Welcome to the latest issue of The Districts, where we chronicle the people, issues and activities impacting special districts across the U.S.
Special districts are developing an array of best practices as they implement remote work and roll out new virtual services in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. A panel of special district leaders and other experts offered their insights and experiences during our second Special Districts Virtual Summit on May 7.
For instance, the Naperville Park District in Illinois uses video collaboration technology to offer virtual versions of recreational programs that can no longer be held in person due to social distancing requirements. New digital offerings include remote Zumba classes for senior citizens, e-sports leagues and preschool reading sessions. “It really pushed us to jump the digital divide,” said Omar Sandoval, the district’s director of information technology. And in the Las Vegas area, the Southern Nevada Health District launched several new mobile apps to support its efforts to contain the coronavirus. One gives COVID-19 patients an easy way to comply with a requirement to report their symptoms twice daily to the health district. The other helps the district quickly notify citizens who may have had contact with a COVID-positive patient. Both apps help the district conduct these critical tasks faster and with less effort, said Jason Frame, CIO for the health district.
Polling of more than 200 Virtual Summit attendees also revealed the broad importance of collaboration platforms, mobile technologies and remote transaction tools as special district leaders implement new ways of working and serving citizens.
You can access the entire recorded Virtual Summit here, including important information on how to avoid common leadership failures during a crisis. If your district has COVID-19 resources you would like to share with us, please send them here. We will continue to share these and other learnings with the special districts community.
The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago is becoming more data driven as it adopts smart sensors and analytics tools that will generate new insights to support infrastructure maintenance. “The utility industry as a whole is ripe for disruption,” says John Sudduth, CIO of the district. “There are so many efficiencies that can be gained, particularly with these IOT devices.” The massive district, which treats wastewater and manages stormwater for the greater Chicago region, is the subject of our first Special Districts Program video. You can take a peek at the district's progress here.
Last month, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) slashed service and redesigned routes to protect workers, improve vehicle cleaning and respond to plummeting ridership. The recent moves -- which include ensuring service to hospitals and other critical institutions – illustrate the wrenching changes to public transit being driven by the coronavirus pandemic.
Jeffrey Tumlin, executive director of SFMTA, said the route redesign was accomplished in less than a week. “That is two years' worth of work that we did in four days,” he said, speaking at a virtual conference earlier this month.
The rapid overhaul of a municipal transit system that ordinarily serves more than 100,000 riders daily is the sort of foundational shift around transportation and urban life the coronavirus crisis has set in motion in cities across the country.
Tumlin foresees more transit changes as cities attempt to reopen their economies, including mandatory masks and temperature checks for riders.
“There’s just going to be a totally new set of needs, and we should think about that and not just go back to our old way of thinking,” said Osborne. “It is wholly inappropriate.”
Here are more stories from special districts around the country. Share your own news with us for inclusion in the next newsletter.
Experts foresee massive long-term changes for urban mobility. Transit agencies will need to rethink everything from air handling on transit vehicles to the viability of third-party partnerships. Pierce County Transit in Washington State deploys Wi-Fi equipped buses to provide students with connectivity during school closures. A pilot project launched in April sent buses to two locations to provide free Wi-Fi to students without reliable internet access. Special districts adjust to new realities during the crisis. Leaders talk about maintaining operations and functioning remotely as they respond to the pandemic.
Experts foresee massive long-term changes for urban mobility. Transit agencies will need to rethink everything from air handling on transit vehicles to the viability of third-party partnerships.
Pierce County Transit in Washington State deploys Wi-Fi equipped buses to provide students with connectivity during school closures. A pilot project launched in April sent buses to two locations to provide free Wi-Fi to students without reliable internet access.
Special districts adjust to new realities during the crisis. Leaders talk about maintaining operations and functioning remotely as they respond to the pandemic.
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