In 2009, the District Department of Transportation began what, at the time, was a fairly novel way of interacting with the public over the state of infrastructure. What became known as “Pothole Palooza” was quite brilliant. The folks at DDOT told the public to “tweet” photos and the location of potholes and someone with the city would be out to fix it within 72 hours.
The novel approach to build an online campaign focused on a specific audience of younger adults who, according to research, are more likely to get behind the wheel after drinking or drugging.
“Far too many people still mix alcohol, drugs and driving. Young people, in particular, often don’t understand that impaired driving is a crime, and a serious one — and they also are less likely to buckle up,” said Acting Transportation Secretary Erica Borggren. “These same young people ages 21-34 no longer receive news through traditional means. We’re hopeful this new series will catch their attention and give them a reason to log on or check their mobile devices. When they do, they’ll be entertained — and most importantly, they’ll receive a life-saving message.”
Many different organizations have tried to raise the general public awareness for the current state of the nation’s transportation infrastructure. In March, the American Society of Civil Engineers updated its infrastructure report card, giving the United States a D+ grade and projecting a $3.6 trillion investment need.
While this report cast a net far beyond just roads and bridges, it represents the kind of “things are falling apart and we can’t keep up” messaging that is often used when discussing transportation system investment needs.
A new report from the Transportation Research Board‘s National Cooperative Research Program finds that, “Bringing about a change in attitudes toward highway maintenance and preservation actions will require thoughtful and ongoing communications campaigns by DOTs.”