The National Academies

NCHRP Synthesis 20-05/Topic 54-07 [New]

Visualization for Public Involvement
[ NCHRP 20-05 (Synthesis of Information Related to Highway Practices) ]

  Project Data
Funds: $55,000
Authorization to Begin Work: 4/29/2023 -- estimated
Staff Responsibility: Leslie C. Harwood
Fiscal Year: 2023

Preliminary Scope

Visualization, in its many forms, has long been recognized as an important element of public involvement in transportation decision-making. As visualization technologies and applications have matured and become more readily available, their potential to increase public understanding and inform dialogue during planning and project development has greatly expanded. Recent trends in public involvement practice have made it easier for agencies to show visualization products to a broad public audience. These trends include the dramatic increase in the use of video as part of social media communication and the move to virtual public involvement that greatly accelerated during the pandemic. An increased focus on meeting the needs of participants with limited English proficiency or low literacy also prompted greater reliance on visual communications.

Despite the transformative potential of newer visualization tools for public involvement, their uptake among state DOTs has been uneven, and the current state of the practice is not well understood. The most recent synthesis on visualization for highway projects was published in 2006. The most comprehensive guidance to date on selecting visualization tools for public involvement was the Federal Transit Administration’s “Choosing Visualization for Transportation” tool, now over ten years old. Interest is evident among DOTs in obtaining guidance to advance their use of visualization in public involvement. This can be seen in recent FHWA peer exchanges on visualization conducted as part of the Every Day Counts (EDC) Virtual Public Involvement Initiative, which seeks to promote visualization, among other virtual tools. The formation of an FHWA Visualization Working Group with federal and state DOT participants is another example. Moreover, interactive visualization was a recent peer-selected focus innovation under AASHTO’s Innovation Initiative.

The objective of this synthesis is to document state DOT current practices of visualization for public involvement.

Information to be gathered includes (but is not limited to):
• The types of visualization products currently used by state DOTs in public involvement for plans, programs, and projects, including the extent and uses of interactive and immersive techniques;
• The points in the project development sequence when these products are typically used; 
• Methods used to show visualizations to the public (e.g., in-person meetings, virtual meetings, websites, videos, printed materials or displays, field-based use, etc.), and the opportunities or mechanisms provided for gathering feedback from participants; 
• Steps taken to provide access and encourage engagement with visualization products by members of under-represented communities;
• Accessibility features or accommodations provided to achieve ADA or Section 508 compliance;
• DOT policies and procedures for the use of visualization in public involvement; 
• Organizational structure and capabilities for visualization, resources required, and the role of consultant versus in-house efforts; 
• Steps taken to gauge the effectiveness of visualizations in the public involvement process; 
• Barriers to expanded use of innovative forms of visualization; and 
• Staff training or technical assistance needs.

Information will be gathered through a literature review, a survey of state DOTs, and follow-up interviews with selected agencies for the development of case examples. Information gaps and suggestions for research to address those gaps will be identified.

Information Sources (Partial):
• AASHTO Innovation Initiative. 2020. Interactive Visualization http://aii.transportation.org/Pages/Virtual-Immersive-Visualization.aspx, accessed 1/28/2022.
• Cambridge Systematics, Inc. 2017. NCHRP Web-Only Document 226: Data Visualization Methods for Transportation Agencies. NCHRP 08-36 (128).
• Federal Highway Administration, 2021. Every Day Counts Virtual Public Involvement Initiative. www.fhwa.dot.gov/planning/public_involvement/vpi, accessed 1/28/2022.
• Federal Transit Administration. 2010. Choosing Visualization for Transportation (interactive portal).
Hixon, C.L., III, Bergmann Associates. 2006. NCHRP Synthesis 361: Visualization for Project Development.

TRB Staff
Leslie Harwood
Phone: 202-334-2312
Email: lharwood@nas.edu

Meeting Dates
First Panel: TBD
Teleconference with Consultant: TBD
Second Panel: TBD

Topic Panel


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