The American Planning Association’s (APA) National Planning Awards annually recognize outstanding efforts in planning and planning leadership. This year, the awards committee recognized five Excellence recipients, and honored an additional 16 recipients with Achievement awards. The Achievement awards recognize good planning work in different areas.
The Innovations in Public Engagement public outreach program developed by the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (NJTPA) — which oversees planning for the 13-county region in northern and central New Jersey — and the Bloustein School’s Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center are the recipients of a Silver award for National Planning Achievement for Public Outreach.
After two years researching outreach activities by planning organizations in the U.S. and worldwide, NJTPA and Voorhees catalogued nearly 400 public engagement activities in a Tools and Approaches database.
NJTPA adapted some of the more innovative engagement practices for its outreach work for its regional transportation plan, specifically to reach millennials, low-income residents, teens, and individuals with limited English language skills — groups most affected by transportation issues.
For young adults and millennials, the “Set the Table” dinner party program features a “Meeting-in-a-Box” which includes a discussion card game with questions to guide conversations. “NJTPA On-Air” pop-up booths designed to look like a radio studio were set up at public events to encourage kids to record their thoughts about the future of transportation. Workshops held in ESL classes gave students practice communicating about issues affecting their community.
These non-traditional approaches, coupled with NJTPA’s broader outreach (interactive workshops, online engagement, and pop-up booths at community events) conducted in each of its subregions, drew nearly 3,000 people to participate in outreach activities, exceeding the numbers from more traditional engagement efforts.