As part of our continuing effort to highlight the 2015 Innovation Awards winners announced at this years New Partners for Smart Growth conference we wanted to share some information on the winner for the Exemplary Implementation Award. The award this year went to MetroQuest’s Imagine Hillsborough 2040 project.
Imagine 2040 Hillsborough
What happened when Tampa tried online engagement?
MetroQuest is public involvement software with a track record of award-winning planning projects including the “Imagine 2040 Hillsborough” project.
Hillsborough County in central Florida, which includes the city of Tampa, projects its population of 1.2 million will grow by 600,000 more people plus add 400,000 new jobs by 2040. In order to guide its future, the county asked local residents’ to explore potential growth strategies. It wanted to find out what citizens liked and didn’t like about different scenarios as well as consider how current decisions might impact the future.
The project team assumed that the majority of their local community were in favour of the current state of things – automobile oriented urban sprawl with no major density downtown where most people commuted. This assumption was based on what they were used to hearing from the “public” at traditional workshops and meetings.
Working in partnership with the Hillsborough MPO and Planning Commission and Jacobs Engineering, MetroQuest helped engage citizens and businesses online, in workshops and at touchscreen kiosks. With a bilingual presentation in English and Spanish, MetroQuest was used to both share information and educate the public as well as collect comments and opinions on issues around homes, jobs, transportation, and funding.
After using MetroQuest and getting 6,000 responses from a broad demographic, the Hillsborough MPO was shocked to see that over 80% were actually in favour of a much more densely populated downtown core with extensive public
transportation options and support for cyclists.
This result was all the more impactful because MetroQuest presented both the benefits and trade-offs of each alternative before collecting their opinions. That meant that people supported this smart growth direction knowing full well that along with the benefits come some tough trade-offs.
After completing their engagement process, the Hillsborough MPO received unanimous approval for their plan and moved to the implementation phase immediately. In the months following the approval they implemented a bike sharing program and a series of other smart growth programs without resistance.
“Professionally, I have tried other methods of public engagement in the past that do not work as well [as MetroQuest]. We often rely on more traditional means like meetings and workshops, etc. that people don’t feel they have the time for, nor are they excited about. Who wants to sit through a 20-minute PowerPoint presentation when they should be home getting kids fed and to bed? The MetroQuest tool looks fast. It looks interesting. It is available to use when the user is available.”
– Katie Habgood, AICP, Transportation Planner, JACOBS Engineering
Learn more about MetroQuest here.