Complete Streets partner spotlight: WGI

The National Complete Streets Coalition is just that—a coalition—and our success is made possible by our many partner organizations. WGI is one of those important partners. We spoke with Lisa Nisenson, Vice President of New Mobility and Connected Communities, to learn more about WGI’s work and what drives their commitment to Complete Streets.

Headquartered in West Palm Beach with 18 offices in eight states, WGI offers a full range of professional consulting services. We are solution providers who solve problems and create opportunities through our geospatial, civil, and structural engineering, community planning, parking, landscape architecture, environmental sciences, and transportation services. Over the past two years, the firm has grown to include offices in Texas and expertise in smart city and transportation technology, new mobility, Complete Streets, and mobility-oriented design for buildings and infrastructure.

We are also innovating services through the way we create client work. This includes the use of technology such as mobile LiDAR to quickly assess existing conditions, 3D design, and a partnership with the data science firm UrbanSDK. We are also reshaping how we better incorporate trends and emerging technology into plans, policies, and project design, including rapid response to address client needs with COVID-19.

As a full service firm, we create multi-disciplinary teams for improved planning, engineering, and design. This helps our engineers understand planning, and our planners understand constructability and maintainability. It also helps our clients in the public, private, health, and educational sectors construct projects that meet a multitude of performance goals for efficiency, sustainability, and operations. Our transportation clients include state DOTs, counties, cities, Virgin Trains, campuses, e-commerce companies, and private sector land developers.

Recently, we’ve adapted our operations and services to work around disruptions caused by COVID-19, which includes using digital design charrettes, proactively thinking about recovery, and building our resilience practice area to include resilient mobility. Our Complete Streets experience fits well within a larger resilience frame. In West Palm Beach, we are working with the City to convert Banyan Boulevard into a Complete Street linking a transit hub, downtown, and the waterfront. Part of that project includes climate strategies, piloting new technologies for data collection, and ongoing monitoring. Other WGI Complete Streets projects include Greenville Avenue in Richardson, Texas and Bull Creek Road in Austin, Texas.

As part of a more comprehensive approach to Complete Street design, we are helping clients make the shift from traditional parking and transportation plans to mobility and curbside planning. In Austin, Texas, we are helping a large corporate client develop a campus plan that includes shuttle infrastructure and operations, a campus-only bike share system, shared use paths connecting nearby destinations, and a park-once approach that prioritizes pedestrian safety and mobility. We’ve also been expanding the types of technology used to support Transportation Demand Management (TDM) specifically to reduce or better manage parking.

We are also innovating our public engagement techniques to help clients and their stakeholders explore trends, mobility, and infrastructure. These futureproofing workshops are a good way to convene stakeholders, examine current and future modes, navigate trade-offs, and set priorities for investment and design. With so many new modes (and variations of modes) vying for space on streets, in bike lanes, and on sidewalks, our clients want to be proactive and flexible.

The biggest motivation comes from our clients who are asking us to help “unlock value” from one of their largest real estate assets in rights of way while maintaining and enhancing safety for all travelers. While every project is different, we find a common first step is a shared investigation on how current street design standards hamper the kind of placemaking that delivers a multitude of health, equity, safety, and economic benefits. Second, the changing mobility landscape is forcing a needed conversation on how we value uses on streets, along curbsides, and on sidewalks. E-scooters and ridehailing grabbed early headlines, and we see further disruption with automated technologies. Above all, WGI’s Complete Streets Team considers the street a “place” that with thoughtful planning and design can exhibit previously untapped attributes for the community.

As we integrate technology into Complete Streets, we want to structure practical recommendations. Many of our clients are medium-sized cities and counties who won’t have the resources or need for large scale smart city operations. To more effectively meet their specific needs, we are partnering with technology companies to customize applications and solutions.

It’s also important to recognize innovations that are not technology-based. The tactical urbanism movement proved the value of demonstrations, which are leading to new ideas for modular infrastructure and quick build techniques. These “living previews” are also a great engagement tool. We also encourage scenario planning for almost all clients, allowing them to explore future conditions and track scenarios as they evolve from possible to plausible to probable situations, then apply adaptive management concepts.

For safer street design, we are inspired by Vision Zero programs across the country. We see a role in shaping technology + design to provide a more predictive and preventative approach. Working with UrbanSDK, for example, we are looking at metrics and data collection for near misses, the ability to quickly assess before and after data for countermeasures, and the ability to position enforcement officers and/or design interventions at likely incident locations.

Our role also extends our expertise in Transportation Systems Management and Operations (TSMO), to local streets. By developing “programmable streets,” we can, in real time, manage curbs, prioritize transit, develop new revenue sources, and work on a slew of other activities to unlock value. For example, many shared streets feature retractable bollards for dynamically reassigning on-street uses throughout the day.

From a planning standpoint, we also want to ensure cities consider Complete Streets networks in three dimensions. While we may not see aerial deliveries everywhere, we do see flight paths as a new infrastructure layer that requires 3D modeling and management. Additionally, communications technology is competing for space not only on the surface, but also underground.

The members of the Coalition represent many of the best thinkers—and do-ers—for transforming street design. We want to listen, learn, and contribute to vital conversations.

Learn more about how you or your organization can become a partner of the National Complete Streets Coalition >>

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