Octa's transportation blog

During the Pandemic, Keeping the Public Informed Requires Innovation

While millions of Californians heed state orders to stay home to help stop the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), construction on public transportation projects moves forward. OCTA continues to keep information flowing to the thousands of residents living near its projects by adopting innovative communication methods.

The 16-mile I-405 Improvement Project runs through six cities and is the largest highway project under construction in the state. COVID-19 forced OCTA to think creatively about how to best reach those affected by construction while keeping everyone safe.

Traditional communication methods, such as setting up information booths at community events and conducting neighborhood meetings, were no longer viable options. But OCTA wanted to do more than rely on the project’s website, mobile app and social media presence to keep residents informed when person-to-person contact was no longer an alternative.

Less than a week after the state issued its stay-at-home order in March, the I-405 Improvement Project hosted its first virtual neighborhood meeting. Like dozens of previous meetings conducted in community parks, at schools or in meeting rooms, this one allowed residents to learn and have their questions answered — but this time, they participated from the comfort and safety of their own homes. 

Since then, the project team has hosted 10 additional virtual community meetings, directly communicating with nearly 500 people. After the live meetings are recorded, they’re available online and have generated more than 2,100 views. Meanwhile, the team also continued to use long-established communications tools such as canvassed flyers and direct mail pieces to ensure all community members could stay up to date on major construction activities.

In addition, the 405 team has begun deploying technology to message hundreds of thousands of residents and commuters in specific areas of the project. Geofencing advertising campaigns have reached nearly 700,000 people with construction alert ads placed on apps like ESPN or Pandora Music. The messages show up on smartphones or tablets of those who live in or pass through a one-mile radius of selected construction zones. Learn more about the I-405 Improvement Project here.

The I-5 South outreach team came up with an alternative approach to keep residents in the know about improvements to I-5 between El Toro Road and SR-73 in South Orange County. They switched from chatting with residents over doughnuts to Webinar Wednesdays, an entertainment-style program focused on small project segments.

Broadcasting from their homes, the two hosts wear casual-but-professional polo shirts featuring the project logo and tag team the presentation with lively interaction to keep the format entertaining. This approach has led to more audience engagement than traditional virtual presentations and encourages questions — much like in-person chats over doughnuts.

When completed in 2025, the I-5 South project will add a regular lane in each direction of the freeway, extend a second carpool lane, widen bridges and make other improvements to ease traffic congestion for approximately 360,000 drivers who use that part of the freeway daily. Learn more about the I-5 South project here.  

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