Measuring the Impact of Transportation Decisions

Principal Investigator(s):

Gary Barnes, Former U of M Researcher, Humphrey School of Public Affairs

Project summary:

The basic problem addressed by this research project was why public involvement in transportation project planning goes badly, and in what way could the process be modified to reduce negative outcomes. While outputs of standard traffic forecasting models and benefit-cost analyses are helpful to planners, they are not always understandable to higher-level decision makers and the public, and are often not helpful for addressing the types of questions and concerns that they have. The project examined these issues by studying public involvement efforts, and how the potential for conflict can be avoided. A sample of local leaders and other key citizens were interviewed to develop a broad sense of the issues that are important, and to identify a couple of topics of particular interest. The difficulty of defining and calculating direct and unambiguous descriptors that addressed these topics at the necessary level of detail was also analyzed. In particular, the project?s purpose was to derive fine geographic detail, information on different income or demographic groups, and effects on users and non-users of the project in question. The first major finding was that situations with serious conflict are different from the typical public involvement effort; they require different tools and tactics built around the specific nature of the conflict. The second major finding is that conflict is not a standard problem to answer with a single solution, but each conflict does not have to be approached individually. A model was proposed with five independent dimensions of conflict. Researchers concluded that situations with serious conflict require different tactics built around the specific nature of the conflict, and that a general theory of conflict management is a reasonable long-term goal.

Project details:

  • Project number: 2002006
  • Start date: 09/2001
  • Project status: Completed
  • Research area: Planning and Economy
  • Topics: Economics, Planning