It’s the holiday season and a time to take stock and be thankful for the year that has passed and, in turn, to look ahead in anticipation for what is still to come. It is with that spirit that I offer up a few items that, as a transportation communicator, I wish for in 2015.
1. Let’s start with one of the biggest hopes for a new year. I’m dreaming of a new way to help the public – and in turn, elected officials – think about transportation investments.
This blog has tried to highlight some of the extra efforts we’ve seen in this area. In 2013, we profiled Colorado DOT’s “CDOT Calculator,” which shows people how much they actually spend on transportation taxes each year. Even more, the calculator explains how that contribution was invested. Recently, we mentioned Michigan DOT’s “reality check” approach, which tackles common assumptions head on. Both tap into a desire to personalize the message so that taxpayers feel a greater connection with their transportation.
The American Road & Transportation Builders Association’s “Transportation Makes America Works” campaign takes a different tack, opting to emphasize the economic benefits of transportation that lead to a greater quality of life and security.
But so far, regardless of the approach, we in the transportation industry at the local, state, regional and national levels have not captured America’s attention. Neither crumbling potholes, nor aging bridges have helped.
What will be the answer? Will it come in 2015? We have no choice but to continue trying.
2. Perhaps one way to grow support for transportation investment is to do a better job at involving the public. And, in 2015 I wish for a better way to know if we’re doing a good job at public involvement.
We have known for some time that measuring public involvement is not an easy task. One special interest group can overwhelm a public meeting, or crash an email inbox with form letters. Calculating the breadth of ideas that are offered throughout an involvement process provides a range, but it gives no weight to how the broader community thinks. And, how can we tell if we’ve really engaged the entire community of potentially impacted parties? Work in this business long enough you realize there are the “vocal” and then there are the “voice-less.” Our job is to work for all of them.
So, I hope for some better metrics, new and creative ways of approaching public involvement that builds upon the years of hard work and passion of those who work in this specialty area – mostly because they have faith that it matters a great deal.
3. With so much transportation need, it is hard to believe that there is not greater unity among transportation interests. Yet, as if we live out a long-told story, sides are chosen based on modal preferences, construction methods, financing and revenue options, and favored technologies.
It is probably too naive to wish for greater partnership and collaboration across modes – especially among the communicators – but that indeed is my hope for 2015. I’ve personally admired so much great work of passenger rail and transit planners, bicycling enthusiasts, ridesharing proponents and safety advocates. Maybe through greater collaboration we can finally see some success in telling our story.
So that’s my list. I bet it’s shorter than you guessed it would be. Did I forget something? Are there things you wish for transportation in 2015?
Maybe more investments in safety messaging?
How about more staff to manage growing social media responsibilities. Or, maybe you dream of a day when engineers and program experts – as a collective community of practice – embrace communications for the value it provides transportation?
Yes, those could have made the 2015 list. But then I thought, why drag this out when the top three items seem so overwhelming?