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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. | 22 4 Case Studies This section presents case studies that emerged from survey- and interview-based research. Figure 1 lists the participating transit agencies interviewed. Figure 1 List of Transit Agencies Interviewed Transit Agency / City Location Project Name Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) Columbus, OH CMAX Cleveland Avenue BRT/Enhanced Bus Service District Department of Transportation (DDOT) Washington, D.C 16th Street NW Bus Lanes Project Portland Street Car, Inc. Portland, OR NE Grand Ave Transit Lane Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) Chicago, IL Regional Transit Signal Priority Implementation Program San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) San Francisco, CA L Taraval Rapid Project Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) San Jose, CA Alum Rock / Santa Clara bus rapid transit
TCRP J-11/Task 29 | Final Report Strategic Communications to Improve Support for Transit-Priority Projects Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates, Inc. | 23 KEY TAKEAWAYS Project Context Matters ï§ How well agencies communicate with the public depends on the perceived public importance of a project. Agencies feel that they can afford to forgo some strategic communications for less publicly significant projects. ï§ Transit agencies of all sizes demonstrate the ability to effectively implement strategic communications. Small agencies are as capable as large ones of developing innovative communications strategies. Plan Ahead ï§ The agencies who have succeeded most in terms of strategic communications have had more thorough communications plans in place from the outset of the project. ï§ Transit agencies with pre-determined strategic communications frameworks were able to more easily develop and implement communications plans. ï§ Transit agencies with dedicated communications staff appear to adhere to their communications plans more than agencies that task project managers with strategic communications. Multi-Faceted Implementation ï§ Successful communications programs use a wide variety of communication methods, and assess their efficacy as a project progresses. ï§ In-person or on-the-ground outreach appears to be more effective at addressing stakeholder concerns than online outreach. ï§ Online and postal communications are more effective at providing information on a project to wider audiences. The efficacy of social media is questionable. ï§ Outreach consultants are useful in development communications content and implementing outreach in the field, but do not appear to play important roles in strategic communications planning. Effectiveness ï§ Transit agencies appear not to routinely evaluate the effects of strategic communications according to clear metrics for success, but rather come to general conclusions about whether they reached out to a large enough, or targeted enough, audience. ï§ The biggest challenges agencies face, in terms of communication, are: â A lack of public trust in government, particularly in disadvantaged communities, and â Unawareness of the benefits of transit improvement projects both the general public and among some in the transport planning community. ï§ Agencies that acknowledge challenges like these from the outset of a project are more able to address them through strategic communications.
CMAX CLEVELAND AVENUE BUS RAPID TRANSIT Project type: Enhanced Bus Service Columbus, OH OperationalCentral Ohio Transit Authority Agency: Location: Status: BACKGROUND The Cleveland Avenue BRT/Enhanced Bus Service project was a COTA-led project to implement enhanced bus service along the Cleveland Avenue corridor in northeast Columbus using dedicated lanes, transit signal priority, stop consolidation, off-board fare collection, real-time arrival information, and other system upgrades. The project aimed to improve bus service and drive economic development in disadvantaged communities, and has now been fully implemented. COTAâs strategic communications aims were to inform the public, thank them for their cooperation, build excitement about the project, build ridership for future service, and consult local community groups and leaders on impacts and opportunities. PLANNING & OVERSIGHT Project strategic communications were overseen by COTAâs Public Affairs Administrator, who led com- munications efforts from the planning stage to project completion. In collaboration with its main consultant, COTA produced a communications plan that covered the entire project span. It also formed a stakeholder committee, made up of local companies and civic and religious leaders, to inform outreach procedures. COTA worked with outreach and project management consultants to conduct outreach and draw lessons from peer cities, particularly Kansas City. Funding for strategic communications came from the overall project budget. METHODS COTA expressed a desire to âgo above and beyondâ with project communications. Efforts included: â¢ Collaboration with HDR as both the primary project consultant and outreach consultant. â¢ Digital outreach via email blasts and on social media platforms and the main COTA website, which in- cluded a descriptive page on the CMAX project. â¢ Highly graphic brochures and mailers describing the project and key updates, including a branded post- card which was sent to every address along the project corridor (see example in Project Toolkit). â¢ A hotline to allow members of the public to communicate directly with the project team. â¢ Informal and formal public meetings at venues along the project corridor to engage with the general public and specific stakeholder groups. â¢ A coffee-table book to build a sense of pride in the project among individual key stakeholders. â¢ Publicity events including design competitions for new stations, a grant signing ceremony when project funding was secured, and a groundbreaking ceremony upon project completion. SUCCESSES & CHALLENGES COTA felt that strategic communications were highly effective overall, and helped increase community pride in the project. In particular, agency staff cited trust-building measures, such as the provision of a hotline, station design competitions, and community meetings as the most effective outreach methods. Online com- munications and mailers were less effective and some, such as email blasts, were discontinued due to lack of interest. The biggest challenge was building community trust in COTA, and communicating project benefits to a city unfamiliar with BRT. Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates, Inc. | 24
KEY TAKEAWAYS REFERENCES COTAâs successful implementation of the CMAX project was supported by robust strategic communications. The agency had a clear sense of purpose in its communications efforts, and used a range of measures to achieve high levels of community engagement. Its continuous project involvement, and the presence of a single strategic communications administrator, appears to have been key the overall high quality of project communications. Notably, COTA acknowledged its past communications shortcomings and worked to address them by involving and consulting, rather than simply informing, local stakeholders. Online & Print References â¢ CMAX Cleveland Avenue BRT Project Fact Sheet. COTA. Public Project Fact Sheet. Columbus, date unknown. â¢ CMAX Marketing & Outreach Plan: Pre-launch & Grand Opening Events. COTA. Internal Marketing Plan. Columbus, October 2017. â¢ CMAX is breaking ground!. COTA. Public Postcard Invitation. Columbus, 2016. Interviews & Surveys â¢ Outreach Director. (October 11th, 2018). Phone Interview. â¢ TCRP J-11 Strategic Communication: Online Transit Agency Survey - COTA. September 6th, 2018. Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates, Inc. | 25
L TARAVAL RAPID PROJECT Project type: Light Rail Lanes & Boarding Islands San Francisco, CA Under ConstructionSan Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Agency: Location: Status: BACKGROUND The L Taraval Rapid Project is part of the larger MUNI Forward effort, which aims to improve the overall safety and reliability of MUNI service. The L Taraval Rapid Project will upgrade Taraval with new transit boarding islands, transit only lanes, upgraded crosswalks, streetscape improvements, and modernization of sewer and electrical infrastructure. Through strategic communications, the SFMTA aimed to inform and consult project stakeholders, build public support for the project, and minimize disruption in a community unaccustomed to large infrastructure projects. PLANNING & OVERSIGHT SFMTAâs Outreach Department led project strategic communications efforts, which follows the transit agencyâs Public Outreach and Engagement Teams (POET) strategy. This process identified L riders, local merchants, residents, and elected officials as key targets for outreach. The strategic communication plan development and implementation was supported by outside firms that helped to craft outreach content and materials. Funding for project planning came primarily from Proposition K local sales tax revenue, which is overseen by the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA). Strategic communications costs were incorporated into broader project planning costs. METHODS Communication and outreach efforts included: â¢ Internal development of a communications plan in line with agency standards on outreach. â¢ Collaboration with outreach consultants Circle Point and Civic Edge on messaging. â¢ A dedicated project page within the SFMTA website, which acted as a central source of information and project updates. â¢ Email blasts and social media, which provided high level project information and updates, and links to more detailed online information (see example in Project Toolkit). â¢ Mailers to communicate high level project information with addresses along the project corridor, including a lengthy letter at the projectâs completion that was sent to all project area addresses. â¢ Flyers distributed on transit vehicles to alert transit riders to potential service changes and future project benefits. â¢ On-street posters to communicate with drivers and passers-through. â¢ Participation in neighborhood and merchant organization meetings, sometimes in other languages accord- ing to the audience, to communicate project details and engage with key stakeholder groups. â¢ Door-to-door canvassing along Taraval, particularly to engage local businesses in an effort to listen to, and allay, their concerns about the project (see example in Project Toolkit). â¢ Development of direct relationships with local city councilors whose support helped ensure smooth project delivery. SUCCESSES & CHALLENGES COTA felt that strategic communications were highly effective overall, and helped increase community pride in the project. In particular, agency staff cited trust-building measures, such as the provision of a hotline, station design competitions, and community meetings as the most effective outreach methods. Online com- munications and mailers were less effective and some, such as email blasts, were discontinued due to lack of interest. The biggest challenge was building community trust in COTA, and communicating project benefits to a city unfamiliar with BRT. Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates, Inc. | 26
Online & Print References â¢ SFMTA. 2017. âSFMTAâs POETS Outreach Program Receives IAP2 Awardâ. https://www.sfmta.com/blog/sfmtas-poets- outreach-program-receives-iap2-award Interviews & Surveys â¢ Outreach Specialist. (October 15th, 2018). Phone Interview. â¢ TCRP J-11 Strategic Communication: Online Transit Agency Survey â SFMTA. August 1st, 2018. KEY TAKEAWAYS COTAâs successful implementation of the CMAX project was supported by robust strategic communications. The agency had a clear sense of purpose in its communications efforts, and used a range of measures to achieve high levels of community engagement. Its continuous project involvement, and the presence of a single strategic communications administrator, appears to have been key the overall high quality of project communications. Notably, COTA acknowledged its past communications shortcomings and worked to address them by involving and consulting, rather than simply informing, local stakeholders. REFERENCES Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates, Inc. | 27
16TH STREET NW BUS LANES PROJECT Project type: Washington, D.C. Pre ConstructionDistrict of Columbia Department of Transportation Agency: Location: Status: BACKGROUND The 16th Street NW Bus Lanes Project is a DDOT plan to implement peak-hour, peak-direction bus lanes on a 2.7 mile segment of 16th Street NW from H Street to Arkansas Street. The corridor is one of the cityâs busiest, in terms of bus ridership, and dedicated lanes, stop consolidation, queue jumps, turn restrictions, and bus stop improvements, are intended to improve service reliability and quality. DDOTâs strategic communications goals were to inform the public of the purpose of, and need for, the project, and to keep stakeholders updated on project progress. Local advocates have long pushed for bus lane installation and DDOT expected to encounter minimal public opposition to the project. DDOT also aimed to involve citizens in some decision making processes by presenting different implementation options and altering plans according to stakeholder feedback. PLANNING & OVERSIGHT Strategic communications were overseen by the DDOT project team, who worked with project management and outreach consultants to craft communication materials and conduct on-the-ground engagement. The Communications Office of the Director also played a role in developing the communications strategy. Fund- ing for strategic communications was set aside within the project budget. METHODS Communication and outreach efforts included: â¢ Collaboration with outreach consultant NSpireGreen on outreach planning. â¢ A dedicated project website which acted as a digital hub for project information and updates (see example in Project Toolkit). â¢ Social media and email blasts, which provided high level project information. â¢ Formal community meetings and informal engagement with bus riders, conducted in multiple languages, where project staff discussed and evaluated design options with community members. â¢ Establishing a citizenâs advisory group, which included local ward councilors, to allow DDOT to liaise with key stakeholders. SUCCESSES & CHALLENGES DDOT feels that project strategic communications have been moderately successful. Through outreach, the department has presented complex transit planning concepts to a general audience and successfully garnered support for full-length bus lanes. DDOT has also been able to advertise the project to a range of stakeholders. It has successfully minimized overall opposition by drawing lessons from New York Cityâs experience with Select Bus Service, and working within a supportive community context for its first bus service enhancement project. However, DDOT has encountered public opposition to stop consolidation and overhead lane cameras, and opposition from non-transit departments within DDOT unaccustomed to priori- tizing transit, particularly on a narrow corridor. Bus Lanes & Queue Jumps KEY TAKEAWAYS As DDOT enters the implementation stage of this project, it has thus far used strategic communications to inform, and to a lesser extent involve, stakeholders. It has followed a relatively simple communications plan, but has encountered minimal opposition in part because planners chose to pursue the project in the context of local activism in support of bus lanes. The key to successful project communication has been a focus on clear communication with the community and key stakeholder audiences. Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates, Inc. | 28
REFERENCES Online & Print References â¢ 16th Street NW Bus Lanes Project. DDOT. 2018. https://www.16thstreetnwbus.com/about/ â¢ 16th Street NW Bus Lanes Project â Design Phase Public Meetings Boards. DDOT. 2017. https://sixteenthstbus.wpengine. com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Design-public-meeting-Combined-Board-Files.pdf â¢ 16th Street NW Bus Lanes Project â Online Open House. DDOT. 2018. https://www.16thstreetnwbus.com/wp-content/ uploads/2018/07/16th-St-Online-Public-Meeting-072718.pdf Interviews & Surveys â¢ Project Manager. (October 23rd, 2018). Phone Interview. â¢ TCRP J-11 Strategic Communication: Online Transit Agency Survey - DDOT. August 13th, 2018. Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates, Inc. | 29
REGIONAL TRANSIT SIGNAL PRIORITY PROGRAM Project type: Chicago, IL Partially CompleteRegional Transportation Authority Agency: Location: Status: BACKGROUND The Regional Transit Signal Priority Implementation Program is an effort to install transit signal priority (TSP) systems at roughly 500 intersections on 13 corridors in the Chicago area for bus routes operated by CTA and Pace. The RTA is leading the project and in cooperation with CTA, Pace, and other agencies, has already installed TSP on seven of the 13 corridors. Installation continues on at least two corridors. The RTAâs primary strategic communication goal was to inform RTA staff and peer agencies about the nature of the project. To a lesser extent, the RTA also sought to inform the wider public of the projectâs existence. PLANNING & OVERSIGHT As part of its overall project management, RTA produced a strategic communications report at the projectâs outset. This report led to the publication of a public brochure, but was thereafter largely ignored when RTA staff decided to refocus communications efforts internally and towards other agencies. In developing its strategic communications strategies, RTA worked with consultants and primarily drew from internal exper- tise. Funding was not specifically set aside for communications, and any communications work was funded as a general staffing cost out of the main project budget. METHODS Communication and outreach efforts included: â¢ Production of a communications report at the projectâs outset. â¢ Periodic consultation with the main project consultant, Metro Strategies, on communication issues. â¢ Production of a single brochure outlining the project details to the public. This brochure was published on the main RTA website, and shared by partner agencies. â¢ Informal outreach to other agencies and within RTA to provide information outlining the nature of TSP and its benefits in the relevant project areas. SUCCESSES & CHALLENGES The projectâs strategic communications efforts are viewed as having had a small but positive impact by RTA, though staff highlighted the important role played by CTA and Pace in advertising the project to the public. RTA felt that their brochure was successful in explaining the project, but emphasized that it sought not to publicly advertise a project that, ultimately, was being implemented by other agencies with greater com- munication expertise. Transit Signal Priority KEY TAKEAWAYS In this project, RTA played a managerial role, rather than an implementing role. Accordingly, its strategic communication efforts to the general public were relatively modest. Though RTA initially had strategic communication plans, it ultimately left public communications to the two agencies implementing the project, and focused on inter- and intra-agency strategic communications. This is indicative of a broad desire to limit public disclosures that are perceived as unnecessary to a projectâs success, and of the fact that transit- priority projects are often relatively new concepts even within agencies. Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates, Inc. | 30
REFERENCES Online & Print References â¢ Green and Go!. Project Factsheet. RTA. 2018. https://www.rtachicago.org/plans-programs/programs-and-projects/ transit-signal-priority Interviews & Surveys â¢ Project Managers. (October 8th, 2018). Phone Interview. â¢ TCRP J-11 Strategic Communication: Online Transit Agency Survey â RTA. August 23rd, 2018. Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates, Inc. | 31
N.E. GRAND AVENUE TRANSIT LANE Project type: Portland, OR Planning Complete Portland Streetcar Inc. Agency: Location: Status: BACKGROUND The Portland Streetcar experienced long delays along Northeast Grand Avenue, lengthening journeys by an average of 20 minutes. In order to reduce delay and improve efficiency, the NE Grand Avenue Transit Lanes Project sought to convert a travel lane on NE Grand Avenue into a business access and transit (BAT) lane complete with transit signal preemption, queue jumps, and barrier-separation. The dedicated transit lane would limit lane access to streetcars and buses only, and would allow right turns for vehicles turning into lo- cal businesses at two intersections. The communications effort primarily aimed to communicate the benefits of the BAT lane to local businesses. As of October 2018, project construction was delayed. PLANNING & OVERSIGHT Portland Streetcar, Inc., a non-profit public benefit corporation under contract with the City of Portland, is re- sponsible for managing the streetcar, including communications and outreach. Initially, the communications effort was data driven and sought to communicate the cost of delays internally. The communications plan identified target audiences and appropriate messaging for each. While the project did not have dedicated funding for communications, the cost for printing and staff time was minimal. METHODS Communication and outreach efforts included: â¢ Consultation with an outreach consultant to develop a communications plan, and to assist with graphic production. â¢ Formal and informal in-person outreach to local businesses along the project corridor, including consulta- tion of business associations. Messaging and meetings were tailored to communicate the projectâs need and benefits with nearby industrial stakeholders who were most affected. â¢ Social media outreach to provide high level information on the project to the general public. â¢ Coordination with local news media to advertise the project, its benefits, and key updates. SUCCESSES & CHALLENGES Communications efforts were seen as highly successful in raising awareness and support from businesses. In-person outreach was most effective because local businesses were the primary focus due to potential concerns from adjacent property owners with reduced building access. Awareness and support for the project were perceived to be moderate for transit riders and low for drivers. The main challenge was devel- oping appropriate messaging for drivers because the project would impact freeway-bound PM peak traffic. Portland Streetcar Inc. considered installing a freeway sign to explain the project. Transit-only Lanes & Queue Jump KEY TAKEAWAYS Portland Streetcar Inc. recommends transit-priority projects be supported by data and policy. Because the organization implements improvements that are successful from an operational perspective, outreach focuses on identifying audiences and issues that are adversely impacted rather than seeking feedback on whether projects should be implemented. Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates, Inc. | 32
REFERENCES Online & Print References â¢ When Transit Moves, Traffic Moves. Informational Postcard. Portland Streetcar. Date unknown. â¢ Monahan. R. (November 9th, 2017). Portland Streetcar Will Have Dedicated Eastside Lane for Heavy Traffic. Willamette Week. https://www.wweek.com/news/city/2017/11/09/portland-streetcar-will-have-dedicated-eastside-lane-for-heavy- traffic/ Interviews & Surveys â¢ Project Manager. (October 11th, 2018). Phone Interview. â¢ TCRP J-11 Strategic Communication: Online Transit Agency Survey â Portland Streetcar. August 2nd, 2018. â¢ TCRP J-11 Strategic Communication: Online Transit Agency Survey â RTA. August 23rd, 2018. Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates, Inc. | 33
ALUM ROCK / SANTA CLARA BUS RAPID TRANSIT Project type: Bus Lanes and Enhanced Bus Service San Jose, CA Implementation Complete Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority Agency: Location: Status: BACKGROUND The Alum Rock / Santa Clara BRT is a newly completed enhanced bus service route extending eastward from downtown San Jose. Through a combination of bus lanes, transit signal priority, high frequency service, and enhanced stations and vehicles, the project has improved bus service along a seven-mile corridor. The VTAâs strategic communication goals were to inform a wide array of stakeholders about project under- takings, and more directly consult with elected officials and stakeholders most directly impacted by the project. PLANNING & OVERSIGHT The VTA employed a dedicated public communications staff member to manage the projectâs community outreach plan. In devising the communications plan, the VTA identified residents and business along the project corridor, people driving through the project corridor, key public officials, and a wider general audi- ence as targets for outreach. The VTA assessed the amount, timing, and quantity of information necessary for each group and tailored communications tools to meet those needs. Funding for communications was set aside from the larger project. METHODS Communication and outreach efforts included: â¢ Digital communication of project information and updates to general audiences in the form of email blasts and newsletters, blog posts, social media posts, and a project web page within the VTA website. â¢ Communication of project details through traditional news media and internal newsletters. â¢ Multilingual overview view brochures distributed digitally and in-print (see example in Project Toolkit). â¢ Signage along the corridor and at bus stops to communicate with corridor residents, businesses, and transit riders. â¢ Formal public engagement, sometimes in other languages according to the audience, through VTA-led meetings and presentations to neighborhood and business associations to communicate project benefits and engage with concerned and upset stakeholders. â¢ Informal public engagement through door-to-door outreach along the project corridor with businesses, schools, and residents. â¢ Informal engagement with stakeholder groups including major event centers, churches, emergency ser- vices, and municipal staff. â¢ A marketing campaign to draw customers to businesses impacted by construction in order to minimize project opposition. â¢ Milestone celebrations to build enthusiasm for project successes and advertise project benefits. SUCCESSES & CHALLENGES Project construction was delayed, leading to significant dissatisfaction with the project among many local stakeholders. While communication efforts were extensive, VTA staff feel that they were inadequate in light of the project delays and associated impacts. They faced particular challenges in communicating construc- tion impacts in a timely manner when there were internal concerns over the legal repercussions of doing so. Furthermore, VTA staff felt that they lacked a strong rapport with the local community. Staff felt that the project would have benefitted from the presence of a field office and the creation of community working groups to help evaluate the efficacy of communications strategies prior to implementation. Bilingual com- munications also proved challenging for the project. Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates, Inc. | 34
Online & Print References â¢ Alum Rock â Santa Clara Bus Rapid Transit. Project Web Page. 2018. http://www.vta.org/projects-and-programs/transit/ alum-rock-santa-clara Interviews & Surveys â¢ Project Manager. (November 5th, 2018). Questionnaire Interview. â¢ TCRP J-11 Strategic Communication: Online Transit Agency Survey â VTA. August 20th, 2018. KEY TAKEAWAYS In implementing the Alum Rock/Santa Clara BRT project, the VTA had a far reaching strategic communica- tions program that was ultimately underprepared for major project disruptions. The VTA made initial efforts to communicate with, and engage, a wide array of stakeholders. When the project experienced construction delays, its communications methods were less effective at informing and involving those most affected, leading to dissatisfaction among local residents and businesses. The VTA recommends that agencies work closely with community groups throughout a projectâs life cycle, and pursue transparency even during difficult periods. REFERENCES Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates, Inc. | 35