DOT’s Open Government and Public Engagement Strategy
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 to achieving our goals. 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 established 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-OA, 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 public engagement principles build upon each other to foster effective 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: Open Data and Data.gov Topics
DOT has been an active participant in the data.gov initiative. The strategies outlined in our first three Open Government Plans align with the requirements of the Open Government Directive as well as the Open Data Policy and have been at the core of our open data efforts over the last six years. The DOT is particularly focused on contributing useful data and tools related to climate change, ocean and maritime issues, and public safety. The Department 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 also serves as the agency co-lead for the Cross-Agency Priority (CAP) Goal on open data. In this role, DOT helps promote successful open data policy implementation across all of government.
Section 1.1.2: Other Opportunities for Participation and Collaboration with DOT
DOT is committed to building a central place that gives the public an opportunity to discover engagement opportunities that are relevant to their interests and expertise. The DOT has launched http://www.transportation.gov/engage, and this page collects information about proposed DOT regulations and other Federal Register opportunities open for comment; information about upcoming public meetings (to include town halls, Federal Advisory Committee meetings, listening sessions, and more), webinars, and opportunities to engage in an online dialogue; as well as other relevant content.
The list in Table 2 contains other examples of past and current opportunities to participate and collaborate with DOT, categorized by Operating Administration (OA):
Table 2: Status of Participation Opportunities
Section 1.1.3: 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. The 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 transportation.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 platforms through multimedia pages. The new DOT.gov was the first Cabinet-level Web site to use responsive design throughout, allowing better access for the increasing number of stakeholders using mobile devices.
The DOT continues to evolve its web presence, recently deploying a microsite template. The template demonstrates the Department’s continued embrace of multimedia platforms. Web pages for the Build America Bureau, Ladders of Opportunity, the Race To Zero Emissions, Protect Your Move, Our Roads Our Responsibilities, and the 50th Anniversary of DOT all use the new, more visual design to present key initiatives and campaigns to the public. The Ladders, Bureau, and 50th microsites have used live video streaming extensively. For more information about DOT’s Web-related efforts, view the DOT digital strategy Web page.
DOT recognizes that through new media opportunities such as blogging, webcasting, Facebook and Twitter, the Department’s message can reach more people. New media tools can be used to gather insights, knowledge, expertise, and experiences in real time, establishing a true two-way connection between DOT and participants. These tools give DOT an opportunity to invite input on DOT issues, including policies and programs, while building opportunities for collaboration and coordination.
DOT continues to deliver on its comprehensive social media strategy, appropriately leveraging social media, managing risks and establishing guidelines and expectations around official, professional, and personal use.
Since the last Open Government Plan, DOT has increased its use of real-time social media engagement. In the last year alone, for example, NHTSA has conducted a dozen townhalls and tweet-ups on Twitter around safety issues, each of which has reached millions of accounts. One of the more popular FAA News tweet categories has been daily flight weather announcements for the general aviation community. And PHMSA has live-tweeted and live-streamed several pipeline safety workshops.
DOT’s complete social media directory can be found at https://www.transportation.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. Below are some statistics from those dialogues:
Strategic Plan for Transit Research
Best Practices Transit Procurement Manual
Transit Worker Assault Prevention
Public-Private Partnerships in Public Transportation
Transit Asset Management
Transit Provider Representation in MPOs
Table 3: DOT Has Held Successful Online Dialogues
Over the last few years, DOT has recognized a need to leverage online collaborative workspaces with our stakeholders and customers. NHTSA’s Grants Management Solutions Suite (GMSS) system provides for electronic submissions of grant applications. The full deployment of GMSS will automate all phases of NHTSA State Highway Safety grants. Developed using Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online for Government (CRMOL-G), an integrated component of Microsoft Office 365. Grantees submit applications electronically and seamlessly communicate within GMSS via messaging with NHTSA throughout the grants life cycle. The GMSS system uses a secure SharePoint site to store grant submission documents that are accessible to approved users and grantees from State Highway Safety Offices. CRMOL-G is a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solution that is FEDRamp-authorized.