[WEBINAR] A Recipe for Award-Winning Online Community Engagement Featuring VIA

VIA Bus on road

This highly visual webinar presents research findings, proven best practices, practical tips and award-winning case studies to guide agencies towards the successful application of online community engagement for planning projects. Participants walk away with an understanding about how to leverage digital engagement to achieve unprecedented results using cost-effective tools.

This webinar showcases a wide range of outstanding planning projects throughout Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. Our special guests from VIA Metropolitan Transit join us to talk about the VIA Vision 2040 Long Range Plan, one of the most innovative and successful outreach efforts we’ve ever seen. They discuss the innovative ways they combined online and targeted face to face community engagement to involve over 3,000 community members to help inform the transit plan for the San Antonio region. They also share advice for agencies seeking to improve the diversity and effectiveness of their community engagement efforts and talk about the positive difference that broad community support is making as they move forward.

Watch Recording

View Slides

This webinar featured three presenters: Dave Biggs from MetroQuest followed by Hannah Santiago from VIA Metropolitan Transit and Chester Britt from Arellano Associates.

Comments from participants

“Great presentation and very inspiring!”

Additional Reading

As described in the webinar, this user guide expands on several of the best practice recommendations. Since it was originally written for MetroQuest users, two of the sections apply specifically to MetroQuest. The remaining five sections can apply to any online community engagement effort. We hope you find it useful.

Bonus Case Study: NashvilleNext

Mentioned briefly in the webinar, this case study of the NashvilleNext process shows why they were the 2016 winners of the APA 2016 National Daniel Burnham Award for a Comprehensive Plan.


Here are the questions raised by participants that came in during the webinar that we didn’t get a chance to respond to during the session as well as some that came in after by email.

Q: We’d like to learn more about MetroQuest. Who’s the best person to speak with about it?
A: [From Dave] I apologize for not being able to provide more in-depth information about MetroQuest due to the educational nature of this session. The best place to start would be to connect with Derek Warburton at MetroQuest (by email to derek.warburton@metroquest.com, or toll free phone: 1-855-215-0186. Derek will be pleased to make sure you get the information you need. In the meantime, here is a quick video to give you a better sense of the software.

Q: The large interactive screens at the public meetings looked great. Are they owned by MetroQuest or VIA? Any idea of the features and costs would be interesting.
A: [From Hannah] VIA owns an interactive screen, but there are many places that rent the technology. Essentially it is a touch or interactive television that can be connected to a laptop on a stand with casters. [From Dave] We have a preferred pricing plan that we can share with agencies wishing to rent kiosks and ipad panels for outreach. Depending on the size of unit these range from $200 – $600 per month plus shipping costs from Arizona.

Q: What kind of technical skills training is needed for a local agency to implement a digital process? Also, are there resources to understand the equipment and network capabilities for a small projects?
A: [From Hannah] Before every outreach push, VIA hosted training sessions to ensure all survey administers had familiarity with the tool and survey questions prior to the outreach event. [From Chester] Most tools are designed to be user friendly and therefore don’t require a lot of training. [From Dave] Agreed. The level of skills is fairly low. MetroQuest, for example, can be configured simply by choosing your preferred screen types and then adding your text and images using a simple interface.

Q: Is this a good method for community input to not be lost, ignored when projects are presented to City Plan Commission and City Council?
A: [From Hannah] The Vision 2040 Long Range Planning process benefited from having a large number of people engaged and providing input. That guidance from the community directly informed the recommendations staff made to our Board of Trustees. Reporting the results and findings of each round of public engagement to the VIA Board of Trustees provided that policy making body with information they needed to understand whether or not staff recommendations reflected the community’s vision for transportation. [From Dave] Yes, we have found that by collecting input from a large and diverse range of citizens it goes a long way to encourage elected officials to pay close attention to the plan. In the past it’s been very easy to set aside a plan that is informed by the same ten people.

Q: What is the best way of capturing all of the input you’re gathering from multiple online tools and making it available to the community?
A: [From Hannah] Our consultant team at Cambridge Systematics analyzed all the input and formatted the major takeaways into infographics. The team used the infographics in presentations, outreach summary reports and the Long Range Plan documents. Next time we repeat the process, I would work with our Marketing and Communications team to share major findings in graphic form to our social media followers. [From Chester] At Arellano Associates we also use infographics as well as Smart Sheet, an on-line engagement tool that allows attachments to be directly linked to line items on a timeline or spreadsheet making it useful to track comments or input received.

Q: What is your take on community engagement as a result of the recent election?
A: [From Dave] I think that it’s fair to say that the tone of the dialog during this past election has been fairly toxic. A few months ago I interviewed James Hoggan on his new book, “I’m Right and You’re an Idiot: The Toxic State of Public Discourse and How to Clean It Up.” You might be interested in what he had to say. It holds more true each day. Read it here.

Thanks again for your interest and participation in this webinar.

James Hoggan, "I'm Right and You're an Idiot"

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1 Comment

  1. Dean Brennan on November 11, 2016 at 10:05 am

    Dave, excellent workshop yesterday. Presentations were well done and the information is extremely valuable. I wish every webinar in which I participate was of the high quality you provide. thank you…Dean

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