The city of Peoria is entering into an intergovernmental agreement with ASU’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability to facilitate five local sustainability and livability projects.
The proposed projects, as approved unanimously at a June 18 council meeting, include a water conservation and shortage response plan, a communitywide placemaking/parks and recreation survey, best practices for the transit circulator, a smart city technology and innovation feasibility study, and a sustainability training module.
Through the 12- to 24-month partnership, students and faculty from various ASU campuses will provide “hands-on research, design and deliverables,” Peoria Chief of Staff Jay Davies said at the meeting.
“One of the keys to this partnership is our ability to go beyond our existing resources and leverage these students’ energy, enthusiasm and innovation to explore and develop approaches to complex questions we face as a progressive city,” Davies explained. The projects, he said, were ultimately selected as areas in need of additional resources and research.
The collaboration between ASU faculty and students with city staff is executed through the school’s Project Cities program. According to Steven Russell, program manager, Project Cities was created in 2017 due to the struggles of faculty to facilitate community projects.
Resources and relationships are ultimately leveraged “to match city-proposed projects with complementary classes,” he said. “We then take care of the legwork to set up those projects and provide ongoing logistical support as well as some additional resources to enrich the experience for all parties.”
Russell pointed to several successes of the program elsewhere.
In Apache Junction, he said, students developed a strategy to overhaul the privatized waste management system. According to Russell, companies had been duplicating routes, residents were flaunting anti-dumping regulations, and there were issues with emissions and pollution. Formal adoption of a new system is expected this year.
Also in the far East Valley city, students renewed interest in and found several potential sites for an off-leash dog park project, which was suspended indefinitely more than a decade ago due to the economic recession. Council directed city staff to pursue one of the student-recommended sites June 18.
And in Glendale, students developed a draft social media plan and strategy document to help manage the city’s social media presence.
The ultimate goal of the program is “two-fold,” or a “win-win,” Russell said.
“First, we aim to improve the quality of life for residents in your community by bringing cross-disciplinary collaboration and research-backed solutions to these complex municipal sustainability challenges,” he explained. “Second, the program adds value to the ASU students’ learning experience by providing real-world applications for students’ chosen fields of study.”
Research proves that value, he said.
“In a recent survey of students in the spring 2019 semester, 92% reported that the applied project made their class more interesting and engaging,” he said.
“Notably, 84% also indicated that their experience working with municipal government increased their determination to pursue sustainability challenges in their own communities.”
The city of Peoria’s 2019-20 program budget is $50,000, according to Peoria’s request for proposals (RFP) submitted to ASU.
According to the RFP, the city intends for the water conservation and shortage response plan to address water scarcity and conservation.
The communitywide placemaking/parks and recreation survey project aims to identify the public’s “vision for its public spaces.”
The third project — best practices for the transit circulator — aims to study “successful route planning, rollout, route adjustments, optimal vehicle, marketing, rates, ridership, bus stops, target demographics, target destinations” and more. Current trends such as rideshare, bikeshare, e-scooters and walking will also be addressed.
The fourth will study smart city technology opportunities for the city, while also analyzing emerging trends and increasingly obsolete technology.
The sustainability training module project aims to ensure city employees are “informed and equipped with the knowledge needed” for a sustainable future, using customized training.
At least 150 ASU students are expected to help research and propose solutions for these five projects. But, as of print, the scoping and matching process is ongoing.
“We still have a lot to do,” Russell said. “In fact, we’re just getting started.
“But with this amazing team that we’ve built and some of the really exciting projects that we’ve scoped out together, we’re setting ourselves up for a really inspiring academic year.”