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”

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States Turn to Electronic Signs for Critical Safety Messages

Tennessee DOT Message SignsIn communications, it is always best to deliver messages where the most critical audiences are most likely to see it. For a transportation agency, that means catching riders and drivers with the key message while they are act of using the system.

So, when you want to talk about traffic safety, where is the best place to deliver your message? On the road.

Continue reading “States Turn to Electronic Signs for Critical Safety Messages”

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”

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.