The Massachusetts Multimodal Project, known as weMove Massachusetts (WMM), is a strategic planning process developed by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT). The project is designed to improve how the agency does business, responds to customers, and provides transportation services that are a crucial foundation for the Commonwealth’s sustainable economic development. The project includes development of a process for prioritizing transportation investments in a way that reflects good transportation policy, modal shift and public opinion gathered during an earlier civic engagement initiative called youMove Massachusetts (YMM). MassDOT’s customers participated in the youMove Massachusetts process to share their vision for the transportation system of the Commonwealth.
The weMove Massachusetts process is MassDOT’s first comprehensive, data-based effort to prioritize transportation investments. Between now and early 2013, weMove Massachusetts will:
- Clearly articulate MassDOT’s goals, priorities, and policies, which are based on public input.
- Advance important statewide policy goals for improving mobility, protecting the environment, promoting economic growth, and improving public health and quality of life.
- Better use available information to allocate funding and prioritize projects in a clear and transparent way.
- Communicate with stakeholders about their ideas on improving transportation services.
- Engage all of the MassDOT staff in the weMove Massachusetts process via interviews, an advisory committee, and consultation on technical approaches, planning and implementation of a new prioritization system.
The youMove Massachusetts process identified ten core themes that articulated the expressed concerns, needs and aspirations of Massachusetts residents for their transportation network. The ten themes are: reliability, maintenance, design, shared use, capacity, user friendly, broaden the system, funding and equity, environment and access. In the current phase of implementing transportation reform, MassDOT undertook public outreach to meet the following goals:
- MassDOT sought to broaden and deepen its contacts and dialogue with Environmental Justice and Title VI communities. MassDOT felt that the youMove Massachusetts process may not have reached enough of these stakeholders, including elderly and rural populations, and sought to gather more input on transportation challenges and needs from these populations.
- Based on responses to interviews and a questionnaire (available online, in print and in English, Spanish, Haitian Creole and Vietnamese), MassDOT sought to compare data and key issues identified in the WMM outreach to those compiled during the YMM process with the goal of better understanding the challenges faced by the populations participating in the WMM outreach.
1.2 Approach and Outreach
To develop a successful outreach program, the WMM team spent several months generating a database and developing relationships with community groups and leaders. Based on experience, the team felt that working with and through community leaders could enhance the outreach and result in more participation in the interview and questionnaire information gathering. This compilation of contacts was completed through the use of new and traditional methods of engagement, including:
- Email to existing contact lists (including the original YMM database),
- Targeted outreach to the communities of interest,
- Media releases, which invited participation in the process and were distributed statewide,
- Use of social media and the MassDOT blog,
- Postings on websites of community organizations,
- Discussions with local health staff and leadership and legislative staff to get contacts at key community groups, and
- Reviewing and revising contacts to ensure diverse geographic representation across the Commonwealth.
MassDOT’s project manager also sent an email to every local public health director (or head of the Board of Health) in the Commonwealth (each municipality has its own Health Department or Board), requesting EJ and Title VI contacts in the community. The consultant team searched for key statewide organizations and leaders from “gateway” communities. This information was combined into a master database of more than 4,000 contacts.
Since the YMM effort relied on public meetings/workshops and website input, the new approach had two prongs: (1) key interviews with stakeholder leaders and (2) a questionnaire (available online and in print). This research was strictly qualitative in nature. It was intended to provide MassDOT with user insights about existing (transportation infrastructure) problems as well as generating ideas for later quantitative research.
The team developed an outreach approach to potential interview subjects based on a number of factors. The first step was drafting a Civic Engagement Plan targeting potentially underserved populations, including:
- Residence in or representation in a gateway community as designated by the team in conjunction with MassDOT; these are primarily Environmental Justice communities; and
- Representation of stakeholder groups including low level of English proficiency; elderly or elder services; rural; low income; minority; community action or economic development; disabled; Latino, African-American, or other minority group; or transit focused.
Based on these priorities, team members reached out (by phone and/or email communication) to more than 100 representatives of stakeholder groups in communities around the Commonwealth. A total of 19 people participated in phone interviews, and one group (Neighbor 2 Neighbor) conducted its own discussion and provided a set of responses (see Appendix J).
The team worked closely with MassDOT staff to develop a 26-question survey (see Appendix A). The questionnaire was prepared in five languages: English, Spanish, Portuguese, Haitian Creole and Vietnamese (online only).(See Appendices B-E for the non-English questionnaires.)
The online version of the questionnaire was available through a link on the YMM website and the WMM website. For the YMM site, the home page and “Share Your Views” pages were also available in multiple languages. The interactive map on the YMM website is available in English and Spanish.
The team also provided print copies of the questionnaire upon request and provided copies to community leaders for distribution. Print responses were mailed to the consultant offices and the data was entered manually. The questionnaire was accessible via screen reader. In addition, the team also complied with a request to read the survey to a blind respondent over the telephone, with the reader coding the responses.
The team sent an email to the database contacts announcing the availability of the questionnaire in February 2012. In April 2012, MassDOT sent a press release promoting the questionnaire (in English, Spanish, Haitian Creole, and Portuguese) to all English and non-English media outlets in the Commonwealth. A reminder email was sent to the project database at the same time as the release. The questionnaire closed on April 23, 2012.
There were 1,893 responses to the questionnaire, with 109 of these submitted as print copies. For respondents who completed the questionnaire online, more than 50 percent of the respondents clicked directly into the survey page, suggesting that the source of the link was access via an email blast (either directly or forwarded) or through the press release. Both the eblast and press release had the direct links embedded in the text.
Table 1.1 Top Referrer Sites
Top Referrer Sites (over 2%)
Direct Link to Fluidsurveys.com
weMove Massachusetts site
youMove Massachusetts site (various pages)
(Note: 109 hard copies of the survey were entered via a link from the youMove Massachusetts website.)
Note: A referrer is the webpage a respondent visited immediately before beginning the survey. The table lists the referrer webpages that at least 2% of respondents visited.