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Suggested Citation:"6 Conclusion." 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.
Page 52

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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. | 50 6 Conclusion The survey and interview research conducted for this report reveals how cities and transit agencies are using strategic communications to build support for transit-priority projects, and provides some insight into the factors that have contributed more or less successfully to these strategic communications efforts. Survey research indicates that many agencies that are employing strategic communications are doing so to inform and educate broad public audiences, more so than to engage targeted stakeholder groups. Accordingly, they lean towards methods of communication that reach broad audiences such as websites, social media, and formal public meetings. They often employ third- party communications experts to assist with strategic communications, but few agencies evaluate their communications programs. Paradoxically, most cities and agencies view highly engaging communications strategies as more important and effective than those that reach the broadest audiences. They largely cite clear messaging and the establishment of public trust as the key factors in successful strategic communications, and point to the absence of these as some of the most common challenges. Interview research with a select group of cities and transit agencies suggests reveals that they pursue different communications strategies with varying levels of success, but that all effective strategic communications efforts require detailed planning and commitment on the part of an organization. Those organizations that experienced the greatest success identified key stakeholder groups early in a project process, and targeted them in their communications work. They focused on messaging clarity and simplicity, and sought to emphasize the benefits of transit-priority projects in a transparent and consistent manner. Interview research consistently indicates that highly engaging, often in-person, outreach has the most positive influence on the perception of transit-priority projects. All transit-priority projects face challenges. Interview and survey research indicates that cities and agencies frequently encounter a lack of public trust, and struggle to build support for transit- priority projects with communities unfamiliar with their potential benefits. Low levels of public participation is likely a more common communications challenge for cities and transit agencies as outright public opposition to a project. The findings of this research, and the toolkit presented in Section 3, should make clear that good strategic communications can help overcome these challenges. The basics of strategic communication, as discerned from this research effort, are relatively straightforward and when well-planned and implemented, communication can enhance the numerous benefits of transit- priority projects.

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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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