Public Review Period: Thursday October 17 – Saturday November 30, 2019
Contact Ashlee McLaughlin, email@example.com with any questions/comments/feedback.
The Champaign-Urbana Urbanized Area Transportation Study (CUUATS) was designated as the transportation planning entity for the Champaign-Urbana Urbanized Area in 1965. CUUATS is a part of the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission (CCRPC), which is the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for the Champaign-Urbana Urbanized Area. CUUATS staff is responsible for updating federally mandated transportation planning documents including the Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP), Transportation Improvement Program (TIP), and Unified Technical Work Program (UTWP). This Public Participation Plan outlines how CUUATS engages the public in the transportation planning process as defined in the Code of Federal Regulations.
CUUATS’ public participation process involves residents and other stakeholders throughout the planning process — from initial data collection to implementation. CUUATS staff places special emphasis on public input because the transportation system affects every resident, employee, and visitor in the community. Transportation planners hold the unique responsibility of representing the needs and desires of the collective urbanized area without losing sight of the social, physical, and economic differences that exist within the urbanized area. To integrate local and regional issues, CUUATS staff use a variety of innovative methods and analyses to capture the mobility needs and desires of the diverse individuals and neighborhoods that make up the Champaign-Urbana urbanized area.
CUUATS’ public participation process strives to:
- Be accessible and inclusive;
- Reflect the demographics of the region;
- Ensure early and continuing involvement of stakeholders with timely and compliant public notice;
- Provide complete information for meaningful participation;
- Support transparency in the decision-making process;
- Affirmatively include communities that have been underrepresented, such as communities with low-income, minority, and limited English proficient residents; and
- Communicate to participants how their input influences the planning process.
CUUATS Federally Mandated Work Products
The LRTP is a federally mandated document, updated every five years, that details how the urbanized area transportation system will evolve over the next 25 years. Public outreach for the two most recent Long Range Transportation Plans, LRTP 2045 and LRTP 2040, included a variety of ambitious and innovative methods to educate the public about the long range transportation planning process. CUUATS staff raised awareness of existing transportation services and collected public input regarding the existing transportation system, in addition to facilitating visioning sessions regarding the future of transportation in the Metropolitan Planning Area (MPA).
The first round of LRTP 2045 public outreach efforts involved CUUATS staff setting up information tables at 17 different community events with a tablecloth displaying RPC and CUUATS insignia, tablet computers and paper surveys for providing input, a kids table with activities, and succulent plants as incentives/thank-you gifts for providing input. CUUATS staff recorded over 1,250 public comments regarding the LRTP 2045 between June 2018 and October 2018 as a result of in-person outreach at public events, a social media campaign, a website, yardsigns, and local news coverage. CUUATS staff developed an online input map and survey for area residents to provide transportation input on the existing transportation system and their priorities for the future of the transportation system. The map and survey were made available to residents on tablets and paper in English and Spanish in order to appeal to a wide range of ages, abilities, and languages.
LRTP 2040 public outreach efforts included 29 different public events augmented by informational videos, a website, a social media campaign, an outreach bus, and incentive/thank-you gifts. CUUATS staff recorded over 1,500 public comments regarding the LRTP 2040 between February 2013 and June 2014.
In addition to public events, CUUATS staff held six public meetings during the course of the LRTP 2040. The first two meetings were held at the Illinois Terminal to mark the start of the LRTP 2040 in February 2013 and to present the draft of the existing conditions portion of the plan in October 2013. In November 2013, CUUATS staff held four additional meetings to facilitate conversations about what local residents want for the future of the community. A non-CUUATS member of the community facilitated the meetings’ dialogue while a graphic recorder drew the conversation as it was taking place on a four-foot-by-eight-foot piece of paper at the front of the room. Having a graphic recorder drawing live allowed the participants to visualize the conversation as it took place. CUUATS staff posted the graphic recordings online after each of the four meetings to solicit additional input.
Graphic recording from an LRTP 2040 visioning meeting on November 2, 2013.
CUUATS staff collaborated with local stakeholders in 2013 to create two informational videos to show at outreach events and include on the LRTP 2040 website. The videos include local children, community leaders, and transportation stakeholders explaining the MPO functions, the LRTP planning process, and how to get involved in the LRTP. CUUATS staff also collaborated with PACE Center for Independent Living to provide closed captions on the videos for Spanish speakers and the hearing impaired.
CUUATS staff created a web-based LRTP 2045 in lieu of a physical document for the first time in 2019. The web-based plan cuts down on formatting, distribution, ADA remediation time, and printing costs associated with a physical document. Users can directly access social media, news, downloadable data, the public input map, and other information linked to the website.
In addition to a traditional document, CUUATS staff created a website dedicated to the LRTP 2040 for the purposes of documentation and outreach. Users could access news and announcements, informational videos, LRTP event invitations, LRTP documents, annual LRTP report cards, and opportunities to contribute input on the transportation system and the planning process itself.
Online Public Input Map
CUUATS staff developed online input maps for both the LRTP 2040 and LRTP 2045, where users could input geographically specific information about any part of the local transportation system by travel mode. The LRTP 2045 online input map displays over 900 comments by residents collected in the first round of public input from June to October, 2018. The LRTP 2040 online input map contained over 600 pieces of publicly accessible input collected in 2013 and 2014.
CUUATS staff uses Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to promote LRTP events and solicit online input. For the LRTP 2045, staff used comments shared by residents within the first month of public outreach to elicit more comments from the community. For example, three people cited a desire for a roundabout at a certain intersection in Urbana via the online input map. CUUATS staff placed a yard sign at the location that read “How would you change this intersection? Share your transportation suggestions at ccrpc.org/voices.” In this way, CUUATS staff encouraged residents to think of their own transportation suggestions by publicizing examples from other community members.
Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram provide data that help social media account owners understand who and how many people each post reached. The data demonstrate that Facebook is an effective venue to reach more residents who live in rural areas and in municipalities outside of Champaign or Urbana, which are locations that are often underrepresented at public meetings and events in the urbanized area.
CUUATS social media metrics from June 2018 to October 2018
The most ambitious part of the LRTP 2040 public outreach strategy was the Community Conversations Bus. In collaboration with the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District (MTD), CUUATS redesigned and repurposed an MTD bus to attend community events around the MPA for LRTP outreach and input gathering. People who interacted with the bus had the opportunity to talk with CUUATS planners, read printed information or watch a locally-produced video about the LRTP process, and provide public input related to strengths and weaknesses about local transportation conditions via computers and/or paper surveys. The data collected was invaluable in identifying strengths and weaknesses in the local transportation network; defining the plan’s guiding pillars, goals, objectives and performance measures; and prioritizing transportation improvement projects in the LRTP 2040 vision for the future.
At many LRTP outeach events, CUUATS staff set up a kids’ table where children could draw and express their own ideas about transportation and mobility. Engaging kids in the LRTP is a good way to increase their awareness of the importance of the transportation system in their everyday lives, even if they are too young to understand the LRTP or fill out a survey. Engaging kids is also a productive way to allow their caretakers time to provide input for the plan if they are interested. During the LRTP 2040, pictures drawn or colored by kids at the kids’ table were posted inside the outreach bus.
People who provided input for the LRTP 2045 or LRTP 2040 were offered a small gift as an incentive to participate and a gesture of appreciation. Examples of gifts from the LRTP 2045 and 2040 include water bottles, tote bags, reflective bracelets, stickers, pens, and small potted plants.
The transportation data collected from the public during the LRTP 2045 and LRTP 2040 show how transportation infrastructure and behavior vary significantly throughout the Champaign-Urbana region. CUUATS staff uses that data as the foundation of the LRTP goals and vision for the future. In addition, staff share the input with local jurisdictions responsible for transportation infrastructure to inform future projects.
CUUATS staff also collects voluntary demographic data from people providing input. This data is collected to ensure input is being collected from a representative sample of the community. When the data show an age, ethnic, geographic, or racial group is underrepresented among people providing input, staff can schedule additional outreach events to make up that difference. For example, if residents between the ages of 20 and 29 are underrepresented, staff can arrange to set up an information table at a location or event at Parkland College or the University of Illinois that college students will be attending.
CUUATS staff is available to give presentations about any aspect of the LRTP content or planning process at any time. During the course of the LRTP 2040, staff gave 25 presentations to local agencies, boards, commissions, and councils to inform them about the LRTP and collect feedback on the plan.
30-Day Public Comment Period
The final review and approval of each LRTP includes a 30-day public comment period where a digital version of the draft document is available on multiple websites and physical drafts are available at different public locations around the urbanized area. The public comment period is advertised through local media outlets as well as agency websites and social media. Comments received during the public comment period are included in the appendix of each LRTP document.
The TIP is a federally mandated document, updated every year, that lists transportation projects anticipated to be constructed in the metropolitan planning area during the next four fiscal years. The program reflects the goals, objectives, and recommendations from the LRTP in the short term. By mandate, the TIP must include projects receiving federal and state funding; the CUUATS TIP also includes local projects from the CUUATS member agencies and other agencies within the metropolitan planning area if non-member agencies are willing to provide the information. Compiling the document requires consensus among all CUUATS agencies, thus establishing compliance with federal laws and eligibility for federal funding.
The annual TIP approval process includes a 30-day public comment period on the draft document. The draft TIP is available on the CUUATS website and hard copies are made available at several public locations, including public libraries and transit hubs. CUUATS staff announces the comment period on the website, in a flier directly mailed to all CUUATS mailing list recipients, and in legal and retail advertisements in the local newspaper. Any comments received during that time are communicated to CUUATS Technical and Policy members, who can request changes to the document based on the comments received before it becomes final. Interested parties also have the opportunity to comment on the document at CUUATS Technical and Policy Committee meetings.
The UTWP is a federally mandated document, updated every year, that identifies the annual transportation planning activities that are to be undertaken in the urbanized area in support of the goals, objectives, and recommendations established in the LRTP. It includes the CUUATS annual budget as well as an outline of the activities that will be conducted by CUUATS staff in the upcoming fiscal year. The UTWP does not require a public comment period, however the draft UTWP document is posted on the CUUATS website before it is approved by the CUUATS Technical and Policy Committees. Interested parties may comment on the document at CUUATS Technical and Policy Committee meetings before the document is approved.
CUUATS Public Involvement Strategies
CUUATS staff utilize a variety of techniques to inform the public about CUUATS work products, gather input regarding specific plans, and raise awareness about the local transportation system. CUUATS staff employ different techniques for different plans in accordance with federal and state requirements as well as any additional needs deemed relevant to each plan, planning area, and planning area population. Many of these techniques are referenced above, in the context of the long range planning process. A general summary of these techniques are described below, loosely grouped under the categories of Connecting with People, Gathering Input, and Communication Tools.
Table 1: Summary of CUUATS Public Participation Strategies 2007-2019
Connecting with People
CUUATS staff have hosted several different types of public meetings to serve the needs of different plans. Public meetings have taken the form of informal open houses, topic-specific forums, and project-based workshops. Most public meetings include a presentation regarding the plan, project, or topic at hand; printed information boards and/or fliers; opportunities for verbal and written input from the public; and multiple staff members present to answer questions, document the proceedings, and/or provide language translation.
Informal open houses are often hosted at the beginning of a planning process to introduce the topic and timeline, or at the end of a process to summarize the topic and take comments regarding the final product. Workshops are more structured sessions where participants collaborate to create a product such as thematic maps, future goals, and/or prioritized project lists.
Public meetings are included in the initial schedule for most CUUATS projects and plans. Additional public meetings and events can be scheduled throughout the process as needed. All public meetings are preceded by advertisements at least two weeks in advance. Advertisements can include fliers distributed by direct mail and email, announcements on websites and social media, and advertisements in local newspaper, radio, and/or television stations.
Information tables or kiosks are generally used to convey information about a project in a public setting such as a mall, public agency, or community event. These tables or displays are staffed as needed. Information tables or kiosks are generally located at high traffic areas for members of the public to engage with the information without interrupting their daily schedule or requiring them to travel to a different location. Another advantage of information tables is the ability for CUUATS to network with other agencies at different events. In the past, CUUATS has participated in several local events (including a disability expo, a teacher expo, a wellness fair, farmers markets, and neighborhood block parties) alongside, and in support of, other local organizations.
Public Outreach Bus
In collaboration with MTD, CUUATS redesigned and repurposed an MTD bus to attend community events around the MPA for the LRTP 2040 in 2013 and 2014. The outreach bus served as a large-scale information table or kiosk that included informational videos, a kids table, paper surveys, laptops, posters, informational fliers, voting boards, a wish tree, and a variety of thank you gifts for participants. The public outreach bus proved to be a very successful but expensive form of outreach that will likely be reserved for use with larger-scale plans and projects, such as the LRTP.
CUUATS staff set up a table and activities for kids at meetings and events whenever possible. Engaging kids at events is a productive way to introduce kids to basic transportation issues and safety information and to get input from them and their caregivers.
CUUATS staff present information to the public, local boards, and other interest groups during most planning processes and by request. Presentations related to specific projects are sometimes made available on the CUUATS website.
CUUATS Committee Meetings
All CUUATS Technical and Policy Committee meetings are open to the public as per the Illinois Open Meetings Act. Two opportunities for public participation are provided in the agendas for these meetings: one before committee discussion and one after. Meeting agendas are posted on the CUUATS website and at the meeting location approximately one week before meetings and 48 hours before special sessions. The approved yearly schedule of meetings is listed in News Gazette retail and legal ads at the beginning of each calendar year.
Project Working Groups
Working groups, made up of representatives from relevant organizations or populations, are utilized in the planning process to serve as advisory committees for specific projects or plans. Working groups help define the scope and goals of a project/plan and oversee the timeline and technical work associated with the project/plan carried out by CUUATS staff.
CUUATS staff have interviewed key stakeholders during many planning processes in order to inform a particular plan or decision-making process. Key stakeholders can be consulted throughout a planning process, but are typically consulted early on regarding existing conditions, future opportunities, and/or goals for a given project.
CUUATS staff are available at public meetings and during office hours. The CUUATS website displays staff contact information. Staff accept any comments or questions via email, phone, or regular mail and respond promptly to requests for information.
Surveys are a common way of collecting input from members of the public and can be configured in digital or print versions, depending on project budgets and audiences. Given their familiarity and flexibility, surveys are used during the process of many CUUATS plans and products. Survey results are processed and analyzed by CUUATS staff and included in final plan documents.
Comment cards are often made available at project events and on the CUUATS website to capture opinions about a certain topic or outreach strategy. Comment cards can allow for open-ended answers/comments that may or may not pertain to a specific plan or event. All responses are reviewed by staff during the planning process and may be included in final plan documents.
Online Input Maps
CUUATS staff created online input maps for the LRTP 2040 and LRTP 2045 where users could input geographically specific information about any part of the local transportation system. By allowing people to locate their input, staff were able to analyse the input by mode as well as location to identify trends and prioritize projects. The LRTP 2045 input map is archived at this webpage.
Graphic recording is a form of meeting facilitation that includes the live illustration of comments or discussion on a large paper or board in front of the meeting participants. Live illustration serves to engage meeting participants while also allowing them to witness their input being recorded and visualize their input within the overall conversation. Graphic recording posters also serve as visual records of events that can be stored for public record.
CUUATS staff has used voting boards as a form of public survey. For the LRTP 2040, participants filled out a confidential survey prioritizing future transportation projects, after which they were asked to voluntarily post their survey answers on a large voting board so other participants could get a sense of the collective priorities.
A wish tree is an informal and visually appealing input gathering device that allows participants to add “leaves” to the tree with their written input. A wish tree was used in conjunction with the LRTP 2040 outreach bus as a way to gather input that was not captured or directly requested in the other LRTP input materials. The wish tree allowed participants of all ages and language abilities to contribute ideas for any transportation improvements regardless of the geographical, technological, or financial feasibility.
Public Comment Periods
Draft documents are provided online and in print at public locations for public comment and review at key decision points. The locations of the document and length of review (generally 30-45 days) depend on the plan contents and requirements. Comments provided during public comment periods are included in final plan documents. If the final plan differs significantly from the version that was made available during the public comment period, the plan will be edited and an additional public comment period will be provided.
Tools for Communication
Videos can be an effective way to engage people and communicate a lot of information using language and graphics. In order to educate the local community about the purpose and content of the MPO and the LRTP, CUUATS staff collaborated with local stakeholders to create two videos to show on public access television stations in advance of the LRTP 2040 outreach campaign. The videos were also shown at LRTP outreach events, accessible on the LRTP website, and continue to play regularly in the Brookens Administrative Center, a public facility that houses CUUATS, CCRPC, and other Champaign County offices. Staff also worked with an illustrator to create an information video for the LRTP 2045 to explain the role of the MPO, the LRTP planing process, and the transportation vision for 2045.
CUUATS staff creates written, spoken, and/or visual event advertisements to distribute at least two weeks before every public event. Advertisements can be distributed via newspaper, television, radio, email, social media, websites, and/or physically posted in or around the event location or planning area.
Websites allow staff to make a variety of data, graphic visualizations, outreach materials, document drafts, and other work products available to anyone with an internet-enabled device. CUUATS websites are hosted within the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission website. CUUATS staff maintains their sites to include the most recent available information on:
- Upcoming meeting announcements and meeting materials
- Draft documents for review
- Final documents
- Public meeting materials
- Data (traffic counts, annual LRTP report cards, etc.)
- Committee and staff contacts
- Surveys and other participation opportunities
Direct Mail and Email
CUUATS staff uses direct mail, and email to distribute information to interested people and advertise events. The CUUATS mailing list consists of 1,123 people who have signed up to receive information about CUUATS in general or a specific CUUATS project by either direct mail or email.
CUUATS staff use social media accounts to announce meetings, share information, and solicit public input online. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are utilized because of their popularity and each platform’s ability to track engagement data. CUUATS currently has 240 Facebook followers, 133 Twitter followers, and 102 Instagram followers.
CUUATS staff creates and distributes newsletters for some longer-term planning projects such as the HSTP, corridor studies, or the LRTP. Newsletters provide recipients with updates on the planning process, next steps in the process, and ways to be involved. Newsletters are also posted on the CUUATS website.
CUUATS staff produce these for specific projects or events whenever necessary to communicate information related to a project or event. Brochures and fact sheets can be distributed at in-person events and via direct mail, email, social media, and/or relevant websites.
Television and Radio
Public Service Announcements are communicated to local radio and television stations to relay information about significant CUUATS events and draft document review periods. Each media outlet has the right to show or disregard the information. In addition, CUUATS staff periodically have radio and television interviews related to specific projects or events.
All CUUATS public meetings and draft document review periods are advertised in the local newspaper at minimum as a legal ad and often also as a retail ad. CUUATS also provides the newspaper with an annual list of approved meeting dates to run in January.
Yard signs are used to advertise meetings to a targeted area of the community. They can be used in lieu of other forms of communication when the target audience is difficult to identify or so large as to make a direct mailing cost-prohibative. Yard signs are typically placed at intersections and along principal roadways in the planning area to maximize their visibility.
Including the Traditionally Underserved
Federal law stipulates that MPOs must seek out and consider the needs of those traditionally underserved by existing transportation systems, such as low-income individuals, persons with disabilities, and minority households, who may face challenges accessing employment and other services. CUUATS staff completes a demographic analysis with every decennial Census and keeps apprised of new growth and redevelopment areas in the metropolitan planning area in order to determine where concentrations of underserved or underrepresented populations reside. CUUATS staff modifies outreach methods based on current demographic data and is uniquely equipped to handle translation needs due to their highly diverse workforce.
Connecting with People
CUUATS staff places special emphasis on connecting with the public to garner local support and produce plans that are grounded in a shared vision for the future. In order to ensure CUUATS plans consider all residents’ needs, including those of the traditionally underserved, the administration and staff take the following extra steps when connecting with people:
- Plan events/information displays in locations that are convenient to underserved populations in terms of proximity to employment or residence, as well as accessibility by modes most used by those populations
- Plan events/information displays at times that are convenient to any known schedules of underserved populations
- Seek out community leaders or representatives of underserved populations to participate in planning processes and working groups as appropriate
- Meet with and make presentations to organizations that represent underserved populations
- Utilize the age, ethnic, cultural, and language diversity of the CUUATS staff to make underserved individuals feel welcome and heard at events
- Provide language translation whenever possible and relevant
- Provide childcare or child engagement whenever possible or relevant so caretakers can participate
- Use targeted advertising to encourage participation from known underserved populations in addition to wide advertising that encourages participation from as much as the public as possible
- Track the demographics of public participants whenever possible to ensure appropriate representation of underserved groups (without infringing on personal privacy)
- Continue to research creative methods of reaching underserved populations with information, documents, and events other than the techniques already listed in this document
CUUATS staff works to demonstrate respect for the public by designing input processes that facilitate easy participation and clear understanding. This means designing outreach methods that can be adapted for different ages, physical abilities, technology comfort levels, language abilities, and time constraints. In order to ensure input methods are respectful toward underserved populations, CUUATS staff take the following extra steps when designing new input processes:
- Plan input gathering processes that are known to be familiar and accessible to underserved populations
- Make all draft documents available for public review online and in person at convenient public locations, including public libraries
- Translate input materials as well as information and planning documents into relevant languages when possible
- Collect public participant demographic information when possible to track the participation of underrepresented populations
- Continue to research creative methods of gathering input from underserved populations other than the techniques already listed in this document
Tools for Communication
Effective communication facilitates useful public input, particularly for underserved populations who could be less familiar with the people, agencies, and/or plans involved in CUUATS outreach processes. In order to ensure the communication tools used by CUUATS staff are appropriate for underserved populations, staff take the following extra steps when planning new education and advertising campaigns:
- Methods of communication will be selected based on known methods that are popular in underserved populations (e.g., a popular Spanish language radio station or newspaper to reach the Latino community)
- Residents that express an interest by attending public meetings or notifying us by other means will be included in the mailing list to receive information about future events
- All communication tools (videos, websites, direct mail, email, social media, public service announcements, newspaper advertisements, yard signs, etc.) will be translated into non-English languages when possible and relevant
- Continue to research creative tools for communication that would appeal to underserved populations other than the techniques already listed in this document
Example of Spanish outreach material: business card advertising the LRTP 2045 online input map
Processing and Utilizing Public Input
CUUATS staff makes every effort to consider and use all public comments collected during CUUATS planning processes and interactions with CUUATS member agencies. The following methodologies are used in processing and utilizing public comments:
- All public comments are reviewed and considered by CUUATS staff. Input is collected and used for many different purposes depending on the project or plan. For the LRTP, public input was a fundamental part of identifying existing strengths and weaknesses in the transportation system, defining guiding pillars of the goals and objectives for the 2040 and 2045 visions, and selecting future infrastructure improvement projects.
- If comments are related to the facilities or programs of a CUUATS member agency, staff shares the comments with the relevant agency or agencies.
- If comments are related to a particular planning process, comments are forwarded on to the relevant project working group for further review.
- When comments are sought for a draft document, staff compiles and reviews all comments, makes a summary of the comments for the decision making bodies, and makes relevant changes to the document as directed by the decision-making body. All comments (as well as responses when relevant) are included as an appendix to the final document.
- When necessary or relevant due to volume or subject matter, additional tools are used to analyze input, including but not limited to geocoding, text coding, and graphic visualizations
The Code of Federal Regulations requires that MPOs periodically review public participation procedures to ensure a full and open participation process. CUUATS maintains a list of basic performance measures that staff can use to guide the development of new or ongoing public participation strategies.
The annual LRTP report card tracks performance measures moving towards the goals outlined in the document. In the LRTP 2040, a couple of performance measures pertained to public outreach, such as new community partners and public event materials, are tracked annually. From 2016 to 2018, both measures received positive ratings each year, meaning CUUATS’ public outreach activities continue to grow.
Since 2008, the most immediate and effective strategy for measuring the reach of participation strategies has been collecting and analyzing the demographic information of public participants. By continuously tracking how closely participant demographics match the demographics of the planning area population, CUUATS staff can plan additional events and/or adjust the outreach techniques to target specific groups. This was done effectively for the LRTP 2040 and 2045 outreach campaigns, as well as for a bicycle and pedestrian survey conducted for the Urbana Bicycle Master Plan. During the LRTP outreach campaigns, the following additional events were scheduled in order to solicit opinions on the existing transportation network from specific groups who were initially underrepresented among outreach participants: a Disability Expo, Spanish and Korean church services, a Latino supermarket, an African American neighborhood park party, an African American barbershop, a middle school extracurricular club meeting, a low vision group, a deaf advisory committee, and an outdoor welcoming event for students at the University of Illinois.
For a Pedestrian and Bicycle Survey (PABS) administered in 2019, CUUATS staff mailed pre-notification postcards and printed surveys to a random sample of residents in the MPA. CUUATS staff translated the postcards, the printed surveys, and an online version of the survey into Spanish, French, and Mandarin in response to the community’s linguistic diversity. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, over 17 percent of Champaign County residents speak a language other than English at home (2013-2017 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates). Respondents answered with their frequency of walking and bicycling habits, their favorite and least favorite routes, and weather-related travel, among other questions. Demographic questions on the survey helped CUUATS staff determine how closely the survey response sample matched the overall MPA population in terms of age, race, ethnicity, and gender.
CUUATS routinely requests feedback regarding outreach methodologies through surveys and comment cards at different events. Some examples of questions included on comment cards include the legibility of information posters, the clarity of verbal presentations, the perceived utility of different activities, the accessibility of the event venue, and the method of advertising that informed them about the event. This information helps CUUATS staff better understand attendees’ preferences for outreach events, evaluate the effectiveness of advertising methods, and adjust future strategies accordingly.
Conferences, Workshops, and Trainings
CUUATS staff regularly attend conferences, workshops, and trainings to stay abreast of best practices and new developments in the field of transportation planning, as well as to maintain professional memberships and accreditation. At these events, staff often present CUUATS work products in order to share lessons learned and receive feedback about the effectiveness of different planning and public involvement strategies from professional peers in other locations.
No single communication tool serves all populations, and CUUATS is committed to involving the public in a variety of ways. Social media engages residents in a practical manner, due to the quick dissemination of information and ubiquitous nature of online platforms. However, government social media use brings a special set of needs and considerations.
Within the last decade, social media has become a common way for people to get information and share opinions, so it is a natural place to engage local residents in the transportation planning process. Facebook has about 2.3 billion monthly active users (people who log on at least every 30 days). Instagram has one billion active monthly users, and Twitter has 330 million monthly active users. CUUATS uses Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts with the intention to share information such as research findings, plan development, public events, and local, state, and federal transportation issues.
Considerations and Guidelines
All government agencies must be able to communicate with the public. In the past, this was typically accomplished through controlled mechanisms such as press releases, fliers, bulletins and newsletters. While agencies, including CUUATS, still produce these, the public today expects organizations to have an interactive, online presence as well.
Though social media tools are standard in communication plans for private, non-profit, and public sector organizations, CUUATS recognizes that public record and public access laws in Illinois require a thoughtful approach. As additional guidance is provided at the state level, CUUATS will modify retention practices and the application of social media tools, when necessary.
CUUATS adheres to the following social media guidelines to ensure compliance with Illinois’ open government and public record laws:
When social media applications provide mechanisms to restrict content access, CUUATS will allow all content to be freely visible and open to any user.
CUUATS will produce its own social media content, using it to highlight the organization’s activities. Content from partners’ social media channels will be shared or repurposed and may link to external sites for informational purposes. Appearance of external links does not constitute an official endorsement on behalf of CUUATS or CCRPC.
CUUATS monitors its social media accounts and comments posted by visitors to these accounts to ensure that the content is constructive and suitable to all visitors to the respective accounts and pages. While social media is a 24/7 medium, CUUATS cannot monitor the comments posted to CUUATS social media pages on a 24/7 basis.
- Use of social media will primarily focus on the dissemination of information relevant to the transportation planning process, with a secondary focus on obtaining input from the public regarding a targeted issue.
- CUUATS committee members are prohibited from engaging in an exchange or discussion of matters via social media that will foreseeably come before the board or committee for official action. Posts advertising upcoming board or committee meetings themselves are permitted.
The following forms of content shall not be allowed:
- Comments not topically related to the particular social medium article being commented upon;
- Profane language or content;
- Content that promotes, fosters, or perpetuates discrimination on the basis of race, creed, color, age, religion, gender, marital status, status with regard to public assistance, national origin, physical or mental disability or sexual orientation;
- Sexual content or links to sexual content;
- Solicitations of commerce;
- Conduct or encouragement of illegal activity;
- Information that may tend to compromise the safety or security of the public or of private entities; or
- Content that violates a legal ownership interest of any other party.
- As is the case with the CUUATS website, designated staff will be responsible for the content and upkeep of any social media accounts created to promote the mission of the organization.
- Social media records will conform with applicable public record retention schedules, as outlined in Illinois Statutes.
- CUUATS will independently document social media activity quarterly.
- A designated staff member will download social media data from the given online platform, if applicable.
- Data will be saved as an Excel or CSV file and kept digitally in agency files.
- In the case that such a data-downloading function does not exist on a social media platform, CUUATS will screenshot posts.
- A designated staff member will download social media data from the given online platform, if applicable.
Federal Law and Regulations Related to MPO Public Participation Plans
Metropolitan Planning Organizations
Federal law requires each metropolitan region with a population of more than 50,000 residents to designate a metropolitan planning organization (MPO) to develop transportation plans for the region. MPOs must develop long-range transportation plans and transportation improvement programs through a performance-driven, outcome-based approach to planning. The law also requires each MPO to create a public participation plan for providing the public a reasonable opportunity to be involved in the transportation planning process.
Title VI: Nondiscrimination in federally funded programs
Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its amendments (Title VI) prohibit excluding people from participating in or being discriminated in any federally funded program or activity on the basis of race, color, or national origin. Other federal laws further expand legal protection from discrimination, including the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1973, the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Americans with Disability Act of 1990.
Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 200
As a recipient of federal funds, CUUATS staff regularly update a CUUATS Title VI program that gets approved by the CUUATS Technical and Policy Committees and submitted it to the Illinois Department of Transportation.
Executive Order 12898 in 1994 reinforced the provisions of Title VI and expanded its provisions to environmental justice for the environmental and health conditions in minority and low-income communities. Executive Order 12898 provides:
Each federal agency shall make achieving environmental justice part of its mission by identifying and addressing, as appropriate, disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of its programs, policies and activities on minority populations and low-income populations. Executive Order 12898, Federal Actions To Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations (1994).
Persons with limited English proficiency
Executive Order 13166 requires improved access to federal programs for people with limited English proficiency (LEP). The order requires federal agencies to provide assistance to federal fund recipients to provide reasonable access to those users of federal programs with limited English proficiency in accordance with Title VI’s prohibition against national origin discrimination. Executive Order 13166, Improving Access to Services for Person with Limited English Proficiency (2000).
Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act)
On December 4, 2015, President Obama signed into law the FAST Act. This legislation provides long-term federal funding commitments for surface transportation.
Illinois Law and Regulations
Illinois Open Meetings Act
CUUATS governing bodies conduct their business in compliance with the Illinois Open Meetings Act to ensure public notice of all meetings and to protect the public’s right to know about all actions and deliberations of this public agency. The Open Meetings Act and CUUATS afford citizens notice, opportunity to address, and review of meeting minutes of the agency’s deliberative bodies.
The Open Meetings Act applies to any meeting of a quorum of CUUATS’ governing boards or committees held for the purpose of discussion public business. CUUATS gives public notice of meetings of its governing bodies and committees through its weekly newsletter, website, and posting meeting agendas in its offices.
In accordance with the Open Meetings Act, CUUATS makes available a schedule of all its regular meetings at the beginning of each calendar year. Exceptions to the open meetings requirements are strictly construed, as the Open Meetings Act allows closed meetings to consider limited matters, such as personnel, the purchase or lease of real estate, security procedures, and litigation.
Illinois Freedom of Information Act
Illinois’ Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) ensures that citizens have access to records of a public body to ensure transparency in the decision-making process. The FOIA Act states: It is a fundamental obligation of government to operate openly and provide public records as expediently and efficiently as possible in compliance with this Act.
FOIA applies to CUUATS, which provides a link on its webpage to submit FOIA requests, guidance for requesting information and public records, and the contact information for CUUATS’ FOIA officer. The FOIA officer responds to requests for information and documents by making them available for inspection or providing them to the requester.
Illinois Freedom of Information Act, 5 ILCS 140