How Structural Issues and Bureaucracy Impede Transit Projects

How outdated and inefficient city processes can hinder the progress of transportation projects and prevent the development of a comprehensive transportation strategy.

2 minute read

January 26, 2023, 9:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Portland Transit

TFoxFoto / Shutterstock

A new National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) report titled Structured for Success assesses the structural and bureaucratic challenges that impede the effective deployment of transportation projects. Jared Brey outlines the report’s findings in Governing.

In the new report, the group defines several typologies of organizational structures, from ‘transportation-focused’ to ‘transportation-diffuse.’ Those typologies help illuminate various challenges in cities that consolidate all transportation-related activities under one department versus those that have people working on transportation issues spread throughout multiple departments.

Brey spoke with Jenny O’Connell, a senior program manager at NACTO, who says the structure of organizations and bureaucratic workflows matters because “A lot of agencies are trying really hard to be responsive to their residents, but the systems that they have in place — challenging procurement processes, difficult contracting processes, administrative red tape — can make it really hard.”

When asked “How do you diagnose a structural problem or a process problem?,” O’Connell mentioned “challenges that come up in similar ways across agencies,” competition among agencies for funding, staffing, and resources, and redundancy across teams as red flags. O’Connell recommends a focus on having a “transportation champion at the head of an agency that deals with all of the transportation functions of a city” that can help coordinate efforts and keep transportation priorities front and center. “Generally what we see is that the agencies that are transportation-focused or transportation-inclusive tend to be able to solve some of those big structural challenges.”

Tuesday, January 24, 2023 in Governing

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