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Defining the problem, need or opportunity your Innovating Streets project will address is critical for establishing the rationale for your project and for engaging and communicating with stakeholders.

It will also help in planning your monitoring and evaluation of your project. For example, if your project seeks safer streets through lower traffic speed, then traffic speed will be an appropriate outcome measure. Innovative street projects are often about placemaking, enhancing the effective use of space and interaction between people. These objectives indicate other outcomes measures, for example, space occupancy, pedestrian volume, and the number and type of interactions.

For example:

Problem: high traffic speeds and poorly designed space is making an urban street unwelcoming, causing lower numbers of pedestrians and people on bikes.

Measures: vehicle speeds, vehicle volumes, pedestrian & cyclist numbers, perception of safety; the length of time people dwell in the street and retail spend may be appropriate measures if your project is in a town centre.

Establishing project goal and objectives

Your Innovating Streets project should have clearly stated goals and objectives that relate to the problem, need or opportunity addressed.

Goals are high level statements of what your project will achieve while objectives are specific statements of how your project will achieve its goals (e.g. outputs, deliverables). Well-constructed objectives will be Specific, Measurable, Attainable/Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound (SMART) – and will also help you to explain your project to other people.

All Innovating Streets projects will face constraints and it is important that your objectives are feasible and achievable. When working on innovative streets projects, it is also possible that solutions, and therefore your objectives, may not be immediately clear. In such cases, projects may develop through cycles of planning, trialling, further planning, and so on. The approach may shift from an authoritative “this is what we want to achieve and why” to experimental “we don’t know exactly how, come help everyone find out”.

Innovating Streets is also about trying new things and doing things differently. When working this way, projects may not always be as successful as we hoped or may have unexpected impacts. However, such projects provide valuable opportunities for learning and for developing future practice. Understanding why a project didn’t achieve its intended results may therefore be just as important as being able to demonstrate success.

Project logic model

Developing a project logic model is useful during project planning as it requires you to specify how and why your project is expected to address the targeted problem, need, or opportunity. That is, your model will set out the ‘logic’ of what your project will do and why, and what outcomes will be achieved. The process of developing your logic model can help to identify where further planning or revision to your thinking is needed. Your model can also support stakeholder engagement and communication by providing a simple, visual description of your project.

A project logic model will generally show the inputs and activities of your project, the outputs/deliverables produced, and expected outcomes and impact. The model should also establish the expected order and timing of outcomes and impact. For example, a project designed to increase walking and cycling might first increase the perceived safety of the street which in turn leads to an increase in cycling and walking. An increase in cycling and walking might eventually improve health outcomes, however, you would not expect to see this immediately.  

Useful links in the Resources page will take you to guides for developing and using project logic models in project and evaluation planning.

A good structure to use to develop and test your project’s intervention logic is the ‘Five Whys’ test (see below. If you can’t answer some of the later ‘Whys’, or the answers feel a bit shaky, this is a good flag for revisiting your project design and plan.

Five whys scenario and example answers

Council: “We want to put some trees and paint and planter boxes in our town centre’s main street to improve amenity and local shopping, also because we have a climate change strategy.”

Intelligent layperson: “Why?” [See questions and answers below.]

  • Why are those goals worth it?

    Economic stats and surveys of business owners show our local shops are struggling, and worldwide the most direct way to make our communities wealthier is boosting local employment and local business-ownership.

    (Actually, the climate change one isn’t directly addressed by this initiative.  This initiative is part of the bigger picture of embracing change in how we travel and shop. May not need to mention it here.)

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  • Why focus on the street for improving local shopping, rather than helping with business advice or marketing or something?

    All our locally-owned businesses are in the town centre, and they rely on their bricks-and-mortar shops for trade.

    Worldwide it’s known that what generates the most benefits for local commerce and the local community as a whole is people’s willingness to linger in the space, and foot traffic.

    Residents’ surveys and on-site show foot traffic is low, and lingering is really low: people mostly drive the short trip to the town centre and don’t like to hang around there.

    (We already have a Business Support service and we’re encouraging businesses to use it.)

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  • Why are you physically changing the street layout to improve the street? Why not just some hanging baskets, bench seats or a lower speed limit?

    Street layout isn’t a silver bullet. 

    But the physical environment of our streets, objectively measured, is pretty inhospitable to foot traffic and lingering, instead prioritising vehicle convenience. 

    Operating speeds are xxkm/hr when we know the survivable speed is xkm/hr, and there are yyyyy vehicle movements through there per day.

    yy% of these are people driving straight through; their destination is elsewhere.

    parking occupancy during the day is xx% while on the side streets and nearby it’s yy%, and we estimate zz% of cars on Main Street are cruising for parking.

    What that means is as soon as we get out of the car on Main Street, it’s a much less nice experience.  That’s the opposite of what we want. We can at least stop the layout working against us.

    Speed limit signs alone don’t do much in built-up areas.  Physical changes that bring down the real operating speed of the street are much more effective at making it both safer and nicer to be in. 

    (The things we’re wanting to put in the street to change its layout will also make the place more attractive, we hope.)

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  • Why will this approach (putting things in the street slowing down vehicle speeds and reducing vehicle presence) help, vs others like [providing more parking]?

    Worldwide and in NZ, the single most influential factor in making streets more hospitable to foot traffic and lingering is how much the street space is given over to motor vehicles. If you don’t get that right all other changes fade into insignificance.

    Worldwide, and in NZ, providing more parking encourages people to linger less and makes spaces more dominated by vehicles rather than people. Less walking, less lingering, and less buying – and the reverse is true.

    Main Street has xx% of its space that can only be used by motor vehicles, and only yy% that people can walk and linger in. This is overwhelming dominance of the space, and we need to get that balance more towards people.  It won’t be a silver bullet but it will make a big difference for people being happy to linger and walk in our main street.

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