Community surveys can be a mixed bag in terms of effectiveness. Practitioners in planning, and transportation planning in particular, can have a difficult time catching the attention of their community when there are so many other things competing for their attention. But when done well, online community engagement can have a profound and meaningful impact on your project. With an eye toward the best examples of online surveys that achieved great results, let’s take a look at 4 different survey examples that will inspire your next transportation plan study. If you know what you’re looking for, feel free to jump ahead to the type of survey you need:
- Long Range Transportation Plan Survey
- Scenario Planning
- Metropolitan Transportation Plan
- Planning and Environmental Linkages Study
Planning Ahead: Survey Examples for Long Range Transportation Plans
Long range transportation plans are all about learning the growth patterns and opinions of the community now, and gathering insight into how projects can meet growing demands of the future. 3 elements to consider when developing an online survey for LRTPS:
- Gathering input early in the process. This will help generate interest and knowledge in the project, as well as help your planners identify community priorities.
- Maintaining communication with the surveyed population over time. This could be done through post-survey reports, announcements… or even a follow up survey.
- Giving context! Particularly because the results of the survey won’t be enacted for years to come, give context around existing plans, the latest update, and what you’ll do with the information afterward.
In Treasure Valley, located in Southwest Idaho, the Community Planning Association (COMPASS) foresaw rapid population growth in their area over the next 30 years, and thus needed a way to understand how their citizens were currently using the transit system, as well as fine-tune a transit option that would suit the population now, as well as while it grew. This survey example is actually a 3-in-1 example. COMPASS used a series of three surveys to first identify the public’s opinions on the future; get opinions on 4 scenarios derived from the results of the first survey; and finally do a deep dive into the scenario that proved most popular in the second survey.
Mobility Options: Survey Example for Route Scenario Planning
How do you show different scenarios to the community, while conveying all the pros, cons, and tradeoffs that need to be made for each one? Scenario planning can be complicated, especially when it comes to gathering public input and identifying the option with the most public support!
3 elements to consider when developing an online survey for scenario planning
- Showing the benefits and drawbacks of each option clearly. Your participants need to clearly understand the stakes.
- Cutting out irrelevant details for clarity. What details do participants need to know to make an informed decision?
- Anticipating additional options. Sometimes the community has different ideas for the region! Give participants a chance to provide input on their priorities in general.
Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) needed to ease the congestion around the city of Seminole, a major hub and important transportation corridor. The roadway provides access for the region’s agricultural industry as well as the energy sector, and faced mounting pressure and increased use. TxDOT wanted to gauge community properties and identify the best option out of the several that the agency had identified.
This survey example is a great one because it approaches the problem of conveying scenarios by giving participants two different activities to consider the same three scenarios. Take a look at the example survey below to see how that helps illustrate the options clearly and effectively.
Updating the Future Vision: Survey Example for Metropolitan Transportation Plan
Federal mandates around updating Metropolitan Transportation Plans (MTP) mean that this form of transportation planning can take up a lot of resources. Particularly with a public engagement element, a well–designed online survey can make the process easier.
3 elements to consider when developing an online survey for metropolitan transportation plans
- Setting expectations for participants. With regular plan updates necessary, creating routine or consistent engagement opportunities can improve participation rates over time!
- Efficiently utilizing resources. With the regularity of MTP updates, consider dedicating some resources into developing the skills and tools you’ll need time after time.
- Developing branding. If you’ll be regularly engaging the same community, it’s a good idea to establish a consistent and memorable brand—even if it’s just colors and a logo.
In Louisiana, the Capital Region Planning Commission (CRPC) in Baton Rouge focuses a large part of its resources on updating the Metropolitan Transportation Plan every four years. By regularly updating a vision of future transportation, they’re able to coordinate with local governments and key stakeholders to ensure that projects support existing priorities in the region.
This survey is beautifully designed, with well thought out placement of key information and interactive methods of gathering input. The team was familiar with the survey platform and used their expertise to build a very engaging survey, including a budget game to demonstrate resource tradeoffs, and a map to collect geospatial data around the region’s biggest transportation needs.
Environmental Factors: Survey Example for Planning and Environmental Linkages
With a focus on environmental aspects, Planning and Environmental Linkages (PEL) studies are a crucial part of transportation planning, particularly because of its impact on the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) environmental review process.
3 elements to consider when developing an online survey for PEL studies
- Establishing data requirements. As an inter-agency study, it’s important to keep on top of each agency’s particular data needs.
- Designing surveys with the outcome in mind. PEL studies have direct impact on how agencies plan transportation projects!
- Developing realistic timelines. Although PELs minimize duplication of efforts between planning and NEPA processes, the additional stakeholders involved can complicate deadlines.
The Michigan Department of Transportation, working with AECOM, created this survey for a PEL study around Grand Rapids and Wyoming. The purpose was to evaluate improvements for a section of the US-131 around the conditions and safety of the corridor, as well as local needs, community development and economic growth.
The survey was developed in response to comments received during the initial study process. The team used clever methods to maintain data integrity throughout the survey, including limiting certain answers to drop-downs or multiple-choice, and designing the complex questions to feel short and not-overwhelming.
For more information, the Federal Highway Administration has some excellent resources on the Planning and Environment Linkages page.
What types of surveys would you like to see examples of next? Let us know in the comments!
To learn more about using online surveys to support your next transportation project, contact us for more survey examples or watch our recent webinar on-demand:
The road to success with online surveys is part art and part science. This webinar explores both by unbundling the most successful MetroQuest surveys and what made them so effective!