Signal Spotlight: Engaging the Public in the COVID-19 Era

traffic_signal_spotlights_logoAmid the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Lamont has suspended in-person open meeting requirements, and communities are looking for ways to receive valuable input from residents while social distancing. We’ve put together a quick guide with some ideas, and we encourage you to share your own.

ss.420.1Virtual Town Halls

Many towns in Connecticut have moved to offering virtual town halls as a solution for regularly scheduled meetings during
COVID-19.

  • East Hartford broadcasts its socially-distanced meetings on the local public access television channel. Residents can listen in real-time and call in via telephone.
  • Hebron and Mansfield are using townhallstreams.com to stream and archive their public meetings.

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Avoid “Zoom Bombing”

Safety Tips for Video Teleconferencing

  • Do not make meetings or classrooms public. Require a meeting password or use the waiting room feature and control the admittance of guests.
  • Do not share Zoom conference links on public social media.
  • Change screen sharing to ‘Host Only.’
  • Ensure users have up-to-date Zoom clients. In January, Zoom rolled out a security update that added passwords by default for meetings and disabled the ability to randomly scan for meetings to join.

For more information, check out this guidance from the FBI.

  • A number of towns are using Zoom Meetings to host and record town agency meetings. Zoom, along with other web conferencing tools, allows users to share documents and images on-screen with the video feeds of users.

For more information on Telephone Town Halls, FHWA offers a fact sheet and recorded webinar on the subject.

Virtual Public Meetings

Public involvement is central to the design process for transportation projects. Typically, agencies hold in-person meetings where constituents can view plans and renderings of a proposed project, hear information about the project and provide their input. These public input sessions can also be held successfully online.

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is continuing its efforts by hosting a virtual public meeting for its 2019-2022 Rural Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) revision. The meeting, to be held in April, will be hosted online. The meeting notice and public comment form are posted on the TxDOT website to allow residents to participate.

All-In-One Tools

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All-in-one tools are “one stop shops” that combine crowdsourcing features, mapping, visualization, file storage and sharing, and survey instruments. These tools require setup and staff training but have the potential to reduce overall public outreach costs. View FHWA’s fact sheet on All-in-One Tools.

Crowdsourced Maps

Crowdsourcing project or transportation planning-related information from large numbers of residents can be facilitated through interactive mapping. The Capital Region Council of Governments recently used an interactive mapping tool in the public involvement process for developing their Complete Streets Plan.

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Users can click on the map and add information on the types of bicycle and pedestrian issues present at the location.

FHWA offers a fact sheet and recorded webinar on interactive mapping.

Creative Solutions

Css.4.20.5onnecticut municipalities have shown us their innovative capabilities through participation in the Creative Solutions Award Program, and throughout this crisis you continue to surprise us! On the topic of public involvement, the Journal Inquirer recently reported on a drive-through town meeting in Vernon where residents dialed into a public hearing via telephone. They then drove to town hall where, with windows rolled up, they could show their driver’s license and give a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” to the proposal.

We hope this helps as you adjust to the “new normal.” If there are other virtual public involvement ideas you have tried, please share them with others by posting to one of our listservs or emailing Regina Hackett at regina.hackett@uconn.edu.

Stay safe and connected, everyone. We’re all in this together!

Additional traffic signal resources can be found on the T2 Center website:
https://www.t2center.uconn.edu/signalcircuitriderNEW.php

About Connecticut T2 Center

The Training & Technical Assistance Center at UCONN provides education and technical assistance to members of Connecticut's Transportation and Public Safety Community, including municipal public works directors, street and road maintenance superintendents and staff, city and town engineers, Connecticut Department of Transportation employees, transportation planners and law enforcement professionals serving as legal traffic authorities. We are Connecticut's LTAP Center
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