Gainesville. A New American City

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the city of Gainesville’s incorporation. Over its rich history, the city has grown from a small rural farming society to a bustling commercial and industrial center. Gainesville is home to one of the nation’s most prestigious public research institutions, the University of Florida, the number one state college in the nation, Santa Fe College, the renowned University of Florida Academic Health Center and a prolific parks system.

As the city commemorates its past, sights are set on the future and defining a shared vision of becoming the New American City. In fervent pursuit of its next great chapter, Gainesville is leveraging partnerships, innovative policy development and technological advancements to transform city services and resident experiences, all aimed at fostering greater equity.

Gainesville is leading this strategy all while improving residents’ experience with government.

City of Gainesville Traffic Management operations at the Department of Public Works

One of only 10 cities in the U.S and the first in Florida to launch a smart signals system, Gainesville continues to lead the way in the development of interconnected traffic management systems, which reduce traffic injuries and fatalities.

Building on its success, the city is also tapping into the unique intellectual capacity of its university neighbor. Recently, UF and the city received a $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation to jointly research systems and technological innovations to make Florida roadways safer. The grant is one of the largest the NSF has provided to any municipal partner, noting its potential for broad impact. Dollars once invested in institutional research can now be applied in a living laboratory.

The UF-City of Gainesville research project aims to produce risk index models not yet seen in the U.S. The goal: to create a replicable solution that will help communities better understand the risk profile of intersections and traffic patterns through automated detection of near miss events. This technological advancement is expected to impact decisions in smart city planning and safety as part of Gainesville’s Vision Zero strategy. Vision Zero is a multi-modal safety project that seeks to eliminate traffic fatalities and severe injuries in high-risk intersections.

Becoming the New American City requires thinking beyond immediate impacts and making policy decisions that have future implications. In addition to its Vision Zero traffic safety initiative, Gainesville also aims to become a “zero-waste” community, supporting policies that reduce waste and require businesses and residents to rethink consumption and waste flows.

The City Commission unanimously approved the ban of single-use plastic bags and expanded polystyrene (Styrofoam) containers beginning in January 2020. The city’s goal is to replace these items with reusable, recyclable or compostable alternatives and become 100 percent waste free by 2040, meaning no trash ends up in a landfill or incinerated.

Ariella Bak, a community resource paramedic program coordinator completes a visit with a CRP patient

Gainesville’s forward-thinking spirit transcends traffic patterns and waste cycles; it can also be seen in its exploration of pioneering community health initiatives. Take for example the Community Resource Paramedic program, a trailblazer in community medicine. EMTs arriving on the scene now assess both medical conditions and the underlying social determinants that may be impacting health outcomes. By pairing residents-in-need with available community resources and services, this pilot project has successfully reduced 911 calls and hospital admissions for super-users of the emergency system. After just 6 months of being enrolled in the program, participants have reduced their hospital visits by an average of 28 percent.

Gainesville's newest fleet of microbuses, part of a three-year mobility pilot project, The Last Mile, First Mile program.

While Gainesville is raising the bar as a New American City, certain areas of its community continue to face persistent barriers and challenges in the areas of transportation, access and economic opportunity. The city is strategically focused on reducing those inequities.

Gainesville recently launched a fleet of seven microbuses as part of a three-year mobility pilot project, The Last Mile, First Mile program. This initiative targets areas traditionally challenged by accessible transportation and seeks to cut down on commute times for some of Gainesville’s most vulnerable populations. The free service keeps riders from having to walk long distances to get to or from a bus stop or station.

Also new to Gainesville is the Drug Market Intervention program. In dozens of cities across the nation, this deflection program has resulted in significant reductions in violent and drug-related crime, minimized the use of law enforcement, and improved relationships between law enforcement and residents when dealing with open-air drug markets.

GPD Headquarters, 545 NW 8th Ave, Gainesville

The program’s protocol instructs law enforcement officers to develop prosecutable drug cases against non-violent dealers. Instead of introducing the individual directly into the criminal justice system, their case is suspended and an alternative course of action is offered — an opportunity for a “second chance.”

The new intervention relies on the principals of restorative justice and brings together offenders, their families, law enforcement, social service providers and community leaders as part of the process.

By empowering its people and designing citizen-centered systems and services, Gainesville is fostering a community that is innovative, inclusive and resilient — the hallmarks of a New American City.

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