Pathways to Effective, Inclusive, and Equitable Virtual Public Engagement for Public Transportation

Effective public engagement is essential to the development, improvement, and operation of equitable public transportation services that are responsive to the needs of the community. Public engagement facilitates stakeholder input in transportation decision-making, helps ensure accessibility, and supports efforts to identify and document environmental, social, and economic impacts of transit policies, projects, and initiatives. While public engagement is a means of providing information and obtaining input and feedback, it is also a means for a public transportation agency to build an enduring relationship with, and affirm commitment to, its riders and stakeholders. Public engagement is evolving in several important regards that reflect changes in society, at large: (1) Increased role of technology. Historically, public engagement by transit agencies has been largely conducted in-person through public meetings, hearings, and various large and small group outreach initiatives. Over the past decade, virtual public engagement has increased in importance. Virtual engagement allows public transportation agencies to communicate with more people, in particular, those who do not traditionally attend in-person public events. During the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual engagement enabled public engagement to continue at a time when gathering in-person was not feasible. Notable shortcomings of virtual engagement are that it excludes people without a computer, cell phone or internet connectivity; presents challenges to those who do not understand how to connect via technology, even if they have devices; and may not retain participants’ full attention. (2) Greater concern for diversity, equity, and inclusion. Historically, many public agencies throughout the United States have not involved segments of society in decision-making and some communities have been underserved as a result, including transportation. Federal laws exist that bar discrimination and recognize rights on the basis of race, color, age, national origin (including limited English proficiency), or disability status. Some public transportation agencies are increasing their focus on inclusive public engagement in order to address systemic inequities. There is growing concern for the mobility needs and well-being of communities who have historically endured health and social inequities. Intentional and well-planned in-person and virtual public engagement can enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion. In view of the increasing need for virtual engagement by transit agencies and the importance of transportation equity, research is needed to evaluate virtual engagement and help public transportation agencies develop programs that effectively balance in-person and virtual public engagement. The objective of this research is to evaluate virtual public engagement and develop pathways for public transportation agencies to effectively incorporate virtual environments into public engagement. The intent of this research is to enhance public engagement; enable transit agencies throughout the United States to obtain more inclusive and equitable public input; build meaningful, enduring relationships; and better serve the community. Specifically, the research should aim to: (1) assess the benefits and limitations of virtual public engagement strategies; (2) identify virtual engagement best practices that promote effective engagement, in particular, practices that prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion; (3) present virtual strategies designed to build trust and enduring relationships between all segments of the community and its public transportation providers; (4) identify quantitative metrics and qualitative approaches to assess the effectiveness of virtual public engagement; (5) develop methods and practices for stakeholders to enhance their virtual participation and provide effective, actionable comments that are clear, concise, and compelling; and (6) provide a guide for leveraging virtual public engagement as a stand-alone or in tandem with in-person public engagement.


  • English


  • Status: Proposed
  • Funding: $100000
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project J-11, Task 41

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Transit Cooperative Research Program

    Transportation Research Board
    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC    20001

    Federal Transit Administration

    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC  United States  20590
  • Project Managers:

    Schwager, Dianne

  • Start Date: 20211201
  • Expected Completion Date: 0
  • Actual Completion Date: 0

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01758961
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: Project J-11, Task 41
  • Files: TRB, RIP
  • Created Date: Nov 23 2020 3:06PM