Your community has a transportation problem, you have a solution. Simple, right? Maybe in a perfect world. In reality, before any project gets off the ground, there are multiple hurdles to leap. Funding needs to be secured, schedules arranged and equipment allocated — just to name a few. With all those tasks, it’s easy to overlook the importance of community buy-in.
But traffic professionals should engage stakeholders as soon as they can. It’s tempting to wait until you have everything ready to go before presenting the project to people outside your organization. Without general support beforehand, however, you might find yourself going back to square one if your proposal meets firm opposition. On the other hand, those who provide input on the formation of a project often become its strongest supporters.
Whom to Target?
As tax money is probably needed for your traffic safety project, those who pay said taxes should take priority. Since you can’t engage everyone, here are some suggestions:
- Those living near the project site, both long-time residents and newcomers
- Business owners whose establishments will be effected 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
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
Set a Meeting and Come Prepared
- 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?
Depending on your need, there is software on the market, such as BlinkLink®, that can automate collection of some of this data, avoiding manually sifting through records.
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.
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 beacons, 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.
Anticipate Challenges, 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. Why are you asking people to support this project? Because it will benefit them in the long run. Let parents know their children will be safer on the way to school after the addition of a pedestrian crosswalk warning system. 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. Chances are you can find a local artist to create an appealing visual representation of the completed project as well.
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.