Governor Pat McCrory championed a new funding formula where 70% data and 30% local input are used to prioritize regional projects to reduce congestion, increase safety, and promote economic growth. He thereby required public input and support for local transportation projects across the state. A simple request, but a more challenging endeavor.
Challenge: Involving the Public on Transportation Projects Across the State
“It’s really tough to get people involved with long-range transportation planning, because a lot of people don’t plan in their everyday lives. So, to think about the future of your transportation system 10 years away, it’s just really hard,” explained Jamille Robbins, Public Involvement, Community Studies, and Visualization Group Leader at NCDOT. “And, while we strive to make our public meetings as convenient as we can, it’s just impossible to provide a date and time that works for everyone.”
“It’s becoming more and more important, or dare I say, imperative, to provide citizens a means to participate in the process at their own convenience.”
In support of Governor McCrory’s commitment to making government more efficient and accountable, Jamille wanted to provide more opportunities for citizen participation, beyond public meetings. He aimed to gain a solid understanding of the top transportation priorities among North Carolinians and to build greater support for the 2018-2027 State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP).
Solution: Engaging North Carolinians Online with MetroQuest!
To complement traditional public meetings, NCDOT became the first US Department of Transportation to seek state-wide community input online on priorities, projects, and concerns to guide the development of their long-range STIP.
“We chose MetroQuest because it represents the state-of-the-art in online public engagement,” said Jamille. “The Screens allowed the public to filter down by county and see the projects in the area that they were most concerned about. They got a brief description of those projects and were able to provide input.” MetroQuest empowered North Carolinians to learn about options, share their preferences, and prioritize among thousands of potential transportation projects.
Public Involvement Reaches New Heights at a Lower Cost-Per-Participant
To attract massive participation online, they needed to offer a delightful digital experience. Unlike long, text-based surveys, MetroQuest is designed to be visually compelling, highly interactive, and informational – weaving in education about projects to collect informed input from thousands of citizens. It attracts and draw-ins participants for best-in-class participation rates. And because it’s fun and fast, it also drives high completion rates.
NCDOT was able to reach new heights in public involvement with MetroQuest. Jamille shared his excitement with the outstanding results he achieved in support of the state transportation improvement program,
“It was an extremely successful campaign! We had an unprecedented amount of participation. We increased our level of public participation by 1,900% on our very first project with MetroQuest … 19 times the number of participants from before … and a 2,400% increase, or 24 times increase, in comments received. We are very pleased with the results!”
Jamille remarked on the success of his results across demographics groups, including citizens between 26 and 40 years of age. “This age group is made of many young and active parents with young, active kids in all types of activities … baseball, soccer, etcetera. They typically don’t have the time to make it out to our traditional public meetings for those obvious reasons,” explained Jamille.
“We got rave reviews about MetroQuest. It was easy and interactive, and allowed us to really get more participation. People were able to participate on their own time, which was I think beneficial in increasing participation.”
MetroQuest delivered actionable results, while driving down the cost-per-participant. With its first annual subscription, NCDOT was able to reduce the cost-per-participant by 660%! “We got more bang for our buck, and as a PI professional, that is money well spent,” reported Jamille. “We have already collected more public input than ever before, and the momentum continues to build.”
Result: 1000s of Citizens Involved for Transportation Projects at All Scale
Today, the NCDOT STIP recommends a connected statewide network with 70 suggested new routes, linking rural and urban areas with scheduled transit service to give more North Carolinians access to hospitals, community colleges, and employment centers. “We are thrilled to see the thoughtful and creative way that NCDOT is using MetroQuest to broaden public involvement,” said Dave Biggs, Chief Engagement Officer at MetroQuest. “In the past, collecting meaningful input from a broad demographic on long-term transportation projects has been challenging. We anticipate that other DOT’s will be following this process closely since STIPs are a required federal process in each state.”
For NCDOT, it is crucial that North Carolina’s public transportation systems keep up with the changing population and connect residents in urban and rural areas to opportunities and services such as jobs, higher education, healthcare, and recreation. To better meet the ongoing transportation needs of North Carolinians, NCDOT continues to engage the public.
“We knew that we had projects coming up that would benefit from this kind of survey method, so we decided to invest in an annual MetroQuest subscription,” said Jamille. The actionable results are being used to inform transportation projects at all scales, including the proposed Kinston Bypass to reduce traffic congestion and delays along a 20-mile segment of U.S. 70 between LaGrange and Dover.
“We now have a state transportation improvement program that is truly more representative of the citizen’s wishes than in times past,” concluded Jamille.
“I think it goes without saying, the more input you have, the better decisions we, as an agency, can make.”