Skip to content U.S. Department of Transportation/Federal Highway AdministrationU.S. Department of Transportation/Federal Highway Administration
Office of Planning, Environment, & Realty (HEP)

Public Involvement

VI. What Techniques Can Be Used for Involving the Public?

To participate effectively, people need a variety of ways to receive information from the tribal government and a variety of ways to give their input. Also, different segments of the population require different public involvement techniques. This section describes some public involvement techniques. 2

Figure 3 is an example of a public hearing announcement.

Figure 3: Public Hearing Announcement. March 23, 2006 - Newcomb Chapter House. Information Packet. Navajo DOT, New Mexico DOT, FHWA, BIA. US 491 North Corridor Study from Sheep Springs (MP 46) to Navajo 13 (MP 84.7)

Public Hearings

Public hearings are official meetings held to present information to the public and to get the public's comments on the topic of the hearing. There are two general approaches to public hearings:

Figure 4: Public Notice Requesting Comments on Transportation Program. Click on link below for full image description.

Figure 4. Public Notice Requesting Comments
on Transportation Program

Public Notices

Public notices are announcements of upcoming public events, meetings, or hearings. Generally they are printed in a broadly distributed publication such as a newspaper. They might also be provided to community groups for publication in their newsletters, church bulletins, posters, and other special interest publications.

Public notices describe where the public can view event-related materials, when and where the meetings will be held, how to submit comments about the meeting topics, and who to contact with questions. It should also contain information deadlines and on activities such as submitting comments, receiving responses to comments; or adding an item to the event's agenda. Figure 4 is an example of a public notice requesting comments on the Tribe's transportation program.

Mailing Lists

Mailing lists are a staple of most public involvement programs. They include names and addresses of recipients but may also include e-mail addresses, telephone and fax numbers, and other information that makes it possible to contact people a variety of different ways. Mailing list are used throughout planning and project development to keep the public informed about transportation planning activities by sending newsletters, status reports, and information about upcoming transportation or public-involvement activities.

Squaxin Island Tribe, Washington

The Squaxin Island Tribe published results of two transportation surveys and asked the public for comments on Tribe's list of transportation projects. In doing this, the Tribe was able to provide its members and readers of its newsletter the status of its transportation planning activities.

  • As part of the long-range transportation plan update, Squaxin Transit conducted a two-week survey of bus riders. The results helped the tribal leaders prioritize projects including future transit operations and improvements.
  • The proposed list of improvement projects over the next 20 years was also included in the newsletter. Planners asked readers to comment on this list and on other projects in the community for Tribal Council consideration.
  • To help Tribal Council establish top transportation priorities, a "game" was held at a General Body meeting. At the Transportation Planning table, people learned about Squaxin's long-range transportation planning process and project list. Each participant received three stickers-each representing $10,000-to use to mark their top transportation priorities. The results of this game will be considered when the Tribe finalizes its transportation planning.

Klah-Che-Min Newsletter, June 2008 Issue, Pages 9-10

Public Information Materials

Public information materials are a useful form of communication in any public involvement process. Below are some other examples of where public information can be provided:

Focus Groups

A focus group is a tool to gauge public opinion. Participants usually represent a cross-section of the community. They are small, no more than about 15 participants. The format can be an open discussion about specific issues or scripted questions and narrow answers. An important feature of focus groups is that they are convened to address only a small number of specific topics that are determined in advance.

Focus groups are generally used early in the planning process to learn about issues and concerns that should be considered in developing transportation plans. They provide planners with valuable insight into the attitudes and values of the community. This information can help define transportation goals, policies, programs, and services; and help guide the allocation of resources.


Presentations can be used to address the unique needs of a specific segment of the community. Individual or group can request presentations or Tribal planners can take the initiative to make presentations to specific affected groups or individuals.

Presentations are used to share information and can help educate the audience about the transportation planning process and key decision points. Presentations can also be used to explain transportation options, provide status updates, and share information about anticipated impacts. This is particularly important for controversial projects or plans.

Other Techniques and Strategies

There are a variety of other techniques and strategies that tribal planners can consider in conducting their community outreach activities:


Public involvement is a continuous activity, not a one-time event. A successful public involvement process means that the public is well informed and energized about the transportation planning and decisionmaking processes. The public wants to be both a useful partner and an ally in the transportation decisions that help shape their community. This relationship must be carefully nurtured and maintained with information flowing between tribal planning staff and their constituents and public on a routine basis, beyond the end of any single public involvement event or effort.

Blackfeet Tribe, Montana

In 2000, the Blackfeet Tribe received money from the Indian Reservations Roads program to develop a long-range transportation plan. The Tribe hired a consultant who spent a year collecting data, holding public meetings, and conducting other activities to understand the Tribe's needs. Initially, the public meetings were sparsely attended. The consultant realized that a non-traditional approach was needed.

The Tribe was very effective in attracting a large number of people to this meeting, primarily through personal invitations. After breakfast, meeting participants watched the video, "Pathways to Tomorrow." This video, developed by the Kalispell Tribe, helped the participants understand the planning process by showing how transportation improvements can enhance the Tribe's quality of life. After the video, the consultant distributed maps and asked participants to identify what they wanted to see with respect to the Tribe's transportation system. Participants identified issues and then reserved time to meet individually with the consultants.

Transportation Planning Capacity Building Program - Peer Roundtable Report

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

2. USDOT FHWA/FTA Public Involvement Techniques for Transportation Decision Making, August 2002, (back)


Updated: 5/8/2015
HEP Home Planning Environment Real Estate
Federal Highway Administration | 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE | Washington, DC 20590 | 202-366-4000