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Public Involvement Techniques

Foreward  |   Table of Contents
Chapter 1  |   Chapter 2  |   Chapter 3  |   Chapter 4  |   Index of Techniques

4. Using Special Techniques to Enhance Participationskip page navigation

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4.C - Finding New Ways to Communicate
4.C.a - Interactive Television
4.C.b - Teleconferencing
4.C.c - Interactive Video Displays and Kiosks
4.C.d - Visualization Techniques
4.C.e - Mapping Through Geographic Information Systems
4.C.f - 3D Visualization
4.C.g - Visual Preference Surveys
4.C.h - Handheld Instant Voting
4.C.i - Plan or Text Markup Software
4.C.j - Remote Sensing Applications

4. Introduction
4.A
4.B
4.C
4.D

4.C - Finding New Ways To Communicate

Communication—especially interactive communication—is a major goal of public involvement. Face-to-face meetings are a traditional method of providing such contact, but changing technologies offer many new options for people to get information and provide input, comment, or support. New technologies— largely based on electronics—are accelerating and enhancing the communication process. They offer real-time methods of communication without relay, distribution, or recording delays. Often, they can better illustrate complex information, and can give people a stronger, more immediate sense of connection to the overall transportation planning and project development process.

Interactive technology does not replace traditional direct contact techniques. Rather, it needs to be well integrated with them in an overall public involvement program. A majority of people still prefer to talk on the phone to a live voice or present their views in their own handwriting or face-to-face. People feel excluded or unable to participate if they have no ready access, and many find computers or televisions more impersonal and distancing than traditional means of communication. Some minority, ethnic, low-income, or poorly educated individuals feel particularly uncomfortable with new technology.

Yet, as new communication technologies become more and more prevalent, their potential for public involvement blossoms. People can participate in large meetings without leaving their living rooms—via phone, special modem connections, the Internet, or satellite transmissions. They save travel time and cost because electronic communications are able to span long distances. Participants with access to computers, wireless devices (cellular phones or Personal Digital Assistants—PDAs), telephone lines with special equipment, facsimile devices, or telecommunication devices can request transmission of documents or information or send comments to an agency. Specialized telephone and Internet services deliver pre-recorded answers or responses to common inquiries. Interactive techniques can also be used in conjunction with traditional meetings—by incorporating interactive displays, for instance, that show the steps in a process or describe a project. Or a computer technician at a public meeting can render concepts visually as public participants discuss them.

Several techniques can help improve communication in public involvement, as follows:

  • Interactive television;
  • Teleconferencing;
  • Interactive displays and kiosks;
  • Computer presentations and simulations;
  • Mapping through Geographic Information Systems;
  • 3D Visualization;
  • Visual Preference Surveys;
  • Handheld Instant Voting;
  • Plan or Text Markup Software; and
  • Remote Sensing Applications

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For more information about the TPCB program, contact Michelle Noch at FHWA (202-366-9206) or John Sprowls at FTA (202-366-5362).

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