E-participation in transportation planning: T-link calculator case study
Ariel L. Heckler, University of Kansas, United States
University of Kansas . Awarded
Throughout the world, people travel from point A to point B every day via one or multiples modes of transportation and for a variety of reasons. Even though transportation is vital, most people seem to take it for granted. A recent survey conducted by the Mineta Transportation Institute titled “What Do Americans Think about Federal Transportation Tax Options?” found that a majority of Americans are not in favor of any particular tax option for transportation, and the three options that performed fairly well in the survey were only supported by approximately 40% of the surveyed individuals (Weinstein Agrawal & Nixon, 2010). Do average citizens recognize the importance of transportation in their daily lives, and do they not realize its true costs? Thus, transportation agencies are faced with the dilemma on how do we engage and educate the public on how much transportation costs.
Some Departments of Transportation, like the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) are trying to remedy this with electronic engagement and educative outreach. For example, KDOT tried e-engagement with its T-Link Calculator, which was an online tool for allowing the public to try their hands at making transportation budgetary decisions. However, we currently have no way of knowing what works and why. To address this shortcoming, this study creates and evaluates the T-Link Calculator using a model called the E2DG Model of E-Participant Engagement based on three successful components of e-engagement: e-policymaking, e-learning and digital game-based learning. Since the tool in question, the T-Link Calculator has attributes of all three tools it was impossible to classify it as one type. Then a case study was conducted applying the model to the T-Link Calculator. Twenty Kansans were interviewed on their level of engagement/educative experience with the T-Link Calculator using the E2DG Model. The model emphasizes the importance of engaging users on the following criteria: Accessible/Fair, Delivery/Story, Cognitive/Challenge, Relevance/Achievements, Collaboration/Feedback, Reflection, Promotion, Time and Privacy/Security. From the interviews and using this criterion, it was determined that the T-Link Calculator succeeds in some areas of engagement and fails in others. The positives were ease of usability, simplicity of the layout, instant results provided by “sliders” and graphs, the “Learn More” features, the different levels with “Basic” and “Advanced Mode,” and the short amount of time required to interact with the site. However, the downsides for several individuals included not understanding the interactive graphs, the T-Link's Adobe Flash platform not being compatible with certain applications or devices, and the terminology used. Some of the modifications that people suggested were providing instant feedback on individual results, expanding the introduction, providing a clear purpose for the exercise, and providing more definitive information on the actual budget numbers. If these modifications were made, this would help KDOT take the T-Link Calculator to the next level of engagement while providing a platform that would be more enticing to citizens for learning about the high costs of transportation.
Heckler, A.L. E-participation in transportation planning: T-link calculator case study. Master's thesis, University of Kansas.
Citation reproduced with permission of ProQuest LLC.
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