Develop Performance Measures to Evaluate the Effectiveness of Public Involvement, Community Impact Assessment, and Environmental Justice Processes

Focus Area

Environmental Justice


Community & Cultural Concerns, Environmental Process







Research Idea Scope

TERI Database Administrator Notes: Not recommended at present time by 2009 Subcommittee on Cultural Resources.

Today, transportation agencies use public involvement programs to incorporate public input into more and more decisions. Sometimes agencies view public involvement as a way to make better decisions and enhance the acceptability of controversial projects. Other times, legislative and regulatory mandates such as those stemming from the NEPA, ISTEA, and reauthorized in TEA- 21 require public involvement. The meaningful engagement of the public is a clear link between CIA, Title VI, environmental justice, and public involvement processes. How we involve the public, how we define their communities, and how we treat them in a fair and equitable (nondiscriminatory) way is the key to ensuring that transportation problems and solutions are addressed in the spirit of existing laws, regulations and guidance.

This research will review program evaluation literature to identify a variety of approaches for assessing the effectiveness of engagement programs in meeting public involvement, CIA, and environmental justice goals. Define potential indicators of effectiveness and measures that can be used to assess performance of engagement programs against these indicators. In identifying indicators, consider such factors as:accessibility to the decision-making process;diversity of stakeholders and views represented; range of opportunities for participation; integration of community concerns in decision making; integration of data provided by stakeholders on community conditions and impacts; effectiveness of information exchange in stimulating participation, including cross cultural contexts; duration of process; mutual respect and learning among participants; cost avoidance for affected agencies; participation and opportunity time costs for participants; and; participant satisfaction with process and outcome/product.

    Incorporate indicators and measures that reflect consideration of different perspectives; the assessment, including the sponsoring agency; other affected agencies; program participants; and non-program participants. Organize these indicators and measures into one or more assessment tools and pilot test them on a range of engagement programs, including those associated with long-range regional planning, corridor planning, state transportation improvement plan programming, urban project development, and rural project development. Based on pilot test findings, recommend assessment measures deemed most effective for various types of engagement processes. Prepare a guidebook to assist transportation agencies in conducting assessments of their engagement programs. In addition, the research should provide success stories from the technical evaluation of the pilot tests. Examples should illustrate effective tools for engaging the public in providing data useful for impact analysis. The research should ultimately develop guidance for practitioners.

    Urgency and Payoff

    Whatever the reasons, transportation agencies, decision makers, and the public are spending increasing amounts of time, energy, and resources developing and implementing public involvement programs. Despite these efforts, there are still indications of community dissatisfaction. Communities feel disempowered, are overwhelmed by government processes, and resent the seeming disconnect between their expressed concerns and transportation decisions. What are appropriate performance measures for these processes? This research will help DOTs tell if their public involvement programs are effective.

    Suggested By

    Transportation Research Board 2002 Environmental Research Needs Conference Notes

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