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The Arizona State University Smart City Cloud Innovation Center Powered by AWS (ASU CIC) recently collaborated with Pima Association of Governments (PAG) to apply Amazon’s Working Backwards Innovation process to explore how to make more informed transportation infrastructure investments. In particular, the process takes into consideration the economic impact of various investments made throughout the greater Tucson region.

Established in 1970, PAG is the federally designated metropolitan planning organization for the Pima County/Tucson region. PAG oversees long-range transportation planning and serves as the region’s planning agency for water quality management, air quality and solid waste. PAG’s planning efforts must include strategies that support economic vitality of the metropolitan area, especially those that enable global competitiveness, productivity and efficiency.


Today, PAG convenes committees and task forces to review and select transportation projects for inclusion in PAG’s regional long-range transportation plan, which is updated every four years. These committees and task forces use available information to recommend transportation direction. This direction is then presented to the public for consideration. Without comparison data and analysis, there can be a lack of understanding about how some projects can have a significant impact on the region as a whole. PAG wanted to explore developing an economic impact assessment on projects so the committees, task forces and the community can see the larger project impacts and benefits to the region.


PAG approached the CIC to leverage the opportunity to work on potential projects with the CIC. Several projects were discussed and, ultimately, the challenge of transportation planning was selected. PAG worked with the CIC to further define the problem as the need to understand project economic impacts. PAG then convened community local, county, state and federal stakeholders for a one-day Working Backwards workshop with the CIC in January 2020 hosted by Tucson Electric Power. The workshop explored the current transportation planning process and the challenges and opportunities to improve the process and outcomes. 

Supporting Artifacts

The Amazon Working Backwards process produces three artifacts – a press release, a list of frequently asked questions and a visual depiction of the user experience. You can find the PAG artifacts here:

Next Steps

PAG is reviewing the Artifacts and planning next steps on how to develop a solution to support transportation investments. 

About the ASU CIC

The ASU Smart Cities Cloud Innovation Center (CIC) is a strategic relationship with Amazon Web Services (AWS) and is supported by AWS on ASU’s Innovation campus - SkySong. The mission of the CIC is to drive Innovation Challenges that materially benefit the greater Phoenix metro area and beyond. The CIC will do this by solving pressing community and regional challenges, using shareable and repeatable technology solutions from ideation through prototype, as a service for the greater human good.

The CIC also provides real-world problem-solving experiences to students by immersing them in the application of proven innovation methods in combination with the latest technologies to solve important challenges in the public sector. 

The challenges being addressed cover a wide variety of topics including homelessness, water conservation, vandalism, pedestrian safety, digital service delivery and many others. The CIC leverages the deep subject matter expertise of government, education and non-profit organizations to clearly understand the customers affected by public sector challenges and develops solutions that meet the customer needs.

For more information on the ASU CIC, to read about projects or to submit a challenge, please visit https://smartchallenges.asu.edu.


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