Forging New Paths for Transportation in the Chicago Metropolitan Area

CMAP is the master transportation planning organization in the Chicago Metropolitan area and supports communities throughout much of northeastern Illinois. They are the first regional planning organization to jump into online engagement with Bang the Table in the US and are paving the way for best practice. Hear directly from the CMAP team as they discuss the mechanics of how to build and manage projects, as well as, how they correlate engagement directly to their information site.

The team has developed and refined processes that have worked to continuously improve success with each new project launched. Learn from their key takeaways from leading multiple regional planning and transportation projects:

  • CMAP is the first to use EngagementHQ specifically to facilitate regional planning and engagement efforts and has done so successfully through a wide variety of tool usage.
  • To encourage internal adoption and wide utilization of EngagementHQ throughout the organization, project managers were trained to lead and manage their own projects on Engage CMAP, getting assistance from engagement specialists when needed.
  • CMAP leads a group of students called Future Leaders in Planning across multiple high schools and, due to COVID-19, they have transitioned this program online using EngagementHQ. CMAP has used an effective mix of rich media to provide information and get feedback from students, keeping students engaged through varying tactics from trivia questions with prizes to offering more substantial information regarding urban planning.

It Takes Teamwork to Make the Dream Work

CMAP works with many different consultants, communities, and partner agencies. The players vary on almost every project they host online; referred to as Local Technical Assistance, LTA projects.  As Jane Grover, Communications and Outreach Principal at CMAP points out, “the topics of these planning processes can vary widely as well, from equitable transit-oriented development to a port district master plan, to a municipality’s comprehensive plan.”

With each project made up of different players and different rules, it became obvious that CMAP would need a hierarchical structure to operate the site and it would need to be collaborative in nature. The site manager controls the homepage and oversees publishing and archiving projects, however, the projects themselves are created and managed by the subject matter experts. To better assist and support individual project managers, baseline software and best practice engagement training provided the knowledge and ability to self-select when and how tools could be used within projects. These monthly training opportunities were established through both internal resources, as the site manager becomes more knowledgeable and confident, and Bang the Table services. Bang the Table’s practice team leads training and strategy sessions, has helped create a private training project on the site itself and shares best practice examples of transportation planning projects from around the world as reference. Consultants are brought in and trained by the project managers.

Study Participant Behavior and Respond Accordingly

CMAP project managers create and build online projects that undergo continuous improvement as each phase rolls out. The Laraway Road Project is a great example.  Initially, the tools were left to default design but the project manager noticed that though people were visiting the page, they were often leaving without participating. Buttons, images, and links to engagement tools were then added to the top of the project, effectively eliminating the need to scroll to engage. Participation rates went up immediately.

The Laraway Road project team has done a great job providing intermittent results on the project. This type of information helps increase participation as it clearly communicates to participants how their feedback and data is being used to influence the next phase of the project. Visual displays of this data are also underway and will continue to help participants stay up to date from one phase to the next.

Private Project Pages

While the LTA projects are the meat and potatoes of what this organization does and is likely to be the bulk of the projects found on Engage CMAP, every day there continues to be great interactions happening behind the scenes, or in Bang the Table speak, on private project pages.

Future Leaders in Planning offers a great example of how EngagementHQ can be utilized for private learning groups. The program is a leadership development opportunity for high school students in northeastern Illinois. Due to COVID-19, the sessions have moved online and EngagementHQ is the primary hub for all classes, discussions, and even homework. Using the newsfeed tool, links to pages built for each class allows full use of the tools spectrum for individual topics.  The design showcases a nice balance of both informing participants about the topics through varied sources of rich media and also allows participation from the student in a variety of ways; there is truly something there for everyone and every learning style.

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