Along with much of the public sector, the NJTPA has been exploring ways to use virtual means to engage the public during the pandemic until in-person gatherings can resume. This includes researching innovative techniques used by agencies around the country, which the NJTPA and its city and county member agencies, and partners could use.
The findings were incorporated into a best practices document, which the NJTPA will be using to conduct outreach for its programs and studies. Anyone is welcome to use the Virtual Public Engagement Beset Practices document as a resource. It includes information on several different ways to gather public input virtually. This can include live or recorded presentations (such as webinars or livestreams), online surveys, comment forms, interactive maps and webpages with project information and key documents. Deciding which tools to use for a project really depends on the target audience.
It recommends doing fact finding first, including engaging local officials to find out where people go to get their information and taking stock of existing county/municipal websites, e-mail lists and social media accounts in the study area to ensure they will be effective. Community groups, chambers of commerce or other organizations can also be enlisted to disseminate information.
While the NJTPA will be using more online tools in the coming weeks and months, it remains committed to making public outreach inclusive and accessible. This includes ensuring project websites are mobile-friendly and may include mailing study information to residents in areas where there are pockets of people who do not have online access. The Virtual Public Engagement Best Practices document is available in the Public Involvement section of our website.