Public input in the planning and implementation of transportation projects is a vital part of the project planning and development process for agencies responsible for our transportation system. But with today’s ever-increasing time constraints, taking time out to attend a meeting in person can be difficult.
The Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI), working with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA), recently developed a virtual open house website as an online forum for the general public to learn about possible improvements to the Oak Hill Parkway project in Austin, Texas. The initiative was funded by TTI’s Rider 42 project (see the center spread of this issue).
“We are always looking for ways to improve and enhance public participation in the planning process,” says TTI Associate Research Scientist Tina Geiselbrecht, manager of the Public Engagement Planning Program at TTI (see sidebar). “A virtual open house allows individuals to learn about the project on their own time.”
The Oak Hill Parkway website featured nine project concept videos produced by TTI and narrated by TxDOT and CTRMA personnel. After registering, users were able to watch the videos and then offer comments and suggestions for each concept. The opportunity to chat in real time with others on the site and with the project development team was a unique feature of the virtual open house.
Judging by the early surveys, users were mostly positive about the ability to communicate via the comfort and convenience of their laptops or mobile devices. The next step for the team is to add enhancements for the next virtual open house.