Guides on the Use of Social Media to Improve Participation in Public Involvement Processes

Although the use of social media and Web 2.0 tools has grown exponentially in recent years, there has been very little specifically aimed at examining how these tools can be used to promote public participation in the planning phase of transportation improvement projects. This project explores the use of these tools and how they may be applied to effectively increase and improve public participation in the transportation planning process. The research will identify and test popular social media as a mechanism to effectively engage a broader portion of the public in the transportation planning and project development process. This will be accomplished by compiling best practices currently in use in other state departments of transportation. The research will also identify the efficacy of various techniques and the situations for which they are best suited. A pilot study will be conducted using several projects in the planning phase to determine how social media may be used to enhance the public engagement effort. Strategies will then be identified to encourage the use of social media as a useful tool to actively encourage communication and collaboration in the transportation planning process. Finally, the research will result in the development of a guidebook that will aid the Texas Department of Transportation in using social media and Web 2.0 tools to enhance the public engagement process. The guidebook will include guidance on how to integrate social media platforms into the National Environmental Policy Act process and how the department can use this information to facilitate better project development.