Nashville citizens play with development scenarios

4 counties and 1.2 million people - that’s the scope of the study currently underway by the Nashville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). What’s at stake? The future of growth and transportation for the area, which includes factors such as land use, development, conservation, and transportation policies. Decisions made as a result of the study will directly impact the lives of Nashville citizens for a long time, so public understanding and input are critical at this phase of the project. The MPO is working to collect feedback on the various scenarios that will determine the direction of future growth.

Traditionally, “reaching out” to the public has meant brochureware, public meetings, and informational pages posted on a website (usually in PDF form). Agencies that make an effort to go the extra mile might even publish surveys online for citizen feedback, or utilize social media for maximum reach. But these modes of communication are limited in their ability to produce effective feedback in today’s culture - after all, how many typical busy citizens are interested in attending a public meeting or reading a long PDF sheet about development scenarios?

Users get instant visual understanding of plan options.

Users get instant visual understanding of plan options.

There is now a better way - EngagingPlans Core and App Suite make it easy to publish interactive, engaging information and gather feedback immediately. Nashville’s MPO is using the Preferred Scenario app to bring alternatives and surveys to life in a way that invites users to playfully explore options, choose priorities, and sound off about what matters most to them. From the first page of the interactive website, citizens can answer questions that help determine their alignment with alternatives for growth and development in the region. Whether it’s better biking trails or redevelopment of struggling urban areas, the users’ priorities are instantly reflected in a responsive chart that shows how those ideas align with certain development scenarios. Playing with different priorities causes the chart to shift accordingly, so users can observe the connections between their preferences and the development options.

Hands-on exploration helps users understand options.

Hands-on exploration helps users understand options.

After spending only minutes on the website, the average citizen can more easily understand the various choices for growth in the area. For more details about the scenarios, users can click through to explanatory pages that include interactive maps, short blocks of straightforward text, and colorful graphs - all of which give clear information in an easy-to-digest format that’s perfect for today’s audience. For example, instead of squinting at a static map in a PDF file, citizens can play with the interactive map on the MPO’s website, clicking to view changes in employment, road congestion, population, and other factors that shape each development scenario. With the information coming to life before their eyes, users are more likely to spend time exploring the rest of the site.

Whether they spend 5, 10, or 30 minutes investigating the options, citizens can give feedback at any time. Response boxes allow for quick rating of scenarios on a 1-to-5 scale, or more in-depth discussion about concerns or ideas. With the feedback options right alongside the information, public input is easier to gather and download for Nashville’s MPO, which increases the chances for informed decision-making. The site is mobile-optimized too, so citizens can access the information on any device and give their input on-the-go.

Interest-based navigation lets users explore at will.

Interest-based navigation lets users explore at will.

When plan documents are transformed into interactive experiences, busy citizens can easily become active participants. For Nashville, this means the future of growth and transportation will be shaped by the voices that matter most - the voices of the people who live there.