Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

land use - transit oriented development, land use - planning, land use - urban design, place - urban


Urban design, Transportation planning, Transit oriented development, Road design, Public participation, Public involvement, Local participation, Highway design, Citizen participation


Public involvement in transportation planning and design has a problematic history. Professionals lack access to a coherent, organized method for communicating with the public, and some important principles of public involvement known to community design professionals are still being discovered by transportation professionals. A protocol, structured public involvement (SPI), is proposed. SPI was designed to ensure that public involvement is meaningful to the professional and the public. Principles of SPI are presented, and a series of steps useful for engaging the general public in a complex design or planning problem is given. SPI is intended to be transparent, accountable, democratic, and efficient. SPI places the use of technology within a public involvement framework built on community design experience. While technology can be useful, it must be placed in a social context. That is, various technologies are used because they can address such problems as lack of access to information, inconvenient and time-consuming meetings, confusing terms and graphics, and one-way communication. Highlights and examples are drawn from practical experience, where SPI protocols have been designed and used to solve problems of route planning, highway design, and transit-oriented development. While each problem set called for a different mix of technical tools, the protocol within which those tools were used was the same, with similar encouraging results. With SPI, public participation is less contentious and more informed, and the professional has information of high quality with which to begin the design process.