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 volunteer 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 followup to this effort provided much needed input for the project as well as ideas for 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
By having middle schoolers along, many non-English speaking adults were more willing to converse and accept information.
|Aesthetic Improvement, Economic Development, Maintenance/Replacement, Regional Connection Improvement, Safety Improvement||Established Neighborhood, Government/Subsidized Housing, Urban||Commuters, Immigrants, Limited English Proficiency, Low-Income Populations, Native American Populations, Persons with Disabilities, Racial or Ethnic Minorities, Seniors, Students/Youth, Transit-Dependent Populations||Project Planning||Local Roadway or Interchange||Approved|
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.
|Julie Hunkins||NC 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.
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.
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.
|Mobility/System Efficiency||Established Neighborhood, Suburban||Local Roadway or Interchange||Approved|
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.
|Tina Geiselbrecht and Ben Ettelman||Texas A&M Transportation Institute||http://tti.tamu.edu/group/pep/|
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.
|Accessibility Improvement, Aesthetic Improvement, Mobility/System Efficiency, Regional Connection Improvement, Safety Improvement||Commercial/Retail, Established Neighborhood, New Neighborhoods, Suburban, Urban||Commuters, Persons with Disabilities, Racial or Ethnic Minorities, Seniors, Students/Youth, Transit-Dependent Populations||Project Planning||Highway or Interchange||Approved|
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.
|Kristen Stallman||Oregon Department of Transportation ||http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/HWY/HCRH/Pages/news.aspx|
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.
|Economic Development, Regional Connection Improvement||Urban||Racial or Ethnic Minorities, Seniors, Students/Youth||Program Development||Bicycle/Pedestrian||Approved|
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.
|Gene Klara ||Charlotte County - Punta Gorda MPO||http://www.ccmpo.com|
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.
|Economic Development, New Transit, Transit Improvement||Established Neighborhood, New Neighborhoods, Rural, Suburban, Urban||Low-Income Populations, Persons with Disabilities, Seniors, Transit-Dependent Populations||Project Planning||Bus Transit||Approved|
Please feel free to contact Gene Klara if award criteria and guidelines are desired. He can be reached at 941-883-3535 and at email@example.com.
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.
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.
|Maintenance/Replacement||Commercial/Retail, Established Neighborhood, Urban||Maintenance and Operations||Highway or Interchange||Approved|
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.
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.
|Mobility/System Efficiency||Established Neighborhood, Urban||Low-Income Populations, Racial or Ethnic Minorities, Seniors||Project Planning||Highway or Interchange||Approved|
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.
|Anne Morris||North Carolina Department of Transportation||http://ncdot.gov|
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.
|Accessibility Improvement, Mobility/System Efficiency, Regional Connection Improvement, Safety Improvement||Rural||Low-Income Populations, Seniors, Students/Youth||Project Design||Local Roadway or Interchange||Approved|
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.
To educate the public about Utah’s first ThrU Turn Intersection (TTI), UDOT implemented a variety of communication techniques. The central component of this communication effort involved the preparation of two instructional animation videos (ThrU Turn Instructional Video and ThrU Turn Theatrical Trailer) to explain the existing conditions, identify the benefits of the innovative new design, and demonstrate how to navigate the intersection. A post-construction video (ThrU Turn Post-Construction Summary Video) was prepared as a follow-up to communicate UDOT’s decision-making process and to highlight the safety, mobility, and economic growth benefits provided by the TTI.
In order to effectively reach the target audience, UDOT integrated the animated videos into its existing suite of communication channels. The videos were displayed on UDOT’s website in conjunction with various multi-faceted campaigns, such as UDOT Traffic and Zero Fatalities, both of which were created to encourage overall safety and to educate the public regarding traffic issues. The videos were also distributed via social media platforms like YouTube and were strategically placed on the project website in lieu of text summaries and descriptions. Additionally, UDOT produced a shortened version of the ThrU Turn Instructional Video (ThrU Turn Theatrical Trailer) to run in local movie theaters. Local media outlets featured the new intersection and engaged the public by directing them to view the video animation online. Geographically targeted and strategically timed Web advertisements were used to promote the video as well.
The style and delivery method of the animations were strategically designed to educate motorists and the community about the functionality of the updated infrastructure. The TTI instructional video animation received more than 5,000 views in the first month the intersection was open, and since its debut has generated more than 15,000 YouTube views – approximately three times the views of other UDOT instructional animation videos. The TTI instructional and post-construction videos have been used to promote UDOT’s innovation and have added value to public communication efforts at other locations and other ThrU Turn intersection projects throughout the state. Recent focus groups found that the instructional videos were effective in educating the public not only on how to navigate the TTI, but also about the initial need for change at the intersection, UDOT’s method of selecting the TTI as a solution, and the benefits of the new structure.
A lesson learned as a result of this project is that strong support is needed from local government on this type of project. Showing a strong partnership between UDOT and the city would have strengthened the effect. Additionally, the education component is important to the public when viewing a new design animation, and has become the focus of these videos in subsequent projects.
|Adan Carillo, UDOT Region Communications Manager||UDOT||http://www.udot.utah.gov|
Previous to creating these educational videos, the animation team polled small, unbiased groups that had viewed other animation sequences and found that lack of storytelling in previous animations led to plodding demonstrations of dry, technical information. Feedback indicated that viewers were left feeling disconnected, uninterested, and ultimately confused about the intended messaging. Based on this analysis, the approach to the TTI videos was simple - to create technically accurate animations through a well-crafted and engaging story. Despite the simplicity of this method, it was the first of its kind for UDOT.
|Mobility/System Efficiency, Safety Improvement, Transit Improvement||Commercial/Retail, Established Neighborhood, Suburban||Commuters||Construction||Local Roadway or Interchange||Approved|