A New Approach to Public Engagement: Capturing Better Ideas and Representative Priorities from the Public for the Illinois Department of Transportation

The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) has committed to improving its public engagement program and the quantity and quality of feedback and ideas it receives from Illinois residents. In 2016, IDOT commissioned a study — Recommendations to Enhance Quality Engagement — to identify effective public engagement strategies for statewide Departments of Transportation.

To build on the 2016 report, researchers from the Institute for Policy and Civic Engagement (IPCE) and the Urban Transportation Center (UTC) completed a follow-up study in early 2017 that utilized an innovative online approach to supplement IDOT’s traditional public engagement methods.

Through a multi-phased process, residents of Illinois voted on and submitted ideas and ranked their priorities related to transportation goals and modes.  The unique strength of this multi-phased process was its ability to capture high quality ideas from the public and statistically representative public priorities – it was both open and representative.

Principal Investigator(s):

Robert Ginsburg, Ph.D.
Joseph Hoereth, Ph.D.


Robert Ginsburg, Ph.D.
Joseph Hoereth, Ph.D.
Matt E Sweeney
Roy Rothschild




The purpose of this study is to utilize an innovative online engagement method to generate high quality and representative input from the public regarding priorities and ideas for the transportation network in Illinois.


Employ a new methodology to compile public engagement data for IDOT to use while preparing its 2017 Long-Range Transportation Plan (LRTP).

Expected Results or Products:

Download a pdf copy of the complete report, “A New Approach to Public Engagement: Capturing Better Ideas and Representative Priorities from the Public for the Illinois Department of Transportation.”

The public engagement process consisted of two phases:

1) Public Idea Generation. This phase consisted of a pairwise comparison wiki survey hosted by All Our Ideas, a new social data collection platform that combines quantitative and qualitative methods. All Illinois residents were able to participate in this phase by voting on ideas and/or submitting original ideas to be included in a statewide idea bank for others to vote on. The public cast 36,353 votes on 185 competing ideas in response to the prompt: “Which idea do you think is more important for transportation in Illinois?” Of those 185 ideas, the public submitted 121.

2) Representative Public Prioritization. This phase repeated the pairwise comparison process using 134 of the ideas generated in Phase 1, but participation was limited to two statistically-representative groups of 500 Illinois residents each; one group was located in IDOT Region 1 (which encompasses metropolitan Chicago) and one group was located in regions outside Region 1. In this phase, respondents also indicated the percentage of IDOT’s budget they would invest in competing transportation goals and modes.

Upon completion of the data collection process, Illinois residents had provided IDOT with a substantial amount of data that reflect the transportation priorities of the residents of Illinois. The wealth of high quality, representative data presented in this report will allow IDOT to examine Illinois residents’ responses in the budget simulation exercises, to compare regional differences among Illinois residents’ transportation ideas and priorities and to incorporate the public’s feedback into the 2017 LRTP.

Additionally, this process has exciting potential applications for future government public outreach efforts, both at the statewide and local levels.


Robert Ginsburg
Urban Transportation Center
University of Illinois at Chicago
412 South Peoria Street, Suite 340
Chicago, IL 60607
Voice: (312) 413-4663
Fax: (312) 413-0006
Email: reginsb@uic.edu


Illinois Department of Transportation