For the first time since 2002, the City of Phoenix, Arizona is undergoing a General Plan Update. The current plan is being updated in order to comply with Arizona state statutes, particularly the Growing Smarter Act, which requires cities to update their general plan every 10 years. This time around, Phoenix has created an interactive website to garner participation in the plan update process.
MyPlanPHX is an interactive website that allows users to post ideas, ask questions, and comment on others’ contributions. This process has been extremely popular in an increasingly internet-savvy world. Users are encouraged to participate with a point system that can earn them prizes, such as lunch with Mayor Greg Stanton. While this is a far cry from the public meeting with sticky notes and face-to-face questions, the website does hark back to these events. For those who prefer the more traditional public participation experience, meetings are being held simultaneously to the online interaction.
As more jurisdictions begin to update their general plans (sometimes called Comprehensive Plans) across the nation, the online model Phoenix is employing may be more viable when compared to others. Charrettes, public meetings, advertisements, brochures, and the like are all important, as they allow for face-to-face interactions and the sharing of ideas in a forum. But they are also expensive, especially for small jurisdictions. The online format can be far more affordable, and, when used in conjunction with public meetings, can create some of the same effects.
Another benefit of the online format is the 24-hour nature of the website. Busy parents who get off of work at 5 pm only to come home and cook dinner do not want to spend 2 or more hours at a public meeting in order to make their voice heard. Websites like MyPlanPHX allow community members to give their input on what planners should include in the update, and urban design pieces that would make them happier in their communities. City planners, as public servants, must embrace the coming wave of crowd-sourced planning through interactive websites.
Have you seen a shining example of planning in the digital age? What effective, or ineffective, forms of crowd-sourced planning have you witnessed?
Credits: Images from MyPlanPHX. Data linked to sources.