Commitment to Public Participation
Modes of transportation, as we know them, have evolved through the centuries from horse-drawn carts to bicycles, trains, automobiles and aircraft. At each stage of vehicular evolution, the response or non-response from the public has often determined the next stage of vehicular development. Today, most discussions relevant to vehicular travel are focused on the world of autonomous vehicles, the future of transportation and the impact of technology on our lifestyle. In our 2015 Annual Report, we referred to the autonomous car as a concept, and, less than a year later, we can report that the technology is here and advancing daily.
OKI views these rapid technological advances as a significant boost to civic engagement that encourages public participation. Residents in OKI’s eight-county region are discovering that thanks to the onset of convenient shared car services such as Uber and Lyft, they now have newfound time and more autonomy to tweet, post, blog or complete a survey to share their opinion about a proposed transit project or offer much valued input when requested by OKI staff.
OKI views comprehensive, strategic stakeholder outreach and public involvement as essential components of its work plan. Staff attributes valuable public participation from its constituents to last year’s successful update of its 2040 Regional Transportation Plan (Plan), along with the effective update of its Coordinated Public Transit – Human Services Transportation Plan. During the process of updating its Plan, OKI received over 2,300 completed Transportation Priorities Surveys, participated in two high-traffic community events to share Plan information, developed and managed a stakeholder database for the Plan’s update and made monthly presentations on the Plan’s status at the ICC and Executive Committee/Board meetings. OKI staff prepared and posted project information and updates through the Plan’s own dedicated page and through the social media channels of Facebook and Twitter. Copies of the Plan’s update were distributed to the Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana departments of transportation, and the document was shared with more than 30 other local, regional, state and federal agencies. The Open Houses were held in central locations easily accessible by Environmental Justice population groups, being on or near a bus line, and the notice of the Open Houses was provided via OKI’s website, announcements at committee meetings, during meetings of various civic groups, area community council meetings, neighborhood association meetings and newsletters, Twitter, Facebook and emails. In addition, press releases were sent to major regional media outlets and minority-oriented newspapers.
OKI staff long ago ascertained that good, responsible public participation and civic engagement ultimately result in the successful completion of its vital transportation improvements and investments throughout its eight-county region. OKI’s Title VI Coordinator works closely with members of OKI’s Environmental Justice Advisory Committee (EJAC), who keep their respective constituents informed. Many of the EJAC members either represent or work on behalf of OKI’s underserved populations and are usually able to provide additional insight because they are familiar with the history and location for most proposed projects. OKI’s Regional Planning Manager works closely with the Advisory Committee for OKI’s Coordinated Public Transit – Human Services Transportation Plan. The 2040 Regional Transportation Plan identifies the transportation needs of older adults, individuals with disabilities and low income individuals; develops strategies for meeting these needs and prioritizes services for these target populations, who are generally described as traditionally underserved population groups.
Combined, OKI’s outreach activities foster a culture of strong civic engagement, which makes our work all the more successful and advances the Tri-State.