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Public Engagement


Case Studies and Notable Practices


US map of locations of public engagement case studies and noteworthy practices.  Locations in AK, AZ, DE, FL, GA, KY, KS, ME, MN, MO, NJ, PA, WA.
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Name State Description
Creating and Measuring an Active Transportation Network in Moscow, ID Moscow, Idaho is a small city near the University of Idaho with a footprint of under seven square miles and a population of about 25,000. Moscow residents demonstrated support for active transportation projects, and the city built some bikeways and walkways, but until recent years, the city had not been focused on building staff capacity to implement widespread multimodal projects or gathering data to determine their impacts. This case study describes the city's approach to solve this issue.
Case Study: Tennessee: Memphis Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization TN Memphis Metropolitan Planning Organization’s (MPO) developed an effort to increase the public involvement and awareness of the recently adopted Livability 2040 Regional Transportation Plan (RTP). The Livability Campaign Kick-off was held, and it included launching a series of three livability videos. The videos, watched by over 1,000 viewers, began a regional dialogue for the planning process of the RTP.

As a part of the campaign, the MPO staff explored different outreach methods that would reach a larger and broader range of citizens. Many people (more than 50%) living in the region, travel over 200 miles a week to and from work, and spend about 37 minutes in the car, round trip. The MPO wanted to capture the attention of both the driver as well as the rider commuter. The drivers would see the big poster while waiting at a stop light behind the bus. And commuters taking the bus would see the ads that were posted inside the city buses which featured the Livability logo, information that help them to learn more about the plan. The ads which remained on a number of buses for a year and were viewed by thousands of people, helped generate conversation about the plan.
Case Study: Pennsylvania: Tri-County Regional Planning Commission PA During Tri-County Regional Planning Commission’s outreach for their 2013-2014 Origin-Destination Study, they rented an ATM-sized computer kiosk to collect survey responses (in addition to having the survey posted to their Website and other outreach efforts like a news release and advertising on public transit). They heaved the kiosk into the back of their communications coordinator’s Jeep and carted it to different spots and events in the Tri-County Region. This outreach was successful at targeting audiences who may not have otherwise known about the survey or who may not have had access to the Internet to take the survey. In all, they visited 12 locations, including colleges, a church, a train station and a courthouse. These visits usually coincided with public events or an activity that would already be drawing people to the location. The kiosk outreach effort accounted for 104 of our total 881 responses to the survey.
Case Study: Utah: Wasatch Front Regional Council UT The Wasatch Front Regional Council (WFRC) understands that members of the public are extremely busy and attending a traditional in-person open house may not be feasible for many people. However, the MPO also understand that the work they do affects people’s lives and that general public should be given an opportunity to get involved and provide their voice in planning for the future of their community.

To that end, WFRC have incorporated the philosophy that if they cannot get people to come to them, they will go to the public. They had held open houses at two area/regional shopping malls and at a laundromat. The displays included large maps showing the Regional Transportation Plans, which drew interest from people either eating their lunch [at the food court] or doing their laundry. Many people at each location provided constructive feedback back to the MPO, the were considered in the long-range plan update process.
Case Study: Florida: Charlotte County-Punta Gorda Metropolitan Planning Organization FL We have over time evolved a public engagement technique that began as a tribute to a long serving Citizens’ Advisory Committee and Trans. Disadvantaged Local Coordinating Board member who passed away in 2009. First awarded in 2010 and now in its 6th year, the Charlotte County-Punta Gorda (Florida) MPO has awarded a Citizen Transportation Planning Award (Mobility Award) named for the aforementioned citizen volunteer. The Award is presented to a nominated recipient at an MPO Board Meeting by the MPO Board Chair. The recipient is someone or a group who has contributed their time, effort and ideas to improve citizen mobility and who has aided the MPO process through their participation, diligence and vision. Attached you will see this acrylic (trophy) award which will be given to this year’s recipient at our August 24, 2015 MPO Board meeting.
This Award has provided the MPO with ever increasing media exposure (local photos and prominent article in local newspaper), a measurable increase in citizen attendance at the MPO meeting when the Award is presented, as well as, heartfelt goodwill exhibited by the recipient, their family and an overall increase in exposure for the MPO and its role throughout the community. The Award has also increased the number and quality of volunteers when MPO Committee vacancies occur. The second attachment shows the name plaque of Award recipients that resides in our offices, with many visitors inquiring of or noting they knew of past recipients and their contributions as they enter our office.
Case Study: Kansas: Lawrence Douglas County Metropolitan Planning Organization KS The Lawrence Douglas County Metropolitan Planning Organization took advantage of the Lawrence Pedestrian Coalition’s “Safe Routes for All Town Hall” on Wednesday, March 25, 2015 in downtown, Lawrence to survey participants about pedestrian priorities in the community for the development of the Regional Pedestrian Plan. The event included a presentation by, Robert Ping, a national expert from Walkable and Livable Communities Institute, and a panel of regional experts that are working to improve bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure in their communities.
Case Study: Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission and Central Massachusetts Metropolitan Planning Organization MA During the Mobility2040 development process, public participation was conducted through a variety of accessible outreach methods to educate and inform the public about the long-range transportation plan process and encourage interested parties to express their views and provide input on transportation issues and prioritizing limited funding resources. Fourteen public information meetings were held in different communities throughout the region, in a variety of venues including grocery stores, colleges, shopping centers, farmer’s market, and business expos. People were asked to fill in the “Invest in Your Transportation Future” interactive survey on a tablet. The interactive survey was designed as a tool to define priorities in the transportation infrastructure investment. In this exercise people were given $100 and they had up to seven main categories subdivided by magnitude, No Investment, Low Level Investment, Mid-Level Investment and High Level Investment. People needed to invest all the $100 without exceeding the budget. We found that people were immediately engaged to “play the money game” and it sparked additional one-on-one conversations about transportation planning which were highly valuable. Additional questions like age and town were used to analyze generational and locational preferences within the region.
Case Study: Michigan: Tri-County Regional Planning Commission MI If you are interested in wacky, unusual outreach examples, I would suggest checking out @TravelinTroll on Twitter. “@TravelinTroll” is the Twitter handle for our friend, Tibbles T. Troll, a little adventurer that travels our region of Clinton, Eaton, and Ingham Counties in the Greater Lansing Region in Michigan. The planners of the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission, including our transportation planners, take him with them to the various locations they travel to doing their work and take pictures with Tibbles to provide a unique insight to what they do. On his Twitter profile, you will see photos of him observing PASER rating collection, participating in Aerial flyovers, and more! We hope you enjoy tracking our little buddy, as he has been a fun way for our planners to engage with the region they serve and for community members to see the many varied activities of our organization.
Case Study: Montana: Crow Agency Rest Area Public Input MT A non-scientific survey was conducted by Crow Agency Rest Area advisory committee members on Sunday, June 23, 2013, at the Crow Native Days event in Crow Agency, MT. The purpose of the survey was to gather input from the Crow Tribal community about their vision for the development of a shared site for a MDT rest area, a future Tribal museum and a future NPS visitor center. The output was survey results that were used by the advisory committee to help in recommending the best location for a new rest area. Survey topics were: site location, tribal culture, site visibility, building orientation, and building preferences.
Case Study: Alaska: Fairbanks Metropolitan Area Transportation System AK This year, during Bike to Work Week in Fairbanks (May 11-15) FMATS created a 2015 Bike Selfie Competition to encourage people to participate. Bikers would post selfies of themselves on their way to work on the FMATS Facebook page and whoever received the most likes would be “Biker of the Day”. At the end of the week, we created a poll on MySidewalk and had people vote for the “Biker of the Week”. FMATS also tries to maintain public involvement through social media with daily hashtags. #MobilityMonday, #TransformationTuesday, #WednesdayWisdom, #ThrowbackThurdsay, #FuelishFriday, #SafetySaturday and #SelfieSunday. All hashtags are used in posts that are related to transportation and can show off some our previous, current or future projects.
Notable Practice: Polk Transportation Planning Organization Infographics Polk Transportation Planning Organization (TPO) (Bartow, FL) uses interactive mapping and social media to significantly improve public engagement in its transportation planning. Polk TPO has managed to combine computer technology with project summaries to deliver notable community engagement. Through this software, the TPO produces infographics, which are essentially colorful brochures that provide salient but complicated data in step-by-step format, giving the public basic information as well as the choice to learn more by linking to the main document or contacting the TPO. The TPO has used these public involvement tools in a number of areas, most notably the LRTP, LEP, Transit and its Aging in Place programs. The TPO utilized the software to develop its Momentum 2040 LRTP. It is also being used for a program called Livable Polk, which is a biannual award program that seeks to honor projects from both the private and public sectors that embody innovative planning principles.
Case Study: Florida DOT Public Involvement FL The Florida DOT Case Study on Public Involvement discusses the Florida DOT's launch of an ambitious statewide public involvement effort in 1994 to solicit the participation of Florida's citizens, visitors, and businesses in developing the 2020 Florida Transportation Plan (FTP). FDOT recognized the need to more actively engage the public in transportation decision-making, which had not been prioritized previously. Outreach associated with the plan consisted of more than 50 separate public events in 33 towns and cities. Locations for the meetings included airport terminals, FDOT offices, shopping centers and turnpike plazas. Over 3,000 residents, travelers and shoppers participated in the process.
Notable Practice: Miami-Dade MPO FL Miami-Dade MPO (Miami, FL) held more than 30 Community Advisory Committee outreach events in 2013. The MPO engages the public through e-Blast newsletter updates, its Facebook page, its Youtube channel, board meeting videos, meeting webcasts, an outreach events fact sheet, TV message boards, public meetings, student events, business events, and its website. The MPO conducts the Transportation Disadvantaged Voluntary Dollar Program, which allows citizens to directly donate toward transportation project funds. The MPO manages the Transportation Outreach Planner, a web-based demographic reporting tool that provides outreach strategies based on an area’s demographics. Miami-Dade MPO produces synopsis documents and "citizen versions" that are colorful and engaging while effectively conveying information about transportation planning in understandable formats. The MPO also produces, in house, professional videos to educate the public about the transportation system and the transportation process. The MPO also makes specific outreach to the millennial generation through social media. Miami-Dade MPO won an award from the American Planning Association for its LRTP. Miami-Dade MPO also has a public involvement management team that holds meetings to coordinate regional public involvement efforts. The MPO publishes a link to the activities that its staff has been involved in, complete with pictures and a summary of what occurred at each outreach activity. This gives the public a clear snapshot of the how the MPO engages the public and where they can most likely find MPO staff.
Notable Practice: Florida DOT (FDOT) Public Involvement Handbook FL The FDOT Public Involvement Handbook highlights many resources and tools for engaging the public by working with the media in Chapter 5—Public Involvement Tools and Techniques. The handbook provides a press kit and press release templates for a variety of media sources, including print media, radio, TV, and web-based media. The handbook also highlights innovative engagement methods such as the Speakers Bureau, public involvement teams, and the Drive Thru Project Display.
Case Study: Minnesota DOT MN Over the years, Minnesota Department of Transportation (Mn/DOT) has placed considerable emphasis on the need to continually evaluate the way it interacts with the public. Recognizing the need to involve as diverse a range of voices as possible to arrive at optimal planning and project development decisions, the DOT launched a study several years ago to examine ways to enhance the involvement of individuals traditionally under represented in the transportation decision-making process.
Notable Practice: Maricopa Association of Governments AZ The Maricopa Association of Governments (Phoenix, AZ) uses many techniques to engage the public, including hosting information booths and presentations, developing the newsletter MAGAZine, providing email updates to its recipients via the Let's Keep Moving series, conducting a video outreach program, maintaining an updated calendar of events and website, advertising especially in minority-oriented newspapers, and implementing the Transportation Ambassador Program.
Notable Practice: Dover/Kent County MPO DE The Dover/Kent County MPO (Dover, DE) conducts a Video TIP Tour in which the agency shows citizens the upcoming projects in central Delaware through a bus tour, with Spanish subtitles for non-English speakers. The MPO also provides a Video Trail Map of the tour, develops the newsletter Journeys, and maintains a public presence via newspapers, electronic media, news releases, general mailings, and its website. The MPO makes announcements at public libraries, civic and business association meetings, public events, and festivals.
Notable Practice: Ozarks Transportation Organization (OTO) MO OTO (Springfield, MO) conducts an annual evaluation of its public participation plan, in which staff members develop improved methods for engaging the public. OTO offers its residents an Interactive TIP Tool, which makes TIP searchable and provides a TIP GIS. The agency also engages the public via its website, updated OTO branding, public comment email address, its Facebook page, marketing materials in buses and bus terminals, surveys, press releases, a database of interested parties, project open houses and workshops, email announcements, and public meetings.
Notable Practice: North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (NJTPA) NJ NJTPA’s (Newark, NJ) activities for engaging the public include its Pedestrian Safety Campaign, the Citizen's Guide to Transportation Planning, e-list subscriptions, its public participation plan (available in both English and Spanish), surveys, and focus groups. NJTPA is currently working to develop web-based planning visualization tools such as forecast and scenario tools. Additionally, the NJTPA Online Transportation Information System (NOTIS) provides a search engine for citizens to learn how tax dollars are being invested to improve the transportation system through an online mapping interface.
Case Study: Space Coast Transportation Planning Organization (SCTPO) FL SCTPO (formerly known as the Brevard MPO; Viera, FL)) adopted a Public Involvement Plan and Evaluation Handbook called Understanding the Purpose Upfront. By developing these documents together, the agency created an effective framework to simultaneously conduct, evaluate, and refine its public involvement policy and techniques. SCTPO has a variety of public participation programs available to interested groups, including bicycle and pedestrian education programs, bicycle rodeos, community presentations, and high school outreach. In a Bicycle Rodeo, students are taught that bicycles are vehicles and must follow the rules of the road. Students learn to look for cars and navigate through a series of obstacles. The Community Presentation includes a 15 to 20 minute slideshow that provides an overview of the transportation planning process and provides details on regionally-specific transportation projects. The High School Outreach Program is an interactive lesson on budgeting and Long Range Transportation Planning that takes place during one class period.
Notable Practice: Charlotte County-Punta Gorda MPO Citizen Transportation Planning Award FL Charlotte County-Punta Gorda MPO (Port Charlotte, FL) awards a Citizen Transportation Planning Award (Mobility Award) each year. The award, first given in 2010,originally began as a tribute to a long serving member of the Citizens’ Advisory Committee and Transportation Disadvantaged Local Coordinating Board who passed away in 2009. The award is presented to a nominated recipient at an MPO Board Meeting by the MPO Board Chair. The recipient is a person or group who has contributed time, effort, and ideas to improve citizen mobility and has aided the MPO process through participation, diligence, and vision. The Mobility Award has provided the MPO with increased media exposure, a measurable increase in citizen attendance at the MPO meeting at which the award is presented, and an overall increase in exposure for the MPO and its role throughout the community. The award has also increased the number and quality of volunteers who come forward when MPO Committee vacancies occur.
Notable Practice: Lawrence Douglas County MPO Town Hall and Mobile Community Classroom KS The Lawrence Douglas County MPO (Lawrence, KS) took advantage of the Lawrence Pedestrian Coalition’s Safe Routes for All town hall in March 2015 to survey participants about pedestrian priorities in the community for the development of the Regional Pedestrian Plan. The Safe Routes for All town hall included a presentation by Robert Ping, a national expert from Walkable and Livable Communities Institute, and a panel of regional experts working to improve bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure in their communities. Before the event, MPO staff and organizing team partners engaged the community with the help of the University of Kansas (KU) Mobile Collaboratory (MoCOLAB), a repurposed 1972 31’ Airstream Land Yacht that was conceived and designed to be KU’s “community classroom on wheels.” Passersby are drawn into the Airstream because of its unique charm and sleek finishes. As a result, members of the community who might not typically be engaged were able to learn about the MPO’s work and participate in the public engagement process by talking with staff and taking the MPO’s survey. The MoCOLAB is available as a Community and University resource for civic engagement.
Notable Practice: Atlanta Regional Council (ARC) Terminus Game GA To engage high schoolers, Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC; Atlanta, GA) uses Terminus, a game that teaches lessons on transportation planning and was created by three graduate students. With Terminus, players are paired off and given a fictitious district within a larger metro area, economic and demographic background on the district, a budget, and a stack of cards representing options for transportation infrastructure projects for their district. Options include projects such as road repairs, highway interchanges, light rail lines, buses, or multiuse paths. The game was based on the format of the regional roundtable for the Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax vote. Terminus received an honorable mention in the Transportation Research Board’s 2012 “Communicating with John and Jane Q Public” competition.
Case Study: Metropolitan Council and the Hiawatha Light Rail Transit Design-Build Project MN This case study reviews the design-build method used in the public involvement process of the Hiawatha Light Rail Transit Project in the Twin Cities in Minnesota (Minneapolis and Saint Paul, MN).
Notable Practice: City of Seattle Community Visioning Murals WA Through a City of Seattle Neighborhood Matching Fund, Columbia City residents contracted with artists from the Southeast Seattle Arts Council to paint the communities’ dreams on the plywood covering boarded-up storefronts. The murals depicted the windows of an ice cream parlor, a toy store, a dance studio, a bookshop, and a hat shop. The murals looked so realistic that passing motorists sometimes stopped to shop. They captured the imagination of a developer and several business owners. All of the murals had to be removed within a year because new businesses wanted to relocate to the buildings.
Notable Practice: North Carolina DOT (NCDOT) Public Participation Best Practices Document NC NCDOT uses the document Best Practices and Tools for Public Participation in Comprehensive Transportation Planning and Project Development. The document highlights the use of the following public participation techniques: library partnerships, youth education programs, games, model organizations, activity books, interactive analysis tools, Public Participation GIS (PPGIS), visualization, really simply syndication (RSS), social networking, video sharing, and online collaboration. NCDOT achieves real time feedback at public meetings via audio casts.
Notable Practice: Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Public Involvement Toolbox KY The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet considers public involvement to be an essential feature in project development. A toolbox of processes, checklists, and resources has been developed as an ongoing resource for highway design project managers. The toolbox gives the project manager tools to develop an effective public involvement plan for future highway design projects.
Notable Practice: San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA) Budget Czar Game CA The San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA) held a one-time game called Be the City’s Budget Czar for a Day. The Budget Czar game was used over several months to solicit feedback from the public for purposes of developing the draft San Francisco Transportation Plan (SFTP). SFCTA developed the SFTP's draft Investment Plan and draft Investment Vision based on information gathered through the tool. SFCTA may revisit the tool when updating its plan in 1-2 years. This tool was a winner of the Transportation Research Board’s 2012 “Communicating with John and Jane Q Public” award.
Notable Practice: Florida DOT (FDOT) Legislative Briefing Documents FL The FDOT Systems Planning Office produces a set of uniform brochures called the Legislative Briefing Documents (LBD) on an annual basis. The LBDs are created to brief each of Florida's 40 Senate and 120 House of Representatives members on the investments FDOT is making in their respective districts each year. LBDs can be produced for almost any political district, municipality, or county in the state whenever needed. The FDOT Systems Planning Office is currently in the process of creating an LBD online tool application. This tool will make the annual production of the LBDs an efficient and streamlined process. This tool received an honorable mention in the Transportation Research Board’s 2012 “Communicating with John and Jane Q Public” competition.
Notable Practice: Place It! Process Place It! is a design and participation-based urban planning practice founded by urban planner James Rojas that uses model-building workshops and on-site interactive models to help engage the public in the planning and design process. Place It! utilizes innovative methods to engage participants in Visioning Workshops, allowing participants to build small-scale models of their urban spaces using quirky objects. Through the PLACE IT! process, participants are able to learn about the role of planning and design in shaping how we live and translate their dreams and ideas into physical forms and models. From these physical results and their accompanying stories, the public can generate plans, drawings, and policy recommendations for municipalities, NGOs, and elected officials.
Notable Practice: City of Philadelphia Public Comment via Text and App PA To narrow down ninety potential bike share locations, the City of Philadelphia empowered residents to provide comments via text messages or Shareabouts, a mapping application for crowdsourced information gathering (available in both English and Spanish). Approximately 10,400 surveys were submitted, providing substantial detail about how people use bike share locations and specific feedback on altering locations. Text message integration was made possible by Textizen, and all information collected fed back into the same Shareabouts map.
Case Study: Maine DOT and the Sagadahoc Bridge ME The MaineDOT case study focuses on their choice to use design-build over the traditional design/bid/build process because of the need to expedite the project. The use of the design-build method presented challenges to MaineDOT and the local community regarding public involvement. As MaineDOT’s first design-build project, there was no framework for public participation in a design-build context. The expedited project schedule gave rise to early community concerns about aesthetics, thus necessitating a forum for involving the public. Among the initiatives to meet these challenges were the creation of a local advisory committee, MaineDOT’s hiring of a public relations firm and the use of a design charrette to elicit public involvement in the aesthetics of the project.
Case Study: Washington State DOT (WSDOT) and the SR500/Thurston Way Interchange WA This case study focuses on the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) project to construct a new grade-separated interchange at the intersection of Washington State Route 500 and Thurston Way, approximately one mile from Interstate 205 in the city of Vancouver. The SR 500/ Thurston Way interchange is the first design-build project in the state of Washington, and is serving as a demonstration project to evaluate the use of this contracting method.
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