Public Involvement Techniques
4.A.a - Transportation Fairs
What is a transportation fair?
A transportation fair is an event used to interest community
members in transportation and in specific projects or programs.
It is typically a one-day event, heavily promoted to encourage people
to attend. Attractions such as futuristic vehicles can be used to
bring people to the fair, and noted personalities also draw participants.
New Jersey Transit holds an annual fair in a transit terminal with
a festival aimed toward children—including participatory and
A transportation fair focuses on visual elements, such as
exhibits, videos, and maps or models of projects. A speaker or presenter
is not required but can help focus the attention of viewers on the
purposes of the fair. A fair gears individual displays toward a
desired message. Once prepared, exhibits can be used again at another
location and date.
A transportation fair has these basic features:
- Visual interest and excitement;
- Variety in exhibits: maps, photos, models, slide shows, videos,
full-size vehicles, giveaway items;
- Accessibility in a central location for the target audience;
- Extensive publicity to attract participants;
- Attraction for a wide variety of people;
- Ability to elicit comments and points of view of participants—always
on a voluntary basis; and
Why is it useful?
A transportation fair presents information to the public.
Participants are encouraged to view exhibits, ask questions, consider
information, and give comments. In San Francisco, a commuter mobile
van travels from show to show to promote alternative means of commuting.
A transportation fair creates interest and dramatizes a project
or program. Graphics present goals and messages in a comprehensible
and visually interesting way. Interactive audio-visual and computer-based
displays make programs come alive and encourage public comment.
(See Interactive Video Displays
A fair is a one-time event. With good publicity, it becomes
a known opportunity for people to participate in transportation
planning. The date and place can be chosen to fit within an agency
schedule. It can be held annually, as in Bostons World-Class
Commuting Day. A fair helps agencies or organizations understand
public reactions at a specific point in time.
A fair keeps participants informed, interested, and up-to-date.
Sharing information and discussing issues gives participants a status
report on projects and programs. At a fair, people become educated
on technical issues and gain a better understanding of the effort
involved and milestones achieved.
Does it have special uses?
A fair provides an opportunity for casual community input.
As an informal short-term event, it can be held in central locations
where many people pass by, such as a store downtown or a shopping
mall. (See Non-traditional Meeting
Places and Events.) A fair asks participants to focus on a projects
or programs components and details and offer advice and comment.
For example, in Idaho twelve transportation fairs were held in urban
and rural regions to talk about statewide transportation improvements.
A fair emphasizes specific, positive points about a subject.
It can include exhibits of all types to highlight the wide variety
of people, organizations, and effort involved in a project or program.
It allows an agency or organization to point up salient, desirable
points about a project, while responding to potential drawbacks.
Who participates? And how?
Fair attendees are self-selected. Responding to publicity,
individuals decide whether or not to attend—often based on
the location and date of the fair. Because a fair is not an invitational
event, a representative sample of community groups or stakeholders
cannot be expected to attend. Despite this self-selection, a diversity
in viewpoints is usually represented.
People participate through taking part in activities. Attendees
examine the presentations and ask questions about the exhibits.
At a typical fair, before attendees leave they are encouraged to
fill out questionnaires or response forms with written comments,
which are collected and analyzed for input. (See Public
How do agencies use the output?
The principal output is improved community awareness. Written
and oral comments by community residents are collected at the fair
and used as input to a project or program. This information may
be anecdotal but, with analysis, may be of use within the sponsoring
organization. As a special example, fairs were held in the Phoenix,
Arizona, area to help employers present alternative commuting ideas
and programs to employees and get their feedback.
Comments should be used in association with other community
input. Comments assist agencies in becoming aware of opinions
and stances of participants, often before they become solidified
or difficult to modify. Because they are made in a casual atmosphere,
the comments are sometimes more conciliatory than would be the case
in a different setting.
Who leads a transportation fair?
Agencies or private groups sponsor fairs. Public agencies
hold fairs to detail a specific project and its impacts and to demonstrate
support for it. Private transportation management groups hold fairs
to attract new members or explain new programs. Representation of
public officials at a transportation fair can be productive, depending
on the fairs purpose. For example, in the San Francisco area,
employers sponsor fairs, with assistance from public agencies.
A transportation fair requires no leader on the day of the event.
However, a fair can be scheduled with specific times for presentations
or brief talks or to introduce featured attractions such as celebrities.
At such times, a moderator or other person is needed to make introductions.
What are the costs?
A fair requires support staff within an agency, and the
work required can be substantial. Finding a site—usually on
land or in buildings that are privately-owned—takes advance
preparation. Agency representatives must be alerted to attend if
needed to respond to inquiries or explain technical issues.
Material needs are extensive. Graphics should be sufficiently
large and well-prepared to address principal issues. Photographs
may be required for orientation. Slide presentations are often desirable.
Substantial exhibition room is essential. Written materials can
supplement graphic presentations. Take-away souvenirs, including
buttons, maps, brochures, or imaginative graphics, are useful reminders
of the fairs subject. For example, an annual transportation
fair for an employer in the Washington, D.C., region includes table-top
exhibits by employers, give-away items with emblazoned information,
and contests or drawings for seed money to start a vanpool. (See
Public Information Materials;
Games and Contests.)
How is a transportation fair organized?
A fair is managed by an existing organization. It may have
a chairperson or director, depending on the extent or importance
of the event. A fair needs staff to manage the exhibitors, oversee
production of graphic or written materials, and make the physical
arrangements on the day of the event. In the Los Angeles area, for
example, fairs are sponsored by private firms and managed by their
employer transportation coordinators.
Organizational meetings are necessary to set the policy
and goals for the fair, select a date and place, solicit exhibitors,
and develop publicity for wide public distribution. Specific assignments
and delegation of responsibilities help assure on-time production
How is it used with other techniques?
Not a stand-alone approach, a transportation fair pairs well
with other techniques and shows the products of public involvement,
such as the results of a brainstorming session. (See Brainstorming.)
It can be sponsored by a civic advisory committee to show work in
progress. (See Civic
Advisory Committees.) With videos or fixed exhibitions, fairs
can display goals or accomplishments of a public agency. (See Video
Techniques; Interactive Video
Displays and Kiosks.)
A fair helps interest community residents in transportation
or sets the stage for upcoming events, such as a complex, large-scale
project. It is used to elicit candidates for membership in a civic
advisory committee. It also is used to present awards to individuals
who have contributed to improvement of transportation services.
What are the drawbacks?
A fair cannot replace other techniques. As a one-time event
with self-selected participants, it is not usually representative
of all interests. It is temporary in intent and thus does not meet
Federal standards for continuing public involvement. It cannot replace
a public process that records statements in a more formal manner,
where local people are certain they are being heard by appropriate
authorities. (See Public
A transportation fair does not bring public consensus. There
is no deliberation between potentially opposing groups. The principal
intent in a fair is to disseminate information, not to receive ideas.
Attempts by the sponsor to derive consensus from a fair may cause
problems; the sponsor becomes vulnerable to charges of not taking
public involvement seriously.
Representative comments cannot be expected because a fair
is not likely to include all potential participants. In fact, comments
from participants are appreciated because they are to some extent
unexpected. In certain instances, little or no feedback will be
directly useful to an agency. However, unarticulated comments do
not mean that the fair was a failure; many participants do not view
writing comments as an essential element of their enjoyment of the
exhibits at the fair.
For further information:
|Caravan for Commuters,
Services, Los Angeles, California
|New Jersey Transit
|Regional Public Transportation
Authority, Phoenix, Arizona
|Rides (Commuter Services),
San Francisco, California
|Washington, D.C., Council
of Governments Ride-finders Network
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For more information about the TPCB program, contact Michelle
at FHWA (202-366-9206) or John Sprowls
at FTA (202-366-5362).