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New Urban Mechanics

As the City's civic research and development team, we pilot experiments that aim to improve the quality of life for Boston's residents.

The Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics was formed in 2010 as one of the first municipal innovation offices in the world. Our research and design projects tackle a range of topics — from civic engagement to city infrastructure to education. Our team comes from a diverse array of backgrounds and our work comes in many different flavors.

Ultimately, we believe that civic innovation is more than just increasing government efficiency. It is also about improving the experience and well-being of our residents and visitors. A democracy is sometimes messy, unpredictable, and playful — all for good reason. So we ask:

How can we make civic life more meaningful for more people?

We work across departments and with the community to ask and unpack that question. 

    New Urban Mechanics
    1 City Hall Square
    5th Floor
    Boston, MA 02201
    United States
    Monday to Friday, 9am - 5pm
    Office Hours

    Do you have an innovative idea to improve the City? Let us know through email or in person during our office hours: Tuesdays, from 2 - 5 p.m. 

    2017 Year in Review

    We've put together a brief year in review of some of our 2017 projects.

    We Are Public Space Cadets
    Credit: New Urban Mechanics

    Our Work

    We explore, experiment, and evaluate civic innovation projects across departments and throughout the city. Below is a sample of how some of our work breaks down. 

    Civic Research

    A look at how we approach our research. 


    Making Boston's streets safer, more efficient, and more delightful for all. 


    The Housing Innovation Lab serves the needs of Boston’s current and future residents. The lab pioneers innovative housing models and systems, and pushes the pace of innovation in the housing sector.


    Engaging people in civic action spans all our projects, but here's a look at some of our approaches. 


    We're working to improve the educational experience for all Boston residents.

    Third Spaces

    Helping communities make welcoming, connective, and creative places around the city. 


    We believe playfulness is a vital part of thriving democracies, caring communities, and resilient cities.


    Go Boston 2030
    Sep 7

    Join us in transforming Boston’s transportation system

    Jul 25

    Winners of the 2018 Public Space Invitational announced

    New Urban Mechanics
    Jun 20

    City of Boston's autonomous vehicle testing program to expand

    Default News image
    May 29

    'Playful Boston' to incorporate innovative approaches to civic life

    Mayor's Office
    New Urban Mechanics news

    All Projects

    Play around the City
    A public design competition for making Boston's spaces more playful for all.
    Beta Blocks
    We're challenging how Boston thinks about the "smart city" and building an equitable community around civic experimentation.
    Playful Boston initiative
    We believe playfulness is a vital part of thriving democracies, caring communities, and resilient cities.
    Housing with Public Assets
    Could building housing on top of — or next to — City buildings, such as libraries and community centers, benefit our communities?
    Community Made
    A partnership with civic crowdfunding platform to support the creation of “third spaces” around Boston.
    Plugin House Initiative
    The Plugin House demonstrates the possibilities of backyard homes and smaller living to provide housing affordable to all.
    Autonomous Vehicles: Boston's Approach
    Our plans for testing autonomous vehicles and their potential future in the City of Boston.
    Boston Saves
    The children’s savings account program makes saving for college and career training available to all Boston Public Schools kindergarten (K2)
    Bank On Boston
    Bank On Boston connects Boston residents with reliable financial products and services that can help them save, grow, and access their money
    Civic Research Agenda
    A look into how we work with communities to build a civic knowledge base.
    Participatory Pokémon Go
    A city-wide, youth-led challenge to create new PokéStops around Boston for the popular app, Pokémon Go.
    Lunch on the Lawn
    Lunch on the Lawn was the first-ever youth summer meals site on City Hall Plaza.
    Urban Housing Unit Roadshow
    Through our interactive exhibit, we heard from the community about what they think about smaller living.
    Boston's Safest Driver
    A mobile app that measures safe driving performance and turns it into a game.
    Boston Civic Media Consortium
    Advancing civic media research, teaching, and practice in Boston.
    Smart Streets
    Using technology — like cameras and sensors — to learn more about how people navigate and interact on and with the City’s streets.
    BOS:311 App
    One of the first municipal reporting apps in the world.
    Performance Parking Pilot
    Circle less and park easier in Boston's busiest neighborhoods.
    City Worker App
    The City Worker App is a Public Works companion to BOS:311.
    Housing Innovation Competition
    An opportunity to identify creative design solutions to produce more middle-income and elderly affordable housing in Boston.
    A tap card system for Boston Public Schools buses.
    Street Bump
    A mobile app that gathers data about Boston’s streets using a smartphone’s built-in sensors.
    City Hall to Go Truck
    Inspired by food trucks, our bright and friendly mobile City Hall truck is about serving City residents where they live, work, and play.
    Smart Parking
    Providing drivers with real-time parking information.
    Design Action Research with Government
    Design Action Research with Government (DARG) is a guide for creating civic innovation projects.
    A virtual reality game for engaging residents in community planning.
    Vehicle Side Guards
    Protecting cyclists with vehicle sideguards.
    LED Street Signs
    To make streets safer for pedestrians at night, we experimented with the use of street name signs lit by LED lights.
    Streetscape Innovation Fund
    Through this $1 million fund, we experimented with new ways of designing and equipping City streets.
    Density Bonus Pilot
    The program gives developers incentives in exchange for more affordable units.
    Additional Dwelling Unit
    We want to streamline the process for homeowners looking to create a rental unit.
    Participatory Chinatown
    We built a character-driven virtual world that allowed residents to explore Chinatown for a master planning process.
    The tool allows residents to partner with Boston Fire to make sure a specific fire hydrant is cleared of snow.
    Block Quotes
    A public art initiative designed to inspire communities through inspirational quotations.
    Discover BPS
    A web app that helps parents find which available schools might be the best fit for their child.
    Community PlanIt
    An online game for more engaging community planning.
    Where’s my School Bus?
    An app that allows parents to track the arrival and departure of their child’s bus.
    Neighborhood Slow Streets
    A new approach to traffic calming requests in Boston.
    A solar-powered seat that can charge smartphones and collect data on the environment.
    Twitter Tree / Menorah
    Our interactive tree and Menorah change color when people tweet a color using the hashtag #WickedCoolTree.
    Pulse of the City
    A playful project at the intersection of public art and public health.
    Parklets are sidewalk extensions which occupy parking spaces, creating community spaces to hang out on, much like front porches or stoops.
    Boston Area Research Initiative
    The Boston Area Research Initiative connects university professors and students with community groups and city officials.
    Project Oscar
    Project Oscar is Boston’s 24-hour community compost pilot program.
    Summer Fellowship
    The New Urban Mechanics Summer Fellowship is designed for entrepreneurial graduate students interested in working in public service.
    Annual Fellowship
    Our post-graduate fellowship was created for the next generation of leaders to careers in public service.