H3−1: New Technologies to Communicate Project Information
New communication technologies, such as Facebook and Twitter, are providing new ways for DOTs to dispense work zone construction updates to drivers in affected areas. State and local DOTs can use these technologies to enhance their efforts to educate the public about what to expect for upcoming and current work zones in the area and available alternate routes to use during these projects. One of the first states to use these technologies was Arizona, which uses Facebook, a social networking website, and Twitter, a "micro−blogging" website, to relay travel delays, construction impacts, holiday travel information, and completed major milestones to thousands of people at the click of a mouse. Users sign−up to receive updates, and then these tools send the updates to either a person's cell phone or personal profile on the websites, enabling users to plan their trips before getting out on the road by providing up−to−date information on construction projects that might affect their trip. The information is intended for pre−trip planning purposes. Arizona DOT (ADOT) uses these tools as part of an integrated communications approach, with its phone and online 511 systems providing the foundation. While its 511 systems are the most up−to−date, complete sources of information, ADOT recognized that adding social media tools like Twitter enables ADOT to reach a broader audience that may not use tools like 511 that require the user to seek out the information. Once a user signs up on Twitter or Facebook, real−time information is automatically delivered directly to the user whenever ADOT identifies the need for an update.
Other States that are using social media to reach out to motorists include Rhode Island, Iowa, and Missouri. In addition to Facebook and Twitter, Rhode Island and Iowa also use RSS (really simple syndication) feeds to reach a larger audience of motorists. RSS feeds automatically deliver updated traffic and news blurbs to an email account or a bookmarked page in a person's web browser. Missouri provides project updates to travelers via their blog, podcasts, and videos posted on YouTube, in addition to providing information on Facebook and Twitter.
REASON(S) FOR ADOPTING:
Using these tools is another way to inform drivers of work zones and the impacts that the construction projects will have on their routes. Many people are using these tools in their daily lives, so they are an easy, inexpensive, and convenient way to reach more people in the affected area.
The public is more informed about work zone impacts that might affect their travel plans. Since users have to sign−up to receive updates, the information is targeted to those most interested and where it can have the most benefit. ADOT has seen an improvement in public perception when it can use the social media tools to push real−time information (like for a major closure or incident) to users, document how many messages were sent and how many users they reached, and then communicate the reach of their information to the media, agency leadership, and elected officials. ADOT also sees public safety benefits in using these tools to quickly push to users information about weather events, closures or major road restrictions.
MOST APPLICABLE LOCATION(S)/PROJECT(S):
Long−term work zones where construction impacts on drivers will be changing throughout the course of the project. These tools can also be beneficial on short−term projects, since these projects sometimes catch drivers by surprise and thus may create the most safety and acceptance issues.
STATE(S) WHERE USED:
Arizona , Iowa, Missouri, Rhode Island
Timothy Tait, Assistant Communication Director, Arizona DOT
Phone: (612) 712−7070
Cherice Ogg, Office of Media and Marketing Services – Web Team
Phone: (515) 239−1886
Laura Holloway, Community Relations Coordinator
Phone: (573) 751−5985
Dana Alexander Nolfe, Chief Public Affairs Officer
Rhode Island DOT
Phone: (401) 222−1362, ext. 4450