Civic News
Digital access / Municipal government / Technology / Transportation

How New York City is using an interactive map to make democracy better

The city's Department of Transportation is seeking online input for its North Brooklyn Study.

The DOT's interactive map of North Brooklyn. (Screenshot)

How would a government bureaucrat know that the stoplight on Metropolitan and Marcy takes “far too long to arrive, and cars making left turns don’t respect the pedestrians crossing Marcy”?
They likely wouldn’t. How do you measure annoyance in data?
Said bureaucrat likely also wouldn’t know that on the Queens side of the Pulaski Bridge “an insulation warehouse consistently uses the bike lane and bus stop for a loading area, causing congestion.”
But these are the things people in neighborhoods care about. These are the banal, frustrating, everyday occurrences that make walking and riding a bicycle and sleeping with the windows open around 8 million other people easier or harder, frictionless or frustrating.
So to help solve the information difference between people on the block and people in the government, the city has rolled out an interactive map that allows people to drop comments on specific places. It’s part of the Department of Transportation’s North Brooklyn Study, which aims to fix some of the problems contained in a group of neighborhoods that are getting rapidly built-up.

See the map

The map is not going to replace old-fashioned community meetings, but rather supplement them. With more than 300 comments it seems to be getting more people into the fold of local democracy. Commenting on the internet, if you haven’t noticed, isn’t that hard. People who wouldn’t have been able to make a meeting, or maybe wouldn’t have trudged to one to talk about a long-ass stoplight, are able to have their voices heard.
This is a great move by the city. People on the ground have so much more information than people in a government office and people on the ground have to live with the decisions of the people in the office.
We’re living in an era where it seems like representative democracy appears to be losing some steam. Congress’s approval rating stands at 11 percent and the Republicans nominated a candidate for president, who, politics aside as much as possible, may not really believe in democracy. Being able to input your voice to the state about where a crosswalk should go, that could change a people’s feeling about their relationship to the state, and with this technology, that’s really possible. Thumbs up, New York.

N Williamsburg DOT Study

Series: Brooklyn

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