Strategic Public Engagement Guidance
Through extensive research and collaboration, the Public Involvement Section of TxDOT’s Transportation Planning and Programming Division (TPP) is nearing completion on the initial phase of the Strategic Public Engagement Guidance (SPEG) initiative. Following review of existing studies and best practices, surveys of both the public and other departments of transportation across the country, and internal discussion and consultation, TPP will release the new Strategic Public Engagement Guidance in early 2024. This guidance document will support project teams across the state in engaging all members of the public — particularly those who may have felt excluded in the past — in a manner that may help ease their participation and respects their time and effort.
This initiative honors TxDOT’s commitment to involving all of Texas’ many and diverse communities in the planning and implementation of transportation projects and programs. It also supports the agency’s public involvement policy, which commits to purposefully involving the public in planning and project implementation and requires regular updates to public involvement methods.
One of the biggest challenges facing organizations like TxDOT across the country is determining how to deliver public involvement opportunities that attract and engage all types of communities in their projects and programs. This initiative not only strives to improve the effectiveness of public involvement activities, but to do so in a way that allows project teams to identify potentially impacted communities and design outreach and engagement strategies that overcome the barriers to participation those communities face. This purpose informed every step of the initiative, particularly the public survey.
TxDOT used a variety of techniques to develop a suite of best practices and resources for project teams across the state:
- Formed an internal working group and hosted discussions to generate ideas and provide feedback on all components of the research approach.
- Performed desktop research to identify common barriers to public participation and techniques to overcome those barriers.
- Developed and executed a survey with transportation agencies across the country to understand how other states approach these same issues in both internal policy and external practices; 19 different practitioners in 16 different states provided input.
- Conducted an online public survey, in partnership with the Institute for Demographic and Socioeconomic Research (IDSER) at the University of Texas, San Antonio. The survey addressed how Texans prefer to receive information, share feedback, and participate in engagement events. The survey’s findings were explored further in focus group discussions with respondents who volunteered to participate. The survey received nearly 12,000 responses, and TxDOT reached a statistically valid participation goal from a wide range of target demographics: each of the three largest racial and ethnic minority groups in the state (Hispanic, Black/African-American, and Asian), people with disabilities, people from low-income households, and seniors.
The initiatives, findings, and insights resulting from this research have been synthesized into the Strategic Public Engagement Guidance. This document is written and designed for easy, effective, and efficient implementation by TxDOT’s project teams at both the state and district level, as well as any other organizations across the country conducting public involvement as part of their own projects.
The guidance contains a checklist for planning effective public involvement, resources for building community profiles and forging partnerships with local stakeholders and advocates, guides for identifying and overcoming the most common barriers to public participation, printable flyers for stakeholders and the public to start the conversation on why their involvement is so vital to a project’s success, and more.
The guidance document will be added to this page in early 2024. This will be a “living guide” that continues to evolve.