Editorial: Five Points process harnessed public expertise
Business columnist James Surowiecki authored a book in 2005 called “The Wisdom of Crowds.” The book examines a deceptively simple idea: that large groups of people are smarter than an elite few - better at solving problems, fostering innovation, coming to wise decisions, even predicting the future.
That concept has been at work over the past several months in Delaware Department of Transportation’s search for solutions to knotty traffic problems in and around the Five Points area of Route 1.
DelDOT brought together a working group of about 15 elected representatives, transportation experts, private citizens and municipal employees to examine issues and present ideas for improvements. The public was also invited to make suggestions.
At the end of the first round, the list included 104 ideas. They ranged from as simple as plantings to make the driving experience more relaxed, and promoting trail connections between communities, to as complex as engineering a grade-separated solution at Five Points itself, and adding several new roads to expand the traffic grid.
The working group voted to advance 78 of the proposals to DelDOT for consideration.
When a public workshop was held in August, more than 300 people participated in a prioritizing process. Another 500 visited the website to review suggestions and comment.
At the final working meeting on Oct. 8, members prioritized one-third of the recommendations, saying they deserved DelDOT’s first attention. But they didn’t do it in a vacuum.
They had lists of the public rankings and referred frequently to those lists. The majority of priorities selected by the working group were those the public also indicated deserved earliest attention.
It remains to be seen which solutions will be pursued and when. But it’s clear that the wisdom of the crowds - in this case the people who live and drive in the Five Points area regularly - has been harnessed in a methodical process that can’t help but bring sorely needed improvement.