2017: Communicating the Value of Long-Term Transportation Planning

It's extremely difficult to get the average person involved in long-term transportation planning. After all, developing long-term transportation plans, such as regional transportation plans or strategic citywide mobility studies are much less precise and often have much longer implementation periods than plans for a particular transport infrastructure. Similarly, planning efforts for major infrastructure projects must start with examining needs and a wide variety of alternatives, leading to long and often circuitous planning processes.

Although planners understand the importance of and process used for long-term planning, these are rarely understood and appreciated by the general public. Instead residents think, "the project is so far into the future that it won’t affect me," or "I can get involved later," or "those projects will never happen anyway, so why bother getting involved."

But early and on-going involvement by John and Jane Q. Public is just as crucial for long-term transport planning as for planning specific transport facilities. To stimulate creative thinking and share innovative approaches, the Planning and Environment Group of the Transportation Research Board (TRB) sought best practices in communicating the value and importance of getting the public involved in long-term transportation planning.
Five recipients were selected for the competition showcase for their successful communication efforts. The communications tools and techniques they used epitomize the spirit of communicating complex information in an uncomplicated manner.

Competition Winner
Statewide Multimodal Transportation Plan-State Highway Investment Plan Joint Update // Minnesota Department of Transportation

In 2015, the Minnesota Department of Transportation launched a full-scale, responsive, and innovative community engagement process to jointly update the Statewide Multimodal Transportation Plan and the Minnesota 20-Year State Highway Investment Plan. The project team collected and leveraged engagement data to implement and evaluate innovative tools and launch new partnerships to reach underserved communities. Plain language and accessibility were top focuses throughout all tools, techniques and the plans. This 8-month engagement effort was jam-packed with innovative tools and techniques, such as stakeholder forums, roving tablet
computer surveys, a coloring-book van, ad campaigns and more!
    Contact: Josh Pearson, joshua.pearson@state.mn.us
    Websites: SMTP: www.minnesotago.org/final-plans/smtp-final-plan
    MnSHIP: www.minnesotago.org/final-plans/mnship-final-plan

Competition Runners Up
Engaging the Future Generation of Transit Riders // City of Boulder, Colorado

For the past 21 years, the HOP bus route in the City of Boulder has been connecting the university, downtown Boulder, two major retail districts, and now Boulder Junction – a mixed-use transit-oriented development. The purpose of the HOP Transit
Study was to build upon the success of the HOP to enhance customer experiences and address changes in land use and transportation options. City staff worked with Growing Up Boulder (GUB). GUB introduced city staff to students and teachers at Whittier International Elementary for the opportunity to engage youth and hear how transit could be better improved for people of all ages.
    Contact: Natalie Stiffler, StifflerN@bouldercolorado.gov
    Website: bouldercolorado.gov/goboulder/HOP-transit-study

Innovative Public Outreach for the NJTPA’s Plan 2045: Connecting North Jersey // North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority // Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

The North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority is the MPO for 6.7 million people in 13 New Jersey counties. Prior to conducting public outreach for “Plan 2045: Connecting North Jersey,” its new Regional Transportation Plan, the NJTPA worked with Rutgers University’s Voorhees Transportation Center to conduct extensive research and develop an innovative public outreach campaign that would be inclusive and effective for its diverse region. Activities included fun and engaging Plan 2045-branded pop-up booths at nearly a dozen community events, a young-adults “Set the Table!”
dinner party program featuring a “meeting-in-a-box” that included a discussion card game with questions and feedback forms for hosts to guide conversations—and more!
    Contacts: Ted Ritter, TRitter@njtpa.org and Miriam Salerno,

California High-Speed Rail: Connecting the Next Generation Through #iWillRide Campaign // California High Speed Rail Authority
The California High-Speed Rail Authority is responsible for planning, designing, building and operating the first high-speed rail system in the nation. By 2029, the system will run from San Francisco to Los Angeles/Orange County in under three hours at speeds capable of over 200 miles per hour. Phase 2 will extend to Sacramento and San Diego. Public communication is a critical component in the project’s success. The Authority launched a unique public outreach campaign targeted at millennial generations and beyond, #iWillRide. Originally founded by college students, the statewide campaign is a unique tool for creative thinking and sharing innovative approaches to inform students about the future of transportation.
    Contact: Todd Nguyen, Todd.Nguyen@hsr.ca.gov.
    Website: www.hsr.ca.gov/iwillride/index.html

PennDOT’s Twelve Year Program Update Public Outreach Campaign // Pennsylvania Department of Transportation
Pennsylvania’s Twelve Year Program is the official Transportation Program for the
Commonwealth. This mid-range collaborative, planning tool is compiled by the
Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) for adoption by the State
Transportation Commission (STC) every two years. PennDOT and the STC, with support from McCormick Taylor, Inc., have taken steps to modernize the public outreach strategies and communication methods involved in this planning process, including a customized web-based survey, an online public meeting and a Director’s Challenge, including a creative social media campaign.
    Contact: Jessica Clark, jessclark@pa.gov
    Website: www.talkpatransportation.com