Public Engagement in Public Transportation Projects: Challenges and Recommendations

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - north america, mode - tram/light rail, planning - public consultation


public transit, public engagement, light-rail transit, transit planning


Public participation for transit projects faces a number of unique challenges compared with many other similar public investments. For example, a smaller subset of the community uses transit on a daily basis as compared with highways; moreover, public transit is seen to be limited—both spatially and demographically—in its appeal. Combined, these factors can limit the widespread engagement of the public in the development and evaluation of transit projects. Further, given the lack of direct benefits from transit, it is often more difficult to garner public support for public transport projects. Specific considerations and techniques are demonstrated that can be undertaken by planners and policy makers to actively engage the community beyond those strongly in favor of or opposed to a transit project. Strategies employed in the Region of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, in the context of public engagement before the introduction of light-rail transit are explored. In light of these strategies and the experiences of planners in Waterloo and in conjunction with evidence from the literature, a number of conclusions are drawn regarding an effective framework for engaging a wide spectrum of community members in transit planning.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Transportation Research Board, Washington, copyright remains with them.