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19 CAC has 24 members. If the meetings become unwieldy, A related lesson has been the importance of good facili- subcommittees are formed to deal with specific issues of tation skills. According to Becklund, the facilitator "must concern. These subcommittees meet in small groups with always be prepared to artfully deal with uncooperative per- agency staff and the technical committee to work through sonalities on the committee that can threaten to disrupt the each issue in more detail. process." While it is good to include all viewpoints on the CAC, one or two members would not be allowed to monopo- The CAC chair facilitates meetings with assistance from lize the CAC and make the work for the whole committee TriMet's Community Affairs staff. Staff members are trained longer than it needs to be. in facilitation techniques and serve as liaisons between the CAC and the technical agency staff. Meeting agendas gener- TriMet has learned to be proactive about recruiting ally are developed by the agency staff. diverse membership. Although TriMet generally has been successful at recruiting diverse CACs, it has been a chal- In the decision-making process, CACs set consensus as lenge to reach minority groups that are underrepresented in the ideal toward which they strive; however, recommenda- government processes. They have learned the importance of tions are not entirely consensus based. According to Beck- forming CAC memberships composed of peer-level groups, lund, the committee usually uncovers all of the issues that even if that means having multiple groups providing input on need to be addressed throughout the meeting process. At a single project (e.g., a technical advisory committee, citizen times, one-on-one conversations between staff and commit- committee, and a business advisory committee). tee members and breakout sessions are necessary to help the group resolve important issues. If consensus cannot be Overall, the use of CACs in the transit planning process has reached, however, committee members generally note the been highly beneficial for TriMet. According to Becklund, majority and minority viewpoints and move on. CACs act as an "early warning" system and notify agency staff of a potential crisis before it erupts. Additionally, they Innovative Practices give CAC members the opportunity to talk, express their concerns, and understand the process better. CACs establish One of the unique strengths of the CAC program is the inter- a public record of citizen involvement and serve as a living agency coordination between TriMet and Metro that allows document of how project decisions were made. According some members to serve for the duration of the project plan- to Becklund, this kind of citizen involvement is what allows ning and construction process, regardless of which agency TriMet and Metro staff to "build better projects." is in the lead. For example, a TriMet community affairs staff member is assigned to a project during the alternatives analysis phase, which may come years before TriMet takes King County Metro Transit, Seattle, the lead on a project, and a Metro public involvement staff Washington: Recruiting for Diversity and person will continue to be involved in project outreach dur- Institutionalizing the Role of Advisory ing the design phase. This integration provides community Committees members with continuity of relationships and ensures that commitments made during one phase of the project are not Agency: Metro Transit lost during an agency transition. A single staff person might be involved with a project for 3 or more years, creating an Contact: Betty Gulledge-Bennett, Communications Manager opportunity for that staff person to develop deep relation- ships with stakeholders and a nuanced understanding of the Committee: Ad Hoc Sounding Board for Service Changes communities along the corridor. TABLE 7 Lessons Learned KING COUNTY METRO TRANSIT SOUNDING BOARD HIGHLIGHTS Throughout the CAC process, several lessons have emerged Members 10 to 15 members that can provide valuable insight for public involvement prac- Open application process based on titioners. One of these lessons is the importance of encourag- Selection process recruitment matrix ing members to share their views, as well as to listen to the Authority level Group recommendation views of others and to look at the project as it relates to the community as a whole. Often CAC members are driven to Reporting Reports directly to County Council and advocate for one issue in particular [property rights, Ameri- relationships executive cans with Disabilities Act (ADA), etc.], which can lead to committee conflicts and stalemates. King County Metro Transit is the public transit agency in King County, Washington, that provides bus and rideshare

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20 services to more than 1.7 million residents within the county Each sounding board defines its own decision-making and provides bus service that links local communities to the process as part of setting committee guidelines. Consensus or regional Sound Transit system. Metro Transit operates a fleet modified consensus processes generally are used. According of about 1,300 vehicles within a 2,134-square-mile area. To to Gulledge-Bennett, many of the most important decisions accommodate frequent changes to the transportation net- have occurred through an iterative problem-solving process work within this large service area, Metro Transit schedules over a series of meetings to consider the total impacts on a three regular transit service changes per year. To involve the community of a proposed service change. public in these changes, Metro Transit involves CACs, called sounding boards, to provide input on the proposed service Sounding boards are composed of approximately 10 to 15 changes and make recommendations to the King County community members selected through an open application Executive and King County Council, the governing body of process according to a detailed recruitment matrix of spe- the transit agency. cific demographic traits. Community members representing all likely viewpoints are sought, including representatives In 1993, the King County Council passed an ordinance from the transit-dependent community, diverse ethnic adopting a Community Outreach Model for the County groups, affected businesses, civic organizations, freight Department of Transportation. This Community Outreach interests, the disabled community, and neighborhood asso- Model included CAC concepts and institutionalized the ciation members. According to Gulledge-Bennett, the size use of sounding boards in Metro Transit's service change of the committees is about right; having 10 to 15 members is planning. Before this change, community outreach had large enough to allow a diversity of viewpoints, while simul- been inconsistent and service changes sometimes were taneously keeping the meetings manageable. met with public resistance and frustration. The adop- tion of the Community Outreach Model represented an Sounding boards often include members who have lim- acknowledgment of this problem by the County Council ited experience interacting with government processes. To chair and reflected a new philosophy of public engagement orient these new members, Metro Transit offers a Transit within the agency. Planning 101 Orientation Program that provides an over- view of the service planning process. New members receive The use of sounding boards has become an expected part a notebook with important reference materials, the contact of the public involvement process. Sounding board members information of key agency staff, the project work plan, and are respected within the community and their recommenda- the project schedule. tions are welcomed by the County Council. The sounding boards incorporate feedback from the broader community To evaluate the effectiveness of the sounding board, Metro into the service update process and ensure that the County Transit staff ask committee members for feedback during Council that their recommendations have been fully vetted meetings and make changes, as needed, on an ongoing basis. with the community. According to Gulledge-Bennett, working with the sounding boards has been a continual, beneficial learning process for Advisory Committee Approach Metro Transit, because "the sounding board members know their communities better than the agency staff do." Metro Transit includes a sounding board in its public out- reach plan for all service changes. The role of these commit- Innovative Practices tees is specified by the County ordinance that adopted the Community Outreach Model in 1993. They provide input on According to Gulledge-Bennett, the detailed recruitment proposed transit service changes and alert Metro Transit and process that Metro Transit engages in for each committee is the King County Council of any issues on the ground they "labor-intensive, but worth it." The benefit of a thoroughly might not have been aware of otherwise. Sounding boards vetted recruitment process is that members are "commit- are established on an ad hoc basis and disband once they ted, intelligent about transit operations and policy matters, develop their proposal. engaged in the civic responsibility process, and respected by the County Executive and the County Council." The group's recommendations are presented to the Metro Transit general manager, the King County executive, and Having a formal advisory committee structure adopted the King County Council. Their input is also used by Metro by local county ordinance in place for more than 15 years Transit staff and project managers on a regular but less for- that is formalized in the County Department of Transpor- mal basis. At the end of the process, members present their tation's Community Outreach Model lends legitimacy to recommendations directly to the County Council. Recom- the use of advisory committees in King County. Sounding mendations are advisory in nature; however, their input is boards are a respected part of the decision-making process, taken seriously by decision makers. and their input is highly valued by the King County execu- tive and County Council. Additionally, the standard format