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EFFECTIVE PUBLIC INVOLVEMENT USING LIMITED RESOURCES SUMMARY The purpose of this synthesis is to document the state of the practice and identify effec- tive public involvement using limited resources. A survey instrument with 40 open-ended questions was created that addressed the project, additional panel concerns, and potential factors that influenced the quality of public involvement. The survey was conducted dur- ing detailed telephone interviews with 31 individuals (100% survey response rate) from 26 agencies that included 11 departments of transportation (DOTs), 11 metropolitan plan- ning organizations (MPOs) (also known as an area development district, a council of gov- ernments, a regional planning commission, a metropolitan council, an area council, and a regional commission), 2 transit agencies, and 2 local governments. The interviews were conducted between October 2008 and April 2009 and took 35 to 90 min to complete. The agencies were located in 19 states and had service areas with populations that ranged from 82,000 to 33,000,000. This study documents the experiences of these individuals and their agencies in the appli- cation of effective and cost-effective strategies and implementation techniques used to engage the public in the development of transportation plans and projects, as well as strate- gies that were found to be ineffective. It also captures each respondent's own definition of successful, effective, and cost-effective public involvement. As using limited resources was a major consideration, the respondents were also queried on how they quantified the cost of public involvement and what measures of effectiveness they employed. Synthesis responses revealed a general state of the practice. Although there appeared to be no clear-cut definition of public involvement responsibilities nor how these were to be carried out, interviews revealed similarities and differences in how DOTs, MPOs, transit agencies, and local gov- ernments conducted public involvement. Four public involvement subareas stood out: Organizational structure, Staffing, Cost quantification, and Process. A summary of the findings relative to these topics is provided here. More detailed responses on these questions and others that address contributing factors can be found in chapter three. The literature review of publications and websites highlights processes and provides examples for identifying the public, tailoring an approach to that public, and imple- menting a plan that reflects the abilities and constraints of that public to participate in public involvement. The surveys showed that there are similarities and differences in conducting public involvement among DOT respondents, among MPO respondents, and between DOT and MPO respondents. However, most respondents agreed that the definition of successful public involvement implied reaching a typical set of the population, acquiring informed consent from the public, providing equitable access to decision making and offering opportunities to provide input that is carefully considered when the transportation deci- sions are made, acquiring a better decision than what you set out to do, and getting mean-

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2 ingful input that results in a plan that reflects the priorities of the community. However, there are some differences in opinion as to the definition of effective public involvement, where DOT respondents noted that it cost whatever was necessary, and MPO respon- dents reported that it is money spent on human resources. Best practices reported (tools, techniques, and examples of their use) show that some agencies are creatively engaging in effective public involvement using limited resources, and many of the examples cited the processes and examples that the literature review identified, including: Utilizing the Internet and intranet; Using visualizations; Holding the meeting in the right place, on the right day, at the right time; Leveraging relationships; Playing interactive games; Taking the time to sit and listen; and Using public involvement programs. Based on the literature review and survey responses, the following several areas can be highlighted as among those needing to be addressed to achieve, maintain, and improve suc- cessful, effective, and cost-effective public involvement: Public involvement is a continuing process that is a continuing part of every project and more than simply the logistical requirements that surround a public hearing. A public involvement specialist who has the appropriate professional background and/or work experience necessary to identify the demographic characteristics of the population, understand the implication of those characteristics on the public's abilities and con- straints to participate in public involvement activities, design a public involvement plan tailored to that population, and estimate the cost of implementing that public involve- ment plan, as an integral part of the process. Measures of effectiveness that focus on outcomes such as reflecting the community characteristics and values as opposed to process issues such as the distribution of a cer- tain number of newsletters. Staff training needs, both internal and external, attendance at conferences, use of webi- nars, in-house mentoring on a continuing basis, and building a library with publications, guidance, plans, and manuals that foster best practices. The capacity to create and utilize visualizations, videos, the Internet, the intranet, and social networking. Relationships with community-based organizations, faith-based organizations, citi- zen advisory committees, and related type organizations to improve piggybacking opportunities. Transferability of programs that have been created, tested, and used by others. The following topics were identified for future study: Skill set necessary for a public involvement professional. Skill set necessary for consultants to be certified or prequalified to perform public involve- ment outreach. Internal and external training needs for public involvement staff members. Process to quantify the cost of public involvement. Ways for agencies to adapt to emerging changes and continuing trends in socioeconomic demographic characteristics and communication technologies. Public involvement process to identify, understand, and accommodate the public or publics within a given study area. Transferability of "successful" processes and strategies used by others, such as effec- tive transportation decision making and a community characteristics program. Consequences of not defining effective and cost-effective public involvement.