V. Public Involvement


Sections 134(g)(4), 134(h)(1)(B), 134(h)(4) of Title 23 and Section 5303(f)(4) and 5304(d) of Title 49, require a Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) to provide adequate opportunity for the public to participate in and comment on the products and planning processes of the MPO.  The law states that the public shall have Aa reasonable opportunity to comment@ on the Long Range Plan (Plan) and the transportation improvement program (TIP).


Text Box: P

ublic involvement in the transportation planning process is a mandated core MPO activity in both Title 23 and 23 CFR 450.The requirements for public involvement are set forth in 23 CFR 450.316(b)(1).  The process is to be:

ü      Proactive

ü      Early and continuing public involvement in developing Plans and Programs

ü      Timely public notice of activities and information about transportation issues and processes

ü      Full public access to key decisions and adequate time for public review and comments

ü      Explicit consideration and response to public input

ü      Consideration of the needs of people traditionally underserved by transportation

ü      Periodic review of public involvement effectiveness


CDTC has not formally revised its Public Involvement Policy since its adoption in December 1994, believing that Policy is merely a baseline of practices to enlarge upon as necessary.  CDTC’s current methods exemplify and even expand upon the requirements of the federal regulations.  As indicated in the regulations, public involvement should be a proactive continuous effort.  CDTC has realized this and continues to make improvements to the overall process.  The Community and Transportation Linkage Planning Program (section IV of this report) is a prime example of how the CDTC staff has become more engaged in local planning initiatives and has increased contact with the general public.


        CDTC uses a variety of common and uncommon – and highly effective - techniques for dispensing information and seeking public comment.



Common Methods of Providing Information to the Public


Public involvement is a two-way street.  In order to participate effectively in transportation project development and planning, people need ways to both get information from an agency and give information back to it.


On the one hand, agencies need to provide attractive, eye-catching materials that convey the appropriate "message."  Desktop publishing and ever-changing communication technologies offer agencies new, faster, and more varied ways to capture the public’s interest and give them the information they need to understand what is being proposed.  This variety allows agencies to tailor public information pieces to specific purposes, media, audiences, projects, or plans and to update them quickly and easily.  On the other hand, agencies need to offer people effective, easy ways to communicate so that the ideas and concerns of the community are heard.



Mailing List

Computer technology has enabled the distribution of materials to the public with relative simplicity, ease, flexibility, and speed.  Mailing lists contain collections of names of those affected by or interested in a project or plan -- including organizations, residents, media, elected officials, abutters, agency personnel, interest groups, and others.  CDTC and its member agencies use mailing lists throughout planning and project development.  CDTC using mailing lists for announcements of upcoming events, meeting invitations, summary reports, and other information about its activities. 


            A characteristic of mailing lists is that they can become outdated. It is recommended that CDTC periodic revisit the list and make updates as needed.




CDTC uses its website (http://www.cdtcmpo.org) to provide the public with a status of ongoing projects, a viewing of completed projects and occasionally an opportunity to provide comments on selective topics, such as on its Pursuing Quality in the Capital Region draft report.  The last page of the draft provided a response form for comments; the public also had to opportunity to submit comments using the provided on-line form. 


With all its visionary and innovative planning practices, CDTC has a “story to tell”, and one of the best mediums for that purpose is the website.   During the review, we suggested that CDTC could better tell its story by revamping the format of the current website.  Text information on various CDTC products and processes is available on the site, but a more visual presentation would enhance accessibility and perhaps generate some interest in topics that the average reader might not otherwise investigate.  Mr. Poorman noted that it was his intention to upgrade the site, but he is still in the process of evaluating improved visual aspects against the limitations of the handicapped community.  The physically and visually handicapped can have difficulty with drop-down menus popular in windows’ format.  This thoughtfulness is another illustration of CDTC’s sensitivity to the needs of the community – a very commendable approach probably not contemplation by many MPOs.  It was suggested that CDTC consider two options on the website’s opening screen – the visually oriented presentation and a text only version.


Commuter Register


CDTC publishes the Commuter Register, a bi-monthly web-based and telephone-based service.  It allows people to advertise for free for a carpool. Information about the potential carpooler's general home location, work location, hours of work and rideshare preferences is published in a carpool "listing".  The Register is available on-line (http://www.commuter-register.org/).  Listings are arranged by general work location/home location so that someone interested in carpooling can easily find someone who has the same general commute pattern.  30,000 copies of the Commuter Register are distributed to area office buildings, libraries and grocery stores every other month.




Although it did at one time, CDTC does not now publish a newsletter.  We note that most of the NY MPOs find this outreach technique useful.  We suggest they CDTC reevaluate this technique for possible usefulness in the Capital Region.


Enhanced Methods of Involvement

            CDTC has demonstrated a keen sense of the need for public involvement and how it might be achieved at the grassroots level.


Linkage Techniques

All Linkage Program studies provide an opportunity for public comment in some form.  Some of the methods utilized include design charrettes, public workshops, Common Council or Town/Village Board meetings, surveys, presentations to neighborhood associations, websites, etc.  These outreach efforts provide an opportunity for public involvement and, hopefully, gain public acceptance for concepts being identified and recommended in each study.  CDTC staff generally attends each of these public meetings and often assists the consultant or take the lead on meeting facilitation.


Since the inception of the Linkage Program in 2000, CDTC has provided funding for 32 land use/transportation planning studies.  An example of one study nearing completion is the "NY 151 Corridor Study, Town of East Greenbush".  Several techniques were used to gather public input on this study.  A public meeting was held at the Town of Library at which approximately 25 residents and business owners voiced mostly support of the concepts presented by the consultant.  The concepts were designed to improve the safety and pedestrian and bicycle access along this corridor.  The public meeting was advertised in notices posted at the Library, YMCA, and Town Hall websites, in addition to sending out a press release.  The study also included a survey that was both hand distributed at the public meeting and provided and accessible via the Town's website, with a link from CDTC's site.  Use of digital photos and CAD drawings to display potential improvements have proven useful in helping to discern problem locations and in visualizing potential improvements. 



Outreach during Plan Development

A good example of CDTC’s public involvement extensive outreach is the effort use in conjunction with the development of New Visions plans.  Traditionally, regional systems’ planning is the planning element most resistant to meaningful citizen participation.  The issues are generally seen as highly technical, abstract, too long range to be of much concern and remote from the direct experience of the average layperson.  By definition, regional planning must be concerned with large geographic areas, often encompassing numerous municipalities and counties, and it is difficult to engage in dialogue with individuals or groups over such great distances.  CDTC put citizen and community input at the forefront of the1997 New Visions effort.  Approximately 50 public outreach meetings and two major conferences were held.  CDTC formed nine focused task forces in the New Visions efforts, allowing input from 100 individuals from the general public, business groups, environmental/interest groups, transportation-disadvantaged groups and communities.  The New Visions effort also included an urban issues task force and outreach to the minority community (Urban League) to include minority concerns in the planning process.



SUNY NY Annual Survey

        Since 1997, CDTC has had a cooperative effort with the State University of New York at Albany’s Center for Social and Demographic Analysis.  The Center conducts annual surveys regarding citizen attitudes regarding job prospects, general well being, consume confidence and similar topics.  Demographic information is collected on sex, age, race, marital status, number of children, household size, number of children in the household who are under eighteen, county of residence, community type, education, employment status and household income.  The Center invites other agencies to sponsor questions as add-ons to their basic survey.  CDTC has added questions regarding topics such as how congestion affects your life, the quality of the highway system, the quality of the transit system, and so on.  The Center conducts a telephone interview of approximately 500 households from the Capital District each February.  CDTC uses the survey as a gauge of the success of the planning, programming and project development efforts in the region.[i]


Outreach to the Business Community

CDTC has been involved in with the Center for Economic Growth (CEG) in discussions regarding transportation and business growth, especially in regard to the micro-technology industry.   CEN is a not-for-profit organization developed in 1987 to provide an educational and informational forum for the chief executives of small and medium sized manufacturing businesses in the Capital Region.  CEN offers the collective knowledge and expertise of its members for organizational and professional growth. 


Outreach to Disadvantaged and Minority Communities

        This is discussed in the Title VI/Environmental Justice section of this report.



Evaluation of Effectiveness

Federal requirements stipulate that MPOs must periodically evaluate the effectiveness of public involvement activities to assure that the process provides full and open access to all.[ii]  Throughout its processes, CDTC does an informal evaluation to access the successfulness of their outreach and makes appropriate modifications.  A good example occurred on the Route 5 corridor study.   The Route 5 corridor is the major corridor between the Cities of Albany and Schenectady.  This corridor has the highest transit ridership and was identified in the New Visions process as a corridor that had the potential for light rail transit improvements.  The study was conducted to examine the various alternates, including streetscape improvements, transit alternatives in conjunction with or without roadway improvements and the light rail alternative.


Since this study would lay the groundwork for the entire corridor improvement, it was critical to engage the public throughout the study process.   An advisory group was formed including member of the business community, residents and other interested parties.  Public outreach meetings were scheduled to discuss the study and these were to continue throughout the development process.  Early on, CDTC realized that a more extensive outreach process was needed to reach those individuals impacted by the corridor improvements.  A survey form was sent out to every single resident/business along the Route 5 Corridor (within the ¼ mile of the corridor) in order to address the main issues.  The survey also included a brochure showing the length of the corridor and several computer-simulated designs showing the improvements.  The public responded overwhelming that the existing level of congestion was acceptable (ITS related improvements recommended as needed) if improvements were made to streetscaping/ amenities and bus transit improvements.  The next steps are to bring the survey results back to the advisory committee and hold outreach meetings to discuss the conclusions of the report.  Currently, the TIP reflects some of the initial projects, including some of the ITS improvements and two improvement projects reflecting the study results.  Full implementation of the study results is ongoing today.





  • CDTC should reevaluate the usefulness of publishing a newsletter.

·        The CDTC mailing list should be periodically revisited and refreshed as needed.

·        CDTC should revamp its website to a more visual format.  Two options on the website’s opening screen should be considered – the visually oriented presentation and a text only version


[i]  CDTC, Analysis of Annual Attitudinal Transportation Survey Data, September 2002.


[ii]  23 CFR 450.316(b)(1)(ix)