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Suggested Citation:"Section 2 - Research Approach." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Strategic Communications to Improve Support for Transit-Priority Projects: Report and Toolkit. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25506.
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Suggested Citation:"Section 2 - Research Approach." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Strategic Communications to Improve Support for Transit-Priority Projects: Report and Toolkit. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25506.
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4 S E C T I O N 2 The research for TCRP Project J-11/Task 29 was conducted in surveys and interviews with transit agencies. Through these means, the research team sought to understand which communication strategies and activities have, and have not, been successful in engaging the public during the delivery of transit-priority projects. This report includes a review of survey results and presentation of six project case studies that were informed by follow-up interviews with survey participants. Appendix A lists all transit agencies and cities that were contacted, surveyed, and interviewed. Research Approach Transit Agency/City Surveys Transit Agency/City Interviews Case Study Write-Ups Transit Agency/City Survey In August 2018, the TCRP Project J-11/Task 29 research team issued an online survey to transit agencies that had implemented, or were in the process of implementing, strategic com- munication plans for transit-priority projects. The survey was designed to collect quantitative and qualitative information on a variety of subjects including project background, communi- cations strategy initiation and intent, outreach methods, channels of communication, strategy evaluation, and perceived successes and challenges. The survey also asked respondents to upload relevant documents and web links. Appendix B contains a sample survey. Prior to distribution, the research team compiled a list of known transit-priority projects and appropriate transit agency and city contacts. The research team considered well-known examples in larger regions and specifically sought out less high-profile projects, including those in smaller regions. In compiling the list, the research team also considered the following project factors: • Variety of communication platforms used (e.g., websites, social media, traditional media, etc.) • Online presence • User-friendliness of communications • Messaging clarity • Consistency of branding and format of materials The survey was distributed to a total of 24 agencies regarding 29 different projects (some agencies had more than one transit-priority project). Of the 24 survey recipients, 21 represented regional or local transit agencies, 2 represented local municipalities (City and

Research Approach 5 County of Denver), and 1 represented a non-profit public benefit corporation (Portland Streetcar, Inc., is a non-profit public benefit corporation that manages Portland Streetcar). Follow-up emails were sent to contacts that did not respond promptly. To increase the response rate, the survey close date was extended from late August to September 2018. In total, 13 responses to the survey were received—a response rate of 54 percent. While the survey allowed responses for up to two projects, all respondents provided feedback on only one project. Survey results are summarized in Section 5. Transit Agency/City Interviews Following the Transit Agency/City Survey, the research team conducted phone interviews with survey respondents to develop a more nuanced understanding of how transit agencies conducted strategic communications efforts and what elements of their efforts were effective or ineffective. Interviews with survey respondents allowed for more open-ended conversa- tions to take place and gave respondents the opportunity to share more detailed information on the implementation and outcomes of their strategic communications efforts. Appendix C contains the instrument that served as a guide for interviews with transit agencies. Questions were designed to build on survey responses and included discussions of the following: • Project initiation, goals, and anticipated outcomes • Costs • Public perception • Specific branding and messaging tactics that resonated well • The different tactics used for different audiences • Successes, challenges, and lessons learned • Program evaluation Case Study Write-Ups Of the 13 respondents that completed the survey, 6 responded to requests for follow-up inter- views. Interviews were summarized and used to create case study write-ups on the respondent agencies’ respective transit-priority projects. These case studies provide an overview of the plan- ning, implementation, success, and shortcomings of respondents’ strategic communications efforts and offer more nuanced insights into the respondents’ perspectives on their own com- munications approaches. Case studies are presented in Section 4.

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Transit-priority projects seek to improve transit service quality and mobility and to increase transit ridership.

The TRB Transit Cooperative Research Program's TCRP Research Report 208: Strategic Communications to Improve Support for Transit-Priority Projects: Report and Toolkit presents and analyzes the communication approaches used by cities and transit agencies in the delivery of transit-priority projects and the factors that make certain approaches more or less effective.

Some of the findings include: identify key stakeholders early in the project planning process, develop a coordinated strategic communications plan that targets stakeholder groups, and commit to strategic communications throughout a project life-cycle.

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