Thursday, July 22, 2010

New Report: Effective Use of Citizen Adv Cmttees for Transit Planning & Opns

The Transportation Research Board of the National Academies today released a new report on the topic "Effective Use Of Citizen Advisory Committees For Transit Planning And Operations."

Here is an excerpt from the summary of the report (p. 11):
"Advisory committees composed mainly of community members go by many names, ranging from stakeholder working groups to citizen advisory committees. These groups often form the backbone of transit agency and metropolitan planning organization (MPO) public involvement programs, supporting both transit planning and operations. This synthesis report examines the range of approaches to advisory committee membership, operations, roles, and authority; it also highlights successful practices as identified by transit agencies and MPOs throughout the country. It is designed to assist public involvement practitioners, transit planners, and project managers in the design of advisory committees as part of the agency’s or MPO’s outreach program.

This synthesis is focused on the operations and management of committees rather than on substantive outcomes. It includes a review of the relevant literature, information gathered from a survey of transit agencies and MPOs, and case studies that highlight successful practices. The literature review, agency and MPO survey, and case studies reference ad hoc committees formed to provide short-term input on specific projects, programs, or policies on a limited basis, as well as standing committees that provide long-term input on day-today operations or specific issues. The review of literature provides the regulatory and historic framework for agency and MPO public involvement in decision making and provides context for accepted best practices as described in FTA guidebooks. The movement toward broader public involvement in transportation decision making began with the passage of the National Environmental Policy Act in 1969 and was expanded under transportation funding authorization bills in the 1990s and 2000s. The use of advisory committees is an accepted way to meeting public involvement guidelines described in implementation guidebooks.

The literature review describes research on the operations and structure of advisory committees, including how advisory committees are defined and when they are most useful. The literature refers almost exclusively to ad hoc committees, rather than standing committees. The synthesis includes the survey results of transit agencies and metropolitan planning organizations. Overall, 232 responses to the 62-question survey were received from 206 agencies. Responses were received from throughout the country, with most of the survey responses coming from California, Florida, and Pennsylvania. More surveys were received from transit agencies than from MPOs. More than 80% of responses were received from agencies that had involved an advisory committee in their planning during the past 3 years. The results show that advisory committee authority and role, structure, and membership vary greatly among agencies, and indicate high levels of satisfaction with the advisory committee process."

You can download the complete report here.
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