Outreach and Engagement 101

Updated: August 18, 2020

We are committed to providing all Seattle community members a wide range of opportunities for both accessing information and providing feedback about all transportation projects. Our goals are to increase meaningful and authentic civic participation and to build better projects by asking communities to shape our work throughout the process.

We created this website in response to community members and colleagues asking us about community engagement and what it looks like. It explores the life cycle of our capital (i.e. large) projects, focusing specifically on the importance of community outreach and engagement. Our hope is to enhance understanding of the community engagement process, highlight opportunities for collaboration with the community, and improve the tools and techniques we use.

This page outlines what outreach and engagement looks like for our capital projects headed towards construction. Here, you'll find:

Outreach and Engagement During the 2020 Pandemic

As the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic continues to alter our normal pace of work, we are committed to executing our outreach and engagement strategies in a safe and equitable manner. During this time, we have taken additional steps to maintain social distancing, including by holding online open houses, communicating with stakeholders via videoconferencing, distancing while conducting door-to-doors, and more. Recognizing the diverse abilities, languages spoken, internet proficiency and access, and schedules of Seattlites, we have also taken care to ensure that web meetings are accessible by phone and are recorded and reposted with accompanying transcripts, often in multiple languages. Surveys are also available in multiple languages and folks can receive physical surveys upon request. We are also partnering with community organizations, reaching out directly to project stakeholders, and exploring other avenues of communication like the radio to ensure that your voices are heard. We will continue exploring avenues to make certain that our outreach and engagment processes are inclusive, equitable, and accesible during these unprecedented times. 

For more assistance related to the COVID-19 pandemic, visit the city's page for resources for the community. 

Where Projects Come From

Before projects begin, there is a long process of planning which includes modal-plans, community input, and more. We plan for the long-term, and individual projects are often part of a larger picture of Seattle’s future. In this context, our projects happen because they are on-the-ground, physical investments we make that will get us that city of the future we want to inhabit. A big part of this process is the Seattle Comprehensive Plan, a 20-year vision and roadmap for Seattle’s future that prioritizes quality of life, environmental protection, and economic development.

All of this planning is about people and our Seattle community making a plan so we can realize a future city that meets our needs. A critical part of this future planning is the individual projects we carry out here at SDOT — view individual project plans.

Our team's work focuses primarily on the stages after an individual project begins: planning, design, and construction.

Below is a diagram of this process.

How Projects Happen shown in a flowchart: 1: Civic Involvement. 2: Elected officials and budgets. 3: Department of Transportation. 4: SDOT Plans and Programs. Caption: The Project Begins. 5: Planning. 6: Design. 7: Construction. 8:Maintenance.

Outreach Tools and Techniques

We use a variety of different tools to keep you and your community informed about projects in your neighborhood. Here are some of the ways we work to keep you up-to-date with everything that's going on! You can see examples of how some of the tools are used during individual projects on project websites.

  • icon of two people shaking handsStakeholder meetings
  • icon of a person standing in front of a group of peopleCommunity presentations and conversations
  • icon of a phone ringingProject inboxes and phone lines
  • icon of a letter with an at symbol on itPhysical and electronic mailings
  • icon of a person standing behind a boothBooths at community events
  • icon of a globe with lines through it, signifying the world wide webProject webpages
  • icon of two people standing on opposite ends of a table brainstormingOpen houses and drop-in sessions
  • icon of two doors connected by a winding dashed lineDoor-to-door
  • icon of a traffic cone on a piece of paper Construction notices and flyering
  • icon of a road sign indicating constructionYard and road signs
  • facebook iconSocial media and blog posts
  • icon of a clipboard with checked boxes on the paperSurveys

Ways to Engage With Us

We know communication is a two-way street, so we want to hear from you! Below you will find examples of some ways you can stay up to date, give input, or get in contact with us.

We include contact information for individual projects on their webpages and mailers we send out. If you’re curious about a specific project, we recommend you go to our list of current projects and look for contact information.

  • icon of an eye looking at a piece of paperReview Master Plans
  • icon of a hand holding a phone with the twitter logo displayed on the phoneEngage on social media
  • icon of a ballot going into a voting boxVote in local elections
  • icon of a hand choosing option A over option BVote on project alternatives
  • icon of two people standing over a table brainstormingAttend open houses
  • icon of a clipboard with check boxesTake surveys
  • icon if a letter with an at symbol in the middle Email project inboxes
  • icon of a cell phone ringing Call project phone lines
  • icon of a person giving a presentationNeighborhood Street Fund
  • icon of two hands contributing to the same piggy bank fundNeighborhood Matching Fund
  • icon of a phone with gears displayed on the screenFind It, Fix It App
  • icon of a person's head speaking Your Voice, Your Choice
  • icon of a person standing in front of a group of peopleAttend community meetings
  • an icon of a group of peopleJoin community groups
  • Icon of two individuals planting a small plantJoin service organizations

  • EmailSign up for email lists

Three Project Stages

Planning

During the planning stage, we're figuring out what projects will look like. For example, if we know based on previous planning that an area needs to be bike a connection, we’ll start focusing on what side of the street should it be on, what nearby destinations can connect to, and how we can improve the space for pedestrians and drivers as well.

We are focusing on how we can help make neighborhoods safer and more accessible. During this stage, we fit together community input, engineering constraints, Master Plans, environmental regulations, budgets, and more to get a sense of what is both preferable and feasible. Survey collection and meetings with stakeholders—like businesses or community leaders—can help guide us during this stage.

Some questions we're asking...

  • What needs to be improved? What needs do you have?
  • What is feasible with our available funding?
  • What is working and not working?
  • How do you get around your neighborhood?
  • What kind of work would make sense in your neighborhood?

Outreach tools in this stage include

  • icon of two people shaking handsStakeholder meetings
  • icon of a magnifying glass over a group of peopleFocus groups
  • icon of two people standing over a table brainstormingOpen houses
  • icon of a person pointing to a white board in front of a group of peopleCommunity presentations
  • icon of a clipboard with check boxesSurveys

Engagement opportunities in this stage include

  • icon of an eye looking at a piece of paperReview Master Plans
  • icon of a hand using a phone with the twitter logo on the screenEngage with social media
  • icon of a person standing in front of a group of peopleAttend community meetings
  • icon of two people standing over a table brainstormingAttend open houses
  • icon of a clipboard with check boxes Take surveys

Design

At this stage, we move from concepts to something more concrete. For example, in our planning stage, we learned from your feedback on what side of the street the bike lane should be on and what sidewalk improvements are needed. In the design stage, we will figure out how signals need to change and how the design will affect underground utilities.

Typically, we split the design process into Early and Final Design, and often further into 4 sub-stages: 10%, 30%, 60%, and 90% design. At each sub-stage, we've solidified different aspects of what the project will look like, so we look for different types of input from the community at each point. Also at each substage, reviewers from various departments (such as Seattle Public Utilities, Urban Forestry, ADA, King County Metro, etc.)

Early Design

10%: We collaborate with stakeholders and our engineers to draft potential designs and introduce proposals for input. At this point, we may take feedback to create a few project alternatives and ask the community which one they like best.

30%: We take back community feedback and voting results and move forward with selected proposals. Large specifications, like sidewalk widths and channelization, are typically determined at this point.

Late Design

60%: We know generally what the project will look like but are still making small changes. At 60%, we finalize details like landscape amenities using input from the community, engineers, and consultants.

90%: At this point, we are preparing for the construction stage. This includes drafting mailers, thinking about the construction schedule, coordinating with the construction teams, and more.

Some questions we're asking...

  • How does the design work for different travelers with different needs?
  • How can we make our design accessible and sustainable for future users?
  • Are there potential artistic or visual touches that are important to neighbors?
  • What design details work best in this area?

Outreach tools in this stage include

  • icon of two people shaking handsStakeholder meetings
  • icon of a globe with lines through it, signifying the world wide webProject websites
  • icon of two people standing over a table brainstormingOpen houses
  • icon of a letter with an at symbol in itProject inboxes
  • Project phone lines

Engagement opportunities in this stage include

  • icon of a hand choosing option A over option BVote on project alternatives
  • icon of a hand holding a phone with the twitter logo on the screenEngage with social media
  • icon of a cell phone ringingCall our project phone line
  • icon of a person standing in front of a group of peopleAttend open houses
  • icon of a letter with an at symbol on itEmail the project inbox

Construction

The project is happening! We've worked with neighbors to select the full design plan of the project, including where to build, considerations for transit and pedestrians, landscape amenities, and more. Our outreach team now attends the construction meetings to serve as liaisons between neighbors and the construction team. We continue reaching out to update you on construction schedules, and to see how we can best accommodate residents and businesses, all while balancing the needs of the construction team to complete the work as efficiently as possible. To ensure projects last for years into the future, our crews often come back to do routine maintenance as needed.

Some questions we're asking...

  • How will people be impacted by construction?
  • Is there anything we can do to accommodate the needs of community members and business owners during construction such as adjust the timing or create custom signage?
  • How can we minimize construction impacts?
  • How can we make sure the project lasts into the future?

Outreach tools in this stage include

  • icon of a traffic cone on a piece of paperConstruction notices
  • icon of a globe with lines through it, signifying the world wide webProject websites
  • icon of a road sign indicating constructionRoad signs
  • icon of a letter with an at symbol on itProject inboxes
  • icon of a cell phone ringingProject phone lines

Engagement opportunities in this stage include

  • icon of a cell phone with gears on the screenUse the Find It, Fix It App
  • icon of a hand using a phone with the twitter icon on the screenEngage with social media
  • icon of a cell phone ringingCall our project phone line
  • icon of a person standing in front of a group of peopleAttend open houses
  • icon of a letter with an at symbol on itEmail project inboxes

Equity

Equity informs everything we do, including outreach and engagement. We are committed to making our work more equitable, and we consider race, income, accessibility, and other intersectionalities. In the last decade, we've implemented new measures to ensure more people have a say in our outreach and engagement process.

Icons in circles: bikes, person in wheelchair, bus, person with cane, people standing on bars that raise them to the same level, car

What we're doing right now

  • Applying our Race and Social Justice Initiative Racial Equity Toolkit in outreach efforts
  • Creating a Public Involvement Plan (PIP) for every project to consider existing racial and social inequities in a project area and potential unintended consequences
  • Conducting outreach with translated materials or interpreters if 5% or more of a community speaks another language (or if requested)
  • Meeting with minority-owned businesses wherever projects occur Partnering with the Department of Neighborhoods and the Office of Economic Development to provide additional resources to communities including working with Department of Neighborhoods’ Community Liaisons
  • Working with community organizations
  • Holding community conversations such as with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) community as part of our outreach and engagement process
  • Acknowledging that there is still a lot of work to be done