[WEBINAR] Best Practices for Online Public Engagement for Transit Agencies
This highly visual webinar presents a series of best practices, tips and case studies to guide transit agencies towards the successful application of online public engagement for a variety of projects. You’ll learn about award-winning LRTP, Mobility Plans, Station Plans, NEPA/EIS, Corridor Studies, Transit Master Plans, TOD and participatory budgeting projects that successfully leveraged innovative digital engagement.
Below are the comments and questions from participants that were received during the Q&A session.
Q: What if the comments from the community are not financially feasible?
A: We often include financial constraints into MetroQuest for this very reason. People can come in with very unrealistic expectations and it is very useful to present real constraints into the engagement process to ensure that the participants are learning about these limitations and providing informed input. Take a look at some of the screen types that relate to funding and budgeting here. As one example, this project in Vancouver, Washington is clever. They ask people to choose a level of investment on screen 2 and then require them to raise enough funds to balance the budget on screen 4.
Q: How can we get maximum involvement with the minimum budget?
A: In general using some sort of online community engagement is more cost effective on a per participant basis compared with any of the face to face options. For online tools, I’d suggest looking at survey tools over crowdsourcing tools since they attract more participants. As far as online survey tools go, if you are focused on maximizing public involvement, MetroQuest currently has no peer, especially for transportation agencies. Since your goal is maximum involvement I would not suggest using a simple multiple choice survey tool. They simply don’t draw in participants in large numbers and likely won’t meet your goals. If you don’t have a great deal of budget and wish to conduct several projects per year you might be best off looking at an annual subscription which will allow you to keep your per project costs low while still taking advantage of results that you get with MetroQuest.
Q: Will the slides be available?
A: Yes indeed. They are posted here. I’m glad you found the material interesting.
Q: How much should one budget for the kinds of projects that were demonstrated?
A: We have recently started offering “all you can engage” annual subscriptions so many agencies are now using MetroQuest on multiple projects with no additional cost per project. That makes it a little more difficult to cite a specific per project fee. For agencies that use MetroQuest on a single project typically $12,000 is a reasonable budget number to have in mind. The precise fee depends on the scope of your project so it’s best to have a contact us for a quick chat about what you’d like to accomplish.
Q: What other software options are out there that are similar to MetroQuest
A: There are lots of tools but they are all very different than MetroQuest. We have found that it’s best to define the goals and needs of the project and then seek out a software solution to meet those needs. This site is fairly up-to-date and lists several options, each one with very different capabilities so to answer your question, it depends on what you mean by “similar.” There are no other tools that we are aware of that are as well-suited to transit planning as MetroQuest (e.g. that have the visual and interactive features that planners look for, educate participants about choices and tradeoffs, are designed to be fast and fun to use, etc). There are however several other online survey software options available such as SurveyMonkey. These tools offer basic survey functionality such as multiple choice questions so it’s unfair to compare them with MetroQuest that is specifically designed with the needs and goals of transportation agencies in mind. We have found that on average MetroQuest engages 7.5 times more participants compared with a simple multiple choice survey due primarily to its popularity among participants. I hope it is helpful.
Q: How can the needs of visually-disabled be accommodated?
A: There are several great ways to accommodate people with visual-impairment without compromising the appeal of the tool for other participants. This is a very important topic and MetroQuest is leading the charge to expand the accessibility of online tools. I have recently written a blog post on this topic for Planetizen magazine. Check back on our blog for a link to it. It should be released shortly.
Q: What role does door to door play?
A: Door to door is generally a last resort of most engagement plans primarily because it is so labor intensive. It can be a useful strategy for very localized projects such as station area plans but even for these plans, broader community involvement is often useful since people interested in station design could live and work in a much broader area.
Q: Do we work with rural clients?
A: Yes, indeed. Many rural areas have difficulties with face to face engagement due to the spread out nature of the population. With the increase in online shopping and social media, online participation among rural residents has been rising rapidly.
Thanks again for your interest and participation in this webinar.