The 12-Year Program (TYP) is the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation's (PennDOT's) mid-range planning tool used to match available funds with transportation projects statewide, scheduled over a 12-year time frame. The program is updated every two years in collaboration with metropolitan and rural planning organizations (MPOs and RPOs). The TYP is the Commonwealth’s official transportation program, and it is a multimodal, fiscally constrained program of transportation improvements.
We sat down with Lugene Keys, who served as the Consultant Project Manager for the Public Outreach Campaign for PennDOT’s 2023 12-Year Program Update.
McCormick Taylor has completed the intense public-facing portion of this year’s campaign, which began on March 1 and continued through April 14. We have reviewed and compiled all the data, developed the statewide and regional summaries, co-presented the results before the State Transportation Commission (STC), posted the results on the STC website, and shared the data with the public, regional planning organizations, and other key stakeholders. We have other associated tasks to complete such as preparation of the overall summary of the Public Outreach Campaign activities including lessons learned. We will hold a focus group with representatives of the MPOs and RPOs to get their feedback on the overall effort and package the transportation survey for the next round. The results can be viewed at www.TalkPATransportation.com.
Tell us a little bit about what the project is and who it benefits.
This project is a great example of what public engagement is and its benefits when it is implemented effectively.
Since 2012, McCormick Taylor has collaborated with PennDOT and the STC to modernize their approach to the TYP public outreach. Traditionally, input on the TYP was gathered through hearings where few members of the public participated. In fact, during the 2011 TYP update, only six members of the public testified at the hearings. Public participation is a critical component of the TYP update process, but it was widely recognized that previous efforts to involve the public were not effective.
McCormick Taylor developed a plan to harness new technology and innovation to provide a more convenient and accessible method for the public to engage in transportation planning on a statewide basis. The plan continues to evolve with each cycle, and currently includes the following innovative communications tools and techniques: a user-friendly, modernized website, a customized online and printable survey, a public forum with an audio-only option, animated educational infographics, interactive web maps, and a collaborative plan that brings together all the key stakeholders in the process. Since 2013, public participation has continually increased - from just a few members of the public testifying at public hearings to over 7,400 participating in a customized transportation survey and over 1,900 live online public forum participants in 2021.
These efforts have been recognized multiple times on local, state, and national levels. Most recently, the TYP outreach effort was featured as part of FHWA’s Virtual Public Involvement webinar series and AASHTO’s National 2020 Public Involvement Scan Tour.
Have you come across any challenges or concerns while working on this project?
This year, as with everything else, the pandemic had an impact! Our team and the PennDOT team were unable to meet in person and COVID-19 protocols made everyone more dependent on technology. The good news was that we were well ahead of the curve with virtual public outreach applications. As a result, there was little adjustment for the public outreach strategy due to COVID-19.
However, it was the first time that the project teams, presenters, and producers of the public forum had to work remotely from beginning to end. In addition to the PennDOT and McCormick Taylor project teams, this included Commonwealth Media Services, the meeting moderator, the Secretary of Transportation, Deputy Secretary, and the State Transportation Commissioner.
Does the project have any unique aspects?
Some unique aspects include that it is a statewide initiative, it is multimodal, and it is not “project-specific.” By that, I mean that our outreach efforts generally focus on specific projects that typically have geographic boundaries and are in a particular phase of development. They vary in size, but there are not too many that are statewide.
It is also unique for us because we have had the opportunity to collaborate with PennDOT on the modernization of their outreach efforts for the TYP for several cycles now. We are seeing the fruits of our labor in terms of increased public participation, heightened public awareness and understanding of PennDOT’s transportation planning processes, and meaningful public feedback with application to not only the TYP but regional TIPs and LRTPs as well as the statewide LRTP and Freight Movement Plan.
Finally, when you want an example of a comprehensive public outreach campaign, you do not have to look any further than this one. I think that this effort is one of PennDOT’s best examples of its commitment to inclusivity, equity, and accessibility in public participation in transportation planning.
What’s your favorite part of the project?
I have many favorites, including the conversation we have with the public! Over the last few cycles, we have been able to do a better job of demonstrating that the public’s voice is being heard.
Another favorite is seeing the materials that we work with PennDOT to create! This project provides our Communications, Public Involvement, and Creative Services teams a unique opportunity to innovate and take our creativity to the next level in a collaborative effort with the client. We get to exercise the attributes, unique talents, and capabilities of our staff across these disciplines in full support of this campaign, and it is a great experience.