[SURVEY OF THE MONTH] Envisioning Sustainable Transportation for the San Joaquin Region

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The Survey of the Month series is a monthly blog where we highlight the extraordinary work our customers are doing, along with some takeaways that are relevant for anyone interested in making the most out of online engagement using MetroQuest’s survey platform! To see more in the series, visit the blogs here.

This month, we are featuring a survey with a unique approach to informing its participants: through the use of videos! Follow along as we introduce you to a survey developed by the San Joaquin Council of Governments (SJCOG) and the consulting team at Cascadia Partners.

The Envision 2050 survey was launched through MetroQuest during summer 2021 to gather feedback on the 2022 Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) and Sustainable Communities Strategy (SCS) for San Joaquin County, California. This long-range vision and investment plan focuses on the region’s future transportation needs and sustainability targets.


What’s the story? Planning for a Sustainable Transportation Future

SJCOG oversees transportation, housing and habitat conservation for the San Joaquin region, which comprises several cities in California east of San Francisco, namely Stockton, Lodi, Manteca, Tracy, Ripon, Escalon, and Lathrop.

Under the project name Envision 2050, SJCOG is updating their 2022 RTP and SCS, a process undertaken every four years to inform a 30-year land use and transportation plan. In addition to identifying future infrastructure and housing investments, this process has a particular focus on sustainability. The plan must also outline how the region can meet federal and state air quality standards and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The project team used MetroQuest as an essential component of their public participation plan for this comprehensive initiative.

The Envision 2050 survey sought input from the community on priorities for the region’s future, focusing on four different scenarios for how the region could grow:

  1. Stay the Course
  2. Remake Centers & Corridors
  3. 20-minute Neighborhoods
  4. Commuter Villages

The survey, offered in English and Spanish, shared information on the different scenarios through short videos and gathered feedback on residents’ level of agreement to each overall scenario and a series of features for each scenario.

The survey successfully gathered input from over 400* participants and provided valuable data to inform which scenario(s) and strategies would be recommended to the SJCOG Board for the 2022 RTP/SCS.

Learn more about Envision 2050 and view the survey results on SJCOG’s project website.


Anatomy of a Comprehensive Land Use Survey: Gathering Feedback on Future Scenarios

Upon opening the survey, visitors are greeted with a video, embedded front and center on the screen. The video explains how input will be considered and introduces the initiative. This unique approach allows the survey to remain light on text while still providing important background information.

This approach of starting with a video is particularly advantageous if your project requires a bit more extensive background information up front, and is generally a good practice to include in the Welcome Screen which delivers the first impression of the survey to visitors. Most people are more likely to click on a video rather than read a wall of text, increasing the likelihood of visitors continuing to Screen 2 of the survey!



Like many MetroQuest surveys, participants are introduced to the interactive part of the survey through a Priority Ranking Screen. This simple exercise asks participants to rank their top five of eight items. This activity is especially useful for long-range planning projects as it provides precise data on the priorities of the community. SJCOG’s survey asks for respondents to rank priorities such as improved public transit and more housing affordability among other topics. In many cases, it can be beneficial to include images next to each priority to make this Screen more welcoming and easier to navigate, as well as to appeal to visual learners.



Screen 3 utilizes MetroQuest’s unique Scenario Rating Screen format which provided a perfect platform for the project team to present all four possible future scenarios. Each of the four tabs on this Screen shares context and information through a brief video description of the scenario, arrow indicators showing how the scenario would impact the community, and a map presenting land-use changes. The most important piece on each tab is the five-star rating scale, where participants can rate whether the scenario addresses their priorities. The engagement team did several things very well on this Screen and on the Survey overall: we will discuss this in more detail later in this blog post.



Following the Scenario Rating Screen, participants are presented with the Strategy Rating Screen which in this case was used to rate various features of the four scenarios presented on the earlier Screen. By using the same consistent names for each scenario, this Screen transitions seamlessly from Screen 3, avoiding any confusion as can often be the case with surveys asking for feedback on various options. Each feature includes a sentence-long description to help explain the impact it would have on the community. You will notice that the images in the top right of this Screen retain the same branding from the videos on the previous Screen. The visual and language consistency throughout the survey is an excellent example of how well-executed, clear content can make a huge difference in helping participants understand a survey and provide valuable feedback.



The last Screen completes the survey with four simple dropdown questions asking for demographic information on income, race/ethnicity, age and gender. It also asks how participants heard about the survey, which can be valuable information to inform future engagement initiatives.



Try the survey yourself! Complete this demo version of the Envision 2050 survey to try the survey live. Your responses will not impact the survey results. Don’t forget to come back to this tab to keep reading the next section below where we share some helpful takeaways!


5 Tips from the Envision 2050 Survey: Engaging Videos and Consistent Content Makes all the Difference!

The project team successfully used MetroQuest to design a long-range comprehensive survey that was engaging and informative yet quick to complete. Long-range planning is complex and its materials wordy but the use of videos throughout helped participants make an informed decision before providing feedback. Additionally, planning for the future can often feel abstract and far away. To allow participants to better imagine the reality of each scenario, the videos included on the Scenario Rating Screen were narrated in the voice of someone from the future. These types of features are just a few examples of what set this survey apart and contributed to an overall interactive participant experience.

Here are 5 takeaways from this survey to keep in mind when you design your next survey:

  1. As mentioned above, this survey featured five embedded videos, all under one minute in length. The inclusion of videos eliminates the need for a significant amount of text, adding to the interactive and engaging tone of the survey. By keeping the videos short, the SJCOG team successfully ensured their survey remained quick to complete, increasing the likelihood of receiving high-quality feedback. Additionally, the inclusion of text in the videos allows the survey to remain accessible for the hearing impaired. Embedding videos is explained on our support website.
  2. Consistency was key with this survey! Since many participants learn about an initiative at the time of taking a survey, especially in this age of virtual engagement, it is crucial to keep terminology and naming consistent and simple to avoid any confusion. Consistent naming of the four scenarios throughout the survey and consistent branding with differentiated colors for each scenario helps tie everything together. These small design elements can be the difference between someone understanding the survey and providing accurate feedback or someone getting confused and giving up on the survey prematurely.
  3. One of the primary features of the Scenario Rating Screen (Screen 3 in this survey) and a unique feature of MetroQuest is the green and red arrow indicators that show how each scenario impacts the community differently. This survey makes great use of this feature by showing how every scenario would impact four important factors: reducing car travel, increasing transit ridership, reducing GHG emissions and more affordable housing. Participants could weigh their preference for each scenario by looking at whether the factors would be worse or better than today.
  4. Also on the Scenario Rating Screen, the project team included map images showing different zoning areas and boundaries for each future scenario. By utilizing a consistent map format that was sized and formatted the same way in each of the four tabs, participants can easily flip between scenarios to see how the map changes. This too helps participants identify which of the scenarios most aligns with the future they wish to see.
  5. The fourth survey Screen utilizes the Strategy Rating Screen, gathering ratings on several features for each of the four future scenarios. This Screen continued to use consistent naming and branding to ensure a smooth transition from the previous Screen and that respondents could differentiate between the options. Including concise, action-oriented descriptions for each feature allows for well-educated feedback and, subsequently, quality data!


Congratulations to the project team at SJCOG and Cascadia Partners for creating a fun and interactive MetroQuest survey! Their use of videos brought the future of the San Joaquin region to life and most importantly helped their team collect important community input.

For more great tips on how to make the most out of MetroQuest, contact our Customer Experience team or reach out for more information!


* This survey was a target of what is known as ballot-box stuffing, an infrequent but persistent issue where duplicate or fraudulent responses are submitted to skew results or increase changes of winning a monetary incentive offered to survey takers. In this case, it was likely the latter, as a $50 raffle was offered to participants. In total, over 4,000 participants interacted with the survey but many had to be filtered from the final data set, resulting in approximately 400 valid participants. If your organization is considering offering an incentive for your survey respondents, we recommend using local prizes that only someone in your community could use. We have found that non-location-specific rewards such as cash or a gift card to a nation-wide or online retailer often encourage ballot-box stuffing. Rest assured, if ballot box stuffing should occur with your survey, MetroQuest has steps to address it to ensure data integrity.


Want to learn more about how MetroQuest supports community outreach on your next transportation plan? Check out our recent webinar:

The Key TO Great Public Engagement Results:
How KYTC Engaged 8300+

The Kentucky Statewide Transportation survey collected more than 140,457 public responses and comments in just over a month! In this webinar, the team shares the complete process that led to this public engagement success.





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