DOT’s Open Government and Public Engagement Strategy
Chapter One explains the DOT’s approach towards formulating the Open Government Plan, which looks at the critical technology, culture, and policy issues that impact Open Government activities. This chapter also details how DOT leadership and employees from across the department worked together to help create the plan, and how DOT solicited and incorporated public feedback into the plan.
With over 80 percent of its budget dedicated to grants, DOT is externally focused. As a result, DOT’s ability to engage effectively with stakeholders, grantees, appropriators and other partners, in addition to the general public, is critical. There are currently many low- and high-tech channels for stakeholders and the general public to engage with DOT. Most opportunities for collaboration and participation are ongoing, lending themselves to social media and Web 2.0 tools. Open Government provides an opportunity to improve collaboration not only with the general public, but also with specialized groups that have transportation interests. Since the publication of the first Open Government Plan in 2010, DOT has made significant strides to enhance public and stakeholder engagement.
“Public engagement enhances the Government's effectiveness and improves the quality of its decisions.”
- President Obama, January 2009
DOT is committed to sharing information and data to encourage opportunities for public feedback, creating opportunities for public participation in the business of DOT, and building opportunities for collaboration and coordination. This commitment is illustrated by the Public Engagement Model that DOT embraced in 2011 (see Figure 1).
Figure 1: DOT's Public Engagement Model
This model closely follows the principles of transparency, participation, and collaboration as articulated in the Open Government Directive and also the goals articulated in DOT’s first and second Open Government Plans, which included:
- Increase Agency Transparency and Accountability by:
- Presenting in a clear manner DOT information about programs and objectives; and
- Continuing to release DOT data in a timely manner by proactively making it available online in consistent, open formats, while ensuring accuracy and protecting privacy, security, and confidentiality.
- Apply Citizen Knowledge Through Participation to Government Service by:
- Maintaining commitment to collecting and responding to public input on DOT policies and programs in innovative ways; and
- Continuing to create opportunities for public participation in problem identification and idea generation.
- Encourage Collaboration and Innovation by:
- Enhancing collaboration with other Federal agencies, the private sector, and other non-government organizations in providing mission-related services; and
- Enhancing efforts to stimulate innovation from DOT data and information.
- Institutionalize an Open DOT Culture by:
- Encouraging commitment to Open Government principles at all levels;
- Encouraging a cross-modal, interdisciplinary, collaborative, and engaged workforce through enhanced communication, governance, and guidance regarding Open Government tools and programs; and
- Maintaining commitment to data-driven DOT decision-making, by increasing employee awareness of DOT data and information.
The model illustrated in Figure 1 highlights the goals and objectives articulated in the first Open Government Plan and recognizes that those principles build upon each other to foster effective public engagement in decision-making and service delivery. Furthermore, there are increasingly more tools available to DOT to engage across the spectrum illustrated in Figure 1. Some of these tools (listed in Table 1) are technology-based, whereas others are an approach or methodology. Many of the tools identified in Table 1 have a long history at DOT while others are much newer.
SHARE Information and Data
Insights, Knowledge, Expertise and Experiences
Input on DOT Issues, including Policies and Programs
BUILD Collaboration and Coordination
Section 1.1: Tools for Enhancing Transparency, Public Participation and Collaboration Opportunities at DOT
This section describes the priority engagement and Open Government tools for DOT for the next two years. Chapter 3 will describe broad initiatives and specific activities that leverage these tools to make DOT more transparent, participatory and collaborative.
Section 1.1.1: Data.gov Web site and Open Data Communities
DOT has been an active participant in the data.gov initiative. The strategies outlined in our first Open Government Plan and our second Open Government Plan align with the requirements of the Open Government Directive and have been at the core of our open data efforts over the last two years. DOT remains committed to:
- Driving innovation by tapping into the ingenuity of the American people;
- Increasing agency accountability; and
- Solidifying the connection between the Department’s services and individual citizens, businesses, governmental bodies, universities, and other non-government organizations.
DOT has published its data inventory, and developed guidelines for prioritizing data release, releasing 1,600 datasets on data.gov. DOT has established a policy that any dataset published online should also be listed on data.gov, and continues to make progress in enforcing this requirement. The policy helps DOT comply with the new Open Data Policy. DOT has also developed an approach to completing and maintaining the enterprise data inventory required by the policy. To the extent practicable, and consistent with other information management transparency requirements, DOT will make its entire enterprise data inventory publicly available, ensuring that the public can view all of the Department’s data holdings, regardless of their access level.
DOT’s flagship initiative in its second Open Government Plan was to build safety community on data.gov. DOT launched the Safety Data Initiative during National Transportation Week in May 2012, meeting a key commitment in the President’s first National Action Plan for Open Government.
Safety.data.gov is an Open Government initiative that seeks to build a safety community on the data.gov Web site. While DOT and other Federal agencies collect important safety-related data, DOT recognizes that releasing data alone does not fully leverage the potential of those datasets for discovering new information, inventing new products, or identifying complex patterns to improve decision-making.
Section 1.1.2: DOT Web sites and Data Visualization
One of the other major commitments in our first Open Government Plan was the redesign of the DOT Web site. DOT has a wide range of stakeholders. The diversity of these stakeholders drives the need for a “best in class” Web site that is both dynamic and easily managed. Our public-facing Web presence must provide relevant information to other government agencies, private sector organizations, and individual citizens.
We launched the external-facing DOT.gov site in summer 2012. The new DOT Web presence aligns with and promotes achievement of the Department’s strategic goals. In keeping with the principles of Open Government, our updated Web presence strategically uses a variety of crowdsourcing tools, smartphone applications, Facebook, Twitter, and other Web 2.0 mediums through multimedia pages. The new DOT.gov was the first Cabinet-level Web site to use responsive design throughout.
An important step in enabling Web 2.0 tools to provide strategic utility to the Department is to ensure that users see www.dot.gov as a valuable source of authoritative information. Users must have confidence in the quality, timeliness, and utility of the material on the DOT’s Web site. The content must be current, the design must be intuitive, and the site as a whole must reflect the public interest.
DOT understands that a Web site stimulates loyalty by providing clear benefits. Users must feel inspired to critical thought through an informative and engaging experience on www.dot.gov. We achieve this through the visual uniformity of Web pages and applications, clearly communicating the significance of specific data and tools, and tying them back to DOT’s vision and mission. Implementing an intuitive Web solution that reflects the impact and significance of user feedback on our mission helps achieve stakeholder buy-in and foster the site loyalty and openness that we seek to achieve. In return, DOT benefits from the insights gained through the public’s repeated interaction with our externally-facing tools, applications, data, and other Web 2.0 mediums.
For more information about DOT’s Web-related efforts, view the DOT digital strategy Web page.
DOT also plays a pivotal role in the President’s efforts to drive accountability and transparency through the Federal Infrastructure Projects Permitting Dashboard. The President issued a Memorandum on August 31, 2011 and an Executive Order on March 22, 2012 to bring more transparency, accountability, and certainty into the permitting and review processes for major infrastructure projects. Since then, Federal agencies have worked to expedite the review and permitting of over 50 major projects, including bridges, transit, railways, waterways, roads, and renewable energy projects. Over 30 of those projects have now completed the permitting process. Progress on these projects is tracked publically through the Administration's online Federal Infrastructure Projects Permitting Dashboard.
The Dashboard – administered by DOT – supports coordination and synchronization of projects among Federal agencies, and can also help create a more predictable process for project applicants. The Administration and DOT are committed to expanding the Dashboard to include additional projects, as well as new capabilities to track project schedules and metrics, increasing overall accountability and transparency. As a first step, the Administration is adding 11 more Dashboard projects. Each project will have a lead agency, a coordinated project plan across all Federal agencies, and public tracking of progress to ensure milestones are met. The Administration’s goal is for all major infrastructure projects to be included on the Dashboard to institutionalize and broaden the reach of this tool.
DOT recognizes that through using new media and social media outlets such as blogs, webcasts, social netowkring services (such as Facebook and Twitter), the Department’s message can be further amplified. New media tools can be used to gather insights, knowledge, expertise and experiences. These interactive platforms give DOT an opportunity to invite input on DOT issues, including policies and programs, while building opportunities for collaboration and coordination.
DOT continues to execute its comprehensive social media strategy, appropriately leveraging social media, managing risks and establishing guidelines and expectations around official, professional, and personal use.
Since 2012, DOT has used both new media and social media in innovative ways to share information with the general public and our stakeholders, and to gather insights, knowledge, expertise and experiences from those outside our walls. DOT has:
- Successfully transitioned Department-level official accounts (e.g., from @RayLaHood to @SecretaryFoxx)
- Launched a DOT Twitter Account (@USDOT)
- Launched DOT Facebook Account (http://www.facebook.com/usdot/)
Social Media at DOT
The Secretary’s social media presence continues to expand with 54,500 Twitter followers (@SecretaryFoxx) and more than 11,780 Facebook friends. The Secretary’s Fast Lane blog is wildly popular with readers. DOT Operating Administrations have also expanded their social media presence to include:
- Federal Aviation Administration: Facebook Account (77,000+ friends), Twitter Account (69,700 followers) and YouTube Account.
- Federal Highway Administration: Facebook Account (4,604 friends), Twitter Account (5,115 followers) and YouTube Account.
- Federal Transit Administration: Facebook Account (1,014 friends), Twitter Account (17,600 followers) and YouTube Account.
- NHTSA: Facebook Account (10,326 friends), Twitter Account (20,600 followers) and YouTube Account.
Since 2010, DOT has also used social media to introduce the following campaigns:
- FAA Safety Briefing: Twitter Account (22,900 followers)
- Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving: Twitter Account (7,737 followers)
- Distraction.gov: Twitter Account (4,964 followers)
DOT’s complete social media directory can be found at http://www.dot.gov/social.
Online dialogues are an effective way to gather insights, knowledge, expertise and experiences about specific issues. Some of the benefits from online dialogues we have found include:
- Diversifying the participants in the dialogue
- Encouraging wider geographic representation
- Proactively making comments transparent that previously would have been collected by e-mail
As proposed in its first Open Government Plan, DOT has increased the use of Web-based dialogues significantly in the past four years. Recent dialogues have engaged the public on a number of policy initiatives required by the surface transportation authorization, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21). Below are some statistics from those dialogues:
# unique visits
|Transit Asset Management||6,692||4,411||740||86||146||1,478|
|Transit Provider Representation in MPOs||3,362||2,376||343||106||81||776|
Working with partners is critical to achieving DOT’s mission. DOT has a history of strong working relationships with industry coalitions, other Federal, State and local agencies, and other industry partners, and we will continue to work closely with those organizations to improve the state of our nation’s transportation system.
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires extensive review and coordination among a complex network of Federal, State, local, and tribal government agencies. The process can be especially difficult to navigate in the case of large-scale, critical projects. NEPA review and coordination is characterized by extensive “back-and-forth” conversations and negotiations over highly technical topics. These complexities can create delays and increase project costs.
The Department of Transportation has launched a new initiative, eNEPA, which is an online collaboration tool designed to expedite the NEPA development process by facilitating concurrent agency reviews; allowing for quick, clear and transparent issue resolution; and promoting trust and consensus among all project partners. For more information about eNEPA, refer to Section 3.1 of this plan.
Over the last few years, DOT has recognized a need to leverage online collaborative workspaces with our stakeholders. We have started a new effort called http://engage.dot.gov (under construction), a networking/collaboration site, designed and built to foster collaboration and networking within the transportation community.
DOT’s most recent campaign was focused on increasing collaboration to increase awareness of and help put an end to human trafficking. The collaborative workspaces we developed enabled transportation stakeholders from across the Nation to share training and awareness materials, collaborate on policy issues and initiatives, and share best practices for increasing public awareness.
Over the next two years, DOT will continue to develop engage.dot.gov and to foster collaboration.
Section 1.2: Other Opportunities for Participation and Collaboration with DOT
DOT is committed to building a central portal that provides the public with an opportunity to discover engagement opportunities that are relevant to their interests and expertise. DOT will build http://www.dot.gov/engage (under construction), and this page will provide direct access to comment on DOT regulations, information about upcoming public meetings (to include town halls, Federal advisory committee meetings, listening sessions, and the like), opportunities to engage in an online dialogue, and other relevant content.
The list in Table 2 below contains other examples of current opportunities to participate and collaborate with DOT, categorized by Operating Administration (OA):
Submits questions via social media and the DOT Secretary answers in a YouTube video.
Access popular information for aviation enthusiasts. Look up N-numbers, find Advisory Circulars, browse airport delays, report on wildlife strikes and more.
Ideas are shared by State, local and private sector partners to shorten project delivery or accelerate technology and innovation deployment.
Allows easy access to bus safety information and a one-touch process to start filing a complaint.
Links to prominent safety programs and forums.
Posts all opportunities for funding as they become available.
School classrooms (5th-8th grade) can adopt a ship of the American Merchant Marine and exchange correspondence.
A national telephone survey on driving habits and attitudes related to distracted driving.
The St. Lawrence Seaway: Gateway to North America