Solving a transportation problem is more complex than simply finding a physical solution — it involves securing funding, arranging schedules, allocating equipment and much more.
An often overlooked step in this process is securing community buy-in. Presenting your traffic safety project to the community should instead be done as soon as possible and with detailed preparation. Engaging stakeholders with compelling data, multiple options and a laid-out plan can ensure vital community support. Helpful feedback on the proposal may be received as well.
Below are the five steps that can be taken by transportation professionals to engage stakeholders and gain their support for traffic safety projects.
1. Determine Who You Should Target
As tax money is often needed for traffic safety projects, those who pay said taxes should take priority. Others to keep in mind are those most affected by the project and local professionals. Below is a list of members of the community who you may want to target with your messaging:
- Those living near the project site, both long-time residents and newcomers
- Business owners whose establishments will be affected by the proposed work
- Local government officials
- Safety professionals, such as fire and police personnel
- Education officials if the project is near a school
- Local community and public service groups, such as Rotary or Kiwanis clubs
2. Get the Word Out
How do you generate interest among those whose input you desire? There is a multitude of means:
- Social media posts
- Flyers in places like the library, coffee shops and the post office
- An article in the local newspaper
- Announcements at community events
- Good old-fashioned mailers
3. Come Prepared with Incentivizing Facts and Figures
When you’ve gathered your group of contributors, set a kickoff meeting and come with plenty of relevant data:
- If you’re proposing a parking project, how many tickets have been issued for parking violations in the past year?
- If you’re thinking of a pedestrian crosswalk warning alert, how often have emergency personnel been called to a dangerous location?
- If you need a speed zone solution, how many times have drivers been pulled over in the area?
And while facts and figures are very persuasive, don’t underestimate the power of anecdotal evidence. Accounts of accidents, injuries and near misses from those involved can press home the urgency of the problem you're seeking to solve.
4. Present Options
People tend to support decisions more when they have a role in making them. That’s why it’s good to have more than one solution to propose when confronting a traffic safety challenge. As the expert, you will know more than anyone else in the room about traffic safety and the logistics of an enhancement project, and you might already have chosen a preferred option. But community members may have insights you haven’t considered based on their unique perspectives on traffic safety in their neighborhood.
For example, there are the aesthetic differences between BlinkerBeacons, RRFBs and LED-enhanced signs, as well as levels of effectiveness and that elephant in the room: cost. Much of this information gathering has to be done before getting the project off the ground anyway.
By arriving at a consensus for the best solution, you can potentially convert skeptics into true believers who will serve as ambassadors for the rest of the population.
5. Anticipate Challenges and Highlight Benefits
No one likes when their commute is disrupted, and most traffic safety projects involve closing one or more lanes — or even an entire road. To win the support of the community, everything possible should be done to minimize the inconvenience.
- For major work, clearly delineate the extent of the disruption. No one wants to use trial and error to get where they’re going while avoiding a construction area. Tell people which streets and blocks will be affected. Another good idea is to mark alternate routes. And don’t forget sidewalks and bike lanes!
- Establish – and publicize – an accurate time frame. This means getting firm lead times from suppliers and contractors. It’s a lot easier to accept a temporary inconvenience when you know how long you’ll have to deal with it.
- Provide an attractive vision of the future state. If you're planning a bike lane, tell the local merchants how their bottom line will benefit from easier access to their location. Assure the local curmudgeon that a roundabout will give him a break from the roaring speeders who wake him up during his afternoon nap.
When it comes to keeping drivers and pedestrians safe, the stakes could not be higher. Getting community buy-in for a traffic safety project need not be a daunting task. It’s a matter of finding the right people, presenting them with plenty of information and working as a team to determine the best solution. And the benefits of such public-private partnerships can last beyond a single project as your community moves along the never-ending road of safe travels.
TAPCO’s team of traffic and parking professionals can help you work out several solutions to your community’s unique challenges, as well as provide plenty of facts and figures about each option. For some ideas, take a look at our Intelligent Warning Systems catalog.