October 3, 2023 BY Tiffany Smithin News, Webinars

Tracking & Sharing Vision Zero Progress: Lessons from Denver, Louisville & Washington, DC.

How do we know if we are making progress on Vision Zero goals in a community? What are ways to communicate promising steps that may not be visible to all? How about the challenges that need to be addressed? And, how do we continue to learn and evolve to reach our Vision Zero goals? 

These are just some of the critical questions addressed in our webinar: Performance Metrics: Transparency, Accountability & Evaluation. Watch now! 

As part of our Fundamentals of Vision Zero Action Planning series, we hosted a discussion with Vision Zero practitioners in Denver, CO; Louisville, KY; and Washington, DC, about their approach to tracking progress, communicating strengths and areas for improvement, and learning from growing pains. 

Here are some of the ways that communities are taking actionable steps to be more transparent and accountable in their Vision Zero efforts:

1) Develop and share an annual report or public dashboard

A strong Vision Zero Action Plan will outline both a long-term goal – such as reducing and eventually eliminating traffic fatalities and serious injuries – and specific actions to get there – such as lowering speed limits, redesigning roadways to manage speeds and ensuring Complete Streets for all users. Also critical is measuring and communicating progress on the overarching goal and activity on the individual actions – such as specific policies enacted (ex: local legislation passed to lower speed limits) and the number of safety projects completed compared to goals set (ex: road re-designs enacted on 85% of the goal set, which is 20% of High-Injury Network over five years.)

For many communities, this comes in the form of an annual report or a public, online dashboard which displays the status of safety work as laid out in a Vision Zero Plan, and shared in a user-friendly and accessible manner. Along with tracking progress to date, these tools also serve as important transparency & communication tools to inform your community of both successes and barriers toward safety progress

In Denver, which launched the first iteration of its Vision Zero Action Plan in 2017, they developed a digital annual report that shares progress on specific actions in the Plan. For example, the dashboard highlights activity (including percentage of completion) on safety infrastructure projects specifically along the City’s High Injury Network (HIN) and Equity Index areas, which the City prioritizes. (Read more about the importance of mapping and prioritizing this cross-section of HINs and areas that are important for equity considerations, such as lower income areas, areas with a high concentration of transit users, BIPOC or non-english speaking communities. More background on tracking and sharing progress on equity metrics in our new resource: Prioritizing Health Equity in Vision Zero Planning).

In Louisville, which released its plan in 2021, the Vision Zero dashboard links fatal crash reports to local media stories and includes the names of crash victims. And the dashboard highlights the specific type of crash and severity level to further contextualize what happens each day on their roadways. Claire Yates, Transportation Planner from Louisville, explains that this not only provides real stories behind the statistics, but that it serves as a powerful tool to raise awareness and empathy for the victims of preventable crashes and serves as a reminder to hold the City accountable to invest in robust Vision Zero programming.  

Vision Zero Louisville Dashboard

2) Engage with community while tracking and reporting in ongoing ways

Engaging stakeholders - particularly people from communities experiencing the highest safety risks and advocacy and community-based groups - should be central not only when developing a Vision Zero plan, but in ongoing ways. Regularly sharing progress (or lack thereof) can serve as an opportunity to elicit input from stakeholders and build trust by showing a commitment to transparency and sustained listening and learning. 

Set up regular channels for public feedback, such as gathering input at quarterly briefings to policymakers and scheduling regular check-ins with community leaders, elected officials, advocacy organizations and other stakeholders in public health and policy realms. Include input from community members and non-governmental organizations when analyzing progress towards your plan’s goals.

Louisville’s Vision Zero ordinance, which passed in 2022, mandates that the City publish an annual report in order to ensure accountability, including for local electeds. Claire Yates, Louisville’s Transportation Planner, emphasizes that their annual report also provides regular opportunities for the public to express whether they feel their local government is upholding its commitment to Vision Zero and where progress is strong or insufficient – all important to keeping this work high on the agenda of city leaders.

3) Develop a framework to assess strategies’ effectiveness

While evidence-based safety strategies including road design changes and policy interventions, such as lowering speed limits, are considered best practices, they still require ongoing evaluation to ensure that the outcomes actually align with Vision Zero goals and actions, as well as community priorities and values.  

This means developing a consistent framework to assess potential impact versus actual impact, cost-effectiveness, equity implications, and more following implementation. 

Oakland, CA has developed a framework to assess the efficacy and equity of various safety strategies as part of its Safe Oakland Streets (SOS) initiative to prevent serious and fatal traffic crashes and eliminate crash inequities on Oakland’s streets. It ranks specific actions on their efficacy levels; for example, lowering speed limits and lane reductions (road diets) are considered “high” efficacy, while mass media education of safety and general traffic enforcement are ranked “limited.”

Washington DC’s Vision Zero Program, which has been in place since 2015 and recently underwent review by the office of the DC auditor, used feedback from the audit to renew and refocus its evaluation metrics and efforts. Charlie Wilson, Interim Director of DC’s Vision Zero Office, emphasized that implementing projects based on best practices is not enough. He emphasized that agencies must also assess the planned impact versus the actual impact of projects on road safety. One way they’ve approached this is by explicitly stating what the goal of a project is and following it up with “before and after” analysis - for all Vision Zero projects. He explains that this is a key way to not only show your dedication to the success of Vision Zero to your community, but it also functions to systematize how you assess the effectiveness of the interventions and find areas for improvement over the long term. 

DC Vision Zero 2022 Update designates each Vision Zero strategy with a specific goal and plan for how its performance will be measured.

4) Measure and share equity related priorities

In addition to communicating strides on overall infrastructure and policy investments, your evaluation process should specifically account for progress on work deemed to be equitable in your Action Plan. Because we cannot achieve the goals of Vision Zero without also addressing the systems that result in disproportionate safety risks for some, particularly low-income and BIPOC communities, we must also measure the actions and the impact of these actions on mitigating these disparities. 

Denver developed a Racial Equity Toolkit to help the city continuously monitor how planned actions or policies achieve racially equitable goals and outcomes informed by Denver’s Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities. The index also uses data on traffic fatalities and injuries, as well as income levels, race, ethnicity, age, disability, and other factors to rank the city’s neighborhoods according to safety need. This allows the City to prioritize investments more intentionally and equitably and in ways that do not perpetuate harms. 

Similarly, Washington DC developed a framework to assign an equity impact score to planned transportation projects. This allows the City to assess benefits and potential harms to vulnerable communities, and then better prioritize investments to be most effective and equitable. 

5) Update the Plan to reflect emerging priorities, learnings

Because Vision Zero work is not static in nature, meaningful improvements will take ongoing reflection, updates and commitment to learn from what works and what does not. So, we encourage you to think of your Vision Zero Plan as a living document that can be updated to reflect cultural and political developments, emerging needs of your community, evolving best practices, along with innovative approaches. We suggest instituting regular plan reviews and updates (e.g., every three to five years) to reflect these developments. 

Following the initial launch of the Vision Zero Action Plan in 2017, Denver experienced a rise in fatalities on their roadways and decided to revamp their approach to specifically consider the role of transit as a Vision Zero strategy. Their analysis found that people who took public transit experienced the least crash risk and therefore made an explicit commitment in their 2022 annual report to scale up transit access. Now, Denver’s Vision Zero team is working more closely with the City’s transit team to identify which transit projects overlap with the High Injury Network, in order to better coordinate safety and planning efforts. 

Additionally, in its 2022 Plan update, Denver’s Vision Zero program emphasizes a more systematic, proactive approach by integrating regular speed management strategies, such as pairing redesigns of corridors on the High Injury Network to systematic design that encourages 25 mph speeds.

Advancing Vision Zero takes more than setting a goal. It requires a fundamental shift in how we do roadway safety work, including how we track and measure the impact of that work. So, whether you’re working to update an existing Action Plan, or launching your very first Action Plan, we encourage you to think about how the strategies shared above can be meaningful places for action both during and after your planning process. We encourage you to start as soon as possible, wherever your work is – because the old adage “we measure what we value and we value what we measure” holds true. 

Interested in learning more? Check out these relevant resources:

Missed our previous series installments? No problem - check out our recordings, recaps, and resources on our new Fundamentals of Vision Zero Action Planning webpage where we cover the following topics:

  1. Fundamentals of Vision Zero Action Planning
  2. Building a Safe System Foundation for Your Plan
  3. Critical Collaboration & Commitments for Vision Zero Action Planning
  4. Prioritization: Data, High-Injury Networks, Equity Emphasis
  5. Prioritizing Speed Management in Vision Zero Planning
  6. Institutionalizing Health Equity
  7. Performance metrics: transparency, accountability, evaluation, evolution

Learn more about How to start on the road to Vision Zero and see our other Vision Zero resources. Stay up-to-date on our and other groups’ work for Vision Zero, sign up for our monthly Vision Zero Network e-newsletter.

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