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Why do many towns and cities seem to have split personalities? The older areas, built before World War II, feel inviting. It’s possible to walk safely, the buildings are interesting to look at, and there are places where you’d like to sit and visit. In contrast, the majority of places built in the past 60 years feel totally different. Newer commercial areas are often accessible only by vehicle, and when you’re not inside a building, lingering doesn’t seem appealing. The video Designing Better Places strives to answer why this is, how it happened, and what can be done to create more successful and inviting places that people and cars can share.  The website and video also discuss the principles of urban design, and the importance of creating walkable communities.  The video, along with three additional PowerPoint presentations, can be shown at community meetings or viewed individually.

The site has been live since January of 2014, and since that time, people have anecdotally indicated that they plan to use the presentations to show other groups. Because the video on the site is run through YouTube, it is possible to know how many times the video has been viewed. So far, over 500 views have been recorded. For these purposes, the Designing Better Places website was sponsored by the NC Department of Commerce, so no extra costs were incurred to put up the website. Costs were incurred to create the presentation video, which involved a paid videographer to convert the pictures to video format and a paid voiceover professional. Maintenance of the site has not been a problem.  

​All concepts are illustrated with photographs or drawings, in simple and clear language.  There are numerous illustrations from the Southeast as well as California and New York.

WebsitesVirginia Faust, AICPNC Division of Community Assistance
29;#Education ProgramsAccessibility Improvement, Aesthetic Improvement, Economic Development, Safety Improvement, Traffic CalmingCommercial/Retail, Established Neighborhood, New Neighborhoods, Rural, Suburban, UrbanLow-Income Populations, Persons with Disabilities, Seniors, Students/YouthLong-range PlanningBicycle/Pedestrian

​Virginia A. Faust, 828-251-6914



​This project involved the replacement of a swing span bridge in Surf City, which actually connected 3 beach communities (Surf City, Topsail Beach, and North Topsail Beach) to the mainland in Pender County, NC.  The project had up to 17 bridge options, including low-level draw bridges and high-rise fixed bridges.  At the various public meetings for the project, NCDOT utilized large 3D visualization boards with three different views of each bridge option to aid the general public in making informed comments on each alternative.  The response by the community and local officials was overwhelmingly positive.  They verbalized on several occasions on how effective the 3D images were to help them understand how each bridge option would affect their communities.   

The visualizations and other project information can be seen at:

​The 3D images were easy to understand. 

Large in scale; hard to move to meetings.  ​

3D VisualizationCharles CoxNCDOT - PDEA

​While the expense might prohibit the use of 3D visualiation on every project, it was very effective and worth the cost to gain approval/ buy-in from the community. 

6;#Advertisements;#36;#Focus Groups;#63;#Open Houses/Open Forum Hearings ;#67;#Presentations;#70;#Public Meetings/Hearings;#71;#Public Opinion SurveysSafety ImprovementEstablished NeighborhoodCommutersProject PlanningHighway or Interchange

During planning process for Arterial Reconfiguration, staff recognized the urgent need to build trust among the residents to gain support for the project. A one-on-one approach was taken by hiring a Public Involvement contractor to assist wtih inroads into the community through personal contact.  It was important for the contractor as well as staff to thoroughly understand the project pros and cons in order to answer residents’ questions, and further explain the process.

The support given by residents proved worth the time and energy spent in the community building personal relationships and trust. The program included middle school student volunteers who 'walked' the community with staff and members of the consultant team and assisted with translation of information.
This door-to-door, one-on-one contact, combined with public meetings as follow-up to this effort, provided much needed input for the project as well as ideas for future improvements.
The outreach efforts build local trust as well as understanding for the project, and although somewhat expensive, was extremely effective in generating public awareness and willingness to participate in future project planning for more than just 'the neighborhood'.


​Built community information network and local awareness of projects.


Labor intensive for staff to make inroads into schools and to participate in door to door work

Non-traditional Meeting Places and EventsPatricia WilsonNCDOT

​By having middle schoolers along, many non-English speaking adults were more willing to converse and accept information. 

60;#Non-traditional Meeting Places and Events;#63;#Open Houses/Open Forum Hearings ;#14;#Brochures;#20;#Collaborative Task Forces;#78;#Site VisitsAesthetic Improvement, Economic Development, Maintenance/Replacement, Regional Connection Improvement, Safety ImprovementEstablished Neighborhood, Government/Subsidized Housing, UrbanCommuters, Immigrants, Limited English Proficiency, Low-Income Populations, Native American Populations, Persons with Disabilities, Racial or Ethnic Minorities, Seniors, Students/Youth, Transit-Dependent PopulationsProject PlanningLocal Roadway or Interchange

​For a project for FHWA Eastern Federal Land Highway Division, we prepared designs and an EA/FONSI for several new parking lots and new circulators for Historic Mount Vernon in Virginia. As part of our public outreach program, a Citizen Advisory Committee was created. The CAC was comprised of residents in the adjacent neigborhoods, key community representatives, and Mount Vernon staff. The neighborhoods were initially opposed to most of the designs proposed by the project team because of concerns about noise and visual impacts, as well as because of anticipated changes in traffic patterns on the nearby streets. Through the life of the project, we met with the CAC many times, regularly considering new or revised alternatives to address their input and fully explaining to them our process and conclusions. By the final full public meeting, when another citizen spoke against the project during the question and answer period, our previously most vocal opponent stood from his seat in the audience and defended the project. Although he still would have preferred for the project not to be built, he told the rest of the audience that our process had been thorough and that the selected alternative was the best option of the many that had been considered. This support from the CAC was an effective response to the other citizens, and we received no notable opposition against the project at the end. 

​By meeting regularly with a diverse CAC, several members whom were initially opposed to the project, we were able to dig into the project details in a way that gave us a better product for the community. By the end, the CAC members saw themselves as part of the project team.

​The primary disadvantage of this technique was the additional time and cost it took to meet with the CAC, and to consider additional alternatives based on their input. 

Civic (Stakeholder/Citizen) Advisory Committees Teresa GreshamKimley-Horn

​Although a CAC is not necessary for every project, it can be extremely effective and worth the cost. It would be primarily useful for projects that are most impactful to the community, especially to a cohesive and/or historically underrepresented community. 

63;#Open Houses/Open Forum Hearings ;#78;#Site VisitsMobility/System EfficiencyEstablished Neighborhood, SuburbanLocal Roadway or Interchange

While planning outreach efforts for a 20+ year transportation plan in a large metropolitan planning area, efforts were made to identify non traditional or often underutilized groups for outreach activities/invitations. Below is a list of outreach possibilities identified: 

· K-12 education: parent-teacher associations/organizations, school support organizations
· Youth: groups not tied to schools (Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs, scouts, YMCA, youth centers, etc.);
· Business: chambers of commerce, ethnic chambers; small business associations
· Labor associations
· Community-oriented and ethnic media
· Internet-based groups and twitter feeds for local jurisdictions/"friends of" groups
· Neighborhood organizations and homeowners’ associations
· Civic membership groups: Rotary, Elks, Kiwanis, etc.
· Friends of the Library
· Government groups, League of Women Voters
· Adult education: community colleges, adult schools, English as a Second Language programs
· Safety: Community Emergency Response Team, Neighborhood Watch
· Community health and wellness groups
· Seniors’ groups
· Environmental groups and outdoor recreation

     · Arts groups: music, visual, dance, theater, ethnic culture


Better outreach efforts by using more than the usual pre defined groups.

Collaborative Task ForcesPatricia WilsonNCDOT
Accessibility Improvement, Aesthetic Improvement, Economic Development, Enforcement, Environmental Mitigation, Maintenance/Replacement, Mobility/System Efficiency, New Transit, Regional Connection Improvement, Safety Improvement, Security Enhancement, Traffic Calming, Traffic Segregation, Transit ImprovementCommercial/Retail, Established Neighborhood, Government/Subsidized Housing, Industrial, New Neighborhoods, Rural, Suburban, UrbanChoice Transit Riders, Commuters, Immigrants, Limited English Proficiency, Low-Income Populations, Native American Populations, Persons with Disabilities, Racial or Ethnic Minorities, Seniors, Students/Youth, Transit-Dependent Populations

​A Regional 14 county Non-motorized Plan and Map needed public input to highlight and plan for all possible local, regional, and inter-regional connections of all purpose trails and historic trails. This was a very successful event with a lot of input and good attendance.

For this event,  ArcGIS was run on a computer and projected onto a screen in the room. Everyone present was excited about being able to see it. We had all different layers available and could switch them on and off. Because those in attendance did not know how to operate GIS software, our GIS expert did the task as per the request. We turned layers on and off for different things, zoomed in and out for specific locations. We had maps and layers from all over Michigan and detailed data for our region down to shipwrecks, bike shops, trailheads, other connecting regional trails. With this method, people could see the regional and inter-regional connections. Some research was also possible using this tool, as we could zoom in to see actual condition of the easements or future easements.

Then, based on the analysis done at the meeting and the resulting discussion, suggested routes were hand-drawn on paper maps with markers and post-its were attached for future reference and understanding. We had several copies. We did  4 maps within the 13 county region, so we had portion and full regional maps. Those markings were then converted into a layer by our GIS expert as the proposed trail network.


​Very involved, informal, and gathered good input. Particularly interesting was how much historic information was shared and mapped. Interative mapping at the workshop kept people engaged.

This activity is limited to people who attend. Good advertising needed to encourage participation.​

Public Participation Geographic Information Systems (PPGIS)Sue FortuneEast Michigan Council of Governments

​This event was held as an evening meeting, and some snacks were provided.  Winters are best for these meetings. Keep the attendees engaged and involved.

12;#Brainstorming ;#16;#Charrettes;#21;#Community Partnerships;#38;#GIS Mapping;#67;#Presentations;#72;#Public Participation Geographic Information Systems (PPGIS)Regional Connection ImprovementRural, UrbanLow-Income Populations, Native American Populations, Persons with Disabilities, Racial or Ethnic Minorities, Students/YouthLong-range PlanningBicycle/Pedestrian

​Easily understood basic 'area' street network maps were shown to the public at various locations throughout a town of 10,000. The general public was encouraged to ask questions and to 'draw on the maps' using overlay parchment. 

Once a design by member of the public was completed, it was placed on a second map so that other members of the public could review and comment. All layers of 'public sketching' were attached to the second map providing options and ability for public to comment using comment forms on the various opportunities and solutions presented during the session.
All designs were photographed and placed on the web for viewing by anyone interested and opportunities for comments and addiitonal ideas were offered. This proved to be very helpful in soliciting feedback on what locals wanted to see or thought would work best in their area.


​Ability for all participants and general public to view ideas generated by others and thus stimulate discussion.

Public Meetings/HearingsPatricia WilsonNCDOT

​Very high-quality, easily readable maps needed.

63;#Open Houses/Open Forum Hearings ;#70;#Public Meetings/HearingsAccessibility Improvement, Aesthetic Improvement, Economic Development, Enforcement, Environmental Mitigation, Maintenance/Replacement, Mobility/System Efficiency, New Transit, Regional Connection Improvement, Safety Improvement, Security Enhancement, Traffic Calming, Traffic Segregation, Transit ImprovementCommercial/Retail, Established Neighborhood, Government/Subsidized Housing, Industrial, New Neighborhoods, Rural, Suburban, UrbanChoice Transit Riders, Commuters, Immigrants, Limited English Proficiency, Low-Income Populations, Native American Populations, Persons with Disabilities, Racial or Ethnic Minorities, Seniors, Students/Youth, Transit-Dependent PopulationsLong-range Planning

In November of 2011, NCDOT partnered with Moore County, its municipal entities, and the Triangle Area Rural Planning Organization (TARPO) to embark upon a public engagement initiative associated with the development of the county's Comprehensive Transportation Plan (CTP).  Based on precedence and local feedback, there were five focus areas within the county-wide study area that would benefit from local consensus on roadway improvements needed to accommodate anticipated future traffic. NCDOT and a private consultant, Neighborhood Solutions, tailored the noted Strings and Ribbons planning exercise to engage residents in finding locally accepted solutions to important transportation decisions in these five focus areas.  The core objectives were to enlist early public involvement in the planning process, safeguard local priorities in the county's long-range transportation plan, and provide a forum through which Moore County communities could participate in the planning process.  Additionally, the event would be used to provide public feedback vital to the development of the long-range plan and in determining how the county will accommodate future traffic. 

Seven public charrettes were held throughout the five focus areas November 1-4, 2011, that concentrated on the transportation issues associated with the following roadway corridors and their adjacent communities:

  1. NC 24/27 near Carthage,
  2. NC 24/27 near Cameron,
  3. US 1 through Moore County
  4. NC 73 and NC 211 near West End, and
  5. A proposed southern route to connect the county’s western communities with the amenities in the east.

An invitation was extended to all Moore County residents with added emphasis on residents living near the focus areas.  As participants gathered at the events, they received information packages about the long-range plan (or CTP), area transportation issues, and the guidelines to the exercise.  Over 40 staff members representing county, municipal, state, and regional agencies were present to share information about anticipated transportation needs over a four day series of meetings.  Participants were then given the opportunity to trade places with agency planners as they sat down with neighbors to form “Table Communities” and solve their area’s transportation problems, prioritize future improvements, and manage a real transportation budget. 

For the exercise, participants were provided with area maps and asked to draw out solutions to problems outlined in an accompanying presentation with the added consideration of meeting statewide and county needs within the given budget constraints.  As there were more transportation needs than funding resources, residents found it strategic to team with their Table Community neighbors to prioritize the projects and pool resources.  The original version of the Strings and Ribbons planning tool utilized actual strings and ribbons that were placed on a map to represent ideas under consideration.  However, because of the number of scheduled charrettes and the number of estimated participants, reusable maps and erasable markers were used in the interactive work sessions.

The exercise was a means to show participants, on an engineering level, the challenges facing Moore County in balancing needed improvements with local priorities.  It was not intended to reflect project alignments or actual construction costs.  Instead, participants were asked to consider solutions in the context of preferences such as improvements “on existing” or “south of existing” roadways.  The intent was to identify alternative solutions to local transportation problems that could be supported by residents and studied in the Moore County travel demand model and system analysis.  However, to make the endeavor a meaningful experience for both planning agencies and Moore County residents, facets of the standard Strings and Ribbons exercise were modified to gain public input about the local vision for the future of their transportation system.   

NCDOT staff closely simulated Project Development processes that occur once recommendations enter the first stages of funding and the National Environmental Protection Act processes of environmental analysis.  Introducing these components of long-range planning to participants was designed to help residents understand that recommendations developed in a CTP needed to be based upon data and sound engineering practices to provide a locally preferred alternative that would remain viable through the stages of project development and environmental analysis.  Improvement options considered components including environmental, community, and roadway elements associated with project implementation.  Components included scenarios to construct new roadways, to expand existing roadways, to add services, and other accommodations such as transit, signalization, and greenways. 

NCDOT compiled cost information for an assortment of hypothetical improvements within the five focus areas.  The cost basis for these improvements was provided from actual construction cost averages used by various Branches and design units within NCDOT, as well as private sector engineering firms, to make the exercise as realistic as possible.  Of course, the process was simplified to fit the application of the exercise and provide a uniform, to-scale simulation of an engineering process.  Participants fit desired construction elements together to complete their preferred transportation improvements and offer solutions to the problems presented that would be acceptable within the context of their study area communities.  Examples included, but were not limited to, bridges, culverts, roadway corridor by type and improvement, right-of-way purchases, environmental mitigation of impacts, as well as traditional improvements like lighting, sidewalks, bus routes, and traffic signal installation. 

To further incorporate the importance of local concerns, the participants were asked to identify on the maps their top five priority resources for protection during their project development.  NCDOT staff recorded responses to help planners understand and document local priorities. Multiple databases resulted compiling priorities and mapping solutions for later use in the development of the areas long-range plan.

For concepts pertaining to budgets and project funding, a “Moore Money” currency was designed and reproduced in various denominations from $100 to $10 million and divided into packets of $400 million per table.  These amounts were derived from the state’s historical distribution of transportation funding to Moore County and factors that included the regionally identified transportation needs quantified by TARPO to be in excess of $1.5 billion for its four-county region.  The exercise replicated current state transportation budget constraints yielding more needed transportation projects for improvement than available funding.  This aspect of the exercise further emphasized the importance of choosing economically feasible solutions and represented the real-life challenges facing North Carolina counties today as they enter projects into the State’s data-driven and competitive’ project Prioritization Process for the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP). 

As the events began, participants were signed in by staff and given an information packet which included project maps, questionnaires, NCDOT Voluntary Public Information Forms, and Comment Sheets.  Tables were set up to accommodate eight to ten people with one to two staff members per table depending on availability.  No restrictions were made on seating except to ask participants to remain at their chosen table during the exercise in lieu of participating collaboratively with other tables due mainly to time constraints.  Staff members were trained to be facilitators and, for the purpose of the exercise, took on the roles of Bankers and Tellers.   Our Bankers and Tellers assisted participants by providing guidance on game procedures, tracking purchases, and collecting data from the various surveys, questionnaires, and mapping tasks.  The exercise was not a voting process, but rather a data collection and information dissemination tool.  

Overall, the charrettes successfully accomplished the intended objectives:  A total of 663 participants, of which 479 were unique, received information about the long-range planning process and the transportation issues associated with the focus areas.  Assessment of participant demographics, surveys, questionnaires, and mapping provided staff members with vital information about resident’s vision for their county’s transportation system.  Responses clearly indicated a disconnect between what charrette participants perceived as necessary transportation improvements and what the transportation planning agencies estimated would be needed to accommodate future traffic through 2040.  However, the events did prompt local transportation stakeholders to make unified decisions about specific corridors and provided guidance for planning agencies and partners on how to proceed with the study’s next phase of in-depth analysis.

Pictures and examples of the data outcomes are provided in the attached document and a detailed report on the events, data, and outcomes is available on line at the Moore County CTP study web page:


The charrette series accomplished multiple goals and objectives in a short time frame: attracted a large volume of participants; provided the opportunity for NCDOT to explain planning process and standard engineering practices to be used throughout the study; allowed study team to collect solutions to transportation issues acceptable within the context of the community; disseminated information about the study and importance of the long-range plan; and collected data vital to the development of the long-range plan.

Although responses showed the exercise was well understood and reflective of NCDOT project development and NEPA processes, it was a very detailed excercise that required significant staff resources to manage the activity with a large crowd. It is ideal in a setting of about thirty people and two staff members per table.

CharrettesScott W. Walston and Frances D. BisbyNCDOT/Transportation Planning Branch

The Moore County charrettes represent one the Transportation Branch's most successful public involvement initiatives. Much was learned during the events and the lessons learned have been integrated into new processes such as using sign-in sheet addresses in combination with ArcGIS geocoding tools to assess the effectiveness of public involvement efforts and where additional efforts, if needed, should be concentrated. Likewise, new procedures are being developed that incorporate the development of demographic community profiles and understanding as the initial steps to developing the public involvement plan.

12;#Brainstorming ;#32;#Fact Sheets/Newsletters;#35;#Fliers;#37;#Games and Contests;#38;#GIS Mapping;#44;#Information Materials;#67;#Presentations;#71;#Public Opinion Surveys;#95;#VisioningMobility/System EfficiencyRural, Suburban, UrbanLow-Income Populations, Racial or Ethnic Minorities, Seniors, Transit-Dependent PopulationsLong-range PlanningMultimodal

​The Regional Food Systems Plan needed input from a wide range of participants to share their views and opinions about production, packaging, transportation and consumption of local foods in the Region. It was hard to reach such a wide spectrum of citizen goups ranging from farmers, to entrepreneurs, small-sclae growers, processors, distributors, consumers, health care experts, economic development experts, public and private transportation providers, commodity transportation providers, businesses  and local leaders to name a few.

This survey was conducted using the Survey Monkey website, and contained approximately ten questions with subsets. All the members of the regional stakeholder group were informed ahead of time that that the survey was forthcoming, and responded in a timely manner. The survey was targeted and was sent to approximately 60-100 people for specific questions and goals. Around 40 people responded and others provided input at a Summit that was subsequently held. Responders covered a range of speciatlties: from decision-makers, to producers, to farmers, to processors.  

​Easy to reach everyone.

Input can be provided at any time at their own convenience.

No intimidation or hesitation on part of the input provider, because no one is watching them.

Free and unbiased opinion can be sought as no one is talking to them.

Only the information provided on the online survey is what they know.

Any confusions can't be cleared, if any, on the material.​

Can only reach people with internet access and ability to use the computer.

Can be time consuming to get responses.

Public Opinion SurveysSue FortuneEast Michigan Council Of GovernmentsWebpage for the Regional Project

​It was a successful survey with much more input than would have been gathered otherwise. Computer and internet are available to many in the current times, either at home or public facilities. Many people actually prefer to provide input through online surveys.

The survey needs to be clear, concise, easily understandable, and not too long.

6;#Advertisements;#14;#Brochures;#20;#Collaborative Task Forces;#23;#Conferences/Workshops/Retreats;#67;#Presentations;#84;#Technology Driven Public MeetingsEconomic Development, Mobility/System Efficiency, Regional Connection ImprovementRural, UrbanLow-Income Populations, Persons with Disabilities, Racial or Ethnic Minorities, Seniors, Students/Youth, Transit-Dependent PopulationsLong-range PlanningFreight Rail

​During Development of a comprehensive transportation plan, outreach efforts were undertaken to solicit input from regions of the planning area traditionally less vocal than the norm. During the fall festivals, booths with maps, project lists, informational fliers and questionnaires/comment forms were set up at local festival sites (halloween festivals, ASPCA fund raising walks, Introduction to the 'Arts' day events etc), to interact with the public.

During these events the maps and handouts viewed by many people who were not familiar with the organization doing the planning (MPO) and/or what was going on and how to comment on it.

In four events over a three week period - over 2,000 responses were received. This was approximately 1700 more than received on the previous plan cycle.




Low cost, medium to high benefit endeavor based on the level of expertise about projects/areas and the ability to explain to the public the projects and their benefits


Non-traditional Meeting Places and EventsPatricia WilsonNCDOT
38;#GIS Mapping;#35;#Fliers;#66;#Posters;#71;#Public Opinion Surveys;#14;#BrochuresAccessibility Improvement, Aesthetic Improvement, Economic Development, Enforcement, Environmental Mitigation, Maintenance/Replacement, Mobility/System Efficiency, New Transit, Regional Connection Improvement, Safety Improvement, Security Enhancement, Traffic Calming, Traffic Segregation, Transit ImprovementCommercial/Retail, Established Neighborhood, Government/Subsidized Housing, Industrial, New Neighborhoods, Rural, Suburban, UrbanChoice Transit Riders, Commuters, Immigrants, Limited English Proficiency, Low-Income Populations, Native American Populations, Persons with Disabilities, Racial or Ethnic Minorities, Seniors, Students/Youth, Transit-Dependent Populations

The Tri-Cities of Richland, Pasco and Kennewick is the fourth largest metropolitan area in Washington State with over 253,000 people. At the confluence of the Columbia and Snake Rivers, these communities are linked by three major bridges. With a growing population, congestion on the bridges in 2010 was increasing, prompting the funding of a regional study among the local agencies and the Legislature to look at all reasonable alternatives for a new Columbia River Crossing in the area.


As a member of a team including H.W. Lochner Engineers and J-U-B Engineers, The Langdon Group was hired to manage the public involvement process. This posed the significant challenge of reaching and effectively engaging four distinct communities (including the City of West Richland) to guide a process of determining 2-3 potential crossing locations for further study, from an initial list of 10. The geographically diverse region coupled with a very limited public involvement budget helped determine that online media would play a key role in the process.

In April 2010, our team launched a project website, Twitter page, Constant Contact E-Newsletter and online survey to provide the community with up-to-date information and receive valuable public input.

Our strategy was to utilize the local media and existing stakeholder email databases as a means to drive the public to the website. The plan worked— In response to exceptional media coverage, the website generated over 1,100 survey responses and 300 written comments were received. At the May 20, 2010 Steering Committee meeting, this input helped refine the initial 10 crossing alternatives to four.

In August 2010, a second survey was launched and due to media coverage responding to the news release, nearly 700 members of the public provided online input. The carefully crafted surveys provided valuable demographical and driving habit information to help determine where people in the region were going, when and why. Survey data ultimately revealed three preferred crossing locations, approved by the Steering Committee for further study.

Throughout the course of the project, members of the Tri-Cities print, radio and television media followed the project through regular Twitter messages and Constant Contact E-Newsletter updates. The Twitter and E-Newsletter campaigns proved so successful that news outlets in Seattle, Tacoma and Spokane provided media coverage of an October Public Meeting.


Some traditional public involvement techniques were utilized (Public Open House and information booth at the County Fair), but the comments gathered through those processes were minimal compared to the input gathered via the online tools. Some public comments received praised the approach as the most effective way of reaching this diverse community.​

​Ability to reach a large and geographically diverse audience on a limited budget

Although there was an open house and outreach event at the County Fair, the online tools limited the outreach to internet users
Social Media/Social NetworkingBryant KuechleThe Langdon Group

​Described above.

25;#Display Boards;#30;#Email;#63;#Open Houses/Open Forum Hearings ;#71;#Public Opinion Surveys;#111;#Social Media/Social Networking;#84;#Technology Driven Public Meetings;#98;#WebsitesRegional Connection ImprovementCommercial/Retail, Established Neighborhood, Government/Subsidized Housing, Industrial, New Neighborhoods, Rural, Suburban, UrbanCommutersLong-range PlanningHighway or Interchange

A briefing was held via webinar to provide information and solicit input from public engagement practitioners across the nation on their experiences with public outreach.  The webinar had about 75 participants using a webinar broadcast for a visual presentation, coupled with audio via teleconference phone line.​

This technique was low-cost and utilized wildely available technology and software.  Preparation for the webinar involved identifying ​people to participate in the webinar via existing contact lists and list serves. 

The videoconferencing approach from an audio perspective was problematic as the webinar hosts did not have muting capabilities.   

BriefingsJulie HunkinsNC Department of Transportation

Unless there is a need to have two-way communication during a webinar, use of technology where participant audio can be muted or unmuted in a targeted manner may help manage the communication.  It is important that the technology chosen have the needed capabilities to ensure effective communication.

30;#Email;#67;#Presentations;#98;#Websites;#52;#Mailing/Contact Lists

NCDOT conducted a study to replace an S-shaped swing-span bridge over the Perquimans River in Hertford, NC. The existing bridge is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP), and terminates in a NRHP historic district. Alternatives were considered that replaced the bridge with a similar-type facility, a higher fixed bridge on a similar alignment, and an alternative that avoided the historic district. A majority of the community was initially concerned about a higher bridge. Through the use of 3D photo renderings from multiple angles, the community was able to visualize the alternative which notably increased support for that alternative (which was eventually selected as the preferred alternative). To obtain appropriate high-resolution photographs, we contracted Sky Site to take photos from a low-flying helicopter and using an elevated camera from ground level.

Initially, we used plan views of the designs on aerial mapping to display alternatives to the public. There was notable concern and skepticism about some of the alternatives. Once we displayed the 3D renderings, we eliminated most of that concern.​

We did static photo renderings, which were very effective. If we would have built a model, it would have allowed us to show the alternatives from multiple angles (including from residents' homes), which would have addressed additional questions.​

3D VisualizationTeresa GreshamKimley-Horn

In retrospect, I would have recommended doing the 3D renderings earlier in the process, to display to the public the first time we provided plans of alternatives. ​

63;#Open Houses/Open Forum Hearings;#67;#PresentationsMaintenance/ReplacementCommercial/Retail, Established Neighborhood, UrbanMaintenance and OperationsHighway or Interchange

Website for Photography -


The Atlanta Regional Commission held a “pop-up” style open house in an empty storefront off of the main square in Decatur, Georgia on a Saturday afternoon.  The approach was designed to invoke an informal, fun and inviting atmosphere – an opportunity for local and regional residents to receive information, while also providing feedback on PLAN 204, the Regional Transportation Plan and a key element of metro Atlanta’s blueprint for accommodating growth. The outreach team found an empty space, contacted the manager, and reserved the space for free. The team used provocative signage with the message “Find Your Way Here”. The moniker was intentionally mysterious – no exact location, just a message so people would know something was going to be happening in the area and something that would generate social media buzz.  The approach was fun, creative, and “curiosity inspiring” marketing that would draw in street traffic. Materials were produced with simple, easy to see graphics and imagery. The main goal was approachability.

Planners were able to build trust by interacting with the community in a more informal and approachable way. The approach allowed creativity and brought a “human” element to collecting input. The technique reached beyond “the usual suspects” and allowed the team to better connect with citizens and interact in a new way. Great PR for the agency, and a great format for connecting with people and building relationships. ​

Logistically challenging – a lot of work went into using a new location. Because the space was vacant, there were liability concerns. The space also had had to be cleaned so it was presentable.  The effort was staff and time intensive and required 10 -15 staff to participate on a Saturday. Since this was a Pilot effort, all materials were developed from scratch and were more expensive to produce because they were unique. Evaluation form could have been better to get more comments. There was great interaction, but there weren’t a lot of direct comments on the plan.

Non-traditional Meeting Places and EventsMelissa Roberts, Community Engagement CoordinatorAtlanta Regional Commission


Since the event took place on a Saturday afternoon, people were more relaxed and interested in talking about transportation issues – they weren’t “cranky” from their afternoon commute. Many wanted to find out more and had the opportunity to learn what they could in a relaxed environment. It was a meet and greet style event with staff on hand to talk about subject matter. Staff wore stickers with nametags and icons related to their area of expertise, as well as where they lived in the region. This showed a personal connection instead that attendees could relate to.

25;#Display Boards;#44;#Information MaterialsEconomic Development, Mobility/System Efficiency, New Transit, Regional Connection Improvement, Transit ImprovementEstablished Neighborhood, Suburban, UrbanChoice Transit Riders, Commuters, Limited English Proficiency, Low-Income Populations, Persons with Disabilities, Racial or Ethnic Minorities, Seniors, Students/Youth, Transit-Dependent PopulationsLong-range PlanningMultimodal

This was considered a Pilot effort and was very targeted to the area in which it took place. The long-term vision is to repeat this style of event as localized public meetings, focusing on information about the RTP elements applicable to each area.



 The Red Line transit extension project was controversial in many communities due to a perception that the project would hurt the area. The outreach team used a variety of approaches to overcome this perception. The team hired community liaisons to educate residents along the corridor through local leaders who the community could relate to. Interactive public meetings were held to walk through display boards and video that demonstrated what the future alignment could look like. Neighborhood Resource Hubs were established through kits provided at area community centers and at libraries. Where appropriate, these kits were bilingual. A school age outreach component was developed, as well as an internship program that employs 18 interns each year to work on engineering and planning projects in support of the Red Line. This program was designed to both support the project and develop a workforce that could help educate families and build and foster relationships. 


Builds community relationships and trust, educates leaders in the community who in turn educate their friends and family to help convey accurate information about the project. Broadens reach and engages the community where they are most comfortable.

The selection process for the Internship program has had some challenges – often teachers suggest their best students, but these students may not have an interest in engineering or planning, and have been somewhat male-dominated.

Community PartnershipsTracee Strum-Gilliam, Parsons BrinckerhoffMaryland Transit Administration

Hiring a college liaison from a nearby university (in this case, Morgan State) to assist with the interns was a huge help and provides a college leadership opportunity. The team selects three high schools along the corridor to work with each year to select participants.

92;#Video Techniques;#25;#Display BoardsMobility/System Efficiency, New Transit, Regional Connection Improvement, Transit ImprovementEstablished Neighborhood, Suburban, UrbanStudents/YouthLong-range PlanningRail Transit

The funding for the interns is divided between the project and the consulting firms. A tracking program has now been instituted for the achievements of each intern. There is also an alumni program that allows past interns to come back and share their experiences with the current group.


During the environmental phase of a roadway project in the small community of Maysville, North Carolina, the outreach team worked with the IGA Grocery Store to get information about the project out to the community and gather names for the project database. This was the only grocery store within 20 miles of Maysville, and therefore served many area residents. The team provided the checkout clerks a stack of newsletters to distribute. The Store Manager put a map of the study area on his office so that patrons could walk over and see the project alternatives. He also worked with the outreach team to position them inside the store, so that patrons had to walk by the table while they were shopping.

The approach was inexpensive and required little lead time, since the materials were already developed for use in other outreach activities. There was a captive audience, which significantly helped to expand reach at a low cost and time investment.

 There was not a long time period to interact – people were in a hurry and wanted to get to their shopping, they did not want to stop and chat. There was enough time to distribute materials and to get contact information if they were not already on the mailing list.

Information MaterialsAnne MorrisNorth Carolina Department of Transportation

It made a big difference that the team was allowed to set up inside the store. At first, they were outside the store and more people had a tendency to skip the table. It also helped to have someone in the community who was willing to assist – in this case, the Store Manager really helped to pave the way.

39;#Grocery Bags;#35;#FliersAccessibility Improvement, Mobility/System Efficiency, Regional Connection Improvement, Safety ImprovementRuralLow-Income Populations, Seniors, Students/YouthProject DesignLocal Roadway or Interchange

The team learned during the effort that there was a very low literacy rate in the community, and this created some issues with newsletters as an effective tool for communicating information. The team decided to do a lesson about the project with high school students. They also focused on developing materials for kids with a 4th and 5th grade reading level who could communicate with their Parents about the issues. They found a local restaurant that was willing to distribute information. Many people in the local community were helpful. People were also incentivized to give feedback through food.  For example, the team set up an information table near the polling places on Election Day and had cookies available along with project materials.


The traditional methods of public engagement will always be an important part of the planning process, but discovering the effectiveness of emerging technologies in order to develop new best practices for public engagement is the charge of the future. The Oak Hill Parkway project in Austin, Texas, provided a unique opportunity to test a new and innovative method to engage the public. This pilot project tested the effectiveness of re-creating a traditional open house in a virtual or online setting in order to provide additional opportunities for engagement and to understand what role emerging technology will play in the engagement process. In order to replicate the experience of a traditional open house in a virtual setting, the research team developed a website, called a virtual open house (VOH). All of the materials presented at the May 23, 2013 Oak Hill Parkway traditional open house were presented to visitors of the virtual open house through concept videos and text. The concept videos featured visuals of schematics with voiceovers from project staff. Users were directed to the virtual open house through both traditional and online media coverage, as well as advertisements on Google and social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter. Upon entry to the virtual open house, users were directed to watch an introduction video that explained the purpose of the VOH and directions on how to use it. Once registered, users were sent to an overview page, where background information on the project was provided. From there, users were able to choose any of the nine concepts (shown as thumbnails at the top of the page), watch the informative video, and click a thumbs-up or thumbs-down button depending on their feelings toward the concept. The VOH went live on May 23, the day the traditional open house was held, and was open until the close of the official comment period, 12 days later on June 3, 2013. During this period, there were two, 2-hour-long real-time chat sessions, where each of the nine concept videos and the overview page featured chat boxes that were staffed by an Oak Hill Parkway project representative. During the real-time chat sessions, visitors were able to provide comments, ask questions directly of Oak Hill Parkway project representatives, and receive answers in real time. During the remainder of the period that the virtual open house was live, users were able to provide comments and questions through a link to the Oak Hill Parkway project website. Researchers were able to gauge the effectiveness of the virtual open house by using Google and YouTube analytics to evaluate the attendance and quality of participation. To evaluate the attendance of the virtual open house, researchers tracked the number of visitors by day, which provided insight into how well attended the VOH was during the entire period it was live. In addition, researchers were able to evaluate how attendance changed during the real-time chat sessions as compared to the rest of the period the VOH was live, based on the measurement of how many pages within the virtual open house were viewed per hour for each day that the virtual open house was live. The analytical tools also provided researchers with the ability to gauge the quality of participation during the VOH. Researchers were able to measure the average amount of time that each user spent in the VOH per day in order to gain insight into not only how many visitors came through the door, but how long those visitors actively engaged with project materials while visiting. The average number of pages viewed per visitor provided researchers with an additional metric to gauge how effectively users interacted with project materials while visiting the virtual open house.

















The pilot virtual open house allowed individuals who would not typically participate in a traditional open house the opportunity to re-create the experience, complete with ability to chat online with project staff.  The project also created video representations of the project concepts that were able to be used on the project website and in other venues.  The virtual open house expanded the breadth of interested individuals to include participants from a broader geographic area.

Because this was the first time either of these agencies had offered a “live chat” feature, participation was somewhat limited.  Our site was not mobile optimized and we learned that a significant number of users (33%) accessed the virtual open house from a mobile device.  Future virtual open houses will need to recognize this.

Virtual Meetings/WorkshopsTina Geiselbrecht and Ben EttelmanTexas A&M Transportation Institute

The live chat sessions increased participation from an attendance standpoint, but as noted above, comments and questions during the live chat sessions were somewhat limited. Researchers were able to identify the locations of users who registered for the live chat by zip-code in order to understand how participation differed from the traditional open house held on May 23rd. The virtual open house expanded participation to a broader audience from a geographic perspective. This is helpful as often times a project will have regional implications, but the locations for public meetings will be held at local sites, limiting potential input from regional perspectives. In addition to the increase in attendance from a broader geographic spectrum of the population, the opportunity to increase participation from the public in planning processes though mobile accessibility to virtual open houses is great. If the site has a well-designed mobile-optimized presence, it can provide members of the public with the opportunity to provide input on the go – effectively taking the public involvement process to their fingertips, rather than forcing them to come to us. Finally, the live chat sessions during the virtual open house are an imperative aspect of truly providing an opportunity for meaningful input to be gleaned through two-way interaction. Attendance to the Oak Hill Parkway virtual open house spiked during real-time chat sessions. So even if there were not an overwhelming number of comments and questions, the concept of a “virtual event” still drove participation. Moreover,  VOHs can potentially narrow the digital divide as more underserved populations have access to the internet via smartphones and the ease of accessibility could even make the VOH a tool that increases input from these populations.

91;#Video SharingAccessibility Improvement, Aesthetic Improvement, Mobility/System Efficiency, Regional Connection Improvement, Safety ImprovementCommercial/Retail, Established Neighborhood, New Neighborhoods, Suburban, UrbanCommuters, Persons with Disabilities, Racial or Ethnic Minorities, Seniors, Students/Youth, Transit-Dependent PopulationsProject PlanningHighway or Interchange

To see the complete report on the virtual open house please access it


The Charlotte County-Punta Gorda, Florida MPO Awards a Citizen or Group who through their efforts have made significant and noteworthy contributions to transportation planning. A trophy is presented to the recipient at an MPO Board Meeting each year.








The bestowing of this award to deserving recipients has provided the MPO with countless benefits from a public participation perspective, including media articles, accolades from elected and agency professionals, and the general public.




To date, we have not gotten a sense of competition for our award and are aware of the implication in the event this situation occurs. We have had give the Award posthumously and recommend that recipients receice their award soon after nomination.


Stakeholder PartnershipsGene Klara Charlotte County - Punta Gorda MPO

It is simply stunning to observe the recipient at an MPO Board meeting receiving their Award. With their friends, the media, and elected officials present this Award has now grown into an event now covered by the media and talked about in the community.

53;#Media StrategiesEconomic Development, New Transit, Transit ImprovementEstablished Neighborhood, New Neighborhoods, Rural, Suburban, UrbanLow-Income Populations, Persons with Disabilities, Seniors, Transit-Dependent PopulationsProject PlanningBus Transit

Please feel free to contact Gene Klara if award criteria and guidelines are desired. He can be reached at 941-883-3535 and at ​


For a project in Greenville, NC, we proposed connecting Stantonsburg Road in west Greenville (near the hospital and highway) to Tenth Street in east Greenville (near Uptown and East Carolina University). The project was funded by the City, ECU, the hospital, and NCDOT. We were sensitive to the nature of the community, as well as the difference in needs between the community and the funding partners. Most of the alternatives included widening Farmville Boulevard, a four-lane undivided road through a cohesive, minority neighborhood. The project team considered widening left, right, and symmetrically through the neighborhood, attempting to minimize the number of relocations. The public outreach plan included a citizen advisory committee, key leader interviews, and a series of small group meetings with the neighbors and adjacent businesses. Through these interactions, the project team worked through the potential alternatives and the specific needs and desires of the community. As a result of the input from the community, the City of Greenville decided to contribute additional relocation funds to provide a new area for the residents to relocate to as a unit if they chose to do so. At the end of the project, the residents signed a petition requesting that the City and NCDOT choose the alternative that relocated the most number of residents, so that they could remain a cohesive neighborhood in the new location. This petition provided the support necessary for FHWA to determine that this project would not have an adverse and disproportionate impact on the minority community.

The potential impacts of this project were known to be a concern before the project began. Our proactive approach allowed us to communicate with the appropriate members of the community from the beginning, and resulted in a positive outcome. ​

If the City had not provided additional relocation funds and a location for the residents to relocate to, it would have been more difficult to resolve the Section 4(f) issue. ​

Small GroupsTeresa GreshamKimley-Horn

The success of the outreach program stemmed in large part because it was proactive and multifaceted. We applied a range of techniques simultaneously (charrette, 3D visualizations, small groups, etc.), and kept communication open with the community.​

4;#3D Visualization;#16;#Charrettes;#19;#Civic (Stakeholder/Citizen) Advisory Committees;#49;#Key Person InterviewsMobility/System EfficiencyEstablished Neighborhood, UrbanLow-Income Populations, Racial or Ethnic Minorities, SeniorsProject PlanningHighway or Interchange

The Oregon Department of Transportation maintains a 1500 contact database to communicate project updates for the Historic Columbia River Highway and the Historic Highway State Trail.  ​

This is a great way to stay engaged with those who really are interested in what you are working on.  The enewsletter have a high open rate and it appears from the comments from the stakeholders that they appreciate the news and information. ​

It takes time to write the enews and it has to be editted.  We subscribe to constant contact which requires a fee.  The data base needs to be kept up to date. We don't have a place for comments.​

Fact Sheets/NewslettersKristen StallmanOregon Department of Transportation

This is a great way to communicate with a diverse and geographically disperse community.  We try hard to make the articles interesting to keep our readers coming back.  It is great way to incorporate images.  ​

30;#EmailEconomic Development, Regional Connection ImprovementUrbanRacial or Ethnic Minorities, Seniors, Students/YouthProgram DevelopmentBicycle/Pedestrian

As part of the Connect Central Georgia Study, the Georgia Department of Transportation set up study information booths at several community festivals to engage with area citizens, get the word out about the study, and expand reach to the community at large. At the festival, project newsletters were distributed, names were collected for the project mailing list, and citizens were asked to participate in a short survey about transportation needs and priorities in their community over the next 20+ years.

Attending festivals was a low cost way of reaching a broad range of citizens. Typically booth space was donated, so the only cost was staff time. The materials that were shared were developed for use in other components of the study and did not generate extra work. Great way to connect informally with the community and to understand localized issues.​

Most events take place on the weekend. Requires coordination with conference organizers to obtain free booth space.​

Non-traditional Meeting Places and EventsTom McQueenGeorgia Department of Transportation

State maps and wildflower seeds were distributed at the table to attract interest from passers by. An incentive drawing for a free gas card or gift card also encouraged participation in the survey. Less resource intensive than traditional public meetings, and reach a much larger audience. More bang for less buck! ​

44;#Information Materials;#32;#Fact Sheets/Newsletters;#35;#FliersEconomic Development, Mobility/System Efficiency, Regional Connection Improvement, Safety ImprovementRural, UrbanCommuters, Low-Income Populations, Racial or Ethnic Minorities, Seniors, Students/YouthLong-range PlanningMultimodal

This was a great way to boost outreach on a project with a very large study area - over 31-counties were included in the effort.​


The US 301 Waldorf Area Transportation Improvements Project has an abundance of both natural and social environmental features. This task was dedicated to establishing a new school of thought about a highway project - reaching out to the affected communities to determine what community resource-based environmental stewardship projects and programs they would like to see as a benefit to their community. Meetings were held with various stakeholders that included residents, environmental groups, local government agencies, federal agencies, and Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA). A list of recommendations for environmental stewardship opportunities and concerns were developed as a result of these meetings. A process for evaluating and ranking these potential opportunities (including projects and programs) was developed as well. While this effort is about the community resource aspect of environmental stewardship, a parallel Natural Resource Working Group is ongoing and the groups have worked together to reach common ground. 


Built relationships, educated the public, and developed solutions with community buy in. Demonstrated to the public a true committment to leaving the environment better than what existed prior to the implementation of the project. Established stewardship priorities with true community ownership.​

Resource intensive from a staff and cost perspective. Effort requires ongoing coordination with partner agencies and the public.​

Small GroupsTraceé Strum-Gilliam, AICPMaryland State Highway Administration
As planners and practitioners we don’t need to know everything.
Stakeholders value and appreciate efforts to articulate community needs but want to use source data and information as a starting point for dialogue
Stakeholders who say “I have nothing to offer” do.
Many of the stakeholders expressed early on in the process that they only cared about the natural environment. As the process moved forward many stakeholders realized that projects and programs could meet both natural and community needs.
Preservation is king.
It is important to document feedback and information related to the process. In addition to project team members, stakeholders are interested in reviewing feedback and input as the process moves along.
The CRWG utilized research and a holistic approach to identifying values, needs and project recommendations from a cross-section of stakeholders from two counties, surrounding areas and interested parties throughout the region to develop a broad set of potential opportunities.
This approach yielded a set of potential recommendations that encompassed an array of resources, thus providing a solid benchmark for the development of the ranking and evaluation process.
36;#Focus Groups;#79;#Small Groups;#49;#Key Person Interviews;#83;#Stakeholder PartnershipsEnvironmental MitigationCommercial/Retail, Established Neighborhood, Rural, Suburban, UrbanCommuters, Low-Income Populations, Persons with Disabilities, Racial or Ethnic MinoritiesProject DesignHighway or Interchange

Won the 2009 Exemplary Ecosystem Initiative Award​


As part of the Southwest Georgia Interstate Study and the Connect Central Georgia Study, the Georgia Department of Transportation worked in partnership with county school systems to distribute and collect survey feedback from the community at-large. Packets of surveys were delivered to the office of each elementary, middle, and high school in each system, and were then sent home with students in order to reach parents. Parents could return hard copies of the surveys to the schools, by mail, email, or fax, or they could access an online version of the survey to provide feedback. GDOT also worked with area libraries to distribute surveys and encourage the public to access the web-basted survey via library computers to provide their feedback.​

The technique was a cost effective way of reaching a broad audience in a large study area.​

Sometimes requires repeat follow up with school systems to explain the need, and / or in person visits to build trust.​

Stakeholder PartnershipsTom McQueenGeorgia Department of Transportation

Providing the surveys to the school systems with a return envelope was a good way to facilitate return of the surveys once they are collected.​

30;#Email;#50;#Library Partnerships;#71;#Public Opinion SurveysAccessibility Improvement, Economic Development, Mobility/System Efficiency, Regional Connection Improvement, Safety ImprovementRuralCommuters, Immigrants, Low-Income Populations, Persons with Disabilities, Seniors, Students/Youth, Transit-Dependent PopulationsLong-range PlanningMultimodal

The Florida Department of Transportation has been a proponent of smaller, targeted methods for obtaining public input and building relationships with the community. These methods have been used to compliment traditional meeting practices. They include targeted small group meetings, drive-up open houses set up in tents, and established public outreach offices. These non-traditional methods directly engage the public at places and times convenient and comfortable to them.


Going above and beyond the minimum meeting requirements builds trust with the community. Offers additional opportunities for the public to provide input.

Requires additional time and budget beyond the traditional meeting requirements. However, these techniques are often more cost effective than required meetings.

Non-traditional Meeting Places and EventsRusty EnnemoserFlorida Department of Transportation

1) Smaller, more intimate contact with the public can result in more focused input. 2) Be mobile. When the public is not coming to you, go to the public.  3) Establishing a presence in the community builds trust and relationships.

63;#Open Houses/Open Forum Hearings;#28;#Drop-In Centers;#44;#Information Materials;#82;#Speakers' Bureaus and Public Involvement Volunteers;#79;#Small GroupsAccessibility Improvement, Aesthetic Improvement, Mobility/System Efficiency, New Transit, Regional Connection Improvement, Safety Improvement, Traffic Calming, Traffic Segregation, Transit ImprovementCommercial/Retail, Established Neighborhood, Government/Subsidized Housing, Industrial, New Neighborhoods, Rural, Suburban, UrbanChoice Transit Riders, Commuters, Immigrants, Limited English Proficiency, Low-Income Populations, Native American Populations, Persons with Disabilities, Racial or Ethnic Minorities, Seniors, Students/Youth, Transit-Dependent PopulationsProject PlanningLocal Roadway or Interchange