The Internet, the public and project input


What is–or, better yet, what could be–happening to the solicitation of public input into transportation infrastructure projects?

“The advent of the internet is making it easier than ever to solicit public input.”

It’s a simple statement from an online resource for sustainable transport news, research and best practice solutions from around the world. But it’s also a true statement.

If Paul Simon could write, years ago, “there must be fifty ways to leave your lover,” we can now say there must be fifty ways to ask for and receive public input into transportation projects.

And there must be almost as many ways to have an interactive relationship with the public with ideas and concerns going both ways and officials basically holding conversations and dialogues with the public from the earliest stages of planning to completion.

 There will be those who fear too much of a good thing. Fair enough; you only have to look at comments below major news stories to see that not all discussion is worth the space. But on the positive side the digital revolution means a far more complete public engagement with your work.

Bottom line: social media, tablets and whatever other technology comes up will be conduits for public input into project planning. Evidence from this digital era suggests that those who first embrace the idea will get the best of it. Already a number of agencies in the United States have found online ways to engage their public and their experiences seem to be very positive.

The process is in its advanced infancy, and recent history says it would be unwise to guess which way it will develop.

But we know from organizations that were reluctant to use websites, slow to wire for Wi-Fi and behind the cloud computing curve that it’s probably a good idea to begin looking right now (if you haven’t already) at online ways to reach your public to tell them what is in the works and ask them what they think about it.