Page 1




01 02 04 06 07 08 12 18 23 24 25 28 01

























INTRODUCTION The PLAN 2040 Stakeholder Engagement Program is the Atlanta Regional Commission’s (ARC) plan to meet the public engagement requirements of the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) for the metropolitan Atlanta region’s long-range transportation plan. It outlines the program’s constituent groups and actions, as well as participation techniques and a participation schedule. The goals of the plan are as follows: Enhance the impact of participation on transportation decision-making. To accomplish this goal, ARC strives to: • Increase the number of people participating in the process • Increase the number of opportunities to participate • Increase the understanding of transportation planning • Evaluate the effectiveness of participation processes Increase the coordination of participation activities between ARC, local jurisdictions, and transportation agencies in the Atlanta region to more effectively provide outreach mechanisms for: • Sharing activities and results • Implementing shared agendas • Communicating coordination results This Program design is the result of an on-going collaboration between Melissa Roberts, the Community Engagement Coordinator at Atlanta Regional Commission, and Kyle James, a graduate transportation planning and engineerng student at Georgia Institute of Technology, through Nisha Botchwey’s citizen participation and community engagement course.


PURPOSE The Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) reflects environmental, land use, and intermodal considerations and provides a financially balanced vision of future transportation investments for the transportation planning area. The current RTP (PLAN 2040) is a unified plan to guide the prioritization of funding and transportation investments for the metropolitan Atlanta region and was developed by the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC). In its role as the Metropolitan Planning Organization for the metropolitan Atlanta region, ARC is required by the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) to develop a RTP that covers a minimum 20-year time span. The Atlanta region’s RTP examines the region’s transportation needs through the year 2040 and provides a framework to address anticipated growth. It was last adopted in by the Atlanta Regional Commission in June 2011 and must be updated every four years in air quality non-attainment areas. In July 2012, President Obama signed into law the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) which created a streamlined and performancebased surface transportation program that includes highway, transit, bicycle, and pedestrian policies. MAP-21 built upon previous transportation legislation (ISTEA, TEA-21, and SAFETEA-LU) and contains specific language outlining federal requirements regarding public involvement processes and procedures. It requires metropolitan planning organizations to provide citizens, affected public agencies, representatives of public transportation employees, freight shippers, providers of freight transportation services, private providers of transportation, representatives of users of public transportation, representatives of pedestrian walkways and bicycle facilities, representatives of the disabled, and other interested parties with a reasonable opportunity to comment on the long-range transportation plan.

In addition to MAP-21, the RTP must conform to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 regarding non-discrimination in federally assisted programs, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, Executive Order 12898 regarding federal actions to address environmental justice in minority and low-income populations, Executive Order 13166 regarding improving access to service for persons with limited English proficiency, State of Georgia Open Meetings Law, and State of Georgia Open Records Law. In order for the RTP to comply with these various regulations, this Stakeholder Engagement Program lays out a strategy that ensures PLAN 2040 reflects the full range of regional values and desires by involving a diverse spectrum of stakeholders in developing the plan.The public participation efforts contained with this program strive to understand the public’s values and priorities on the following transportation planning goals: 1. Support the economic vitality of the metropolitan area, especially by enabling global competitiveness, productivity, and efficiency 2. Increase the safety of the transportation system for motorized and nonmotorized users 3. Increase the security of the transportation system for motorized and nonmotorized users 4. Increase accessibility and mobility of people and freight 5. Protect and enhance the environment, promote energy conservation, improve the quality of life, and promote consistency between transportation improvements and State and local planned growth and economic development patterns 6. Enhance the integration and connectivity of the transportation system across and between modes, people, and freight 7. Promote efficient system management and operation 8. Emphasize the preservation of the existing transportation system

03 Due to the complexity and regional scope of PLAN 2040, special considerations must be taken into account during the public engagement process to adequately reach the 18-county metro region: •

Environmental justice and social equity considerations: Early planning activities are a critical means to avoid disproportionately high and adverse effects in future programs, policies, and activities on vulnerable and underserved communities.

Limited English proficiency: Non-native English speakers may be automatically disqualified from the engagement process if limited language options are offered or may feel intimidated to express their opinions and insights if unable to communicate in their native languages.

Explaining the financial trade-offs inherent in the decision-making process: The public processes chosen must also be able to clearly communicate the scale and financial trade-offs in the decision-making process. The consequences of promoting smart growth in place of undirected suburban growth is often hard to visualize and the tools selected for public engagement activities must be flexible enough to capture and clarify how these decisions could impact individuals and the region as a whole.

Properly aggregating data from online participation tools: Input must be collected from population segments across the metro region and then distilled into identifiable themes and values, organized into objectives, and finally prioritized in the context of the aforementioned financial trade-offs.

Migration: The metro region grew by over 40,000 residents from August 2012 to August 2013 and must account for the values and needs of people not yet in the area.

Atlanta Transportation Planning Boundaries

Number of Regional Counties Commission Number of Counties

10 counties


Ozone NonAttainment

Particulate NonAttainment

13 counties + parts of 5

20 counties

20 counties + parts of 2


STAKEHOLDERS ARC has a distinctive role in the engagement process which is to facilitate regional stewardship by bringing diverse perspectives and coalitions together and by being a connector between communities. Throughout the planning processes, a common definition from which to develop engagement practices is described below: • • • • •

Those who have a mutual interest and/or are impacted by regional transportation decision-making Local, state, and regional organizations with concurrent, relevant, and intersecting missions Those who need special consideration to have their voices included, including but not limited to, transit-dependent populations and communities identified in ARC’s Equitable Target Areas (ETA) Index. Planning partners from local, regional, state, and federal jurisdictions Media organizations

The following stakeholders should be engaged throughout the RTP planning process: Local Elected Officials – including those on the ARC Board, the additional eight counties of the MPO, and city mayors/county administrators not serving on the ARC Board. Also included should be the Metropolitan Atlanta Mayors Association, Georgia Municipal Association, and Association County Commissioners Georgia. Local Government Planners – staff specializing in transportation, transit, land use, sustainability, the environment, water resources, historic preservation, housing, services to population groups, and evacuation/hazards. Faith Organizations – including umbrella groups and partnership groups for community action. Civic Leadership and Community Groups – including The Civic League for a Regional Atlanta.

Local Planning Community – consultants in architecture, community participation, city planning, professional organizations, nonprofit organizations around selected sites in the region specializing in housing, development, transportation demand management associations, financing, maintenance and operations of roadways, and services for communities. Federal and State Planning Partners – members of the State Legislature and State Departments of Transportation, Community Affairs, and Natural Resources. Federal partners including the Federal Highway Administration, Federal Transit Administration, and the Environmental Protection Agency. Business Community – including chambers of commerce, business coalitions, professional groups, local business leadership groups, banking community, developers, insurers, community improvement districts, and freight organizations. Schools and Universities – including the Schools and Communities working group along with the University System, Board of Regents, local research councils, and departments housed in the universities. Special Interest and Advocacy Groups – such as environmental and energy organizations, land conservation, bicycle/pedestrian, and transit groups. Neighborhood and Homeowners Associations – including NPUs. Youth – including existing university programs, ARC leadership programs, and high school programs such as the Boys and Girls Clubs throughout the region. Individual Groups – those that participate in ARC activities based on short-term, issue-driven concerns.





The following issues management activities will take place to address the major issues identified:

While much of the energy in the Stakeholder Engagement Program will be focused on explaining the value and importance of public ownership of the RTP process and outcomes, the potential for the Atlanta region to re-visit the failed one percent sales tax referendum of 2012 to fund transportation projects in the near future could impact interest levels. Planners engaging the public should address this issue upfront by explaining the importance of the RTP through the lens of how it shapes the final project list and how that list is often controversial when it comes time to allocate funding.

Environmental justice and social equity considerations: ARC developed an Equitable Target Area Index in 2011 in order to better identify areas of disinvestment. This index can serve as the starting point for targeting communities often left out of the participation process and for developing partnerships with the stakeholder groups in those communities.

Limited English proficiency: The MetroQuest platform allows for the client agency to translate information from English to secondary languages at the expense of the agency. In addition, flocksourcing (detailed in the Toolbox section) encourages the training of local leaders to gather feedback because participants may be more cultural and linguistically comfortable in this arrangement.

Explaining the financial trade-offs inherent in the decision-making process: The MetroQuest platform specializes in demonstrating the consequences of transportation investment decisions and encourages participants to understand the balancing act inherent in the long-range planning process. This decisionmaking process should be reinforced in all RTP-related interactions between planners and the public.

Properly aggregating data from online participation tools: (see the Analyze section)

Migration: ARC should consider advertising the MetroQuest system in cities and towns from which recent migrants to Atlanta were last located.


DECISION-MAKING Throughout the PLAN 2040 process, the ARC Board and Committees provide direction to technical staff regarding important policy directions and recommendations. Monthly meetings are held by the heads of ARC’s policy committees to direct the plan development process, and regular briefings were made to both technical and policy committees. The following committees make recommendations to the ARC Board on regional plans. The Environment and Land Use Committee (ELUC) and the Land Use Coordinating Committee (LUCC) advise on land use issues/plans. The Transportation Air Quality Committee (TAQC), the Regional Transit Committee (RTC) and the Transportation Coordinating Committee (TCC) provide recommendations on transportation and air quality issues. Decision-Making Cycle

In addition to the policy committees, the following 22 technical committees provide planning support for specific land use and transportation-related issues: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22.

Airport Area Working Group Bicycle and Pedestrian Task Force Community Engagement Network (CEN) Financial Planning Team Freight Advisory Task Force Healthy Aging Coalition Human Services Transportation Advisory Committee Interagency Services Transportation Advisory Committee Interagency Consultation Group Lifelong Communities Partnership Local Agriculture Committee Long Range Regional Forecast Technical Advisory Group Management & Operation Subcommittee Mobility Management Consortium Model Users Group Regional Breeze Task Force Senior Air Quality Partners Service Coordination Council Social Equity Advisory Committee TIP/RTP Blueprint Working Group Transit Operators Subcommittee TransAQ


TOOLBOX This section highlights three participation techniques that should be utilized throughout the RTP process: flocksourcing, pop-up meetings, and the PLAN 2040 website. In addition to these techniques, more traditional forms of communication are listed below:

Press Releases

Workshops Mini-retreats

Online Forums

Media Kits

Presentations to Community Groups

Public Hearings


FLOCKSOURCING Flocksourcing is a method of crowdsourcing data collection that allows users to provide feedback with the help of an expert or guide in order to improve or inform a public service. Because some users will not have the available hardware to engage in an online data collection platform, such as MetroQuest, or may be intimidated by the format, planners and other trained individuals can walk participants through the process on mobile devices. These guides serve as instructors on the participation process and encourage participants to offer honest feedback. They also serve as a face-to-face medium through which participants can make a connection and by which they can feel that the regional planning body is as invested in the process as they are asking participants to be. While much of the research on the utility of flocksourcing is still being conducted, the ability for it to integrate with the planned MetroQuest platform and pop-up meeting format may allow for ARC to continue to test the cutting-edge of engagement infrastructure.


POP-UP MEETINGS Developed out of the growing field of tactical urbanism, popup open houses allow community planners to reach out to stakeholders on their turf. Through small, nimble events, planners are able to engage the public at festivals, on college campuses, and within larger events. Often these informal formats serve to generate casual and honest two-way dialogues that can be hard or impossible to recreate in a survey, focus group, or neighborhood-level meeting. The pop-up concept can be deployed as a mobile unit to various events or it can take over an existing space, such as a vacant storefront, allowing users to drop by when it is convenient to them. ARC utilized pop-up open houses in the previous round of PLAN 2040 planning and can build upon the successes and experiences gained through that process.


WEBSITE Currently, ARC houses all PLAN 2040-related information on its PLAN 2040 website (, a child site to the larger ARC interface. This website offers videos, resource documents, links to related material, tools such as a regional scorecard, and highly impactful insights from students around the region. This site should continue to be used in order to maintain consistency and new links to the pending MetroQuest platform and other related social media should be added. The site offers a comprehensive collection of all public outreach efforts and meeting videos, transcripts, presentations, and reports. The PLAN 2040 website serves as an invaluable tool in the public participation process and offers an easy-to-search and highly accessible space for current and potential stakeholders to find the information they need.


PHASES Outreach for PLAN 2040 will take place over five phases spanning from July 2014 to December 2015. The first phase consists of an initial roll out of the MetroQuest online platform (detailed later) along with more traditional website- and email-based campaigns in order to engage potential participants, familiarize them with the long-range planning process and regional scale, and to capture and prioritize goals. In addition, this phase begins the thought process through which a user can start to connect their goals to potential strategies. After organizing and distilling data from the first phase, Phase II allows users to hear the collective regional feedback and provides a space for users to voice their thoughts on how well the summarized goals and strategies align with their own vision. Much of Phase II will be spent fostering relationships through face-to-face connections and targeting populations not initially covered in Phase I. The third phase will utilize the relationships built in Phase II in order to further the dialogue about a shared regional vision through localized open houses and other targeted events. The first three phases will provide the input by which the preliminary project list and plan summary will be based in Phase IV. Much of this phase will be spent on demonstrating to participants how their input was used and reinforcing transparency in the process. The fifth and final phase will consist of a public hearing regarding the project list and plan summary, followed by a 30-day public review period. Altogether, the five phases of the project aim to capture and distill targeted stakeholder feedback in order to shape the RTP project list and plan summary while engendering trust in the overall planning process.












METROQUEST MetroQuest is an online community engagement platform for planning projects developed by Envision Sustainability Tools, Inc. in Vancouver, British Columbia. It allows agencies and organizations to collect meaningful feedback from the public and other stakeholders while also enabling the public to learn about projects. To ensure the broadest participation, individuals can access MetroQuest online, on mobile devices, at touchscreen kiosks, or during town-hall style workshops. The platform has been used by hundreds of cities and planning agencies and can be custom configured for each individual project‘s goals, branding, and phasing. Each configuration is comprised of a series of four to five screens that guide participants through the process of learning about the project and providing input. The following pages illustrate what those screens could look like for Phase I involving the MetroQuest platform. The first screen offers a welcome page for users to orientate themselves with the project description and the participation goals. While this screen is typically displays a clean design as not to discourage users from engaging with the rest of the screens, it offers an ideal place to include a welcome video to further prepare participants for the process without overwhelming them with text. The second screen helps users gain familiarity with the user interface while encouraging users to think through their own values and priorities for the region as a whole. The third screen allows users to further examine the outcomes of their priorities by exploring various scenarios and their effect on the region. The fifth and final screen offers ARC the ability to capture some demographic information and provides users a roadmap for the rest of the process. In addition to the screen configurations, each screen includes a bar at the top that includes a button to convert the text into Spanish (this will have to be translated by ARC staff), a progress bar that lets users know how much work they have completed and how much work is left to go, and a “Compare Yourself” tool that encourages users to complete the entire five step set in order to view what others have contributed.






ANALYZE Determining how to aggregate ideas and concerns across thousands of participants or from several online exchange platforms presents planners hoping to synthesize data with a tricky challenge. While online tools that help consumers of data trawl social media are available, many of these tools are still in development. They offer a valuable resource for separating out the noise in large online exchanges, but few planners are trained on how to interpret the results. Fortunately many of the same techniques that planners use to interpret and map more traditional forms of public comments can and should be applied to online data. Much of the challenges in the analysis phase of a public participation process can be reduced through a well thought-out definition of the information exchange. This involves asking at various stages in the decisionmaking process ‘What does the public need to know to effectively participate at this step?’ and ‘What do we need to learn from the public to complete this step?’ If a participation plan is successful in getting the public involved and an adequate structure is put in place by which to provide respondents with the information they need to make informed comments, the next step is summarizing the input. Ideally, a good analysis will be able to condense public feedback without interjecting or interpreting the results. In addition to understanding the logic expressed by commenters in this content analysis phase, the emotional tone may be of interest to ARC when considering how best to respond or how best to target future data collection efforts. The table to the left provides the basic steps for content analysis.





March 2014 Determine PLAN 2040 internal working team Lead: Jane Team: CLC Managers Audiences: Internal staff

March 2014 - May 2014 Program Development Lead: Jane Team: PLAN 2040 team Audiences: Internal staff

Develop Stakeholder Engagement Plan: Determine Communications Strategy Team: Jane, Julie, Grace, John, Liz, Jim, Melissa, Dan, David

Develop Stakeholder Engagement Plan: MetroQuest Phase I Development Audiences: Internal Staff

Policy-maker Discussion (Board Retreat) Lead: ARC Managers Team: ARC Managers Audiences: Board and Committees

March 2014 - June 2014 Develop Stakeholder Engagement Plan: Determine PLAN 2040 Website Basics Develop Stakeholder Engagement Plan: MetroQuest Configuration - Phase 1 Lead: Melissa Audiences: Internal staff



April 2014 - November 2014 Needs Assessment Lead: TAM

June 2014 - November 2014 Regional Assessment Present at ELUCC Lead: Community Development

July 2014 - November 2014 Launch MetroQuest Survey Supplement with pulic outreach Lead: Melissa

September 2014 - October 2014 Modeling for Scenarios Lead: Kyung Hwa

October 2014 - November 2014 MetroQuest Phase II Configuration Lead: Melissa

Network-level Assessment Lead: David Haynes

July 2014 - September 2014 Regional Resource Plan Present at ELUCC Lead: Community Development

November 2014 - January 2015 Launch MetroQuest Phase II Supplement with public outreach Lead: Melissa Refine Aspirational Plan Lead: David Haynes

Develop Scenarios Develop and Present Vision Lead: PLAN 2040 team


January 2015 Regional Agenda Update vision, Update development guide Lead: Community Development

May 2015 Finalize Aspirations Plan Incorporate funding policy Lead: TAM

Submit Regional Agenda Resolution to DCA Lead: Community Development



April 2015 - June 2015 Transportation Project Solicitation Closes June 1, 2015 Lead: David, John

November 2015 30-Day Public Review Period for RTP Lead: Melissa

February 2016 GRTA RTP Approval Supplement with pulic outreach Lead: Melissa

August 2015 - October 2015 First Draft of Staff Recommendations & Documentation for RTP Lead: TAM

March 2016 Submit Regional Agenda to DCA & Conformity Determination Lead: Dan

September 2015 - October 2015 Community Outreach Lead: Melissa

October 2015 Finalize RTP Documentation & Website Lead: TAM

April 2015 - July Community Outreach Open houses and festival outreach Lead: TAM, Community Development June 2015 - August 2015 Identification of Priority Transportation Needs & Performance Data Begin developing staff recommendations Lead: John

December 2015 Finalize Regional Agenda Lead: Dan January 2016 TCC, TAQC, & ARC RTP Approval Lead: John



PLAN 2040 Regional Transportation Plan. 2011. Atlanta Regional Commission.

Charleston Area Transportation Study (CHATS) Metropolitan Planning Organization Public Participation Plan. 2012. BCDCOG. PPP%20Update%202012%20Approved.pdf

Public Participation Plan. 2013. Ozarks Transportation Organization.

Regional Community Engagement Plan. 2012. Atlanta Regional Commission.

Regional Transportation Plan: Appendix F - Public Comment Report. 2014. Atlanta Regional Commission.

Title VI Program and Plan. 2013. Atlanta Regional Commission.

Creighton, James. The Public Participation Handbook: Making Better Decisions through Civic Involvement. 2005. Jossey-Bass, San Francisco. \

Ching, Albert, Zegras, Christopher P., Kennedy, Stephen and Muntasir Imran Mamun. A User-Flocksourced Bus Experiment in Dhaka: New Data Collection Technique with Smartphones.

PLAN 2040 Stakeholder Involvement Program. 2009. Atlanta Regional Commission.

PLAN 2040 Stakeholder Engagement Program  

2016 Update

PLAN 2040 Stakeholder Engagement Program  

2016 Update