Innovative Thinking: Having a Voice in Infrastructure Planning

Our last Innovative Thinking blog titled, “How you can be more aware and involved“, dealt with providing resources that could be utilized by the public to gain awareness of infrastructure developments. In this Innovative Thinking post, the focus is more on how you might be able to have your voice heard when it comes to shaping transportation plans and projects.

In North Carolina, the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) has been busy creating ways for the public to be more informed and heard. One of the most interesting ways is the NC Moves 2050 interactive map. The NC Moves 2050  Plan is basically a “30-year transportation blueprint for the state” where NCDOT “is conducting a two-year multi-phased study that involves examining all aspects of North Carolina’s transportation system, collecting data and information about its performance and anticipated challenges in the future, and engaging the public to capture thoughts and ideas about the state’s biggest challenges in the future.” 

NC Moves 2050 Public Comment Map

Image One: The NC Moves 2050 Public Comment Map allows the user to leave anonymous comments regarding what they perceive as their area’s, and/or the state’s, biggest infrastructure issues.

The “engaging the public” statement is where the Public Comment Map comes into play (see Image One).  Here, you can anonymously provide input into what you believe to be your area’s, and/or the state’s, biggest challenges when it comes to infrastructure development .  The ability to enter comments ends in April 2019.

Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) seem to be gaining momentum in the public information distribution realm as well. The Cary (NC) Citizen recently posted a blog where Cary residents were invited to “walk” through a downtown park model (scroll down to the “Wednesday” blog) via the use of VR goggles with one viewer exclaiming, “It gave me a great feel of how the park will look.”  VR certainly has the capability of providing greater insight into proposed infrastructure than traditional 2D graphics. (view the downtown park model)

AR via smart-phone usage has possibilities as well when it comes to providing on-demand information to the public. A publication titled, “Smart-phone augmented reality for public participation in urban planning” by M. Allen, H. Regenbrecht and M. Abbot from the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand provides excellent insight into how the use of AR could potentially break down the public’s perception that there is little benefit to participating in planning studies by showcasing how real objects (such as buildings) can be overlaid with 3D models exhibiting certain planned changes. Plus, the interface allows the user to “vote” on which change they liked the best.

MA Engineering Consultants, Inc. is based in Cary, NC  with offices in Charleston, SC, Towson, MD, and Philadelphia, PA, and participates in public meetings as part of the public involvement services we offer.