Designing a Public Engagement & Decision Making Program

Explore this section to see perspectives about processes for soliciting public input and decision making for CSS projects, and creating a shared decision making structure.

"Developing an effective public involvement program is a strategic effort that requires assembling a selection of techniques to meet the needs of a given transportation plan, program, or project. Current Federal statutes and regulations derived largely from the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) provide general guidelines for locally developed public involvement processes and procedures. There is, how ever, great flexibility available to transportation agencies in developing specific public involvement programs. Every given situation is different, and each approach to a specific public involvement challenge will be unique.

"Focus participation on decisions rather than on conducting participation activities simply because they are required. Decisions include both the continuous stream of informal decisions made by agency staff and lower-level management and the less frequent formal decisions made by decision-makers. Timely agency response to ideas from the public and integration of ideas from the public into decisions shows the public that participation is worthwhile. A focus on the wide range of possible decisions gets agencies past simply offering the public passive opportunities to comment on proposals just before formal decision-making."

Info tab Icon -- Federal Highway Administration , Federal Transit Administration , U.S. Department of Transportation
Howard/Stein-Hudson Associates, Inc. and Parson, Brinckerhoff, Quade & Douglas
Public Involvement Techniques for Transportation Decision-Making

Read about the fundamental guidelines and five key steps for designing a public involvement program for statewide or metropolitan planning or for an individual transportation project or investment.

Info tab Icon -- Federal Transit Administration , Federal Highway Administration , U.S. Department of Transportation
Howard/Stein-Hudson Associates, Inc. and Parson, Brinckerhoff, Quade & Douglas
Public Involvement Techniques for Transportation Decision-Making

Article Icon Article / Paper / Report Structured Public Involvement: Problems and Prospects for Improvement
Public involvement in transportation planning and design has a problematic history. This situation has arisen both because professionals lack access to a coherent, organized method for communicating with the public, and because some important principles of public involvement, known to community design professionals, are still being discovered by transportation professionals. This paper proposes a protocol named Structured Public Involvement (SPI), which is designed to ensure that public involvement is meaningful to the professional and the public. This paper sets forth principles of SPI and a details series of steps useful in engaging the general public in a complex design or planning problem.

SPI aims to be transparent, accountable, democratic, and efficient. SPI situates the use of technology within a public involvement framework built on community design experience. While technology, in the form of visualization tools, decision modeling, and computer-aided facilitation, can be useful, it must be placed in social context. That is, various technologies are employed for their ability to address problems in the public involvement process, such as lack of access to information, inconvenient and time-consuming meetings, confusing terms and graphics, and one-way communication. Highlights and examples are drawn from practical experience, where SPI protocols have been designed and used to solve problems of route planning, highway design and transit-oriented development. While each problem set called for a different mix of technical tools, the protocol within which those tools were used was the same, with similar encouraging results. Using SPI, public participation is less contentious and more informed and the professional has much higher quality information with which to begin the design process.
--  Kentucky Transportation Center
Article Icon Article / Paper / Report State of the Practice: White Paper on Public Involvement
Public involvement is the process of two-way communication between citizen and government by which transportation agencies and other officials give notice and information to the public and use public input as a factor in decision making. In the past decade a radical transformation has occurred in the way transportation decisions are made. A new decision model has emerged and continues to be refined. The model assumes that public input into the assessment of transportation needs and solutions is a key factor in most transportation decision making.

Several factors have contributed to this change. Since the passage of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA), there has been a federally mandated emphasis on early, proactive, and sustained citizen input into transportation decision making - with special outreach efforts targeted at traditionally underserved populations. ISTEA's directive was reinforced by the passage of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) near the end of the decade. States and localities have developed protocols and guidelines to interpret these mandates. In widely varying ways, they have transformed their transportation agencies and blended these mandates with local customs and expectations.
--  Transportation Research Board (TRB)
Excerpt IconExcerpt Develop decision process
The purpose of developing a decision process is to ensure complete and accurate identification of the problem, selection of the best alternative, enhancement of agency credibility, and efficient use of resources in short, to ensure that good transportation investment decisions are made. more...
from  NCHRP Report 480: A Guide to Best Practices for Achieving Context Sensitive Solutions

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