“We set records for LA Metro, absolutely. We were able to get into those underserved communities – that's a really big deal, not only for Metro but for LA in general. It's something that everybody's talking about. The MetroQuest platform is amazing.” – Melissa Holguin, Senior Project Manager, Arellano Associates
For 10 years, Arellano Associates has used MetroQuest surveys to consistently impress its clients with outstanding public engagement outcomes. Recently, Senior Project Manager Melissa Holguin set records for LA Metro, engaging 6,900+ Angelenos with a diversity that almost perfectly matched local demographics. Subscribing to MetroQuest has enabled Arellano Associates to:
Arellano Associates is Southern California’s premier public outreach and high-tech communications firm focused on stakeholder engagement in the public sector. Founded in 1994, the firm has helped cities, transportation agencies, planning organizations, and other entities bridge the gap between public programs and the communities they serve.
Driven by their devotion to public engagement, Arellano Associates has relied on MetroQuest to help understand the diverse needs of their neighbors, communities, and region, leveraging online surveys along with grassroots techniques to achieve client objectives.
The firm’s vision is to positively impact its communities through inclusive and creative engagement using innovative communication methods and tools. With every client project, the team at Arellano Associates aims to deliver a comprehensive public outreach strategy that ensures all stakeholders — no matter their ethnicity, income, language, gender, age, or ability — have a voice in the process.
“We selected MetroQuest because we were looking for an innovative tool, that was not just another cool tool, but something that was really meaningful and that was going to help the process,” said Melissa Holguin, Senior Project Manager with Arellano Associates. “We serve a lot of clients who need valuable information, so it’s not just about the public facing information, but also the back end.”
As an early adopter of innovative technologies, Arellano Associates knew it needed a visual survey tool that would translate complex planning information into a streamlined, user-friendly, and interactive experience. Such a tool would allow the team to engage a diverse public audience and educate participants on project alternatives.
“One of the things that we really liked about MetroQuest was the fact that it was so easy to use. When you have to deal with very complex information, very technically driven information, you have to think about how it’s put into a tool that’s going to get you the results you want. MetroQuest was able to help us translate that for the public.”
MetroQuest surveys blend microlearning and games into the online engagement experience, bringing exciting planning options to the fingertips of participants. By using MetroQuest templates to configure highly visual, interactive, and easy-to-use online survey experiences, Arellano Associates is able to educate the public, collect informed input, and report on robust results with visual charts and graphs that empower and align planning decisions.
For over ten years, the team at Arellano Associates has used MetroQuest to engage the public in a wide range of projects, large and small, from comprehensive plans to transportation studies. As one example, let’s explore how they recently set records in Los Angeles.
Impressed by Arellano Associates’ track record in effective public engagement, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority engaged the firm to work on the NextGen Bus Study. The goal? To reimagine the bus network to be more relevant, reflective of, and attractive to the diverse and growing needs of transit riders.
As you can imagine, providing comprehensive outreach and aligning the differing interests and priorities of diverse stakeholders, across 88 cities, nine sub-regions, and over 10 million residents would not be simple – but Melissa Holguin and her team made it look easy.
They designed a great online survey. Participants played the MetroQuest Budgeting Game to help prioritize investments in transit and answered Tradeoff questions with vivid pictures to share their preferences for service improvements. They also used the MetroQuest “Map Markers” to identify their travel patterns by location, time, and mode.
“How do you make people understand they just can’t have everything? We used the budgeting template that allowed participants to allocate coins. ‘If you had a hundred dollars, how would you spend it and what would your priorities be?’ It was a real eye-opener, even to the board level and executive leadership, to really understand that decision making process and what it was going to take to be able to move forward.”
By the time the survey ended, LA Metro had collected a grand total of nearly 130,000 data points from over 6,900 participants, with over 60% representing underserved communities!
In addition to the valuable budgeting data collected, Melissa shared how the team was able to leverage analytics using the “Map Markers” to identify underserved communities via geographical gaps, and then, to double down on their outreach efforts in order to meet the diversity objectives of LA Metro.
“Collecting spatial information has been very valuable. Looking at the back-end analytics allowed us to figure out who we hadn’t heard from and what geographic areas were missing,” explained Melissa. Exploring both geographic and demographic survey data halfway through the survey period allowed her team to modify promotions and employ go-to-them strategies. “During the survey, we were able to use those analytics to assess and then do some more targeted outreach to those communities where we were still missing information.”
The results speak for themselves. Of the 6,900+ Angelenos they engaged with MetroQuest, 60% were people of color with a balance of genders, age groups, zip codes, and income levels accurately matching the diversity of the city.
“We set records for LA Metro, absolutely. We were able to get into those underserved communities – that’s a really big deal, not only for Metro but for LA in general. It’s something that everybody’s talking about. Everybody’s talking about equity and underserved communities,” Melissa continued, “so to be able to really answer the board when they asked, did you talk to single women? Did you talk to elderly communities, or representatives of all 88 communities? We were able to tell the board, yes! We did talk to all those people.”
Ultimately, the great response and diverse engagement for the NextGen Bus Study provided valuable new insight into community priorities and resulted in increased public and political support. LA Metro is now working on a draft bus service plan for a robust and modernized bus network that fits the lifestyle of Angelenos, now and into the future.
The quality and effectiveness of public engagement data is critical to the success of public engagement initiatives. Melissa and her team at Arellano Associates know this well:
“The MetroQuest platform is amazing. We’ve worked with MetroQuest for close to 10 years and it’s been a great experience. I love the fact that MetroQuest has already thought through what it’s like to plan a project because it saves a lot on our end in terms of resources. Being able to pick the templates that make the most sense for different project phases has been super important. I’m able to look at the MetroQuest survey templates and know that these already have proven results – that’s been invaluable!”
MetroQuest also makes it simple for the team at Arellano Associates to track and analyze public engagement results for clients. Interactive live dashboards unique to each survey template make it easy for Melissa and her team to explore and share their results with clients using colorful charts and graphs. With MetroQuest, Melissa can track that she’s exceeding client expectations, achieving record breaking results, and then easily report the numbers to impress.
“MetroQuest has allowed us to really reach communities that we probably would not have reached otherwise. We’re able to report that kind of success and break down the numbers in terms of demographics, gender … all of those pieces of information that you may not get from another tool, MetroQuest is able to provide us. I really love the analytics, the back end, and the type of data that we collect through MetroQuest.”
Consultants feel the pressure to deliver their best work, every time, and they need the right tools to consistently deliver outstanding public engagement.
“We have a tough job, right? We’re trying to align all of these different interests, whether it’s from the technical team, the engineers, the planners, and of course the public,” explained Melissa, “and so, to be able to do that through something as powerful as MetroQuest has been really valuable and given us an added edge.”
Keeping their added edge, Arellano Associates will continue to rely on MetroQuest on future public outreach projects, because as Melissa describes best, “We really see MetroQuest as that partner for us that has elevated our reach in our communities.”
“We’ve used MetroQuest on different projects and we’ve probably reached over 300,000 people. Really being able to look at the numbers is such a validation of the process. It’s very powerful to have that type of information. We know it’s another step closer to when you talk to the leadership, when you talk to your client, your board members, they want to hear those numbers.”
We’d like to wish Melissa and the entire team at Arellano Associates a happy anniversary. Over the past 10 years, we’ve been constantly inspired by your outstanding online engagement outcomes. A big congratulations on your recent success with impressing LA Metro!