The National Academies

NCHRP Synthesis 20-05/Topic 54-07 [Active (Synthesis)]

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

  Project Data
Funds: $55,000
Staff Responsibility: Edward Harrigan
Research Agency: WSP
Principal Investigator: Robin Christians
Effective Date: 11/29/2022
Completion Date: 5/29/2024
Fiscal Year: 2023

Final 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. Advancements in technology may have also created limitations for some populations regarding how this information is communicated and accessed, including communities with low or no broadband access. Visualization strategies may limit access to or affect how they are accessed by phone, tablet, computer, or in-person (e.g., printed material, using monitor displays, etc.).

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 practices of visualization for public involvement throughout the lifecycle of plans, programs, and projects.

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 and/or updated;
How visualizations are presented to the public (e.g., in-person meetings, virtual meetings, websites, videos, printed materials or displays, field-based use, etc.);
Strategies used for gathering feedback from participants (e.g., a website with visual products and comment form);
● Strategies to provide equitable access and encourage engagement with visualization products;
● Plans for implementing visualization strategies that are not currently being used;
● 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;
● Methods used to evaluate the effectiveness of visualizations at each stage of the public involvement process;
● Barriers to the 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. Data Visualization Methods for Transportation Agencies. NCHRP 08-36 (128) and resulting guide available at https://vizguide.tpm-portal.com/

Federal Highway Administration, 2021. Every Day Counts Initiative, Virtual Public Involvement, www.fhwa.dot.gov/planning/public_involvement/vpi, accessed 1/28/2022

Federal Transit Administration, 2010. Choosing Visualization for Transportation (interactive portal)

Hixon, Charles, Bergmann Associates, 2006. Visualization for Project Development: A Synthesis of Highway Practice. NCHRP Synthesis 361

TRB Staff
Edward Harrigan
Phone: 540-454-2149
Email: eharrigan@nas.edu

Meeting Dates
First Panel: October 7, 2022, Virtual Meeting
Teleconference with Consultant: November 7, 2022, Virtual meeting
Second Panel: August 11, 2023

Topic Panel
Whoibin Chung, Virginia Department of Transportation
Tina Geiselbrecht, Texas A&M Transportation Institute
Matthew Haubrich, Iowa Department of Transportation
Raissah Kouame, Massachusetts Department of Transportation
Ricky Milliner, Connecticut Department of Transportation
Marylou Taylor, California Department of Transportation
Raul Velasquez, Minnesota Department of Transportation
Robert Washington, Federal Highway Administration
Claire Randall, Transportation Research Board

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