In the light of social and political currents calling for increased accountability for public processes and discussions between federal officials about the performance of the public involvement process, this paper examines public involvement in transportation and develops frameworks for identifying suitable approaches and evaluating outcomes. The aims of this paper are to (a) foster analytic, evidence-driven discussion between public involvement professionals, project managers, consultants, and other members of the transportation community about process quality metrics and (b) propose strategies for increasing performance of such processes by developing multidimensional process evaluation frameworks for public involvement design and outcomes. A significant Arnstein gap is identified in the quality of public involvement in transportation. A critical overview of current practice that draws on the literature on public involvement and participation is presented. Using a soft systems approach, the authors frame participation methods in distributive domain and define outcome performance criteria. The authors examine the literature on process performance in environmental management and other participation research and propose four process performance metrics for public involvement: quality, inclusion, clarity, and efficiency. Objective data from projects in structured public involvement are presented. These data illustrate that processes that satisfy these metrics will help to close the Arnstein gap by identifying stronger methodologies for involving large groups of citizens with diverse values, delivering objectively high stakeholder-evaluated process quality, and integrating these valuations into effective decision support systems for project managers and engineers. However, this improvement will require a philosophical shift to a higher level on the Arnstein ladder.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Civil and Structural Engineering
- Mechanical Engineering