Communicating with Decisionmakers
Advancing management and operations (M&O) strategies through transportation planning and programming processes requires effectively communicating the benefits of applying M&O strategies with the relevant decisionmakers. Gaining support for collaborative operations among elected or appointed officials, agency leadership, and other senior State or regional decisionmakers is crucial to successful implementation. Planning for operations and implementation requires resources such as staff time, equipment, policy commitments, new operating procedures, or funding. Obtaining buy-in and commitment early on from those leaders that decide how resources are used is vital to advancing operations programs and projects in the area.
In communicating with decisionmakers about operations, it is necessary to first determine who makes transportation investment decisions and who sets transportation priorities and policies. "Decisionmakers" is a broad term that encompasses a variety of individuals or groups. At the regional level, they could be metropolitan planning organization (MPO) board members; directors of MPOs, State and local departments of transportation (DOTs), and transit agencies; transit agency board members; and others. State-level decisionmakers may include State DOT senior executives such as the secretary or chief executive officer (CEO), the executive team and branch, or division and program managers.
Effective communications with decisionmakers must also take into account what motivates them to make changes and how management and operations can support what is important to them. Potential motivations for transportation decisionmakers include:
- Maximizing current investments
- Expanding highways and transit
- Leaving a legacy
- Protecting the environment
- Driving a high benefit for the cost
- Reducing traffic congestion
- Forming partnerships to reduce costs
- Providing affordable transportation options
- Getting re-elected
An in-depth look at understanding how to communicate with elected officials on transportation planning for operations can be found in the FHWA white paper, Understanding the Communications and Information Needs of Elected Officials for Transportation Planning and Operations, written from the perspective of a former elected official.
Useful techniques for gathering decisionmaker support for operations have been gathered from the experiences of regional planning for operations leaders and are presented in Section 3 of The Regional Concept for Transportation Operations: A Practitioner’s Guide.
FHWA developed Getting the Most from Your Transportation System Investments: Operating for Peak Performance, a short brochure to communicate the benefits and importance of planning for operations that targets elected and appointed leaders. Please contact FHWA to receive copies of the brochure.