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Suggested Citation:"2 Research Approach." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Strategic Communications Toolkit to Improve Support for Transit-Priority Projects. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25506.
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Suggested Citation:"2 Research Approach." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Strategic Communications Toolkit to Improve Support for Transit-Priority Projects. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25506.
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TCRP J-11/Task 29 | Final Report Strategic Communications to Improve Support for Transit-Priority Projects Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates, Inc. | 4 2 Research Approach The research conducted for this report is grounded in surveys and interviews with transit agencies that 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 final report includes a review of survey results and 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. TRANSIT AGENCY / CITY SURVEY In August 2018, the research team issued an online survey to transit agencies that implemented, or were in the process of implementing, strategic communication plans for transit-priority projects. Surveys were designed to collect quantitative and qualitative information on a variety of subjects including project background, communications 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 list considered well-known examples in larger regions, and specifically sought out less high-profile projects including in smaller regions. Compilation 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.2 Of the 24 survey recipients, 21 represented regional or local transit agencies, two represented local municipalities3, and one represented a non-profit public benefit corporation.4 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. 2 Some agencies had more than one transit-priority project. 3 City and County of Denver. 4 Portland Streetcar Inc. is a non-profit public benefit corporation that manages Portland Streetcar. Transit Agency Surveys Transit Agency Interviews Case Study Write Ups

TCRP J-11/Task 29 | Final Report Strategic Communications to Improve Support for Transit-Priority Projects Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates, Inc. | 5 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 conversations to take place, and gave respondents the opportunity to share more detailed information on the implementation and outcomes of their strategic communication 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:  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 Of the 13 respondents that completed the survey, six responded to requests for follow-up interviews. 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 planning, implementation, and success and shortcomings of respondents’ strategic communications efforts, and offer more nuanced insights into the respondents’ perspectives on their own communications approaches. Case studies are presented in section 4.

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TRB’s Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) Research Report 208 explores the use and effectiveness of strategic communications in building public support for transit-priority projects.

Transit priority projects are efforts to improve transit service, particularly in terms of speed and reliability, by prioritizing the movement of transit vehicles over automobiles.

The report analyzes the communication approaches used by cities and transit agencies in the delivery of transit-priority projects, and the factors that make certain methods more or less effective.

The report is structured around the presentation of a toolkit and the findings of research into strategic communications for transit-priority projects transit-priority projects. The toolkit is designed to serve as a guide for cities and transit agencies to effectively implement strategic communications strategies for transit-priority projects, and is derived from the findings of project research.

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