Thursday, February 3, 2011

It all in the mission statement

California is a progressive place when it comes to airshed management and green house gas reduction. Last year the citizens of that state voted to keep its aggressive green house gas reduction legislation. Yet with all this progressive policy, I was surprised that the mission statement from the California Department of Transportation hasn’t changed.
Provide the safest transportation system in the nation for users and workers.
Maximize transportation system performance and accessibility.
Efficiently deliver quality transportation projects and services.
Preserve and enhance California's resources and assets.
Promote quality service through an excellent workforce.
While these seem like laudable goals, they are actually responsible for the mess that most parts of North America find themselves in today. For example let’s look at mobility and safety. The goal of the department is to move the most cars, the fastest way possible. To make this safe and practical, you need to build freeways with concrete barrier to reduce the amount of people that get killed each year and bypass the urban fabric of a city. There are health costs, police costs, environmental costs, and societal cost to this kind of mission statement. I think a better example of a mission statement comes from New York City’s Department of Transportation:
-Provide safe, efficient, and environmentally responsible movement of pedestrians, goods, and vehicular traffic on the streets, highways, bridges, and waterways of the City's transportation network;
-Improve traffic mobility and reduce congestion throughout the City;
-Rehabilitate and maintain the City's infrastructure, including bridges, tunnels, streets, sidewalks, and highways;
-Encourage the use of mass transit and sustainable modes of transportation; and
-Conduct traffic safety educational programs.
Though I would change “Improve traffic mobility and reduce congestion throughout the City” to “Provide an accessible transportation system that is inclusive to all network users that will reduce congestion throughout the City.”

I know mission statements seem silly at times, but they speak to what an organization believes in. If you look at what New York City is doing today with their pedestrian plazas and bike lanes, it seem like their mission statement is aligning with what they’re doing on the street. Likewise, they are still full-steam ahead with freeway building in California.

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