Monday, December 17, 2007

Virtual open houses...

Would you be willing to talk to us about a project if you could do it from home?

Before you see construction workers building a bridge or expanding a highway, our engineers spend a lot of time carefully planning and designing a project. We do our best to engage you and your neighbors to help us make the best decisions along the way; however, we’ve noticed that fewer and fewer people are coming to our public meetings and open houses. We understand that you’re extremely busy and that it’s difficult to take time to talk with us about a project that might not be built for years. You can always call us, e-mail us, visit our Web site, read our newsletter or send us a letter, but none of those offer much opportunity for conversation and feedback. We need your perspective to help build community values into our plans and projects. How can we gain your perspective if an open house or public meeting doesn’t fit your busy schedule or isn’t your cup of tea? We’re looking for new ways to engage you in discussion about our projects that will affect all of us.

How about a virtual open house?
A virtual open house is an Internet based meeting where we can meet online and discuss transportation projects -- an online version of an open house. Anyone can attend the virtual open house by logging on to a Web site and joining the conversation. We could offer a live camera feed of presentations, documents and other materials and an opportunity to participate in discussions ask questions and receive feedback. You could participate without fighting traffic, hiring a babysitter or even putting on a pair of shoes.

Would you be more likely to attend a virtual open house instead a physical open house?

Our first virtual open house
The I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East project is a $525 million, rural highway widening project located in the Cascade Mountains. This isn’t just a local project. It affects millions of people from Puget Sound’s deep-water ports and metropolitan cities to the farm communities, industries and outdoor recreation areas of eastern Washington.

In the summer of 2005, we held several public meetings in an effort to engage the public regarding the project. We held five meetings across the state in Seattle, Tacoma, Hyak (at the Summit of Snoqualmie Pass), Ellensburg and Spokane. This was an exhaustive and costly process. On average about 90 people attended each meeting.

The following year, we needed to talk with the public again. In an effort to increase public participation and save time and money, we tried a virtual open house in conjunction with just one public meeting held in Hyak. In addition to the 90 people who attended the physical open house, over 100 people attended the virtual open house – effectively doubling the public participation.


The Geezer said...

May I humbly suggest that the reason folks don't attend your open houses are two.

First, there is a correct in my opinion perception that it is a "done deal" by the time the open house rolls around, so why bother.

Second, the traffic congestion is so bad that after a brutal commute, we have no energy to get on the horse again, and drive to your open house.

Value all advice at cost, and YMMV.

The Geezer has spaketh.

Per-Ola said...

"the geezer" probably hit the nail on the head. I've attended many meetings for the SR 520 bridge, I-405, etc, and all too many times, staff is sticking to one single track/idea (the official one), instead of listening to options and perspectives given by those who actually attend meetings. Hence, when geezer says "done deal", it is many times the public's perception.

Not uniquely WSDOT, but it was very clear during all the work towards the failed "RAT" (Prop 1). Too many other (better) alternatives were never given the chance to be discussed or were left off the table entirely. At the end, the voters were smart enough to see that.

But, please do not cancel the public meetings. Virtual open houses are likely a great addition to the public forums, but no substitute.

J-Reichelt said...

I for one being < 35 would love to see virtual open houses on the net. Whenever I want to learn about a projects status like 522, I5 Everett, or Hwy 9 I turn to the WSDOT Website.

There are a handful of folks, mainly my parent’s generation (Baby Boomers and older), whom are the majority of voters right now and they don't always surf the net as savvy as the younger generations currently do. So the Virtual Open House idea is great, but they still need to be supplemented by Public Meetings.

I also note very few comments, here, from this December 17th, posting so we need to get the link to this blog out to media outlets so folks can link to it from their respective news sites across WA State

Thanks for your time and Efforts! I appreciate the Traffic Time Updates on the Freeway reader boards and look forward to their expansion along with the periodic emails I get now and then.

Bob Yoder said...

The citizens of Redmond have deep concerns about the deliterious impacts of SR520 widening on the lower Bear Creek riparian zone and listed Chinook; and flood hazards.

How do we sign up for a Virtual Open House? Five citizens appreciated our recent face-to-face informational meeting at City Hall. A Virtual Open House would benefit many more...

Thank you. 425-802-2523

WSDOT comment policy

Post a Comment