Using Visualization to Communicate the Benefits of Access Management to the Public
III. RESEARCH PROBLEM STATEMENT
The purposes of this research are three-fold:
1. Assess the current application of visualization in access management projects. In doing so, the research team hopes to learn what visualization tools and methods were previously used and assess any corresponding successes. This effort will result in a preliminary set of professional considerations for using visualization on access management projects.
2. Develop an interactive visualization prototype to communicate key access management techniques that are typically difficult to convey to the public. An example conceptual graphic visualizing such access management techniques is provided in Figure 1.
3. Measure the value and benefits to both practitioners and the public of using such a tool.
In 1999, NCHRP published Report 420, “Impacts of Access Management Techniques” where it identified over 100 individual access management techniques and recommended corresponding classifications based on policy and design criteria. This project is not intended to validate existing research or practices, but is intended to develop a visualization resource that complements existing informational materials used to communicate the principals and benefits of access management. The existing informational materials include, but are not limited to, the following:
· Access Management Overview 1997 (video on CD)
In short: by providing a visualization tool that the public can directly interact with, the hope is that the comprehension of the access management techniques being described in current resources is raised to a level which will facilitate a more engaging and collaborative relationship between the public and those organizations trying to employ them, thereby setting the stage for a more productive process.
IV. LITERATURE SEARCH SUMMARY
The TRB Visualization Committee has indicated that there is little research available on the direct benefit of visualization. Although it is required by legislation, to our knowledge little research exists in the transportation planning field quantifying the benefits of visualization.
V. RESEARCH OBJECTIVE
Major Intended Tasks:
1. Summarize current access management informational materials
2. Identify and contact two access management projects that are in the early stages of public involvement
3. Survey practitioners and public on functional specifications for an online Access Management Visualization Tool
4. Develop web-based Interactive Visualization Tool that educates and informs the public
5. Develop measures for evaluation
6. Deliver the prototype Access Management Visualization Tool to the access management projects identified in Task 2 above, and measure the benefits
7. Compile results
8. Survey transportation agencies on use of visualization “during” an access management project
9. Assess benefits and challenges in using visualization on access management projects
1. Formal written report on findings
2. Web-based Interactive Visualization Tool that educates the public on access management
3. Descriptive interface and instructions for use thereof
4. Professional considerations for using visualization on access management projects
VI. ESTIMATE OF PROBLEM FUNDING AND RESEARCH PERIOD
It is estimated that the research will require funding of approximately $250,000 and 18 months.
VII. URGENCY, PAYOFF POTENTIAL, AND IMPLEMENTATION
Value to Practitioners:
In 2005, SAFETEA-LU made specific reference to visualization techniques as part of: “methods used by States and MPOs in the development of transportation plans and programs with the public, elected and appointed officials, and other stakeholders”.
In 2007, FHWA published its ruling regarding this stipulation. Recognizing the breadth inherent to visualization techniques, FHWA’s ruling appropriately provides a relatively general direction without specifics. Additionally, the ruling notes that: “Visualization can be used to support plans, individual projects or Scenario Planning, where various future scenarios are depicted to allow stakeholders to develop a shared vision for the future by analyzing various forces (e.g., health, transportation, economic, environment, land use, etc.) that affect growth”.
Subsequently, affected organizations are exploring various visualization technologies and methods along a variety of fronts, typically with a “try and see” approach. In an effort to move beyond anecdotal assessments, this research can benefit a critical piece of the planning / public involvement process (access management) by:
1. Developing an intuitive stakeholder involvement tool for practitioners that complements many access management resources;
2. Measuring the real benefits of the tool for both practitioner and stakeholders
3. Synthesize recent uses of visualization during the post-informational phase of access management projects
4. Assess said tools and methods used
5. Develop a guide for professional considerations when using visualization for access management projects.
In summary, the intended value this research provides would include:
A. A tool for non-technical stakeholders that provides a better understanding of how access management is related to traffic operations and safety, thereby providing an improved basis for decision-making
B. More informed and collaborative stakeholders in the context of access management
C. A foundation to extend the use of visualization as part of an ongoing project development process
Response to Current or Future Needs:
With many of today’s highway projects retrofitting existing corridors to address congestion and safety concerns resulting from access issues, access management has come to the forefront. Due to the relatively controversial nature of this subject, a number of resources are currently available which are intended to describe access management and convey the intended benefits thereof. Though informative, they have limits to the levels of comprehension by non-technical decision-makers and a concerned public.
To shed light on the challenges facing professionals, Mr. David Gwynn of HNTB presented at the 2000 TRB National Access Management Conference in Portland, OR regarding the following Top 10 Public Involvement Problems relating to access management:
1. You are going to put me out of business.
2. I wasn’t notified of the meeting.
3. You don’t care what I have to say.
4. A fatal flaw was not considered.
5. What about trucks?
6. What about the new Wal-Mart?
7. You will impact thousands of people.
8. U-turns are a safety problem.
9. No one can show me how you made your decision.
10. Why me?
Setting the SAFETEA-LU visualization requirements aside for a moment, it is important to note evolving societal changes regarding communication, collaboration, and awareness of visualization technologies in general. Though visualization has been present in society for some time now, recent advancements in entertainment (movies, video games, etc.), child development, education, professional tools, instant messaging, collaboration environments (i.e. YouTube, MySpace, Second Life, etc.) and virtual access to public information (i.e. Google Earth) are evolving how society chooses to experience, engage, understand, and collaborate with the world in which it exists.
In addition, the “visually collaborative” youth of today will soon be the concerned stakeholders of a not-so-distant future with little patience for two-dimensional methods of understanding complex multi-dimensional issues.
With this in mind, this research is intended to be completed in an approach that is readily usable by today’s professionals and stakeholders, while building a foundation for the pending generations.