Public Works: The Mobile City Hall
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Public Works: The Mobile City Hall

In Boston, if you can't come to City Hall, City Hall can come to you.

Public Works looks at public space, urban design, and city-building innovations from around the world, and considers what Toronto might learn from them.

Photo by City of Boston Mayor's Office from Flickr

Photo by City of Boston Mayor’s Office, from Flickr.

Anyone who’s had to go to City Hall to get a building permit or renew street parking knows it’s a monumental pain, especially if you have to travel to get there. But what if City Hall could come to you?

That’s the idea behind the “City Hall To Go” program being piloted in Boston. There, they’ve installed a mobile office in an old bomb disposal truck. It travels around the city offering a variety of services, from program registrations, to parking permits, to letting residents voice neighbourhood concerns.

The concept was inspired in part by the popularity of food trucks, and the design and menu of services echo that theme.

If you’re wondering whether it might be even more convenient to get this stuff done from home—using, say, some kind of mechanized computing device—you’d be right. Most of the services offered can be transacted via the internet. But Boston’s truck is intended to focus on low-income neighbourhoods, where people may not be able to afford web access, and also areas where a large number of residents with limited English language skills would benefit from hands-on assistance.

City Hall To Go will also serve as a public relations tool, turning up at street festivals and other public events around Boston to raise awareness of services offered by the City and how to access them.

Would it be a good idea for Toronto? The truck is still being tested in Boston, so it remains to be seen whether it’s a cost-effective and useful way to reach citizens. However, if it proves successful, given Toronto’s vast geography and diverse population, it might be something worth emulating.