Plugging in to Placemaking: Technology’s Role in Community Planning

October 9, 2012

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Ted Nguyen, manager of public communications, Orange County Transportation Authority, California.

Imagine a busy Dad who spends his days at the office and his evenings shuttling kids to practices and play dates. Or a businesswoman whose work frequently takes her out of town. Consider the night student, the small business owner, the shift worker: These are just a few of people who have something to contribute to local community decisions, but rarely have the time to attend traditional public meetings. 

Increasingly, technology is helping to engage new community voices in local planning. Through laptops, tablets, and mobile phones, Americans are “plugged in,” even while on the go. An April 2012 Pew Internet study reports that 88 percent of American adults have a cell phone, laptop, or tablet computer—and 63 percent go online wirelessly using one of those devices. A 2012 Nielsen report shows 49.7 percent of Americans have smart phones, and industry studies show smart phone penetration is highest among Latinos. 
 
While technology cannot take the place of traditional community outreach strategies such as direct mail and public meetings, planners are beginning to explore how online tools can bring new people into the conversation. Whether it’s a Twitter stream that provides updates to transit riders in Orange County, California, or a mobile app that helped Atlanta residents discover transportation improvements that would benefit them if they supported a penny sales tax proposal, technology is a new tool in the toolbox for urban planners, developers, and community leaders. 
 
Listen in to this Metropolitan Planning Council roundtable discussion on how technology can deepen both the engagement and impact people have in planning the future of their communities. The event features: Tom Coleman, AICP, LEED AP, Parsons Brinckerhoff; Ben Fried, editor-in-chief, Streetsblog; Frank Hebbert, director of civic works, Open Plans; and Ted Nguyen, manager of public communications, Orange County Transportation Authority, California.
 

Recorded Tuesday, October 9, 2012 at the Metropolitan Planning Council.