Recommendations to the Illinois Department of Transportation to Enhance Quality Public Engagement

IAP2 Spectrum of Public ParticipationAs part of its on-going research program with the Urban Transportation Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) commissioned a report to study and recommend ways to improve and enhance IDOT’s public engagement practices, especially those involving underserved or disadvantaged populations. This initiative was undertaken in advance of an update to IDOT’s future Long Range Transportation Plan. The agency wished to increase the quality and quantity of public feedback received and extend its reach into disadvantaged communities. Researchers reviewed previous studies on public engagement—especially those in a transportation context—to develop a theoretical foundation and knowledge of specific instances of successful or unsuccessful public engagement. In addition, they conducted interviews with IDOT employees who had experience in carrying out public engagement and with several consultants and engagement experts.

Principal Investigator(s):

Robert E. Ginsburg, Ph.D.


Joseph Hoereth, Ph.D.
Jordan Jones
Matt E. Sweeney

Institute for Policy and Civic Engagement, CUPPA




The objective behind the research was to provide IDOT with clear recommendations on how best to improve its public engagement practices. The guidance and recommendations can be applied to demographic groups of all kinds; special consideration has been given to engaging disadvantaged populations, also called “underserved” or “hard-to-reach” populations.  These include minority, low-income, limited English proficiency, and low-literacy groups. Rural populations are also of concern, so the report further noted how these public engagement techniques can be applied to a rural context.



The research indicates that there are no real shortcuts to achieving quality public engagement; the report is predicated on that conclusion. Robust public engagement takes time, planning, and resources in the form of both money and staff commitment.

Expected Results or Products:

The report contained eight “Recommendations to Enhance Quality Public Engagement.” Each section provides a description of the recommendation, a list of pitfalls or things to consider when acting on the recommendation, contexts where the proposal is especially appropriate, and an examination of a real-world example illustrating its impact.

The eight recommendations are:  (1) Know Your Audience, (2) Use Existing Community Resources, (3) Perform Informal Outreach and Use Nontraditional Locations, (4) Match Engagement Technique with Goal and Context, (5) Enhance Staff Capabilities through Training, (6) Build Institutional Memory through Knowledge Management, (7) Measure and Assess, and (8) Use Technology to Enhance and Complement Outreach.

NOTE: The “IDOT Recommendations to Enhance Quality Public Engagement” report is a large file (4.9 MB) and can be downloaded in four separate files. The first file contains the actual report; the other three files contain appendices for various case studies. Please contact: or to obtain the report as a single PDF file.



Matt E. Sweeney
Institute for Policy and Civic Engagement
University of Illinois at Chicago
412 South Peoria Street, Suite 340
Chicago, IL 60607
Voice: (312) 996-6480


Illinois Department of Transportation
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