Listening and Learning Outreach
In winter of 2019, the Durham Transit and the Comprehensive Planning teams carried out the Listening and Learning phase of engagement which included in-person community workshops, Engagement Ambassador sessions (resident-lead community focus groups), and an online survey. Between November 2019 and February 2020, over ONE THOUSAND residents participated in these events. Community residents were asked two questions:
- What does your ideal Durham look like?
- What is on your mind about Durham?
Resident responses and comments were transcribed and compiled into a Listening and Learning Input Spreadsheet based on the type of engagement (e.g. workshop, online, or Engagement Ambassador) and each comment was given a theme. There were many common themes that residents told us they wanted for Durham. Below are the top themes:
- Affordable housing
- Good public transportation
- Access to quality food
- Safety, health and wellness
- A sense of belonging
- Racial justice
- Good schools
- Opportunities for good jobs
- Places to learn and play
- A clean environment
Next, all transportation-related comments were compiled to develop the draft goals and objectives for the Transit Plan. Transit team members read through each transportation-related comment and assigned them to transit themes such as access to bus stops, paratransit, and regional connectivity. Transit team members identified roughly 20 themes related to transit.
The team then created insight statements for the transit-related responses by taking the original comment and working to pull out what the resident was trying to express. Check out the Transit-Related Listening and Learning Input Spreadsheet from the Listening and Learning Phase. Insight statements were clustered into “How might we…?” questions. These “How might we…?” questions were rephrased into goals, while measurable objectives were pulled from the insights clustered under the “How might we…?” questions. Next, draft goals were written by first grouping and consolidating “How might we…” questions into similar categories such as accessibility, convenience, connectivity, and sustainability. Two overarching principles were also established for the Durham Transit Plan: equity and community trust. These categories are serving as the goals of the Durham Transit Plan. Objectives were then identified by summarizing common public comments related to the respective goals.
In addition to the Listening and Learning community responses, the Transit Plan team also used input from the idea collection phase of the City of Durham’s first cycle of Participatory Budgeting (FY18-FY2020) and resident focus groups from the City of Durham’s 2019 Annual Resident Survey. Results from the Idea Collection phase of Participatory Budgeting found that bus shelters, sidewalks connecting to bus stops, and crosswalks in relation to bus stops were the most common themes.
Staff conducted a similar analysis of data from resident focus groups from the 2019 Durham City and County Resident Survey. This analysis found mentions of themes that came up in other forms of engagement: reliability, frequency, need for later service, safe access to bus stops, etc. The most popular theme was about the impact of the failure to communicate effectively about transit service changes.
Phase I Outreach
The Transit Plan’s Phase 1 Outreach focused on confirming draft goals and objectives developed using input gathered from fall 2019 through winter 2020 Listening and Learning outreach, idea collection from the City of Durham’s first cycle of Participatory Budgeting (FY18-FY2020), and resident focus groups from the City of Durham’s 2019 annual resident survey. There were three different methods of engagement for this phase: Engagement Ambassador sessions, an online survey (paper surveys were made available during in-person events), and stakeholder interviews. Overall, the team heard from over 800 residents.
Engagement Ambassador Sessions
Aidil Ortiz of Aidilisms, a local public engagement specialist, lead the recruitment, training and management of the Engagement Ambassador program for this round of outreach. Engagement Ambassadors were intentionally recruited to be members of, or have direct access to people within one or more of the following communities:
- Low-income people/people who are housing insecure
- Justice-involved people
- People with disabilities
- Transit riders
- Bahama/Rougemont residents
Engagement Ambassadors helped reach community members that staff and consultants are usually unable to reach. Engagement Ambassadors administered questions at micro-events with (1-10 people) and larger sessions (10+ people). Engagement questions were developed using the initial goals and objectives document and contained a mix of ranking, multiple choice, and open-response questions. The questions were related to specific transit-related concerns, desired improvements, and potential projects to be implemented in Durham. The sessions were conducted from mid-November to mid-December with a total of 174 responses.
An online survey was made available, in English and Spanish, from early-November to mid-December. Questions, similar to those asked during the Engagement Ambassador sessions, related to transit-related goals and objectives, concerns, and desired improvements to be implemented throughout the City and County. Additionally, there was a question focused on draft objectives for the Comprehensive Plan. To better reach current transit riders, the Transit team carried out six in-person, socially distanced tabling events at Durham Station, the Village, and the Regional Transit Center . There were a total of 673 responses to the online and in-person survey.
The Transit Team reached out to fifty-two committees, local community organizations, partner agencies and major institutions, of which seventeen groups agreed to participate in staff-facilitated discussions about the Transit Plan goals and objectives. Sessions included a brief informational presentation and a series of questions similar to the online survey. Answers and any related discussion with the various stakeholder groups were documented and summarized by the Transit Team. All notes were compiled based on the discussion questions asked and then frequently mentioned transit issues and recurring discussion themes were identified by staff.
Phase I Outreach Results
Transit Plan team members and consultants analyzed and compiled input from the Engagement Ambassador Sessions, online survey and stakeholder interviews. All comments were compiled (and themed?) for multiple choice and ranking questions, responses were reviewed collectively. Check out the Transit Plan Phase I Outreach Results.
Phase II Outreach Results
Phase II outreach took place in the summer of 2021. The public was asked to review three transit options:
- One that focused on local and regional bus operations, having more buses go more places
- One that focused on building bus infrastructure to make buses faster and more reliable
- One that included commuter rail to Wake County, in addition to more modest bus improvements
Survey respondents were not asked to choose which option they liked best, but rather which components of each option they liked or did not like. The presentation below provides more information about the three options and the results of this phase of public outreach. These results were instrumental in forming the Recommended Plan of the Durham County Transit Plan.