Innovating Urban Mechanics

In 2013, Boston piloted a new program, Smart Parking, in its growing Innovation District. Smart Parking gives drivers real-time information about available parking spaces in the area through the Parker app. The Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics created this program for two reasons to reduce the traffic congestion created by drivers “hunting” for parking and to encourage drivers to choose a different mode of transportation.  

330 parking spaces were outfitted with a sensor that would send data to the app about occupancy status. The sensors also send turnover rates and length of stay numbers directly to the Boston Transportation Department. The data the transportation department received was then used to inform parking policy decisions about time limits. By November of 2014, the City of Boston changed time limits on the streets that were studied some blocks were allotted a maximum of four hours while others were set at two hours.

While this was an innovative pilot program that created real policy change, it is the Office of New Urban Mechanics that is the lynch pin in Boston’s turn to civic innovation. Since the inception of the program housed in the Boston Mayor’s Office the New Urban Mechanics have implemented fresh programs to improve civic engagement and make city hall more accessible. The epitome of the their mission can be found in their City Hall to Go program which redesigned a bomb squad truck that was no longer being utilized into an ice cream truck like city service mobile. The truck rotates throughout Boston’s neighborhoods giving Boston residents a chance to have face to face time with city hall staff for questions and feedback in their own backyard.

The New Urban Mechanics Office aims to recruit young professionals looking to change how local government does business, through fellowships and summer internships. This unique office is a prime example of how we can leverage new technology and new ideas to create more efficient cities. To check out some of their other projects follow the link


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