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CURRENT USES OF WEB 2.0 APPLICATIONS IN TRANSPORTATION

Case Studies of Select State Departments of Transportation

MARCH 2010

Prepared for:
Office of Interstate and Border Planning
Federal Highway Administration
U.S. Department of Transportation
U.S. Department of Transportation logo
Prepared by:
Transportation Policy, Planning and Organizational Excellence Division
John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems
Research and Innovative Technology Administration
U.S. Department of Transportation
The Volpe Center logo

REPORT NOTES AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

The U.S. Department of Transportation John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center (Volpe Center), in Cambridge, Massachusetts, prepared this report for the Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) Office of Interstate and Border Planning. The project team, which was led by Alisa Fine and Carson Poe of the Transportation Policy, Planning and Organizational Excellence Division, included Gabe Lopez-Bernal, also of the Transportation Policy, Planning and Organizational Excellence Division, and Kate Sylvester and Maggie Scott Greenfield, both of MacroSys.

The Volpe Center project team wishes to thank the state Department of Transportation staff members — each listed in Appendix A — who provided their insights, review, and comments. The time they graciously provided was fundamental in preparing the case studies presented here.


TABLE OF CONTENTS


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

"Web 2.0" is an umbrella term for websites or online applications that are user-driven and emphasize collaboration and user interactivity. The trend away from static web pages to a more user-driven Internet model has also occurred in the public sector, where these dynamic web pages are known as "government 2.0" applications. The goals of government 2.0 applications are to promote transparent governance and citizen involvement in decision-making, often through sharing government data online through web-based applications. Overall, web applications termed 2.0 are distinguished from earlier generation online resources because they emphasize:

In this report, the term "2.0" is used to refer to both web 2.0 and government 2.0 applications, since both types of initiatives share similar functionalities, albeit government 2.0 websites focus specifically on user participation in a government context.

This report presents and synthesizes the findings from seven case studies that assess how select state Departments of Transportation (DOTs) are applying 2.0 tools to meet various business objectives. The report identifies best practices, benefits, challenges, and lessons learned in the use of these technologies. It also describes the participating transportation agencies' decision-making processes regarding the implementation and management of 2.0 applications. Observations made in the case studies are expected to support transportation officials in their efforts to consider the pros and cons of 2.0 use, as well as to determine how 2.0 tools might be best utilized. The project team case prepared case studies for DOTs in Massachusetts (MassDOT), Mississippi (MDOT), Missouri (MoDOT), North Carolina (NCDOT), Rhode Island (RIDOT), Texas (TxDOT), and Washington (WSDOT).

Key Findings

Key findings from the case studies include:

In summary, state DOTs are using a wide variety of 2.0 tools to accomplish numerous goals, including to provide information to new and broader audiences, streamline internal communication and efficiencies, build communities of interest around transportation, and support collaborative content creation and problem-solving. Agencies generally believed that the use of 2.0 applications provided time and cost savings through more efficient resource allocation and reduced inquiries from the media and stakeholders. Overall, these tools can help agencies more effectively address customers' needs and further business missions.

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INTRODUCTION

Purpose

This report summarizes the results of a study conducted to understand how state Departments of Transportation (DOTs) are using 2.0 technologies to meet various business objectives. The practices, challenges, and lessons learned in this study are expected to help others in the transportation industry identify and evaluate approaches to implementing, managing, and maintaining 2.0 applications.

Background

"Web 2.0" is an umbrella term for websites and online applications that are user-driven and emphasize collaboration and user interactivity. The term was created by a media company in 2004 to describe the next generation of websites that regularly incorporated user interactivity in creating content, differing from previous websites that provided only static content or provided limited opportunities for user interaction.1 Applications termed "2.0" began to emerge after the development of broadband internet and other computer technologies, which eliminated many of the delays previously experienced when accessing websites. These technologies made it easier for users to interact with websites, converse with other site users, and add or edit content without the need to use a coding language.

In the public sector, dynamic web pages that support user-driven content are now known as "government 2.0" applications.2 Government 2.0 applications are a sub-set of web 2.0 tools that specifically promote user interactivity and collaboration in a government context. Typically, the goals of government 2.0 applications include supporting more transparent governance, citizen involvement in government decision-making, or making internal government agency communication more efficient.3

The development of 2.0 applications in a government context is a recent trend that has been institutionalized in Federal policy and guidance. In December 2009, for example, the Federal Office of Management and Budget issued a directive to promote a culture of open government, requiring Federal executive agencies to publish high-value data sets for public consumption on websites that allow public feedback and input.4 A January 2009 Presidential Memorandum,5 later clarified in an OMB directive,6 states that government should be transparent, participatory, and collaborative. The White House 2009 Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government7 also underscored the Federal government's commitment to use 2.0 tools as a means to support public involvement and citizen engagement.

The institutionalization of 2.0 forums in Federal directives has led to these types of applications being prevalent at the Federal level. Examples of 2.0 tools in Federal government include the U.S. Secretary of Transportation's blog (FastLane)8 and the USDOT online Citizen Engagement Tool,9 which encourages the public to submit and rate ideas on how the USDOT can improve the quality of USDOT information, work with the public, collaborate with other agencies, and be more efficient.10 These applications demonstrate 2.0 principles in providing forums through which government agencies can seek and respond to citizen feedback and provide government data more freely and frequently to users.

An increasing number of state DOTs are using 2.0 tools, particularly to reach constituents. The Transportation Research Board (TRB) Committee on Public Involvement, in fact, found that over half of all state DOTs are using some type of 2.0 application.11 In a recently completed survey of state DOTs, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) found that many state DOTs are specifically using social media tools to reach the public; for example, approximately 81 percent of survey respondents reported using Twitter for this purpose.12

2.0 Tool Functionalities

Many different types of 2.0 applications exist, including blogs, wikis, podcasts, social media, mashups, and photo- or video-sharing sites. Some 2.0 tools are used primarily for one purpose. In general, however, 2.0 tools are flexible and the lines between 2.0 applications and their functionalities are often blurred. An agency might chose to use a 2.0 tool for one reason but then find that the application in fact serves several different purposes.13 For example, WSDOT developed a blog called The Big November Storm — How Did We Do?14 The initial purpose of the blog was to help WSDOT obtain public feedback on the agency's response to a major storm event. Based on the blog's success as measured by the number of public comments received, WSDOT broadened the blog to focus on more general public communication, such as sharing information on agency activities and news. Use of 2.0 tools can thus evolve over time. As a result, it can be challenging to categorize these tools in static categories.

Nevertheless, it is useful to develop a general framework to organize the array of tools and their primary functions. A transportation consulting company based in Vienna, Austria, developed four categories to describe the major functionalities of 2.0 applications, which are used throughout this report.15 16 The four categories are described below and include brief examples:

At a basic level, all 2.0 applications focus on sharing information with audiences in different ways than in the past, but these applications have the capacity to serve broader purposes. Table 1 provides a more detailed overview of specific types of 2.0 tools and their primary functionalities in a transportation context.

Research Approach

Based on a brief literature review and an internet scan of government 2.0 applications, the project team identified a number of state DOTs that have developed extensive or innovative uses of 2.0 tools.20 Seven of these state DOTs were selected to study in more depth based on their geographic distribution (a greater geographic range was preferred) and the ways in which agencies were using 2.0 tools to meet business objectives (a greater breadth of use was preferred).

To conduct the case studies, telephone discussions ranging from 30 to 60 minutes were held with state DOT representatives who identified themselves as appropriate contacts. The project team tailored a flexible discussion guide to structure the interview conversations while allowing participants to talk about additional topics of interest to them. While an effort was made to discuss a wide range of topics, it is possible that the interviews did not capture all 2.0 applications in a state DOT since the staff member participating in the call might not be familiar with every application in use.

The team then compiled information from the discussions, relevant supplemental materials, and comments and suggestions made by the interview participants to develop case studies for the DOTs in Massachusetts (MassDOT), Mississippi (MDOT), Missouri (MoDOT), North Carolina (NCDOT), Rhode Island (RIDOT), Texas (TxDOT), and Washington (WSDOT) (see page 20 for complete cases).

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Table 1. Overview of 2.0 Tools by Main Function and Overall Category21
2.0 Tool Main Function(s) Functionality Category
Information
Provision
Planning and
Administration
Social
Networking
Analysis and
Evaluation
Wikis (e.g., Wikipedia) Streamline review and editing of documents; provide interactive forums to assist agency processes. X X    
Social media tools (e.g., Facebook, MySpace) Share relevant information with the public or with internal agency groups; encourage discussion with users; promote agency mission and projects; allow users to create interest groups and develop and maintain social networks. X   X  
Mashups (e.g., Bikewise) Provide visual representations of transportation projects or travel updates customized to a users' location; allow users to submit comments on geographically specific issues (e.g., a broken streetlight). X     X
Podcasts (e.g., White House podcasts) Provide information to the public on selected or specific topics. X      
Media-sharing sites (e.g., YouTube, Flickr, Slideshare) Post videos or pictures highlighting transportation projects or agency events; post slideshows. X   X  
Really simply syndication (RSS) feeds Allows users to know when website updates occur. X      
Blogs (e.g., FastLane, the USDOT blog) Provide general information to the public; support dialogue by allowing agency responses to public comments; allow agencies to follow others' news. X   X  
Micro-blogging services (e.g., Twitter) Share general agency and transportation information with the public; monitor public references to the agency; expand audiences for transportation information by reposting others' posts. X   X  
Interactive surveys (e.g., Cyclopath) Enable users to receive customized information based on preferences   X    
Shared documents (e.g., Google documents) Post and share documents with specific stakeholder groups; allow group users to edit and create content. X X X X
Virtual meetings, meeting-sharing tools (e.g., Slideshare) Provide information on meetings and meeting materials; allow participants to interact with meeting hosts and speakers via chat or other features. X X    
Professional networking sites (e.g., LinkedIn) Allow users to share information regarding professional affiliations and network with other professionals. X   X  
Virtual worlds (e.g., Second Life) Provides simulated environments where users can interact, share information, and build networks with others.     X  
Bookmarking sites (e.g., Digg.com, delicious.com) Allows users to share information about websites and access web bookmarks from a centralized location.     X  
Cloud-based computing22 (e.g., Google documents/groups) Enable users to use web-based tools to collaboratively enter, analyze, share data, and reach solutions. X X   X
Crowd sourcing (e.g., Next Stop Design) Allows multiple users to collaboratively develop solutions to specific issues, make recommendations, or develop tools.   X   X
Simulation games (e.g., Mobility) Provides simulated environments where users interact with game components or with other users; primarily used as educational tools.       X

FINDINGS

Interviews with case study agencies led to a number of findings in several areas, including uses of 2.0 tools, associated benefits and challenges, and lessons learned encountered during the implementation, management, and assessment of the tools. These findings are described below.

Uses of 2.0 Tools

The interviewed agencies are using 2.0 tools for all of the purposes described in the previous section, including information provision, planning and administration, social networking, and analysis and evaluation (see Table 2).

Table 2. Overview of State DOTs, Current 2.0 Tools, and Primary Functionalities
Agency Application 2.0 Functionality Category
Information Provision Planning and
Administration
Social Networking Analysis and
Evaluation
MassDOT Twitter (both a general agency Twitter page and a Twitter page tailored to data developers) X   X X23
Blog X   X  
YouTube X   X  
Mashup maps X     X
Slideshare X      
Flickr X      
RSS feed X      
Data developers' Google documents and Google groups   X   X
Data developers' Facebook page     X  
MDOT Twitter route-specific hurricane evacuation guides X      
MoDOT Blog X      
Twitter X   X  
YouTube X X    
Podcasts X      
Facebook X   X  
RSS feeds X      
Wikis (Engineering Policy Guide wiki and next generation desktop wiki)   X    
Digg account     X  
Flickr X   X  
Mashups (i.e., Traveler Information Map) X      
NCDOT Facebook X   X  
Twitter (including region-specific Twitter sites) X   X  
Flickr X   X  
YouTube X   X  
Mashups X      
Microsoft Sharepoint sites   X    
RIDOT Iway documentary podcasts X      
Facebook X   X  
MySpace X   X  
Blog X      
Twitter X      
TxDOT Facebook X   X  
Twitter (including 25 District Office Twitter pages) X   X  
YouTube X      
Podcasts X      
WSDOT Blog X     X
YouTube X      
Facebook X   X  
Twitter X   X  
Slideshare X      
Flickr X      
Microsoft Sharepoint sites   X    

Information provision was the most common use of 2.0 tools across the state DOTs in this study. As a whole, agencies are using 2.0 tools to enable more efficient and direct communication with the public on transportation issues, concerns, and points of praise. The most frequently used tools for information provision were blogs and social media applications such as Twitter or Facebook. The prevalence of social media applications in the information provision category is notable and suggests the flexibility of these types of tools to communicate information in addition to supporting group networking.

Data being provided via information provision-focused tools included agency news, details on agency events, as well as real-time information on travel conditions, road closures, evacuation routes, transportation projects, transit schedules, and updates on weather-related events affecting roadways. Examples of information provision tools and the types of data provided include:

Most state DOTs were also using 2.0 tools for social networking purposes and to help build communities of interest around transportation issues. Only one agency (MDOT) noted that it was not currently using tools for social networking. Agencies were also commonly using social media tools to promote positive public relations and increase agency accessibility to the public. For example:

Use of 2.0 tools for planning and administration functions was slightly less common, with four agencies (MassDOT, MoDOT, NCDOT, and WSDOT) reporting use of 2.0 tools for this purpose. The specific tools being used for these objectives included mashups, wikis, Sharepoint sites, Google groups, and Google documents. Several examples are listed below:

Several agencies also reported plans to explore future uses of 2.0 tools for planning and administration. For example, NCDOT anticipates launching a wiki in 2010 to enable IT staff to track and view all IT questions and requests from a centralized location.

Use of tools for analysis and evaluation was infrequent, appearing in only two agencies (MassDOT and WSDOT). WSDOT's blog was initially designed to capture public feedback and suggestions on how to improve agency performance. MassDOT maintains a mashup map that allows users to post comments regarding neighborhood-specific transportation issues, such as overcrowded bus routes, broken stoplights, or potholes. Mashup users can place 'flags' to pinpoint the locations of their concerns on a Google map. MassDOT staff can then access the mashup to respond to comments. It is possible that few state DOTs have explored using 2.0 tools for analysis and evaluation due to broader concerns regarding privacy or management issues that might be encountered when using web-based applications to store data.

It is apparent that agencies are also using or anticipating use of 2.0 tools for additional purposes not included in the four overarching categories. For example, NCDOT is exploring use of 2.0 applications to communicate with contractors and streamline invoicing. These functionalities are best defined as support of internal operations and do not fit neatly into the existing categories. Furthermore, many agencies commonly reported that 2.0 presents significant opportunities for facilitating creative public involvement, another functionality not fully captured in the existing categories. Agencies are using 2.0 applications to support public involvement in many ways. For example:

The frequency with which 2.0 applications were used (or were being planned) for civic engagement indicates that public involvement should be added as fifth category of 2.0 tool functionality. These examples also indicate that the tools can support distinct components of public involvement, such as engaging citizens in decision-making processes, responding to public comments and concerns, or making agency functions more transparent. The willingness of state DOTs to engage the public in active dialogue, offering information in open forums that was not previously publicly available, is indicative of the movement towards government 2.0-a trend supported at the highest levels of government.

Major Benefits

State DOTs noted many benefits of 2.0 tool use. These benefits fall into several broad categories, including improved interaction with the public, enhanced public accessibility of transportation data, and streamlined internal communications.24 More specifically, agencies reported that 2.0 tools:

Challenges

Several state DOTs interviewed reported challenges in implementing or operating 2.0 applications, particularly in terms of resource investments and the need to develop more comprehensive performance measures to evaluate tool uses and benefits. These challenges are discussed in more detail:

Lessons Learned

State DOTs reported several lessons learned that address uses of 2.0 tools and considerations in implementing, managing, updating, and evaluating types of applications.

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CASE STUDIES

The project team developed case studies for seven transportation agencies from discussions with agency contacts and reviews of related documents. Each case study includes an overview that provides background on each agency's approach to considering uses of 2.0 tools for transportation purposes, any challenges encountered, and lessons learned during these activities. Where possible, information about agencies' future efforts was also included. Brief summaries of the seven agencies are presented below, followed by the full case studies:

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Massachusetts DOT Case

Background

Massachusetts DOT's (MassDOT) implementation of 2.0 sites in 2009 evolved from a desire to stay current with new technologies being adopted in transportation agencies in other states. In addition, the 2009 reorganization of Massachusetts' transportation agencies into one state DOT generally led to the use of new agency business practices, including use of social media, to provide transportation information to a wider audience.28 MassDOT received positive public feedback soon after developing its first social media sites. This early success helped to further upper management's support of the effort.

MassDOT currently uses several 2.0 tools, including Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, mashup maps, and maintains a blog, Commonwealth Conversations (see Figure 1). These applications are primarily used to inform stakeholders about agency news and to obtain public feedback on agency projects or events.

Figure 1: Screenshot of MassDOT's blog, Commonwealth Conversations.
Figure 1. MassDOT's blog, Commonwealth Conversations.

MassDOT has additional applications tailored to certain stakeholder groups and used to support collaboration between these groups and MassDOT. For example, MassDOT developed a Twitter account (separate from its main Twitter page), a Facebook page, a Slideshare page, and a Google document focused on activities related to third-party data developers working with MassDOT data.

During a MassDOT-sponsored developers' conference, attendees posted notes through the developers' Twitter page, providing real-time information to interested individuals who were not in attendance. The conference, Twitter account, and Facebook page were launched as part of MassDOT's developers' initiative, through which MassDOT makes its transportation data available to third parties to encourage production of innovative mobile phone- and web-based applications for the public.29

While MassDOT does not formally advertise the sites, all of the sites and brief descriptions are listed on the agency's main webpage.30

Management Approach and Policies

MassDOT did not create new staff positions to manage or maintain the 2.0 applications. Instead, responsibilities for updating these sites were folded into two existing staff positions in the communications office. As the number of comments grows on the sites, MassDOT might consider adding a public relations position to help manage feedback and responses to comments. In the future, MassDOT might also consider use of social media tools for incident reporting.

All MassDOT staff can access and view the 2.0 sites from their workstations. However, with the exception of the MassDOT Secretary, who posts Twitter content, staff members outside the communications office are not permitted to post to MassDOT's social media sites.

MassDOT has developed a general privacy policy for all of its websites, including social media sites, and all blog comments are moderated before posting.31 After filtering inappropriate comments or spam items, MassDOT posts every blog comment it receives and attempts to respond to each of them.

Evaluation and Benefits

MassDOT does not have a formal evaluation policy or procedure to assess use of 2.0 applications. However, the communications office staff periodically monitors the number of site visitors using Google Analytics software. The agency noted that quantitative metrics (such as user statistics) do not necessarily provide a complete picture of whether an application is meeting users' needs. More in-depth analysis is required to understand whether the sites help MassDOT meet its goals and are useful to intended audiences. The staff anticipates the development of more formal evaluation procedures and performance measures in the future to support this type of analysis.

Even without a formal evaluation, MassDOT believes that use of the sites over time has helped the agency meet business goals and better serve its customers. MassDOT reported that the sites have specifically helped to:

Lessons Learned

MassDOT staff noted several lessons learned from its experiences with 2.0 applications and social media sites:

Next Steps

MassDOT anticipates several steps to expand and enhance the content that it posts to social media sites. It hopes to post videos of public meetings within an hour of the meeting's completion. MassDOT also envisions building customizable tools to provide information to its customers. MassDOT is considering creating a system that could provide public feeds on road closures, since this is the specific information that many customers want to have. However, before taking this approach, MassDOT will look for more data sources to make available to third-party data developers, so that developers might be able to build such a tool at no cost to MassDOT.

MassDOT is discussing the possibility of adding new Twitter accounts targeted to customers in certain regions of the state or to specific stakeholder groups. For example, an account targeted at bicyclists would include information about bicycling facilities, events, and laws. The agency believes that having multiple Twitter accounts tailored to certain groups will make it easy for users to find the information they need. Posting all agency news to one account could make it difficult to find information relevant to one topic.

As the agency expands use of 2.0 sites, it anticipates that some staff time might need to be reallocated from current activities to manage the applications and respond to public comments. These needs will likely be met by engaging existing staff within MassDOT to monitor and post to 2.0 sites.

Resources

MassDOT's blog, Commonwealth Conversations: transportation.blog.state.ma.us/blog/

MassDOT's Data Developers' Google Group: groups.google.com/group/massdotdevelopers?pli=1

MassDOT's Facebook page: bit.ly/dy8pxG

MassDOT's Flickr page: www.flickr.com/search/?q=massDOT

MassDOT's Slideshare page: www.slideshare.net/massdotdev

MassDOT's Twitter page: twitter.com/massdot

MassDOT's YouTube Page: www.youtube.com/youmovemass

Example of a MassDOT mashup map: www.massdot.state.ma.us/rmv/BranchInfo/BranchMap.aspx

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Mississippi DOT Case

Background

In 2005, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita highlighted the need for Mississippi DOT (MDOT) to have robust systems, including those for communication, to support a large-scale public evacuation in the event of an emergency. Wanting to enhance existing procedures rather than create new ones, MDOT decided to develop route-specific Twitter sites to disseminate evacuation information in the event of a hurricane. MDOT highlighted the new Twitter sites in the agency's most recent update of its Hurricane Evaluation Guide.33 The guide, which is updated annually, is provided in hard copy via newspaper circulation routes, to libraries, and other public places; features a map of hurricane evacuation routes; and includes emergency contact information.

MDOT has now developed six route-specific Twitter sites to provide content from the guide to the public (see Figure 2). The initial focus is on providing real-time, route-specific emergency updates for the six main evacuation routes in the southern half of the state.34

Figure 2. Screenshot of MDOT's I-10 Hurricane Evacuation Twitter Page.
Figure 2. MDOT's I-10 Hurricane Evacuation Twitter Page.

Although available online, the sites do not currently have any content or have limited content, as there have not been any hurricane events since their implementation.

However, the information that will be provided on the sites will include real-time updates on travel conditions, traffic delays, contraflow routes (i.e., roads that have altered traffic flows), fuel availability, and roadway openings. MDOT does not believe that use of the Twitter sites will replace its traditional information dissemination tools. Rather, the sites will complement and supplement existing agency information channels, including the Hurricane Evacuation Guide.

Development of Twitter Hurricane Evacuation Guides

Obtaining upper management's support for the sites was not difficult, as there was general agreement about Twitter's utility in helping MDOT meet business goals and the public's information needs at a relatively small cost. For approximately $8,000, MDOT worked with a consultant to implement the route-specific Twitter sites. The consultant developed a mock-up of the sites and, along with the MDOT public affairs staff, presented the concept to upper management. The consultant also purchased off-the-shelf software to support running six Twitter accounts simultaneously. The company set up a back-up system in an office outside the traditional Mississippi hurricane zone as a precautionary measure in case a hurricane affected local offices.

Seventy-two hours prior to a predicted hurricane or tropical storm, MDOT plans to launch 15-second television commercials and radio public service announcements alerting the public to the imminent hurricane and encouraging the public to sign up for Twitter accounts to receive real-time evacuation information. The television commercials, which have been produced but have not yet aired, are MDOT's only planned advertisement for the Twitter sites. The agency has discussed placing "toppers," or signs, on gas pumps around the state to advertise its Twitter feeds. It is also considering placing temporary window stickers, or "clings," at gas stations in advance of forecast hurricane events.

With an approaching hurricane forecast and public announcements made, the primary source of information for the feeds will come from MDOT field representatives and information collected from other various sources by the consultant. MDOT will also be able to retweet information from the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency. During emergency situations, a consultant will collect information on fuel availability by telephoning individual gas stations that are listed in a database unique to each evacuation route. Additionally, the consultant will survey available lodging and provide contact information to evacuees via tweets. To ensure that MDOT will be able to focus on critical operations during an emergency event, an email address was established that automatically forwards updates on roadway and travel conditions to the consultant. It is expected that this will enable the consultant to upload Twitter feeds without relying on manual input from MDOT.

As there were no major hurricanes affecting Mississippi during 2009, MDOT and its consultant tested the Twitter guides during a relatively minor tropical storm event. This small-scale pilot, which cost $750 to implement, worked smoothly and no obstacles in the test were encountered.

Anticipated Benefits

MDOT expects two primary benefits from use of the Twitter sites:

MDOT has gauged these potential benefits by assessing the current number of followers. To date, approximately 1,600 people have signed up to follow one of the six route-specific sites. In the absence of a major emergency or advertising campaign to encourage users to make use of these sites, MDOT believes the number of Twitter followers indicates the effectiveness of word-of-mouth advertising. Local news reports have also been an important catalyst for encouraging users to sign up for the feeds. MDOT anticipates that the number of followers on the sites will significantly increase during the next major hurricane. MDOT plans to measure any reduction in call volume during emergency events and assess whether that might be attributable to use of the Twitter sites.

Lessons Learned

Next Steps

In the future, MDOT plans to measure any reduction in call volume during emergency events and assess whether that might be attributable to use of the Twitter sites. Since development of the sites, MDOT has received questions and feedback from several other state DOTs. This interest suggests a general need for developing transportation 2.0 tools that can disseminate real-time information to the public. In 2009, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) named the MDOT Twitter sites as one of top 10 developments in transportation, leading the agency to believe that the sites represent an emerging effective practice.

MDOT also anticipates that it will expand its 2.0 implementation to include other social media sites, likely with the assistance of the same consultant that developed the Twitter sites. For example, MDOT has considered providing traffic updates during ice events, perhaps targeted to the northern areas of the state. This would help to disseminate general traffic information via Twitter, expanding upon text message traffic updates that are already available year-round.

In addition, MDOT is currently evaluating use of YouTube as a tool to raise public awareness on bridge ratings across the state and use video vignettes to support public consensus that additional Federal funding is needed to repair bridge infrastructure. The agency is working with a consultant to launch the site, which is expected to go live in March 2010.

Resources

MDOT's Hurricane Evacuation Guide: www.gomdot.com/Home/EmergencyPreparedness/pdf/HurricaneEvacuationGuide.pdf

MDOT's hurricane evaluation route-specific Twitter pages: twitter.com/mdot_i10; twitter.com/mdot_i20; twitter.com/mdot_i55; twitter.com/mdot_i59; twitter.com/mdot_us49; twitter.com/mdot_us98

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Missouri DOT Case

Background

For government agencies, the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) was an early adopter of 2.0 technologies. MoDOT's first 2.0 application was developed in 2004: a wiki-based version of the Engineering Policy Guide (EPG), a document that serves as a single reference for all engineering and engineering-related guidance for the agency (see Figure 3).

Figure 3. Screenshot of MoDOT's EPG wiki.
Figure 3. MoDOT's EPG wiki.

Prior to the EPG wiki, the agency relied on a Microsoft Word document and a database to manage comments. In 2004, a MoDOT engineer suggested use of a wiki to streamline its approach for allowing staff to add comments to the EPG. Now the wiki-based EPG is the standard method by which the agency solicits staff feedback on the manual. A log on the wiki homepage, which had been accessed over 210,000 times (as of January 2010), enables viewers to see recent changes to the wiki. Additionally, a help article posted to the wiki35 details the approval process and how MoDOT staff can sign up for a user identification (userID) that enables them to track and view changes on the wiki. Once users have established a userID, they can set their preferences so that any time a change is made to a particular page in the EPG, they will receive an update. The wiki-based EPG wiki helps to maintain a living document, one that is continually updated with best practice information gathered from the field and effectively conveyed back to agency staff.

Building on the agency's success with the EPG wiki and with the hire of a Community Relations Director who embraced the use of new media, the agency experimented with other 2.0 applications. Now, MoDOT uses RSS feeds, Flickr, and mashups that combine MoDOT data with Google Maps to display geographic information for the traveling public. MoDOT also uses a variety of social media services, including Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, a blog, and podcasts, to provide information to external audiences.

Initially, these 2.0 applications were not publicly posted due to concerns about how MoDOT would manage incoming public feedback. This changed in January 2008 when the Governor of Missouri launched a YouTube site that helped elicit broad support among MoDOT leadership for making its social media applications available to the public.

To further bolster support, MoDOT's Community Relations Division invited a social media advocate to speak to the agency. The advocate helped to strengthen upper management buy-in and suggested ways to refine MoDOT's communication approach. For example, the advocate encouraged MoDOT to use a more casual tone and write in the first person when adding news to social media sites. Prior to this, MoDOT had generally copied press releases on its blog and other social media sites rather than create new content specific to the sites.

To notify the public of MoDOT's new social media sites, the agency issued a press release via fax, email, and on the blog itself. It also purchased several Facebook advertisements to generate publicity. Each advertisement costs approximately $250 and includes a line of text and a picture. These ads appear on Facebook itself, on the right-hand side of the page, and were crafted to encourage viewers to become a fan of MoDOT. The ads target Facebook users in Missouri who are over the age of 18 and not already fans of their page. MoDOT created an advertisement to notify the public when the updated Missouri map was published. In another advertisement targeted to Missouri college students, MoDOT encouraged customers to check the Traveler Information Map when returning to school after summer vacation.

2.0 sites have not replaced MoDOT's traditional public outreach efforts. Rather, they serve to augment previous communications activities. Press releases are still provided via traditional media and all posts are available on the MoDOT website.

Mashup

MoDOT's Traveler Information Map is a mashup that combines the functionality of Google Maps with MoDOT traffic and other data (see Figure 4). The map provides a variety of data to users on travel information, road conditions, and other travel-related information.36 Users can choose which data are displayed.

Figure 4. Screenshot of MoDOT's Traveler Information Mashup Map.
Figure 4. MoDOT's Traveler Information Mashup Map.

MoDOT's GIS division initially developed a GIS-based version of the Traveler Information Map. However, in 2007, the division chose develop a Google Maps-based mashup version of the map as it was more user friendly and aesthetically pleasing. Using data from MoDOT's Traffic Management System, MoDOT developed a mock-up of the Google Maps mashup and provided it to management. A staff member then worked for three weeks to fully develop and launch the mashup. MoDOT staff noted that use of Google Maps as a base map for their mashups is inexpensive. There is no fee for the use of the maps and Google's open source code makes these mashups relatively simple. In addition, MoDOT makes its mashup code available for other agencies to modify if they wish.

The shift to a Google Maps mashup was also designed to reduce stress on the agency's server and accommodate more users who accessed the site. Previously, the load time for the Traveler Information Map was fairly long. Before implementing the Google Map version of the website, each time a user refreshed the map, all of the data had to be transmitted from the agency's server, creating delays when many users accessed the site at the same time. Using the Google Maps mashup, MoDOT superimposed data onto a Google Map, freeing space on the agency's server and reducing delays. It is estimated that 50,000 people per day can now access the site without slowing load times.

Although there have been significant benefits to using Google maps, there are also drawbacks. MoDOT is currently evaluating whether or not is will move the Traveler Information Map back to a GIS-based system. The agency has found its lack of control over the Google base map to be a limitation with the mashup. MoDOT finds that the base maps are frequently not as accurate as the agency would like them to be, and Google has been unable to respond to agency requests to update its maps. In addition, changes in MoDOT's Transportation Management System work zone database now make it more difficult to overlay the agency's icons over the Google Map base map. To address these issues, MoDOT is now exploring moving to a "Flex-based map" in which the map programming will become much smaller and easier to maintain and repair. An added benefit is that the base map would have the same up-to-date data included in the agency's highway map.

Management and Administrative Approach

MoDOT did not hire new staff to maintain its 2.0 sites but instead folded responsibilities into an existing staff position organizationally located in the Community Relations Division. This staff member manages all of the sites, tracks user postings and feedback, and updates the sites, aiming for at least three updates per week. Others in MoDOT, including division directors, are encouraged to contribute videos, photos, and other content or contact the Community Relations Division with ideas for new postings. While 2.0 site maintenance was initially a concern, in general, this concern has not been realized, and staff report that the workload has been manageable.

Technical Considerations and Cost

MoDOT has not incurred any additional costs associated with the use of 2.0 sites other than the staff time that the agencies devoted to launching and maintaining the sites and the up-front cost to purchase blog and wiki software. Generally, MoDOT has used free versions of software to create 2.0 and social media applications (It was estimated that developing a MoDOT blog using customized software would cost $40,000.). Sites have been developed in-house.

While use of free software has benefits, it also comes with some challenges. For example, MoDOT noticed that other transportation agencies' social media pages often include banners on the top of the page that display the agency's logo and do not contain advertising. Occasionally, on MoDOT's sites, non-agency links and pop-up advertisements will appear. MoDOT staff contacted YouTube to determine whether the agency's page could be customized to include a banner without advertising, but was told that this customization might cost approximately $250,000. This was beyond MoDOT's budget for 2.0 application use.

Policies and Evaluation

MoDOT maintains a blog policy page.37 The Community Relations staff reviews all blog comments before being posted to the site. Comments that are off topic, political in nature, or are otherwise inappropriate are rejected, but this does not often occur. MoDOT reported that approximately one or two comments per month are rejected from the blog. Anonymous commenting is generally allowed except on Facebook and Twitter, which require users to set up a profile before posting a comment. All MoDOT staff are able to view the agency's social media sites while using their work computers and are encouraged by management to interact with the sites and add comments to them.

The Community Relations staff monitors comments on Twitter and Facebook to ensure that they adhere to the agency's use policy. Despite the fact that comments on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter cannot be reviewed before being posted live, only a few inappropriate comments have been removed after posting due to their inappropriate nature. MoDOT informs users, when possible, if their comments are removed from the social media sites.

Staff from the Community Relations, Information Systems, and Human Resources Divisions are currently developing recommendations on social media guidelines and standards to add to human resources policies. When determining appropriate social media policies, MoDOT has looked to other government agencies to identify best practices.

Regarding evaluation, MoDOT holds quarterly meetings to determine if the social media sites are meeting goals based on a variety of metrics, including number of blog posts, number of fans and followers, and overall and repeat visitors to these sites. These metrics for evaluating its 2.0 sites have been integrated into its Tracker system,38 which evaluates overall agency performance.

Lessons Learned

MoDOT reported the following lessons learned from its use of 2.0 applications:

Next Steps

MoDOT stays current with new technology developments by monitoring several websites, such as www.mashable.com, and following transportation agencies and organizations on Twitter. MoDOT will continue encouraging more dialogue on MoDOT's Facebook page and gaining new fans. The agency recently began a DIGG account.

While noting that its blog is not as popular as it used to be, MoDOT has no plans to discontinue its use. The agency believes that the blog feeds content to other MoDOT social media sites and website. The agency experienced some challenges with using RSS feeds, such as RSS readers not yet being part of Web browsers. As a result, MoDOT is currently exploring use of JavaScripts to allow users to track new content. It is also considering adding a more user-friendly and interactive electronic format for an internal newsletter that is posted online for public review.

Finally, while use of the Google Maps mashup initially led the agency away from a GIS-based traveler map, MoDOT is now considering whether to move back to this type of map because the agency cannot update the Google Map with current information.

Resources

MoDOT's Engineering Policy Guide wiki page: epg.modot.org

MoDOT's blog: modotblog.blogspot.com

MoDOT's Facebook page: www.modot.mo.gov/facebook

MoDOT's Flickr page: www.flickr.com/photos/modot

MoDOT's Next Generation Desktop wiki page: not currently available

MoDOT's Twitter page: www.modot.mo.gov/Twitter

MoDOT's Traveler Information Map mashup: maps.modot.mo.gov/travelerinformation/

MoDOT's YouTube page: www.youtube.com/modotvideo

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North Carolina DOT Case

Background

North Carolina DOT (NCDOT) began using 2.0 applications as a response to increasing requests for information from local media. Together with information technology (IT) staff, the NCDOT public affairs department developed mock-up applications illustrating application functions and sample content. Public affairs staff provided these mock-ups to upper management to demonstrate the benefits of a new interface with the public and to garner leadership buy-in.

With management support obtained, NCDOT now maintains a variety of 2.0 applications, including Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube. The primary purpose of these sites is to disseminate information to both the media and the public and to provide a new degree of agency transparency. For example, videos of key meetings (particularly those related to budget issues and stimulus spending) are made available to the public via YouTube. As another example, NCDOT developed an incident management system in 2005 that tracks incident status based on a system of codes reported from responding field staff. The system initially generated only text messages but was recently updated to generate tweets automatically about roadway conditions across North Carolina. The traveler information program has also been integrated to the agency's Facebook page (see Figure 5). Additionally, some divisions use Microsoft Sharepoint sites to share documents, images, and other information among project teams.

Figure 5. Screenshot of NCDOT's Facebook Page.
Figure 5. NCDOT's Facebook Page.39

Management Approach and Policies

NCDOT does not have any formal policies for managing content on its 2.0 sites and does not limit staff access to 2.0 applications from workstations. While staff throughout NCDOT can send input or suggested content for the sites, only web development and public affairs staff have the ability to post or moderate content. In most cases, however, the web development and public affairs staff produce content for the sites based on their knowledge of ongoing projects or other agency news.

Public feedback mechanisms on the 2.0 applications are currently restricted due to limited staff time and availability to respond to comments and because of concerns about the volume of feedback potentially generated. To help address this issue and augment staff resources, NCDOT hired one public affairs staff person to focus on management of 2.0 content and on the feedback it generates. The agency is also considering hiring two additional staff to help manage the sites.

Evaluation

NCDOT does not have a formal method to evaluate the effectiveness of its 2.0 applications. However, the applications are informally assessed to ensure that they help meet business goals and support NCDOT's core mission. The public affairs staff cites increased traffic to these sites, positive feedback, and reductions in questions about project schedules as evidence that the applications are providing valuable information. Over time, the agency has noticed a reduction in negative feedback and questions about project schedules.

Benefits

NCDOT described several benefits from its use of 2.0 applications. For example, in providing information about agency activities, NCDOT reported that social media sites support citizen engagement and increase citizens' knowledge of agency activities, news, and projects. Additionally, these forums allow NCDOT to more quickly and easily respond to questions. Also, rather than respond to the same question posed by different individuals at different times, NCDOT staff can answer questions on a public forum, allowing all customers to view the response and reducing the number of inquiries.

Another benefit has been the ease with which the public can obtain information. NCDOT has developed a number of Twitter feeds that are targeted to specific regions across the state or specific transportation modes, such as a Twitter feed tailored to ferry customers. Having separate feeds for particular roadways or districts has allowed the public to subscribe to and receive only the content that they view as valuable.

Lessons Learned

NCDOT reported the following lessons learned from its use of 2.0 applications:

Next Steps

In the future, NCDOT staff expect that agency-wide wikis, blogs, forums, and personal 2.0 pages will be implemented to address information silos within the agency and to increase customizable information sources about agency activities. In fact, a wiki that will centralize all IT questions and requests is expected to be ready for use in February 2010. In addition to enhancing internal communications, NCDOT anticipates new enhancements to existing 2.0 sites. For example, NCDOT is now working to make all agency meetings available on YouTube within two hours of the meeting's conclusion.

NCDOT's web development team also envisions building a system in which the public could subscribe to particular areas or topics of interest (e.g., commute path, residence location, work location) and be notified of planned or ongoing activities in these areas. Finally, NCDOT is exploring use of 2.0 applications to allow remote participation in virtual meetings or to communicate with contractors and streamline invoicing.

References

Example of NCDOT mashup maps: www.ncdot.org/recovery/recoveryprojects/

NCDOT's Facebook page: www.facebook.com/pages/Garner-NC/North-Carolina-Department-of-Transportations-Traveler-Information-Programs/44545158699

NCDOT's Flickr page: www.flickr.com/photos/ncdot/4058239304/

NCDOT's Twitter page: twitter.com/ncdot

NCDOT's YouTube page: www.youtube.com/user/NCDOTcommunications

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Rhode Island DOT Case

Background

In 1999, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) embarked on a $610-million, 12-year project for improvements to the Interstate (I)-195/I-95 interchange in Providence, Rhode Island. The project, called the Iway, was designed to improve traffic flows, enhance access to downtown Providence, and open up key downtown waterfront parcels for redevelopment. Major sections of the project are now complete although demolition of sections of the old I-195 and exit relocations are still in process as of January 2010.

The Iway is the most expensive and complex project that RIDOT has ever undertaken. The project has had major impacts in Providence, the state's capital, and has affected two of the three highways in the city. Because the project is multifaceted, RIDOT officials understood the need to provide clear information and visuals about the project to residents and motorists in an efficient and effective manner. To do so, RIDOT decided to convert existing video footage, images, and computer-simulated models into an educational audio-visual series available via links from RIDOT's website.40 The agency launched these Iway video podcasts in 2007.41 RIDOT's chief public affairs officer enhanced this public outreach endeavor by leading a campaign to introduce social media applications such as Facebook and MySpace.

Ultimately, RIDOT created a six-part project documentary podcast that included maps, renderings, and historical images, as well as video and still footage shot throughout the Iway's construction (see Table 1). The series is available for download from RIDOT's website as well as via YouTube, iTunes, and Blinkx. The podcasts include computer-generated models that display a virtual overview of the completed project, outlining traffic patterns, safety enhancements, the new entrance to India Point Park, and the opening up of new downtown waterfront real estate for redevelopment.

Table 1. Iway Podcasts.
Podcast Title Description
Iway Project Overview Provides an overview of project goals and design
Building a Better Highway Provides an overview of how the route for the new highway was chosen and how the bridge was designed and engineered
Bridge Design and Construction Provides an overview of bridge design and construction
Iway Bridge Float Details how the bridge was moved from Quonset Point to its final destination in Providence
New India Point Park Details how construction of the Iway will expand and enhance India Point Park
A Revitalized Waterfront Describes how construction of the Iway will result in an improved waterfront in Downtown Providence

The podcast series has been translated into Spanish to expand the reach of the documentary to a wider group of listeners. RIDOT communications staff members perceive a generational divide between users of 2.0 and traditional media sources, and the agency anticipated that the podcasts would enable the agency to reach a younger audience.

The video podcasts themselves required very little additional material or investment to develop. Repurposing prior work, images, and visualizations—all products of the environmental review process—allowed the agency to extend the reach of these educational materials and guide the public through the ongoing construction and redevelopment process (see Figure 6).

Figure 6. Screenshot of RIDOT's Iway Project Overview Podcast on YouTube.
Figure 6. RIDOT's Iway Project Overview Podcast on YouTube.

RIDOT reported that the video podcasts have improved the agency's ability to disseminate information directly to the general public as well as to traditional media outlets. Moreover, podcasts are viewed as a way to simplify complex project components for general public understanding.

RIDOT Communication through Other Social Media

Building on the success of the Iway podcasts, measured internally by anecdotal evidence, RIDOT publicly launched Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, and Blogger applications in January 2009. The agency felt that these sites would allow better dissemination of press releases, traffic alerts, and other important messages to motorists.

RIDOT's use of social media applications complements use of traditional media sources. The information posted on the social media sites generally comes from traditional press releases and department publications.

Aside from the initial press releases announcing the introduction of social media applications and the inclusion of social media links on the department website, the agency does not explicitly advertise the applications. However, the Providence Journal helps drive viewership by including links to RIDOT's social media sites in articles about RIDOT or its work.

RIDOT initially had concerns that launching these social media sites would open the agency up for unbridled public criticism. However, one year into using these sites, the agency reports no negative postings and similarly notes that it has heard of very few excessively negative posts comments on other agencies' sites. RIDOT public relations staff note that people seem to be coming to these sites looking for quick information, not as a place to vent frustrations.

Administrative and Technical Approach

Six staff members in the public relations office manage and monitor RIDOT's 2.0 applications. No new staff members were hired to manage any of the additional workload associated with 2.0 application use. In fact, due to an agency hiring freeze, the number of public relations office staff responsible for managing the applications has been reduced over the past year.

RIDOT has not developed a formal policy to govern its staff's use of 2.0 sites or the monitoring and review of comments the public makes. However, new content posted to the agency's 2.0 applications undergoes the same review process as press releases before being posted. The review process is intended to maintain the quality control standards set prior to the adoption of 2.0 applications. While RIDOT's Twitter and Facebook posts are more informal and informational, mostly providing traffic and weather updates, the formal review process is maintained.

Furthermore, due to concerns regarding the agency's ability to regulate public feedback through the blog platform, comments are not accepted on the RIDOT blog. Users are directed to submit their questions and concerns to the public relations office via email or telephone. To date, the agency believes that most applications have "self-regulated." Most people appear to use the applications to obtain information rather than comment positively or negatively on the agency's performance.

Next Steps

The agency intends to continue expanding its use of 2.0 applications. For example, RIDOT is evaluating what role virtual public meetings could play in the future. These virtual meetings would complement traditional, face-to-face meetings while affording the public more opportunities to become actively engaged in the transportation planning process. RIDOT is conducting preliminary research to evaluate how such an application could work through the existing agency website or a similar portal. In the future, RIDOT would also like to expand its Twitter services by creating multiple, specialized accounts for individual roadways and projects.

To remain current with technology, the public relations office is actively involved with the AASHTO Public Relations Working Group. The working group allows RIDOT officials to exchange ideas and experiences with other state officials across the nation. The staff also regularly follows a number of websites, blogs, and publications dedicated to technology and 2.0 applications.

Lessons Learned

RIDOT reported several lessons learned from its use of 2.0 tools:

Resources

RIDOT's blog: ridotnews.blogspot.com

RIDOT's Facebook page: www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=21369549989

RIDOT's MySpace page: www.myspace.com/ridotnews

RIDOT's Twitter page, RIDOT News: twitter.com/RIDOTNews

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Texas DOT Case

Background

Prior to 2008, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) relied on traditional media sources, such as newspapers and local television, to share information with the public. However, managing the large volume of public requests for information using only these means of communication was proving to be increasingly difficult, and the agency began limited use of social media applications in 2008. In 2009, when the Texas legislature's "Sunset Review"—a mandatory evaluation conducted every 12 years to identify and eliminate inefficiencies in state agencies—concluded that TxDOT was not sufficiently engaging in meaningful public involvement efforts, TxDOT decided to use 2.0 applications more completely. Specifically, the communications team within TxDOT and TxDOT leadership identified uses of podcasts, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube as strategies to establish more direct interaction with the public.

Subsequently, TxDOT assembled a 2.0 taskforce. The 12-member taskforce, composed of communications, legal, and information technology staff, was responsible for monitoring initial use of the social media sites and communicating feedback to internal leadership. Several months after a "soft release" of the 2.0 sites—which coordinated internal use and ensured that staff were familiar with applications' functions—TxDOT issued a press release announcing implementation of its 2.0 tools. While the taskforce has implemented 2.0 tools gradually over the last two years, initial response from the public has been positive, helping to encourage continued TxDOT leadership support. TxDOT now advertises all of its 2.0 tools on its website and in staff members' email signatures.

Figure 7. Screenshot of TxDOT-Houston District's Twitter Account.
Figure 7. TxDOT-Houston District's Twitter Account.

Purpose and Goals for TxDOT's 2.0 Applications

Currently, TxDOT is using 2.0 applications to help meet several general objectives, such as supporting public engagement in transportation, improving agency responsiveness to public feedback, and expanding public awareness about the agency's mission.

TxDOT operates several general, agency-wide 2.0 applications, including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. In addition, TxDOT's 25 District Offices are encouraged to use 2.0 applications, for example, by operating independent Twitter accounts (see Figure 7).

These separate accounts allow the agency to provide targeted, region-specific information to the public rather than only on a statewide level.

Administrative and Technical Approach

To ensure consistency with department goals and messages, TxDOT's District Offices must first obtain permission from the department's headquarters before opening any 2.0 account. District Offices are also encouraged to send content for YouTube and Facebook to TxDOT headquarters for posting to the statewide TxDOT sites.

Three staff members of the media relations office are responsible for statewide 2.0 management. These employees—all of whom work in the department's public relations group—have the capability to add content to TxDOT's 2.0 sites and grant or deny permission for TxDOT District Offices to operate their own 2.0 sites. Other TxDOT employees can send ideas, media, or images to the public relations staff for posting on the sites but do not have direct access to view or update the 2.0 sites.

TxDOT's public relations staff monitor incoming comments on each of the 2.0 sites and have not had to remove any comments to date. While some users do provide negative feedback and express concerns, these comments have not been inappropriate or derogatory. The TxDOT media relations team generally responds to negative comments by identifying concrete issues that the agency might be able to address or providing more details to the user on the agency's action or decision on particular issues. TxDOT staff noted that each of the individual applications has independent terms and conditions with which users must comply. Application administrators have the authority to punish users who violate these terms and conditions and/or suspend their account. While TxDOT staff realizes 2.0 applications are a good way to get conversations started, they do not encourage the public to use the applications to engage in online debates. Comments, both negative and positive, will be addressed; however, users with extensive concerns are encouraged to file formal complaints to TxDOT via email or telephone.

No new staff was hired to manage the additional workload associated with implementation or maintenance of the 2.0 applications. TxDOT staff estimated that approximately two hours of staff time per week is required to add and monitor content. More staff time was required during the planning and implementation stages, as staff familiarized themselves with the different platforms, developed material, and set up the pages. Additional staff time is also occasionally required to develop user policies, resolve legal and technical issues, and communicate technical developments with agency staff, leadership, and stakeholders. Overall, the agency believes that the use of the applications has provided both time and cost savings through more efficient resource allocation and reduced media inquiries.

TxDOT's 2.0 applications supplement use of traditional media sources; similar information is provided via traditional sources and through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and/or podcasts. This decision was based on an interest to ensure the media had appropriate materials, such as photos or video, and to make sure the public had access to the information even if the media did not cover the story. The core goal is always to communicate important agency-related information to the public.

Evaluation

Several criteria are used to evaluate 2.0 tools. Initially, TxDOT set performance measures based on the number of fans or followers on each site at particular points in time; the agency then shifted to more qualitative evaluation criteria such as the quality of conversation and public interaction supported by the tool. For example, on Facebook and Twitter, the quality conversations and the number of "retweets" now serve as the respective benchmarks of success. These qualitative measures are more appropriate for evaluating the agency's goal of establishing a dialogue and engaging with the public on transportation issues than simpler measures of the number of visitors or postings.

TxDOT continues to see steady growth in use of each of the applications. Approximately 20 new users per week begin following TxDOT's Twitter account, and approximately five users per week become TxDOT "fans" on Facebook. TxDOT views this growth as another measure of the applications' success.

Anticipated Next Steps

TxDOT is currently developing formal procedures and policies to address use of 2.0 tools. For example, the agency is evaluating appropriate methods for archiving information from social media platforms, determining a procedure for handling complaints received through social media and identifying the appropriate TxDOT personnel to use and manage social media.

TxDOT is considering the use of mobile device applications to meet customer desire for on-the-go information.

Lessons Learned

Resources

TxDOT's Facebook page: www.facebook.com/pages/Austin-TX/Texas-Department-of-Transportation/44520755873

TxDOT's podcasts: www.keeptexasmoving.com/index.php/podcast

TxDOT's Twitter page: txdot.gov/news/twitter_feeds.htm

Example of TxDOT YouTube video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=AA4b-Tl8M0M

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Washington DOT Case

Background

In November 2006, a major snowstorm occurred during an evening commute in Seattle, Washington, leading to severe congestion and traffic issues in the city during and immediately after the storm. To help address public concern regarding these issues, the Washington Secretary of Transportation tasked the Washington DOT (WSDOT) communications team with creating forums for the public to express feedback and for WSDOT to respond with comments.

To engage the public in a discussion of the snowstorm and related traffic issues, the WSDOT communications team turned to 2.0 applications, beginning with a blog. The first blog post42 received 75 comments and was titled The Big November Storm — How Did We Do? (see Figure 8). The post and comments indicated WSDOT's intentions to support public conversation about the storm and the public's willingness to engage in the conversation.

Figure 8. Screenshot of WSDOT's Blog.
Figure 8. WSDOT's Blog.

The blog's success led WSDOT to implement additional 2.0 applications, including YouTube, Slideshare, Twitter, Facebook ,and Flickr. WSDOT views these applications as extensions of traditional information dissemination mechanisms (e.g., press releases). These applications are also viewed as tools to enhance public relations and provide information regarding emergency events, transportation projects, and travel conditions.

Management Approach and Site Policies

WSDOT's central communications office staff maintain and update site content and respond to public comments. These staff members coordinate their work internally through a daily team telephone call. WSDOT staff in regional division offices can also post to the agency's Flickr account, helping to streamline postings soon after public meetings and other events occur. Overall, upper management has been very supportive of the use of 2.0 tools. Much of that support has been reinforced by positive feedback from the public and positive coverage in the media regarding use of these tools.

WSDOT has developed some unique structures for disseminating agency news through social media sites. For example, a regional WSDOT Public Information Officer, who is located in northwestern Washington, posts agency information using a personal Twitter account.43 A large number of users follow this account and consider it a trusted source of information for that area. WSDOT believes that the this account's success stems from the fact that most of its followers live in an area where there is very little media presence.

While WSDOT does not currently operate 2.0 applications explicitly for internal use, WSDOT staff can access many 2.0 applications from their workstations. The agency has not generated its own 2.0 policy because the state's de minimis rule44 regarding brief and occasional personal use of state agency resources covers the use of 2.0 sites on state computers. WSDOT did, however, develop a formal comment policy proscribing derogatory or inappropriate comments, which has generally been effective for managing online communication.45 Nevertheless, the agency noted that each 2.0 application or tool has its own culture. More negative comments are received via YouTube than any other 2.0 application. When an inappropriate comment is posted from a legitimate user, staff attempt to contact that user and request that the comment be rewritten to comply with WSDOT's comment policy.

WSDOT terminated use of several 2.0 applications that were believed to be ineffective. For example, WSDOT briefly used podcasts as an information dissemination tool but discontinued the effort due to low visitation to the podcast website and the limited amount of public feedback received. Communication staff also implemented FriendFeed, a website that allows users to collaborate and share web content with others, but later discontinued use of this site as there were few users and limited return on investment. The agency explored use of wikis to facilitate internal collaboration but has not yet used this technology because of the amount of resources that WSDOT anticipates will be needed to manage the wikis.

To advertise the use of 2.0 applications, the agency circulated press releases and emails to the public and contains site hyperlinks in most employees' email signatures to alert readers about the tools. Local newspapers have written several articles on WSDOT's 2.0 sites, but WSDOT relies primarily on users' word of mouth. The agency believes that the single largest factor contributing to use of the applications has been inclement weather, which encourages users to access the sites to obtain information on travel conditions, road closures, or related issues.

Evaluation

The agency uses qualitative and quantitative metrics as well as analytics software to follow data trends and use of the 2.0 applications. Qualitative metrics include assessing comments to better understand whether the public has positive perceptions of the agency. Quantitative metrics used to evaluate the sites include the number of followers associated with each of the applications and the length of time visitors spend on the agency sites, as well as the frequency and extent of public feedback. Analytic tools, such as YouTube Insight, are also used to provide data on user demographics. However, WSDOT notes that it can be difficult to validate information provided through analytic tools as they often reflect users' self-reported data.

WSDOT believes that the amount of public feedback on a site can help increase the number of followers, since users might be more likely to access a site that is perceived to be widely and frequently read. In fact, the number of users accessing WSDOT's 2.0 applications is typically related to the frequency with which the agency adds new content and responds to users' comments. In general, WSDOT found that more users will access the sites when the sites are updated on a more frequent basis.

WSDOT staff offered several examples to demonstrate some of the benefits and successes provided by use of 2.0 tools:

Lessons Learned

WSDOT reported several lessons learned from its use of 2.0 tools:

Next Steps

WSDOT intends to expand its use of 2.0 applications in the future as technology continues to evolve and develop. The agency has also experimented with live broadcasts of public meetings; these broadcasts contained streamlining audio and video as well as chat features that allowed real-time public input and feedback. The success of these broadcasts illustrated some possible new avenues for the agency to explore.

The agency also intends to work collaboratively with the WSDOT Chief Information Officer and Secretary to develop new 2.0 applications for internal use and external information dissemination. WSDOT also plans to move towards the mobile arena by creating mobile applications that allow the public to make more informed decisions about travel conditions.

Resources

WSDOT's blog: wsdotblog.blogspot.com/

WSDOT's Flickr page: www.flickr.com/photos/wsdot/

WSDOT's Facebook page: bit.ly/9pVo5z

WSDOT's Slideshare page: www.slideshare.net/wsdot

WSDOT's Twitter page: twitter.com/WsDOT — WSDOT also maintains Twitter pages for specific interests, such as operations, traffic, and current news.

WSDOT's YouTube page: www.youtube.com/user/wsdot

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APPENDIX A. INTERVIEWEES' CONTACT INFORMATION

Agency Participant(s) Name Contact Information
MassDOT Joshua Robin


Christopher Dempsey
joshua.robin@state.ma.us
617.973.8876

christopher.dempsey@state.ma.us
617-973-7963
MDOT Carrie Adams

Susan King
cadams@mdot.state.ms.us
601-359-7017

sdking@mdot.state.ms.us
601-359-9791
MoDOT Charles "Matt" Hiebert

Laura Holloway
charles.hiebert@modot.mo.gov
573-526-0897

laura.holloway@modot.mo.gov
573-751-5985
NCDOT James Merricks jmerricks@ncdot.gov
919-707-2207
RIDOT Dana Alexander Nolfe dnolfe@dot.ri.gov
401-222-1362 x4450
TxDOT Kelli Petras kpetras@dot.state.tx.us
512-936-1906
WSDOT Jeremy Bertrand

Lloyd Brown
bertraj@wsdot.wa.gov
360-705-7872

brownl@wsdot.wa.gov
360-705-7076

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APPENDIX B. OVERVIEW OF SELECT 2.0 TOOLS CURRENTLY AT STATE DOTS

State DOT Application
Twitter RSS Feed Facebook YouTube Blog Mashups Flickr Podcasts Friend Feed XML Feed MySpace Widgets Wiki
Alabama                          
Alaska                          
Arizona       X X     X          
Arkansas X X                      
California X X X   X       X        
Colorado X   X X           X      
Connecticut                          
Delaware X X   X   X X            
District of Columbia X   X X                  
Florida                          
Georgia X     X                  
Hawaii                          
Idaho X     X   X              
Illinois X   X     X              
Indiana                          
Iowa X X X X                  
Kansas                          
Kentucky X X                      
Louisiana     X                    
Maine                          
Maryland                          
Massachusetts X X   X X X X            
Michigan X X X                    
Minnesota X   X                    
Mississippi X                        
Missouri X X X X X X X X       X X
Montana X X                      
Nebraska X                        
Nevada                          
New Hampshire                          
New Jersey                          
New Mexico                          
New York   X                      
North Carolina X X X X   X X            
North Dakota     X                    
Ohio   X       X              
Oklahoma X                        
Pennsylvania                          
Puerto Rico                          
Rhode Island X   X X X     X     X    
South Carolina                          
South Dakota                          
Tennessee X X X                    
Texas X   X X       X          
Utah X                        
Vermont                          
Virginia X     X                  
Virgin Islands                          
Washington X X X X X   X            
West Virginia   X                      
Wisconsin                          
Wyoming                          

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APPENDIX C. WEBSITES FOR 2.0 TOOL EXAMPLES

2.0 Tool 2.0 Tool Example Website
wiki Wikipedia www.wikipedia.org
Wiki on Institute of Transportation Engineers' Pedestrian and Bicycle Council www.ite.org/councils/Ped_Bike/
Livable Streets wiki www.livablestreets.com/streetswiki/
Social media Facebook www.facebook.com
MySpace www.myspace.com
Mashups Bikewise www.bikewise.org
GoogleTransit www.google.com/intl/en/landing/transit/
Podcasts White House podcasts www.whitehouse.gov/podcast/audio/weekly-addresses/rss.xml
Media-sharing sites YouTube www.youtube.com
Flickr www.flickr.com
Slideshare www.slideshare.com
RSS feeds USDOT RSS feeds service.govdelivery.com/service/rss/item_updates.rss?code=USDOT_38
Blogs FastLane, USDOT blog fastlane.dot.gov
Micro-blogging services Twitter www.twitter.com
Interactive surveys Cyclopath cyclopath.org
WalkScore www.walkscore.com
Zoomerang www.zoomerang.com
Shared documents Google documents docs.google.com
Virtual meetings, meeting-sharing tools Slideshare www.slideshare.com
City of Kalamazoo, Michigan Virtual Master Plan Public Meeting bit.ly/bkB3ya
Professional networking sites LinkedIn www.linkedin.com
Virtual worlds Second Life www.secondlife.com
Bookmarking sites Delicious www.del.icio.us.com
Cloud-based computing Google documents/groups www.groups.google.com
Crowd sourcing Next Stop Design first.nextstopdesign.com
Simulation games Mobility: A City in Motion www.mobility-online.de/en/informations/generalinformation.html
University of Minnesota Gridlock Buster www.its.umn.edu/GridlockBuster/

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Footnotes

1 David Wyld. The Blogging Revolution: Government in the Age of Web 2.0. IBM Center for the Business of Government. 2007. Available at www.businessofgovernment.org/pdfs/WyldReportBlog.pdf. (back)

2 To avoid overly technical distinctions between web and government 2.0 applications, the general term "2.0 tools" is used throughout this report to describe state DOTs' use of web-based applications that focus on user interactivity. (back)

3 www.esri.com/news/arcuser/1009/geoweb20.html. (back)

4 Directive: www.whitehouse.gov/omb/assets/memoranda_2010/m10-06.pdf. (back)

5 Transparency and Open Government Directive from President Obama, 2009. www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/TransparencyandOpenGovernment/. (back)

6 Open Government Directive: www.whitehouse.gov/omb/assets/memoranda_2010/m10-06.pdf. (back)

7 Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government: www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/TransparencyandOpenGovernment/. (back)

8 fastlane.dot.gov. (back)

9 Available at opendot.ideascale.com/. (back)

10 A compilation of U.S. government blogs is available at www.usa.gov/Topics/Reference_Shelf/News/blog.shtml. (back)

11 TRB Committee on Public Involvement. Social Media/Electronic Participation: The Changing Face of Communications and Public Involvement in Transportation. January 10, 2010. Available at www.trbpi.com/events/SocialMediaWorkshop_2010.pdf. (back)

12 Thirty-two state DOTs responded to the survey. From an AASHTO communications brief: State Departments of Transportation Lead the Way in Using New Media (February 2010). Available at www.transportation.org/sites/publicaffairs/docs/New_Media_Research_Brief.pdf. (back)

13 For a general guide to use of social media applications for public transportation agencies, see Routes to New Networks. National Center for Transit Research. November 2009. Available at www.gosocialtransit.com/routes_to_new_networks.pdf. (back)

14 Available at wsdotblog.blogspot.com/2006/11/big-november-storm-how-did-we-do.html. (back)

15 The table is adapted from the one included in a November 2009 paper by Andy Nash at Vienna Transport Strategies. See www.andynash.com/nash-publications/2009-Nash-Web2forPT-14nov09.pdf. (back)

16 When available, a transportation-specific example for each tool is provided in Table 1. (back)

17 StreetsWiki available at www.livablestreets.com/streetswiki. StreetsBlog available at www.streetsblog.org/. (back)

18 Available at www.facebook.com/pages/MassDOT-Developers. (back)

19 Available at www.first.nextstopdesign.com. (back)

20 Results from the scan, which represent a snapshot of efforts rather than a comprehensive review, are included in Appendix A. (back)

21 Appendix C provides the web links for all examples included in Table 1 as well as additional examples. (back)

22 Cloud-based computing refers to websites that enable users to use a web-browser, rather than a desktop, to store, analyze, and share data with others. (back)

23 Primarily the developers' Twitter page. (back)

24Andy Nash. Vienna Transport Strategies. November 2009. www.andynash.com/nash-publications/2009-Nash-Web2forPT-14nov09.pdf (back)

25 The beta page is available at www.eot.state.ma.us/developers/. (back)

26 For examples of some transportation applications developed by third-parties with access to MassDOT transportation data, see www.massdotdevelopersconference09.com/applications (back)

27 MoDOT's policy blog page: www.modot.org/newsandinfo/PostAComment-UsePolicy.htm. (back)

28 Other Massachusetts state agencies using social media include the Office of the Governor (see www.mass.gov/?pageID=gov3homepage&L=1&L0=Home&sid=Agov3). The Office of Administration and Finance has also posted social media 'toolkits' on its website to provide guidelines on use of social media. The toolkits are available at bit.ly/4UhHXP. (back)

29 The initiative, which began in 2009, also involved implementation of a "developers' page" on the MassDOT website (at www.mass.gov/eot/developers). Data released through the page includes transit route and schedule data, planned construction event data, and other information. A competition held during the developers' conference resulted in several applications that might be released to the public in the future. Some examples are available at www.massdotdevelopersconference09.com/applications. (back)

30 MassDOT social media website: www.massdot.state.ma.us/main/MassDOTSocialMedia.aspx. (back)

31 MassDOT's privacy policy: www.eot.state.ma.us//default.asp?pgid=content/Privacy&sid=about. (back)

32 MassDOT Developers Website: www.eot.state.ma.us/developers/. (back)

33 Available at www.gomdot.com/Home/EmergencyPreparedness/pdf/HurricaneEvacuationGuide.pdf. (back)

34 Interstate (I)-10, I-20, I-55, I-59, U.S. Route 49, and U.S. Route 98 (back)

35 EPG wiki help article: epg.modot.org/index.php?title=Help:Contents. (back)

36 Other states, including Tennessee, Kansas, and New York, have developed similar maps that were modeled from MoDOT's map. Additionally, MoDOT has won multiple awards for the mashup, including the 2009 Governor's Award for Quality and Productivity. (back)

37 MoDOT's blog policy page: www.modot.org/newsandinfo/PostAComment-UsePolicy.htm. (back)

38 Available at www.modot.mo.gov/about/general_info/Tracker.htm. (back)

39 Identifying information appearing on this screenshot has been removed. (back)

40 RIDOT's website: www.dot.state.ri.us/. (back)

41 Examples of RIDOT's video podcasts are available at www.dot.state.ri.us/engineering/construction/projects/195relo/podcasts/index.asp. (back)

42 Available at wsdotblog.blogspot.com/2006/11/big-november-storm-how-did-we-do.html. (back)

43 Available at www.twitter.com/terpening. (back)

44 Use of state resources cited in the Washington Administrative Code 292-110-010(3). Available at apps.leg.wa.gov/WAC/default.aspx?cite=292-110-010. (back)

45 The comment policy is available at wsdot.wa.gov/Policy/blog.htm. (back)

46 A snow donut is a rare, naturally occurring phenomenon that results when densely packed snow slides down an incline, rolling up into a 'pinwheel' or donut shape. (back)

47 See www.flickr.com/photos/wsdot/464413289. (back)

48 See seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2003622603_donut17m.html. (back)

49 www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/article22985.ece. (back)

50 See www.transportation1.org/awards/francois.html. (back)

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