Evaluation of ADOT Messaging in Public Involvement

The Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) seeks to engage Arizonans in meaningful public participation in the planning, design, construction, and operation of transportation facilities. While ADOT’s public participation efforts are developed with the objective of ensuring a high quality process and producing useful results, the department believes in the benefits of continuous quality improvement. ADOT uses messages and images to convey complex technical concepts about projects to a general audience, but has no formal process to confirm that this information is comprehended as intended. Understanding the types of messages, terminology, maps, and other images that effectively – as well as ineffectively -- communicate with the public would help ADOT project managers and Communications staff to develop messages that build positive relationships with communities, encourage active engagement, and result in constructive input. Outreach that effectively communicates with the public is thought to produce stronger public support that, in turn, may prevent schedule delays and associated costs. The research will use focus groups and other research methods to determine the types of messages, terminology, maps, and other images that effectively communicate project information to a general audience. Participants will be drawn from a range of demographics. The sample of messaging to be tested may be drawn from any public involvement format – in-person, online, mobile, print, video, etc. Research findings will provide ADOT with a better understanding of why messages succeed or fail in communicating intended project information to a general audience. Recommendations will offer ADOT: (1) Improved messaging for use in public involvement efforts associated with the planning, design, construction, and operation of transportation facilities; (2) Tools and techniques to aid the development of effective messaging; and (3) Measures to assess the performance of messaging used in future public involvement efforts.