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6 education about technical information, and collaboration The International Association of Public Participation among stakeholders, committee members, and government (IAP2) has developed a spectrum of levels of involvement agencies. Advisory committees also can be structured to that is widely used to describe the different levels of pub- seek out the viewpoints of traditionally underserved popula- lic impact and goals (see Figure 2). The spectrum generally tions and can be a mechanism for ensuring that community assigns CACs to the "collaborate" level, though advisory input is considered throughout the process. committees more broadly defined could fall in the full range of categories from "inform" to "empower." In some cases, advisory committees meet with the intent of hearing infor- Defining Citizen Advisory Committee mation and sharing it with their community ("inform") or providing individual input and feedback ("consult"). It is CAC (citizen advisory committee) is commonly used in fed- important to develop a committee with an understanding of eral guidance and public involvement handbooks describ- where it fits in the spectrum and communicate that role to ing public involvement tools, but these advisory committees the public (6 ). composed of community members go by many names, including the following: Community Advisory Committee Stakeholder Working Group Community Task Force Stakeholder Advisory Committee Public Input Committee Public Involvement Committee Stakeholder Sounding Board. FIGURE 2 IAP2 Spectrum of Public Participation. Source: IAP2, 2007 International Association for Public It is important to name committees carefully to ensure Participation. www.iap2.org that the name correctly describes the committee's purpose and level of authority. For instance, a committee charged with decision making would not be called an advisory com- Literature Review mittee. For the purposes of this synthesis report, the term "advisory committee" will be used to describe the wide A limited body of literature is related to the structure, orga- range of committee types with a mainly, but not exclusively, nization, and management of advisory committees. Much of community-based membership that provides input on tran- the writing about advisory committees is intended to guide sit planning and operations. practitioners in implementing advisory committees rather than assessing their effectiveness or reporting on their out- Advisory committees are defined by FHWA and FTA as comes. This literature review summarizes standard prac- "a representative group of stakeholders that meets regularly tices for forming and managing advisory committees found to discuss issues of common concern" (4). The AASHTO in guidebooks and highlights key findings about advisory Center for Environmental Excellence further describes an committees from professional and academic literature. advisory committee as a "representative group of project stakeholders from the community that meets regularly with Membership the study team in a forum that allows for interactive discus- sions" (5). Because they can be used alone or with other Advisory committees generally composed of members rep- public involvement techniques, advisory committees have resenting organizations such as neighborhood associations, been used widely to achieve community input for transpor- environmental groups, business groups, advocacy groups, tation planning decisions (2). FHWA and FTA have identi- and local agencies, among others (5). Ideally, members of fied the following core characteristics of community-based advisory committees could function as a liaison between advisory committees (2): the communities they represent and the project team. To be effective, however, it is important that an advisory committee Interest groups from the project study area are consist of a balanced and representative group of stakehold- represented ers. This can be difficult to measure, since what constitutes Meetings are held regularly "balanced" and "representative" can vary depending on the Comments and participants' points of view are scope of the project, issues to be addressed, and the range of recorded affected stakeholder groups (5). Consensus on issues is sought, but not required The committee is assigned an important role in the Members of advisory committees generally are selected process. either by special invitation or through a competitive applica-

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7 tion process (5). The former generally involves inviting a Continuity: Agencies and committee members are diverse and balanced group of affected stakeholders to serve provided with the opportunity to meet with the same on the committee. The latter usually involves publicizing the community members over time. committee's purpose and responsibilities, then asking inter- Depth: Issues can be discussed with community mem- ested individuals (often those who attend public meetings) to bers in more depth and detail, which allows for more submit a resume and statement of interest (2). Regardless of technical information to be shared and incorporated the selection process, however, special attention to recruit- into the decision-making process. ing minority and low-income populations is usually neces- Education: Stakeholders have the opportunity to sary to ensure appropriate representation (5). hear and learn from differing points of view and can increase the understanding of issues. Not all stakeholders are community members; com- Collaboration: The formation of relationships over mittees sometimes include representatives of public agen- time supports and encourages stakeholders to engage cies such as resource agencies or local governments. The in collaborative problem solving. FHWA/FTA handbook, Public Involvement Techniques for Transportation Decision-Making, calls the inclusion Hence, advisory committees are an ideal way to involve of agencies on advisory committees "highly desirable" the public in addressing issues that require expertise and because it encourages dialogue between community mem- sustained community attention over time (4 ). However, bers and government representatives (2). advisory committees have certain drawbacks and are not appropriate for every situation. The primary drawbacks of Organization advisory committees include the following (2): The organization of advisory committees varies widely in Exclusivity: By virtue of being representative, an formality and committee autonomy. According to Public advisory committee cannot represent all viewpoints. Involvement Techniques for Transportation Decision-Making, Size limitations and the difficulty of reaching minority meetings are sometimes run by a chairperson, with assistance and low-income populations mean that outcomes may from agency or MPO staff. In other cases, advisory commit- be skewed. tees are managed and facilitated by staff or consultants and Transparency: An advisory committee can seem to either do not include a chairperson or include a chairperson be manipulated by a government agency unless the who serves as an external spokesperson for the committee process is open and transparent; all information needs with limited responsibilities at meetings. to be shared with the general public. Size limitations: An advisory committee is less use- Holding premeetings at which agenda and materials are ful for large regions with many stakeholders because developed and providing information to committee mem- a committee with more than 20 to 30 members can bers ahead of time increase the effectiveness of meetings (2). become unwieldy. To be effective, all committee mem- If a chairperson is included, he or she could be part of the bers need to have the opportunity to participate in meeting planning process. Alternate meeting formats such discussions. as retreats, workshops, or site tours may advance the advi- Group dynamics: Stakeholders with opposing points sory committee's purpose (5). Although reaching consensus of view may refuse to consider each other's ideas. is the goal of many advisory committees, when consensus Members who believe they are being coerced or patron- cannot be reached, identifying and reporting stakeholder ized may withdraw from full participation. Agency and positions and divergent viewpoints to decision makers has MPO staff, frustrated by failing group dynamics, may value (2). A typical meeting agenda covers the following not adequately support members. items (2): Resources: Advisory committees can be costly and resource intensive because they require a significant Introductions and welcome of newcomers amount of staff time to run well (4). Opportunity to amend or review the agenda A discussion of agenda items Some researchers note the potential for conflict in advisory Presentations of specific information, as necessary committees as a risk. This tension between stakeholders and Identification of consensus on each item on outstand- competing interests can be a benefit to the process, however, if ing issues on each item. it helps to illuminate the trade-offs between different courses of action. Though agencies and MPOs sometimes see dis- Benefits and Drawbacks of Advisory Committees agreement and divergent opinions as a failure of the advisory committee process, recognition of agreement where it exists, As a public involvement tool, advisory committees offer places where viewpoints diverge, and the reasons stakehold- both benefits and drawbacks. The primary benefits of advi- ers hold different views can be as informative to the ultimate sory committees include the following (5): decision makers as a consensus-based recommendation.

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8 For an advisory committee to be successful, regardless Business Impacts of whether members can agree on outcomes, it is important that the choice to use an advisory committee is appropriate The Utah Transit Authority (UTA) formed a Community for the particular transit issue at hand. Given the benefits and Coordination Team (CCT) to determine how to spend funds drawbacks of advisory committees, several factors might be designed to reduce construction impacts on local businesses. considered when deciding whether to use an advisory com- (7 ). In Phoenix, Valley Metro's Community Advisory Board mittee. Generally, advisory committees are effective public (CAB) monitors construction activities and provides input involvement tools when the following conditions are met: on the size of the contractor's bonus (7 ). Valley Metro's CAB is described further in chapter four of this synthesis report. A policy, plan, or project is being developed on a local or regional scale (4). Public Relations Technical information is sufficiently complex to require consistent attention and involvement to make UTA's CCT speaks directly to the media about the status of a meaningful recommendation (4). the project. This practice has resulted in an improved pub- Stakeholder input is needed during a well-defined time lic perception of the project since information comes from period (4). community members rather than the transit agency (7 ). In The advisory committee has a clear role in providing Portland, Oregon, TriMet formed a Community Relations input to the decision-making body (5). Team (CRT) to act as a liaison between the community and Community buy-in is needed for a controversial TriMet during construction of a light rail project. The CRT project. resulted in a high level of trust between TriMet and the com- Opposing stakeholders could benefit from the opportu- munity, as well as an "unprecedented" level of commitment nity to hear each other's views and problem solve in a to each other's goals (8). collaborative environment (5). Environmental Justice In situations that meet some or all of these conditions, advisory committees allow local agencies and opposing While not a transit agency, the experience of the Illinois stakeholders to work together over time to better understand Department of Transportation (IDOT) in rebuilding the Dan complicated technical information, address differing opin- Ryan Expressway through a racially segregated, primarily ions early in the process, and develop the relationships needed low-income section of Chicago is instructive in the ways to engage in sustained collaborative problem solving. that advisory committees can help agencies involve under- served communities. IDOT used a range of innovative public Examples of Advisory Committee Involvement at Transit involvement techniques to restore trust in the community. Agencies One of these techniques was to form a task force of commu- nity leaders responsible for reviewing designs and providing Transit agencies are using advisory committees on a wide feedback on community issues. The use of the Citizen Task range of projects. This synthesis report offers a snapshot of Force, in combination with other techniques, restored trust those practices through questionnaire responses and case and allowed the project to move forward (9). studies. In addition to the case studies developed for this synthesis, several case studies from published literature highlight interesting or innovative uses of committees.