Inclusive Planning Guide Phase 3. Implement


Inclusive planning encompasses communication, outreach, and a variety of levels of participant engagement. Importantly, implementing inclusiveness involves connecting with those you serve.

Diverse group meeting with presenter

Inviting Participation

Outreach activities, such as surveys, focus groups, and community meetings and involvement at events should elicit experiences and recommendations from a wide spectrum of transportation users and non-users. To whom should you reach out? Start with people with disabilities and older adults. Consider outreach to specific transportation-challenged populations in your region, such as veterans, low-wage workers, students, non-English speaking individuals, new immigrants, and refugees. Consider also whether there are groups within any population with particular pressing needs, such as people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Equally important are activities that engage a smaller cadre of committed participants who form an advisory group/expert panel that meets regularly throughout the project and assumes leadership roles in the inclusive planning process.

Example from the Field

Early in their project, Hopelink (Redmond, WA) analyzed current stakeholders and established what groups are underrepresented on our Steering Committee. Representatives from these groups were contacted and invited to join.

Business People Planning Strategy in Office

Plan and Be Flexible

A timeline for activities is critical and should focus on moving the project forward to reach implementation benchmarks. Potential barriers may arise that slow progress, necessitate changes in activities, or even require a reassessment of the project goals.

Therefore flexibility and realistic expectations should be built into the timeline.

  • Recruiting focus group participants;
  • Conducting focus groups and surveys to assess needs and strengths and identify gaps in services;
  • Selecting advisory committee members; and
  • Holding community meetings.

Examples from the Field

After some difficulty recruiting steering committee participants from diverse geographic locations, Boulder County Mobility for All (Boulder, CO) posted a recruitment flyer on the social media platform Nextdoor to target underrepresented geographic areas. They received 29 people contacts within 24 hours of posting the flyer.

Neighborhood Network of Northern Nevada (Reno, NV) held one of their steering committee meetings at a local coffee shop. Lyft vouchers were made available to participants who needed transportation to the meeting.

Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital (Ashland, KY) held 9 focus groups in one month at locations where people with disabilities and older adults regularly visit in order to ensure representation from a diverse group of stakeholders, including caregivers.

Group of business people in an open concept office brainstorming

Advisory Groups

As organizations and agencies move forward – relying on the findings of the baseline assessment – they may want to seek advice or guidance from an external advisory group, such as an advisory committee, steering committee or stakeholder group. This group should include diverse representation, including people with disabilities and older adults. Members of advisory groups should be familiar with, or be taught about, program operations (including constraints), government policies that impact transportation operations, the process for changing systems, and how long change might take. Critical timeframes for getting inclusive transportation planning done should be brought up too.

Education and open communication are critical to the success of inclusive planning. Here are eight tips for successful advisory boards:

  1. Have a purpose
  2. Recruit doubters
  3. Leverage the network
  4. Write it down
  5. Time is money
  6. Keep it intimate
  7. Maximize value, and
  8. Sustain communication

Examples from the Field

All Transit Planning 4 All grantees (2018-2020) were required to have steering committees. Grantees reported increasing levels of participation of people with disabilities and older adults.

In the second round of funding, with increasing numbers of individuals participating in the planning and implementation process, participants reported an increasing satisfaction with the process.

Business people with colleague in a wheelchair in a project meeting


Critical to establishing an advisory group is ensuring that all meetings, communications, and other forums – whether in person or virtual – are accessible. For example, it is important to hold meetings and public forums in places that people that use wheelchairs or seniors with mobility difficulties can access. When announcements about meetings are made, meeting planners should ask if those who will attend the meeting have any accessibility needs, such as interpreters, particular climate needs, or dietary considerations. Make sure that all advisory group members have reliable means of transportation and that accessible transportation options are available for anyone who needs it.

Examples from the Field

Hopelink (Redmond, WA) produced an initial document that included a summary of best practices for ensuring inclusivity in meetings and information sharing, and committed to updating the document throughout their grant to serve as a resource after the grant ended.

Boulder County Mobility for All’s (Boulder, CO) Steering Committee members identified the need to do in-person surveying at locations already serving low-income individuals. Participants identified the need for paper surveys, Spanish language surveys, and information about the survey that people can take with them take the survey at home.

To ensure diversity in distributing surveys to the community targeting seniors and people with disabilities, Oregon Cascades West Council of Governments used a diverse approach to data collection, including:

  • Tabling at community centers/libraries/grocery stores in rural areas
  • Provide online version of survey
  • Working with partners to share paper and online surveys with their networks
  • Public transportation outreach in buses at transportation hubs
  • Including a paper survey with delivered Meals on Wheels.

Neighborhood Network of Northern Nevada (Reno, NV) reached out to all grant participants and stakeholders with a link and paper copies of their Inclusive Transit Planning survey. All organizations and participants were asked to distribute the link (or paper copy) to their constituents and/or people they know who are caregivers, people with disabilities, or older adults.

To meet community needs for transportation services to Boulder County Mobility for All Summits, Hopelink (Redmond, WA) created a handout with details on how to venues via public transit. They included a contact phone number and e-mail address for people to contact if they have any issues getting to Summits and provided trip planning.

People for People’s (Yakima, WA) steering committee identified that technology to support the hearing-impaired should be available and descriptive language used so that those that are blind can participate in meetings. Committee members volunteered to attend meetings where feedback was being collected to assist persons who needed assistance with filling out surveys.

Hopelink (Redmond, WA) experienced a language barrier issue when gathering responses for meeting satisfaction surveys. Instead of using an English 5-point scale, they switched to a smiley-face scale, with five different levels of happiness with the intent of eliminating confusion for limited English proficiency respondents.

Maryland Department of Transportation (Baltimore, MD) Steering Committee members discussed the need for alternative ways to display or demonstrate materials after ongoing discussions and review of the tactile Braille flipbooks that were an important catalyst to discussing other methods or media for all users.

People Meeting Seminar in Office

Learning from Each Other

Participants and partners each come to the table with their own perspectives; however, everyone does not know the same things. Taking time to learn from each other is critically important.

Learning, in terms of inclusive planning, means listening to – and learning from – others. Inclusive transportation planning is designed to emerge from real-life experiences. It takes on different characteristics, depending on the community, its history and what the participants in the process – people with disabilities, older adults, community stakeholders, local government, transportation providers, key partners, etc. – expect and want to see happen. True inclusive planning is based on participant engagement and leadership. Professionals and participants alike must approach inclusive planning with openness to learning from others.

Understanding constraints and political processes at the outset can help all participants identify realistic goals and objectives while still working for broader systems change over a longer period.

Examples from the Field

The Greater Portland Council of Governments’ steering committee (Portland, ME) included an overview of inclusive transportation planning practices by other planning organizations and discussed which practices participants would like to see their project adopt.

Milwaukee County Department on Aging (Milwaukee, WI) discovered a “happy challenge” in finding ways to address different concerns/priorities at a round table conference. There were many different perspectives on the steering committee, and many different goals for the conference. Through discussions, they were able to focus the conference while addressing diverse needs and concerns.

Diverse group in an open meeting room with presenter

Who Should Be Heard or at the Table

An inclusive planning program design must be based on input and guidance obtained from local coordinated transportation partners and both older adults and people with disabilities who are either users or potential users of community transportation services. Such partnerships should include public transit, and aging and disability organizations. A broader spectrum of partners will include health or human services organizations, groups that focus on transportation or the built environment, faith-based organizations, political leaders, schools, healthcare institutions, economic development entities, and businesses. It many also include representatives of other transportation-challenged populations in your region, such as veterans, low-wage workers, students, non-English speaking individuals, new immigrants, and refugees.

It is highly recommended to be active to ensure that government officials and political leaders are at the table. At a minimum, keep these leaders apprised of the work being undertaken in the inclusive planning initiative.

The AAA1-B project sought the advice and counsel of people with disabilities and older adults in the field from the outset by linking with external organizations, such as the Harriet J. Tubman Foundation. This external entity is a well-established, well-respected community organization already linked to the area’s developing regional transit authority (RTA). The project determined the RTA to be a critical infrastructure in improving the region’s transportation service, and it was important that the voices of people with disabilities and older adults inform the development of the RTA.

Example from the Field

Milwaukee County Department on Aging (Milwaukee, WI) steering committee members reached out to their networks to make sure that everyone in the community would be represented for a community discussion. Members were very dedicated to the idea that community discussions should have riders represented and worked to identify people who have never participated in advocacy. The Steering Committee also sought to include policy makers and elected officials.

Diverse group of people holding up blank cardboard cards shaped like speech bubbles

Communication and Social Media Tools

Ordinary communication tools and social media can be used to support efforts to engage seniors and people with disabilities in inclusive coordinated transportation planning.

In the Transit Planning 4 All projects, email was primarily used to notify participants of upcoming advisory group meetings and to keep members apprised of developments. Beyond the usual social media venues of Facebook and Twitter for distributing information broadly, grantees tapped a number of different social media outlets.

Examples from the Field

Easterseals of Massachusetts (Worchester, MA) created a website on fee-free Google Sites, and planned to use this site and Facebook into the future to reach participants, partners, and stakeholders.

Neighborhood Network of Northern Nevada (Reno, NV) created social media graphics and event pages on their website and use social media to promote steering committee meetings and broader community inclusion.

People for People (Yakima, WA) used a widespread media approach to promote a survey focused on improving transit services, including:

  • Survey email “blast” about the project with a link to the survey.
  • On-Line display advertising that is region-focused, with ads in English and Spanish.
  • Radio ads for both English and Spanish radio stations.
  • Print advertisements for buses.
  • Video showing the need for services and explaining the process used.