In 1998, the Fund for the City of New York's Center on Municipal Government Performance released results of an unprecedented research project that uses state-of-the-art laser technology and citizen input to produce the first reliable, objective ratings of the smoothness of New York City's streets. A year earlier, test engineers drove a car equipped with profilometers that counted and measured every dip and rise encountered from potholes, bumps, misaligned utility covers, uneven repairs and more. We measured over 670 miles of New York City's streets, covering all 59 community districts. The extensive data collected were then analyzed to produce two indicators that New York City residents identified as meaningful to them: a Smoothness Score and a Jolt Score. In 1999 we conducted another citywide survey. The findings of our studies are published in two volumes and are summarized and available here.
Why we measured the surfaces of the city's streets
We started measuring the smoothness of the city's streets in 1997 after learning through focus group research that one way people rate the performance of their city government in general is by how well the city's streets are maintained. To many people, street maintenance is a most visible example of local government performance. People thought the city could do a better job. The presence or absence of roughness and bumps on the streets was key to their assessments. The public and government did not have objective information on this subject. We fill that information gap in these reports.
How we measured the city's streets
The findings presented in the first and second reports are the result of carefully designed surveys to provide reliable information to the public and government on this topic. We initially learned about how the public rates government performance when we listened to New Yorkers from various parts of the city in focus group sessions. Later on, we took members of focus groups on rides over city streets to determine what degrees of roughness they considered acceptable.
The two indicators of street smoothness
We introduced two measures of street smoothness that the public uses to rate the streets: a Smoothness Score and a Jolt Score.
The broader purpose of this work
As an organization created to help improve the quality of life in New York City and concerned about the need for the public and government to communicate effectively with one another, the Fund for the City of New York, through its Center on Municipal Government Performance, has been creating ways in which the public's views of government performance can be incorporated into measurements that can be discussed and tracked by the public and government. We hope that our work will encourage government to include the public's perspectives into its planning and reporting. And we hope that, in this case, government will inform the public about matters that are relevant to improving the streets. We think that the public then will be served by being better able to understand, assess, and, when they feel it necessary, influence the way government is performing.
|© 2008 Center on Municipal Government Performance, Fund for the City of New York|