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Vision Zero Lessons Learned for Boca Raton

by Jim Wood

This article presents lessons learned from studying Vision Zero results in two US cities – Jersey City, NJ and Portland, OR. The objective of this study is to provide Boca Raton’s Vision Zero planners with information that can contribute to Vision Zero success.


The following article describes Boca Raton’s roadway and serious injury problem. Our Vision Zero Problem – Part 1 – BocaFirst.

The following table shows crash statistics for both cities. Jersey City has made remarkable progress toward meeting their goal. Note that they track city roads and county/state roads separately. Portland, however, is trending in the wrong direction and will likely miss their goal.

Why Jersey City and Portland

We selected these cities because they both have five years of experience implementing Vision Zero. Jersey City caught our attention because of media coverage of their Vision Zero success. They achieved zero fatalities on city streets four years ahead of their goal. Portland, on the other hand, looks like they will miss their Vison Zero goal. Portland has won awards for their pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure. So it’s surprising that they are in this situation.

The following table summarizes some lessons learned from the two cities that are relevant for Boca Raton’s Vision Zero plans. After the table we provide a brief description of each lesson.

Descriptions of Lessons Learned

Experienced Consultant for Resident Interface

Jersey City has benefitted from hiring a consulting firm with a record of success with urban transportation planning and execution. The city retained > Street Plans (street-plans.com) to develop their action plan and assist in its implementation. Of particular significance is the way the consultant helps win residents’ buy-in to the projects with Tactical Urbanism.

Hands-On Boca Raton Leader for County/State Interface

Because state and county roads tend to be wider with higher speed limits most fatalities and serious injuries occur there. Jersey City has no jurisdiction over these roads. But city leadership includes state and county representatives in Vision Zero planning and execution.

Eliminate Organizational Silos

The city created a new Department of Infrastructure that enables project planning, design, and delivery for public spaces to occur in one department, greatly improving collaboration across disciplines and coordination across project phases. NACTO (National Association of City Transportation Officials) highlighted Jersey City in their Structured for Success report.

Demonstration Projects

Demonstration projects are short-term, low-cost, temporary projects used to pilot long-term design solutions that can improve transportation options for all users and upgrade public spaces. This concept of “try before you buy” creates an opportunity for public participation in transportation projects, which can reduce resistance to new designs. Temporary projects are non-threatening to a community’s current system and habits, and often lead to permanent projects supported by the community.

Avoid Data Selection Bias

Selection bias refers to selecting an incorrect or incomplete set of data for analysis. The relevancy to Vision Zero planning is that just focusing on crash report locations most likely excludes roadways that are so dangerous that pedestrian and cyclists avoid them; thus, no or few crash reports are generated for some of the most dangerous roads. As Vision Zero implementations change traffic patterns in the city, crashes might start to occur on these roadways causing the Vision Zero goal to be missed.

Consider Causal inference

This is a term that we would rather not use but can’t think of a better one. The idea is that the City’s Vision Zero Action Plan should consider the effects of implementations (causes). That is, if a segment of roadway is changed what will be the effects on users of other roadways in the city that are not changed? For example, if East Palmetto Park Road east of the bridge is improved for cyclists how will the cyclists get there? If an increase in cyclists occurs, will they will be traveling over unimproved roads to get there; thus, increasing the probability of fatalities and serious injuries? Vision Zero planning should consider these effects.

Move Fast

Whereas Jersey City has implemented a rapid Vision Zero planning/implementation, Portland has moved much slower. Following is a quote from a Portland advocacy group – Opinion: We’ll never have safe streets if we continue to make safe choices – BikePortland. “It’s simple: If we want fewer people to die on our roads, we must make more dramatic changes to street designs that will force people to drive less and drive slower. Incremental improvements fail because the threat evolves much faster than the steps we take to mitigate it.”

Prioritize High Fatality/Serious Injury Projects

The title of the article quoted in the above paragraph explains this lesson learned – “We’ll never have safe streets if we continue to make safe choices.” Safe choices in this context means low risk projects. Low Hanging Fruit tends to be an alternative name for low-risk projects. If Boca Raton is serious about meeting its Vision Zero goals on time it should prioritize those projects that are estimated to have the greatest reduction of fatalities and serious injuries without causing these outcomes to rise in other areas of the city.


We reported on two US city’s five years’ worth of experience with Vision Zero implementation.   One city seems to be on-schedule to meet its goals and the other seems to be failing. Boca Raton can learn valuable lessons from both cities.

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