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Suggested Citation:"3 Strategic Communications Toolkit." 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:"3 Strategic Communications Toolkit." 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:"3 Strategic Communications Toolkit." 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:"3 Strategic Communications Toolkit." 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:"3 Strategic Communications Toolkit." 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:"3 Strategic Communications Toolkit." 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:"3 Strategic Communications Toolkit." 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:"3 Strategic Communications Toolkit." 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:"3 Strategic Communications Toolkit." 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:"3 Strategic Communications Toolkit." 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:"3 Strategic Communications Toolkit." 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:"3 Strategic Communications Toolkit." 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:"3 Strategic Communications Toolkit." 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:"3 Strategic Communications Toolkit." 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:"3 Strategic Communications Toolkit." 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:"3 Strategic Communications Toolkit." 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. | 6 3 Strategic Communications Toolkit Strategic communication, particularly with respect to building public support for a transit priority project, is by no means a formulaic exercise. Any successful strategic communications program will be tailored to meet the needs of unique public audiences, and will incorporate different communication methods in order to do so. Nevertheless, the research into strategic communications conducted for this report indicates that there are steps cities and agencies can take to improve their communications efforts. The toolkit outlines many of the important planning and implementation steps that cities or transit agencies should consider when putting a strategic communications program into action. It highlights decision-making needs, discusses the efficacy and reach of potential communication methods, identifies common challenges, and discusses typical factors for success. It also provides examples of effective strategic communications approaches from the transit-priority projects studied for this report. Ultimately, it makes clear the need for a coordinated, multi-faceted approach to strategic communications in order to meaningfully engage the public. This toolkit is intended to inform, rather than prescribe, the strategic communications process. It should be used as a guide for agencies at the outset of a transit-priority project, particularly for those unaccustomed to implementing strategic communications efforts. It is not intended to serve as a rigid structure or template for a strategic communications program, and cities and agencies should adapt its lessons to their local and project-specific contexts.

TCRP J-11/Task 29 | Final Report Strategic Communications to Improve Support for Transit-Priority Projects Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates, Inc. | 7 STRATEGIC COMMUNICATION SOLVES PROBLEMS Project Conception Transit-priority project identified as best solution End Goal Successful implementation of the project Potential Opposition Public, political, or media opposition to a project can derail it, or substantially alter desired outcomes. Strategic Communications Strategic communication about the purpose, details, and development process of a project can help avert the negative consequences of intense opposition. Transit-priority projects are substantial endeavors that alter the transportation status quo. They promise risks and rewards. Effective communication throughout a project can ultimately build community support.

TCRP J-11/Task 29 | Final Report Strategic Communications to Improve Support for Transit-Priority Projects Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates, Inc. | 8 DECISIONS FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS What are the goals? What needs to be communicated? Who are the audiences? How will communications be conducted?  To inform  To engage  To persuade  To gather information  Design concepts  Rationale  Technical information  Schedules  Opportunities  Outcomes  The general public  Locally impacted stakeholders  The press  Government figures  Internal departments  Managed internally  Assisted by a third party/consultant  Managed by a third party/consultant Stakeholders want to know why, how, when, and where a project is occurring. Agencies must understand their role in communications, and have clear responses to stakeholder concerns. Transit agencies must identify and plan for content for the duration of the communications effort, taking project context into account. It is critical to understand who the most important audience(s) is to ensure that communications are effective, particularly if there is opposition to a project. Transit agencies may, or may not, be equipped to conduct strategic communications. Sometimes, external communications consultants may be helpful.

TCRP J-11/Task 29 | Final Report Strategic Communications to Improve Support for Transit-Priority Projects Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates, Inc. | 9 COMMUNICATION METHODS: OVERVIEW Central to any communications strategy are the methods of communication used. Transit agencies have a broad range of communications strategies at their disposal. Certain strategies are more effective at reaching a targeted audience in a more involved manner; others are more appropriate to provide information to a wide audience. Specialized Printed Material Le ve l o f En ga ge m en t Social Media E-Blasts News Media Flyers W id e A ud ie nc e M od er at e A ud ie nc e Ta rg et ed A ud ie nc e Online Survey Agency App Website Formal In-Person Outreach Informal In-Person Outreach Publicity Event In-Person Survey

TCRP J-11/Task 29 | Final Report Strategic Communications to Improve Support for Transit-Priority Projects Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates, Inc. | 10 COMMUNICATION METHODS: EXAMPLES News Media  Segments on local television or radio  Articles in local newspapers  Press releases E-Blasts  Informative, often graphic, emails sent routinely to everyone on a dedicated project mailing list Flyers  Single or multi-page informational brochures distributed at meetings, public places, or sometimes online Social Media  Graphic or text informational updates posted to social media channels  Surveys or polls hosted on social media platforms  Events advertised on social media platforms  Engagement in public conversations taking place on social media Website  Dedicated project website containing overview and in-depth information on all aspects of a project  A web page dedicated to a project, within a larger transit agency or city website Specialized Printed Material  Coffee table books containing project information  On-street information signage to communicate with people passing through a project area App  Transit agency applications, normally for ticket purchasing or scheduling, can provide informational updates on a project, and may even be used for engagement Online Survey  Online survey can be created and evaluated using third party software, and distributed to participants as a URL link In-Person Survey  In-person surveys are typically conducted by transit agency, city, or third-party personnel, at a project site or public event relating to a project Publicity Event  Ribbon cutting or policy signing ceremony  Participatory design events, for example to design bus stop murals  Naming competitions Formal In-Person Outreach  Public project meetings  Community workshops  Public walking tours Informal In-Person Outreach  Transit agency or city participation in a public event in order to inform and consult stakeholders: − Neighborhood association meeting − Business group meeting − Religious organization event − School event

TCRP J-11/Task 29 | Final Report Strategic Communications to Improve Support for Transit-Priority Projects Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates, Inc. | 11 EVALUATING COMMUNICATION METHODS Strengths Weaknesses News Media  Project marketing opportunity  Ease of leveraging positive media relationships  Free / low cost  Low level of public engagement  Time limited broadcast  Potential for narrative spin E-Blasts  Easy to implement  Branding opportunities  Real-time information  Low level of public engagement  Time commitment to build an effective database of emails Flyers  Branding opportunities  Tangible source of information for less digitally connected audience  Difficulty of providing real-time updates Social Media  Opportunities for engagement  Branding opportunities  Real-time information  Easy to implement  Competition for audience’s attention  Potential audience mistrust of information Specialized Printed Material  Potential to leave a lasting impact on audience  Implementation costs and challenges Website  Opportunities for engagement  Real-time information  Branding opportunities  Easy to implement  Potential cost of implementation  Transit agency or city may not be capable of internal implementation & management App  Multiple functionalities  Opportunities for engagement  Branding opportunities  Relatively small potential audience  Potential cost of implementation  Transit agency or city may not be capable of internal implementation & management Online Survey  Valuable source of information  Easy to implement  Low participation risk In-Person Survey  Opportunity for meaningful engagement  Valuable source of information  Time consuming implementation Publicity Event  Potential to leave a lasting impact on audience  Potential to build enthusiasm  Implementation costs and challenges  Competition for attention in the news cycle Formal In-Person Outreach  Opportunity for meaningful engagement  Valuable source of information  Low participation risk  Small or medium-sized potential audience Informal In-Person Outreach  Opportunity for meaningful engagement  Valuable source of information  Low participation risk  Small or medium-sized potential audience

TCRP J-11/Task 29 | Final Report Strategic Communications to Improve Support for Transit-Priority Projects Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates, Inc. | 12 STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS GUIDE What needs to be communicated? How to communicate it: Background Basic descriptive information on a project Provide information on a project’s need, purposes, and planning/construction process primarily via websites as well as email blasts, social media posts, and news media articles. Status Updates Brief outlines of minor project developments and schedules Provide quick, informative updates on social media, websites, email blasts, and apps. Be transparent about project status updates at all times. Major Project Events Significant construction or project-related disruptions Advertise and host informative public meetings and participate in third-party meetings and distribute printed informational material where appropriate. Provide recurring reminders via email blasts, social media, and websites in the run-up to an event. Public Engagement Involving stakeholders in decision making Consult with stakeholder groups at public or third-party meetings. Consult with individual stakeholders formally or informally at public meetings. Carry out surveys online, with surveys advertised at meetings, online, and through third-party partner organizations. Whenever possible, offer exciting ways for stakeholders to participate in project decisions, through efforts like hosting naming or design competitions for stations. Milestones Significant achievements or project completion Broadcast positive information on project milestones via websites, email blasts, and social media. For greater impact, conduct celebratory events such as ribbon cuttings, signing ceremonies, or press conferences. Emphasize project benefits to key decision makers and the public.

TCRP J-11/Task 29 | Final Report Strategic Communications to Improve Support for Transit-Priority Projects Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates, Inc. | 13 OBSTACLES AND CHALLENGES In conducting strategic communications for major projects, transit agencies commonly deal with issues of limited informational reach, low levels of interest or participation, lack of public trust, and poor communication coordination. Lack of interest or participation from the general public is a common obstacle to project communication efforts. Low participation in meetings or surveys and low levels of online uptake inhibit transit agencies’ ability to communicate with broad and representative audiences. Inconsistent messaging can harm the efficacy of project communication efforts. When agencies poorly coordinate message content or delivery, they risk confusing stakeholders and losing their trust. Inconsistent message is particularly problematic when projects go off-track. Internal obstacles such as a lack of support from decision makers or insufficient funding, limit the quality and scope of communication strategies transit agencies can afford, as well as their ability to make communication programs a central part of a project.

TCRP J-11/Task 29 | Final Report Strategic Communications to Improve Support for Transit-Priority Projects Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates, Inc. | 14 LEARNING FROM EXPERIENCE Transit agencies have tried and tested the communication methods listed in this toolkit. Their experiences with some of the most popular methods, outlined here, provide an informal overview of what works and what doesn’t. Transit agencies report widespread use of social media as a messaging tool, but less as a tool for engagement. Most transit agencies find that social media is effective in communicating with the general public, but many have not used it to target specific stakeholder groups. Nevertheless, social media is becoming more useful as a tool for engagement, and transit agencies should attempt to integrate social media more fully into communications efforts. Social Media In-Person Outreach Websites Transit agencies continue to use public meetings, street canvasing, and community group events to communicate and engage with specific stakeholder groups such as businesses, religious congregations, school communities, and neighborhood associations. Often, specific stakeholder groups form the greatest opposition to transit-priority projects and when agencies have engaged with them in-person, they have been able to soften, if not reduce, hostility and anxiety directed towards a specific project. For high profile transit-priority projects, it is standard practice for transit agencies to create a dedicated project website, or a project-specific page on their main website. Agencies tend not to view websites as their most important method of communication, but continually point to web-based sources of information throughout project lifecycles. Websites thus act as central points-of-reference for all stakeholders, and are important in communicating the greatest amount of information possible.

TCRP J-11/Task 29 | Final Report Strategic Communications to Improve Support for Transit-Priority Projects Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates, Inc. | 15 ADDITIONAL FACTORS FOR SUCCESS Successful strategic communications involve more than just the implementation of the methods outlined in this toolkit. Transit agencies point to several other factors as being important to the overall success of any communications effort. Effective Communication Methods Dedicated Communications Staff Transit agencies point to the presence of communications specialists on staff, or hired as consultants, as important to the overall success of strategic communications. Dedicated staff can concentrate their full attention on communications coordination and can evaluate and alter strategies as a project progresses. Multilingual staff are especially helpful in reaching all communities. Project Context Transit-priority projects may not always occur in supportive contexts, but they bring real benefits to many stakeholders. Where possible, transit agencies should pursue projects in supportive environments but when opposition arises, communications efforts should emphasize project benefits and work with supportive stakeholders. Stakeholder Management Transit agencies should identify and involve key stakeholders early in a project’s lifecycle, or even before a project entirely. One of the most common obstacles to successful communications is a lack of trust between transit agencies and stakeholders that stems from limited interaction. Funding Dedicated funding for project communications, as opposed to periodic allocations for communications from a general project budget, helps improve the scope and quality of communication methods transit agencies have at their disposal. It also allows communications staff to reliably plan and implement communications strategies.

TCRP J-11/Task 29 | Final Report Strategic Communications to Improve Support for Transit-Priority Projects Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates, Inc. | 16 EFFECTIVE STRATEGIC COMMUNICATION EXAMPLES Outreach Material Project Overview Brochure - CMAX Cleveland Avenue BRT In Columbus Ohio, the Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) produced a high quality project overview brochure to provide stakeholders with key information about the CMAX Cleveland Avenue BRT project. The brochure effectively conveys important information on the project’s funding, schedule, and physical infrastructure. Crucially, the brochure is graphically engaging and includes maps and images which, at a quick glance, help to illustrate the nature of the project. Graphic documents such as this are useful, digitally and in print, in quickly and comprehensively explaining a transit priority project to any potential audience.

TCRP J-11/Task 29 | Final Report Strategic Communications to Improve Support for Transit-Priority Projects Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates, Inc. | 17 Multi-lingual Outreach - Alum Rock / Santa Clara BRT In San Jose California, the Santa Clara Valley Transit Authority (VTA) produced its outreach material in multiple languages, including Spanish, Chinese, Cambodian, Vietnamese, and Tagalog, to communicate with as many Santa Clara County communities as possible. Multi- lingual materials such as these help cities or transit agencies engage with immigrant communities and though their impact may be relatively small, any engagement at all can be an important signal of commitment to a community. Multilingual outreach is particularly important where non- English speakers make up a significant portion of transit riders, and thus are potential beneficiaries of transit-priority projects.

TCRP J-11/Task 29 | Final Report Strategic Communications to Improve Support for Transit-Priority Projects Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates, Inc. | 18 Digital Engagement Project Website – 16th Street NW Bus Lanes Project URL: https://www.16thstreetnwbus.com/ As part of its strategic communications effort for the 16th Street NW Bus Lanes Project in Washington DC, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) created a dedicated project website. The website serves as a central point of reference for all aspects of the project, and provides an overview of the project as well as information on public engagement, scheduling, and key project contacts. Videos of public meetings are posted to the website, making it a valuable resource for stakeholders unable to participate in public events. The website is easy to navigate, relatively simple, and clearly branded.

TCRP J-11/Task 29 | Final Report Strategic Communications to Improve Support for Transit-Priority Projects Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates, Inc. | 19 Social Media Outreach – L Taraval Rapid Project The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) tweeted about the L Taraval Rapid project before and during project implementation. The tweet below advertised the benefits of the project in December 2016, prior to project implementation. The Tweet included a simple rendering of a platform boarding zone, a key element of the project. Basic visual elements such as this help make social media communication more effective by quickly illustrating the nature of transit-priority concepts. The Tweet also directed readers to an article outlining the project on SFMTA’s website, providing interested readers a more in-depth explanation of the high-level information shared on social media. Tweet Online Article High level

TCRP J-11/Task 29 | Final Report Strategic Communications to Improve Support for Transit-Priority Projects Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates, Inc. | 20 In-person Engagement Meeting with Individual Stakeholders along a Project Corridor – L Taraval Rapid Project During its outreach efforts for the L Taraval Rapid Project, SFMTA identified local merchants along the project corridor as a key stakeholder group who were concerned about the impact of the project, an enhancement of LRT infrastructure, on on-street parking. SFMTA met with many of them informally and individually through neighborhood canvassing. SFMTA outreach staff met with merchants in their business and along the project corridor, rather than only at public meetings. This approach was labor intensive for SFMTA, but helped reduce the amount of public opposition to the project brought forward by local merchants. SFMTA emphasizes the need to build trust as part of any communications effort, and views informal in-person meetings as an effective means of doing so.

TCRP J-11/Task 29 | Final Report Strategic Communications to Improve Support for Transit-Priority Projects Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates, Inc. | 21 Key Takeaways Communications with stakeholders and decision makers can improve the implementation and acceptance of transit-priority projects. Getting communications right can be challenging, and to do so, transit agencies need to have the right expertise, employ appropriate communication methods, and prioritize communication throughout a project. Plan Ahead Key questions should be asked to identify the goals for a communications effort at the beginning of a project. Planning communications strategies in advance allows transit agencies to be proactive, not reactive, in addressing stakeholder concerns. Value Expertise Internal agency staff can be empowered as dedicated communications experts, or communications consultants can be hired. Dedicated communications staff are key to coordinated communications over the life of a project. Use Appropriate Methods There are numerous methods of communication at an agency’s disposal. Many are effective at reaching a large audience, but those that reach a small audience can be far more engaging. Good communications strategies use different methods to both inform and engage stakeholders. Anticipate Participation Challenges Stakeholders may not respond favorably, or significantly, to strategic communications efforts. Low participation in outreach efforts or low responsiveness to messaging campaigns is common and in spite of such challenges, good communications efforts can still reach the most important audiences and help improve the overall delivery of a transit priority project.

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TRB’s pre-publication draft of 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. The toolkit is designed to serve as a guide for cities and transit agencies to effectively implement communications strategies for transit-priority projects and is derived from the findings of project research.

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