Talking Engagement: Research Report for Transportation Social Media and Public Involvement

Full disclosure, the report was requested by AASHTO’s Center for Environmental Excellence, and I work for AASHTO. The research was conducted through the National Cooperative Highway Research Program and I served as one of the research reviewers. And, finally, the research was conducted by Parsons Brinckerhoff’s Eileen Barron, with whom I recently co-presented a session at the International Association of Public Participation’s North American conference, and former Missouri Department of Transportation Communication Director Shane Peck, also of Parsons Brinckerhoff.

– Lloyd Brown

There is a new research document available online that transportation planners and communicators should consider adding to their reading list. The report, “Potential Use of Social Media in the NEPA Process,” attempts to fill in the knowledge gap between how most transportation agencies utilize social media tools and how the tools might be used in an environmental planning and public involvement process defined under the National Environmental Policy Act.

The report takes on the laborious effort of defining social media in a practical way, so as to establish a context for the overall discussion. It goes on to analyze the current state of practice by transit agencies, planning organizations and transportation departments at the local, regional and state levels. The document also includes case studies and — perhaps most of helpful — a guidance resource for project managers, environmental task leads and public involvement staff working on an environmental permitting and planning project.

The “Suggested Practices Guidance Resources” includes a checklist of considerations and helpful tips for how to develop and executive a social media program in support of a public involvement process.

Additionally, the report’s authors created an interactive tools matrix that helps practitioners identify the right tool for a specific purpose. For instance, if you are interested in crowdsourcing, the site walks the user through a variety of potential tools that can help gather crowdsourced data and input.

While the state of practice related to social media and public involvement will no doubt continue to evolve, this report should provide a framework for those concerned about moving too far or too fast along the path of implementing social media tools in formal processes.

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About Lloyd Brown

I am the director of communications for the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. I enjoy running marathons and triathlons, playing guitar and spending time with family. My professional interest is in how social media and new technology shapes the communication relationship between government and the general public. I have a Master’s degree in Communications and Leadership from Gonzaga University in Spokane and a bachelor’s degree in Communications from Washington State University.
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2 Responses to Talking Engagement: Research Report for Transportation Social Media and Public Involvement

  1. Susan says:

    Thanks for the informative post, Lloyd.

  2. Jody Litvak says:

    Glad to learn from others and also participate in this report sharing the efforts I lead at LA Metro for the Westside Subway Extension.

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