A Road to Reality: Taking Transportation Myths Head On

Longtime readers of this blog know that its focus is on the practice of communicating about transportation. This blog does not attempt to take on the politics of transportation.

Gov. Rick Snyder (left) and MDOT Director Kirk Steudle discuss transportation investment during a news conference. Photo courtesy Michigan DOT.
Gov. Rick Snyder (left) and MDOT Director Kirk Steudle discuss transportation investment during a news conference. Photo courtesy Michigan DOT.

However, in writing about one it is sometimes impossible not to include mention of the other. While that is perhaps the situation here, the interesting strategy behind a particular Michigan Department of Transportation communication effort is worth noting.

Continue reading “A Road to Reality: Taking Transportation Myths Head On”

Talking Transportation: Filling the pothole story

It’s the best time of year if you love baseball, but the worst time of year if you own or drive a car. Yes, major league baseball players are enjoying sunshine and spring weather as they prepare for a new season. The rest of us are struggling through a different change of seasons – from winter to pothole season – that leaves roadways bumpy, and in some cases dangerous.

State transportation departments have used a variety of tools to engage the public on the topic of potholes. Some have been fun, others serious. In Washington, DC and other states the annual spring push asks the public to help officials locate potholes.

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Transportation Agencies Seem Slow to Adopt Vine

There is a video tool you might not know about. And, even if you know about Vine, you might not be using it, despite its rapidly growing popularity.

Last month, Twitter, which owns Vine, announced that it has registered 40 million users in its first eight months of service. Initially only available for iPhones, the Vine mobile app was made available to Android users in July and a Windows version was announced in July, as well. Continue reading “Transportation Agencies Seem Slow to Adopt Vine”

Talking Bridges: Two Bridges, Two Wonderful Stories

The traditional chain-cutting opened the new Bay Bridge in California on Labor Day 2013
The traditional chain-cutting opened the new Bay Bridge in California on Labor Day 2013. Photo courtesy BayBridgeInfo.org. See also, First Across: The Bay Bridge Opens to Traffic

The Labor Day weekend was all about bridges with two major events in two different parts of the country. Continue reading “Talking Bridges: Two Bridges, Two Wonderful Stories”

Transportation Performance Measures: Colorado DOT is Making it Personal

Colorado DOT Web Page Sometimes the little things matter a great deal.

State departments of transportation have focused on accountability and transparency — two common catch phrases in our business — for as long as there have been departments. At least a dozen years ago or more state transportation agencies began focusing on how to communicate in a way that helps the public better understand where their money was being spent.

Continue reading “Transportation Performance Measures: Colorado DOT is Making it Personal”

Using video well: Michigan DOT uses testimonials when talking transportation

The Michigan Department of Transportation, like a number of state DOTs around the country, have developed very strong video-making capabilities. In fact, the AASHTO annual survey of state DOTs social media usage showed that more than 78 percent were using some kind of online video.

But in this video, MDOT offers a clinic on how to build a narrative using the testimonials of the community leaders involved in a particularly important project in the City of Grand Rapids. There are certainly other effective ways of using video. But with the decline of modern journalism, transportation agencies need to develop two important strategies.

Transportation agencies need to find a voice that can speak directly to the people who use and pay for the transportation systems we build, operate and maintain. We cannot hope that the limited budgets and staffs of our fourth estate will have room for, nor interest in, our stories.

And, transportation agencies need to develop a way to emphasize the third-party endorsements – those ringing “attaboys” that help those system users know that what the transportation agencies are doing is monitored, engaged, respected and ultimately endorsed by a community and its leaders. Using testimonials by local leaders was an effective way for MDOT to show it not only constructed an innovative project, it did so at the request of, and with the blessing and support of, the people who live there.