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Public Involvement

IV. What is Effective Public Involvement?

There is no single formula or approach to public involvement. Any open public involvement process should provide opportunities for the community to be involved during all phases of the planning and decisionmaking processes. For successful public involvement, planners should consider the public's comments and demonstrate how they influenced decisions or explain how they were otherwise addressed.

Figure 2. The Basic Steps of the Transportation Decisionmaking ProcessTransportation Decisionmaking Information Tools for Tribal Governments

Figure 2: The Basic Steps of the Transportation Decisionmaking Process. Click link below for complete description of image.

Navajo Transit System

While developing the Navajo Transit System Plan, the Navajo Tribe successfully demonstrated a comprehensive process for public involvement and for consultation with planning partners.

In developing the plan, Navaho Transit System conducted extensive outreach across three States and more than 100 Tribal chapters. This effort brought together transit riders; Tribal leaders; and representatives from both the Navajo Nation and the Bureau of Indian Affairs to collaborate on developing a long-range plan. The plan shows how the need for realistic need for regional and community transportation. It includes strategies for expanding mode choices and providing access to healthcare and employment for those living in remote, isolated areas with few transportation options. The Navajo Transit System Long-Range Transportation Plan received an honorable mention through the FHWA/FTA Transportation Planning Excellence Awards in fiscal year 2004.

- Navaho Transit System Long-Range Plan

Identify the Goals of Public Involvement

The first step in developing a public involvement process is to identify the goals of the process by asking, "What do we want to achieve by involving the public?" At a very basic level, the goal of public involvement is to inform the public about transportation planning activities and to receive input from the community about their transportation-related opinions, concerns, priorities, and needs. Other goals might include:

Once the goals are identified, planners should share them with the public so that people understand their role in transportation planning and the expected outcomes of their participation.

Fort Belknap Indian Reservation

The Fort Belknap Indian Reservation is located in north central Montana. It is home to the Gros Ventre and Assiniboine peoples. The Fort Belknap Tribal Government has been involved in strategic planning and goal setting since the 1940s. In the last 20 years, the Tribe has conducted seven strategic planning sessions. In 2002, they distributed a survey to the tribal community, asking:

  • What goals do you have for the Fort Belknap Tribes for the next three to five years?
  • What opportunities do you expect to see in Fort Belknap over the next three to five years?
  • What changes or challenges will Fort Belknap face over the next three to five years?
  • How well does communication flow within the tribe?
  • What type of infrastructure is most important and most necessary?

Based on the responses, a tribal executive committee created strategic planning goals and objectives to guide the tribes' development over the next few years. They then created an action plan that has been carried out by standing and working committees. The action plan spelled out tasks, assignments, responsibilities, deadlines, and follow-up activities.

Transportation Planning Capacity Building Program - Peer Roundtable Report

Long-Range Transportation Plans: The Experiences of Tribal Planners, November 2005

Identify the "Public"

The "public" is comprised of the entire community with all of its diverse interests and points of view. It also includes a range of groups within or adjacent to the community who are likely to be impacted by the transportation decisions that are made. Planners are encouraged to consider a wide range of public groups and individuals, such as:

It is often not practical to involve each individual within these groups. In these situations, it might be necessary to reach out to representative groups or group leaders who can speak on behalf of these special interests. Often special interest representatives can speak for segments of the population who might not otherwise participate in public involvement or those who have difficulty attending meetings or providing comments.

Lummi Nation, Washington

When the Lummi Nation was developing its transportation plan, one of the goals was to address people's frustration with the current state of Haxton Way-a major street connecting the city of Bellingham to the Lummi Ferry Dock. Commuters' felt that traffic moved too slowly, while the Tribe felt that traffic moved too quickly and was dangerous for pedestrians. To understand the issues facing the Tribe, the transportation planners spoke with Tribal elders, school bus drivers, the police, and youth groups. They created a chart of the stakeholders' input to identify common issues of concern. They also used accident data from the Washington State Police to map accident locations. Because of this careful and extensive information-gathering process, planners were able to address the concerns of both commuters and the Tribe. The planners identified a roadway location with a lot of crashes and a location where most of the crash fatalities were pedestrians. The key features that led to the success of this planning effort were making personal contact with each stakeholder group and coordinating with adjacent jurisdictions.

Transportation Planning Capacity Building (TPCB) Program - Peer Roundtable Report

Long-Range Transportation Plans: The Experiences of Tribal Planners November 2005


Updated: 5/8/2015
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