level of service was calculated as a measure of how many cars could cross a segment of road over time. It was assumed that moving more vehicles per minute meant better service.

The sometimes spoken, mostly assumed goal was to move more vehicles, faster. We did not count how many pedestrians crossed the road, or how many people were on bikes. So, we widened roads and eliminated sidewalks and medians. We timed stop lights to prioritize vehicle flow. We restricted where people could cross roads.

All of these actions and policies were shaped by the largest and strongest information flow: data on the number of vehicles and how fast they were moving. Systems were built to gather, aggregate, analyze, and deliver this information. We monitored, reacted, responded, planned, and set policies based on this information. As a result, we have prioritized the movement of vehicles above all other uses of the right of way.

We now see the need to expand and change our system planning paradigm. In response, we are collecting other information: how many people ride bikes or buses; how many people walk; and, how people use streets as public spaces. There is still an information imbalance, but we are working to level the field.

As technology provides even more information—how many people use shared bikes, where they go, how many use ride-hail—we will in turn receive and deliver more information. We will need to be clear about what information is important, so we can set clear goals and measure our progress.

 

References:

4. Goffman, E. (2018, November 19). Is the traffic metric Level of Service stuck in the Stone Ages? Retrieved from https://mobilitylab.org/2018/11/19/traffic-prediction-standard-level-of-service/

5. Gross, T. (2017, May 3). A ‘Forgotten History’ Of How The U.S. Government Segregated America. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/2017/05/03/526655831/a-forgotten-history-of-how-the-u-s-government-segregated-america

6. Fishbane, L, et. al. Stop trying to solve traffic and start building great places. Retrieved from https://www.brookings.edu/blog/the-avenue/2019/03/20/stop-trying-to-solve-traffic-and-start-building-great-places/

7. Jaffe, E. (2011, December 5). The Transportation Planning Rule Every City Should Reform. Retrieved from https://www.citylab.com/solutions/2011/12/transportation-planning-law-every-city-should-repeal/636/

8. Goodyear, Sarah. The Invention of Jaywalking. Citylab, 24 April, 2012. Retrieved from https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2012/04/invention-jaywalking/1837/

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 draft_tiip@seattle.gov.

If you have questions about SDOT, please visit our website at www.seattle.gov/transporation.

Designed by Story 2 Designs

Privacy Policy