Getting stuck in traffic jams is a fairly common problem these days. America’s cities and highways are becoming crowded, and today’s transportation planners are working tirelessly to move more people between their homes, jobs, education, healthcare, and entertainment. Their mission is to enhance everyone’s quality of life, foster economic vitality and improve mobility for all people.
Forward-thinking transportation agencies, like the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), are involving the people before making multi-billion dollar investments to maintain and build new transportation infrastructure. Why? To ensure that tomorrow’s transportation networks better meet the shared vision and needs of their constituents. How? By going online, beyond public meetings, with compelling visual surveys to engage thousands of citizens and collect informed public input.
“Texas is very big geographically and culturally diverse. We pride ourselves not only in our outsized thinking but also in thinking in a way that’s very reflective of our diverse population,” says Jefferson Grimes, Director of Public Involvement at TxDOT. Urban issues and transportation are becoming ever more challenging, and at the same time, the public is getting busier—unable to participate in traditional methods of engagement. As a result, they feel disengaged in city efforts and get increasingly frustrated with livability.
However, while many agencies still struggle with effectively involving the public, this is an area where TxDOT shines. It uses MetroQuest surveys to both educate the public about transportation alternatives as well as to gain quantifiable input. By engaging thousands online in a meaningful way, TxDOT is building trust and fostering better relationships with citizens.
“Let’s face it. Our attention span is directly proportioned to how interesting whatever we are focusing on at the moment is,” describes Grimes on how MetroQuest addresses this truism by creating compelling online experiences. “Online engagement provides the hook, so to speak, needed to capture the public’s attention. Constituents are able to provide input in a meaningful manner and on issues that are important to them and do it quickly, and at their own convenience.”
While TxDOT continues to launch new MetroQuest surveys almost on a weekly basis, it has already achieved outstanding online public involvement results.
“We are excited about the 444 participants who provided feedback that we may not have received otherwise,” says Allison Kurwitz, Transportation Engineering Supervisor for advance planning in the Bryan District.
MetroQuest is empowering TxDOT to collect quantifiable data at public meetings, but also to go beyond in-person events to engage the broader community. “We provided interactive kiosks at the FM 2810 public meeting that encouraged public input. We also promoted the survey through the media, social media, and a series of email campaigns,” says Kurwitz.
Overall, Grimes and his team engaged with over 6,610 residents, collected 96,350 quantitative data points and captured 6,970 comments to inform and support transportation projects across the state.
“The quality and effectiveness of this data is a critical component to the success of public engagement initiatives,” Grimes describes the value of the outstanding public involvement results his team has achieved. “Because informed input is the greatest kind of input, the tool is designed first to educate the public about a project and then quickly collect their informed feedback. What we have seen is that incorporating online citizen engagement has been a resounding success so far.”
Now is the time to take congestion and mobility head-on. Effective public engagement is the fastest way to foster trust in government agencies in planning for better transportation networks. That is why transportation agencies like TxDOT are using MetroQuest to engage thousands of citizens online to both educate and collect informed input in making better planning decisions.