An important perspective that emerged early in the planning for the Toolkit was that the Toolkit needed to be more than simply an inventory of issues, impact measures, and analysis tools for planners. For transportation or planning agencies, too often the issue or the analysis is defined by the capabilities of available tools, data and expertise, by too-literal interpretation of planning requirements, or by anticipated political support/ backlash for the answer. Hence, transportation and planning agencies must not only have better information on the tools and analytic approaches which are available to them (such as already exist in such sources as NCHRP Report 532 and NCHRP Project 8-36 (11)), but must be given the motivation to seek and use those tools in place of existing tools or analyses that may be more familiar, but which may be less effective in measuring critical impacts. We believe that an informed and proactive community may be the critical element in bringing this motivation to the transportation planning process. The disadvantaged community and its advocates must be better equipped to challenge this process in terms of the information it makes available, the types of questions which are asked, and how to negotiate for a reasonable solution.
The intent is to involve members of the community directly throughout the entire process of defining the problem, working to understand its causes and impacts, quantifying those impacts, and exploring the range of potential solutions. We are adopting this interactive approach for several reasons:
- To learn how to best introduce the public to the process of problem solving, in order that they can most effectively participate in and impact the planning and decision-making process.
- To use real-time public input throughout the process to ensure that the technical team properly understands the community’s sensitivities to the problem, and the types of information which are most useful.
- To foster an interaction between the public and the participating transportation/planning agencies to build a more meaningful dialogue on why issues require particular impact measures or analyses.