Public Participation

DVRPC has a long history of public participation and citizen involvement in regional and transportation planning initiatives. Throughout DVRPC's history, the basic tenet of public participation has remained the same: to reach out to and engage as many members of the public as possible in the decision-making process. Through a constructive dialogue, decision makers, planners, and the public can share their opinions and mutually shape a vision for their community, county, and region.

DVRPC's Public Participation Plan is designed as a resource for DVRPC's Board, staff, and the general public to better understand the Commission's overall public participation strategy and procedures, as well as the federal mandates that inform DVRPC's public participation efforts. The plan conveys DVRPC's commitment to a transparent and proactive public participation process that strives to engage all residents of Greater Philadelphia.


What is DVRPC?

DVRPC, created in 1965 by an interstate compact between Pennsylvania and New Jersey, plans for the growth and development of the bi-state Greater Philadelphia region, and serves as the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for the nine-county Greater Philadelphia region. An MPO is a regional organization responsible for comprehensive transportation planning and programming for urbanized areas, and is responsible for approval of federal transportation funding for the region. Federal law requires the formation of an MPO for urban areas with a population of more than 50,000 people.

Vision and Mission Statement

The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission is the federally designated Metropolitan Planning Organization for a diverse nine-county region in two states: Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia in Pennsylvania; and Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, and Mercer in New Jersey.

DVRPC's vision for the Greater Philadelphia Region is a prosperous, innovative, equitable, resilient, and sustainable region that increases mobility choices by investing in a safe and modern transportation system; that protects and preserves our natural resources while creating healthy communities; and that fosters greater opportunities for all.

DVRPC's mission is to achieve this vision by convening the widest array of partners to inform and facilitate data-driven decision-making. We are engaged across the region, and strive to be leaders and innovators, exploring new ideas and creating best practices.Adopted by DVRPC Board September 2017

MPO Activities

As the MPO for the Delaware Valley region, DVRPC undertakes three significant, ongoing planning processes: the development and adoption of a Long-Range Plan, the adoption and management of the Transportation Improvement Program, and the creation of the annual Planning Work Program.

Long-Range Planning

DVRPC has a mandated responsibility to develop a regional plan that has a timeline of 20 years or greater, with long-range forecasts of population, land use, employment, and travel trends that determine how federal transportation funds will be spent. DVRPC's Long-Range Plan has expanded beyond the traditional transportation element to encompass land use, economic competitiveness, environmental stewardship, and equity issues. All of these factors are taken into account because transportation is affected by and affects each of these other components.

The Long-Range Plan has a significant public participation component, which may include visioning workshops, other public events, focus group meetings, stakeholder outreach, newsletters, and surveys. Before the Long-Range Plan is adopted, a public comment period of at least 30 days must be held.

Transportation Programming

The Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) is an agreed-upon list of priority projects. The TIP lists all projects for which federal funds are anticipated, along with non-federally funded projects that are regionally significant. In Pennsylvania and New Jersey, each TIP covers a four-year period and is updated every other year.

To help establish priorities for the TIP, DVRPC solicits the public's opinion. A public comment period of at least 30 days and public meeting(s) give the public an opportunity to pose questions about the TIP process and projects. The public involvement process for the TIP conducted by DVRPC is in cooperation with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) to satisfy the requirements placed on both states by federal legislation and regulation for all Federal Transit Administration and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) funded projects in the TIP. For the NJ TIP, public comment meetings are conducted jointly with NJDOT and also serve as an opportunity to comment on the Draft New Jersey Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (often referred to as the STIP). For the PA TIP, DVRPC's public involvement activities also satisfy public involvement requirements for PennDOT's Section 5307 funds - federal transit formula funds.

DVRPC utilizes an online TIP commenting feature that the public may access, in addition to submitting comments through more traditional means, such as by letter and fax. To assist the public in accessing and reviewing the TIP, specific projects can be easily mapped online at www.dvrpc.org/TIP

DVRPC has adopted Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) for Pennsylvania and New Jersey, which define the procedures for making amendments and modifications to the TIP. Such agreements between the states, transit operators, and DVRPC outline major and minor amendments, as well as the degree of public review required for each type of action. The MOUs are included with each TIP document.

Annual Planning Work Program

An Annual Planning Work Program incorporates the planning programs and support activities of an MPO and its member governments for a specified time period or fiscal year. DVRPC's fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30. DVRPC develops its Work Program annually with the DVRPC Board, its committees, and planning partners to reflect the region's short-range planning needs. DVRPC solicits public input while drafting the Work Program, as well as during a public comment period of at least 30 days. Comments are accepted by mail, fax and email.

Other Activities

Beyond these three mandated activities, DVRPC undertakes a variety of other regional planning activities outlined in greater detail on the Commission's website. Many of these other program areas and projects also provide opportunities for public participation and input.

The DVRPC Board

DVRPC is governed by an 18-member decision-making Board comprising of state, county, and city representatives from the region's member governments, as well as various non-voting members. The governor of each state has three appointees; each county has a voting seat, and the cities of Camden, Chester, and Trenton each have a voting seat. The Executive Committee of the Board is a subset of 10 members, of which at least two seats are rotating among the county Board members.

All DVRPC Board meetings are open to the public to attend, and include an opportunity for public comment. Notifications of DVRPC Board meeting dates and locations are legally published in newspapers of record at the beginning of the calendar year. As part of its enhanced public participation, DVRPC issues a call for public comments on action items about 10 days before the Board meeting.

DVRPC Committees

DVRPC's committees advise the Board on specific regional issues while ensuring that interested parties, including member governments and interested residents, have an opportunity to participate in the planning process. Meeting dates are advertised on DVRPC's website. All committee meetings are open to the public to attend.

Notification of all meetings of DVRPC's standing committees is provided approximately 10 days prior to each meeting. The public notification includes a copy of the draft agenda, the date, time, and location of the meeting. Changes to the agenda may be made up to the day of the meeting. Auxiliary services, such as interpretation, can be provided to individuals who submit a request at least seven days prior to a public meeting. Requests will be accommodated to the greatest extent possible. Meeting dates and agendas are available at DVRPC's website.

Public Participation Task Force

Since the 1970s, DVRPC has maintained a continuous forum for the public to participate in the regional planning process. This forum has taken various forms throughout the years to respond to the outreach needs of the public and the Commission. The DVRPC Board took action in October, 2011 to replace the long-standing DVRPC Regional Citizens Committee with a Public Participation Task Force that comprises appointed members and members at-large. The mission of the task force is to provide ongoing access to the regional planning and decision-making processes, to review timely issues, to serve as a conduit for DVRPC information to organizations and communities across the region, and to assist the Commission in implementing public outreach strategies.

Member cities and counties represented on the DVRPC Board may appoint members to the PPTF. At-large members are selected through an annual application process. Task force members serve a two-year term and may serve a maximum of two consecutive terms. Meetings are held approximately every six weeks, or as needed. Two task force members are selected to sit on the Regional Technical Committee (often referred to as the RTC), which reviews TIP amendments and other actions, and advises the DVRPC Board. Task Force members may also participate on other DVRPC committees and study advisory committees.

In addition to geographic diversity, the PPTF strives to represent the racial, ethnic, cultural, gender, age, and economic diversity of the region, with members from throughout Greater Philadelphia bringing their own individual experiences to the table. While not mandated to represent a particular segment of the population, ideal Public Participation Task Force candidates may belong to one or more of the following organizations or population groups:

  • regional civic associations;
  • the physically or intellectually disabled;
  • minority groups;
  • Limited English Proficient (LEP) populations;
  • transportation or transit advisory groups;
  • low-income individuals;
  • older adults;
  • affordable housing organizations;
  • environmental groups;
  • environmental justice groups;
  • public health organizations;
  • bicycle or pedestrian advocacy groups;
  • youth programs;
  • community development organizations;
  • economic development organizations;
  • private-sector business organizations; and
  • ethnic organizations.

For more information, visit the PPTF page. Information is also available by contacting the Office of Communications and Engagement at 215-592-1800.

Mandates Related to Public Participation

A number of federal mandates guide DVRPC's overall public participation efforts. Together, these laws establish a foundation for involving the public and ensuring that every project undertaken by the Commission considers public comments, engages Delaware Valley residents in the planning process, and provides a transparent public record.

These guidelines and requirements are all addressed in Appendix A of the Public Participation Plan, and form the basis of DVRPC's ongoing outreach strategy and procedures.

DVRPC's Public Participation Strategy

DVRPC believes that planning must be done with the public's input. Decisions made at the Commission affect the future of all those who live and work in the Delaware Valley region. DVRPC is committed to understanding the diverse needs and concerns of the public, as well as those of non-profit organizations, business interests, and local governments. Outlined below is the strategy that summarizes DVRPC's philosophy and intent to place public participation at the forefront of our priorities.

What is Public Participation?

Public participation is the process by which interested and affected individuals, organizations, agencies, and government entities are consulted and included in the decision-making process.

Public participation consists of three related, and often overlapping, processes: information dissemination, consultation, and stakeholder participation:

  1. Information dissemination refers to the availability and distribution of timely and relevant information about DVRPC programs and projects.
  2. Consultation pertains to information exchanges among the MPO, implementing agency, and stakeholders.
  3. Stakeholders are the individuals, groups, or institutions that have an interest in the outcome of a project. The term also applies to those potentially affected by a project.

Effective public participation can also be defined by the following eight criteria:

  • transparency and integrity;
  • coordination;
  • information;
  • appropriateness;
  • responsiveness;
  • inclusiveness;
  • monitoring and evaluating; and
  • learning and sharing[1]

[1] Adapted from Planning Aid for Scotland's publication, "SP=EED Scottish Planning= Effective Engagement and Delivery: A Practical Guide to Better Engagement in Planning in Scotland."

Our Philosophy

DVRPC believes that effective public involvement and participation is a dynamic and ongoing process that is essential to meeting the future transportation, land use needs, and economic concerns of all residents in Greater Philadelphia. In order to implement any regional plan or site-specific project, there needs to be cooperative and coordinated action among the public, private, and non-profit sectors, as well as the general public.

Effective planning cannot be achieved without the consideration and cooperation of residents. The Commission commits to promote and sustain a responsive public participation program that supports and actively seeks the public's input and timely response at all levels of planning.

Every DVRPC staff member is informed about the importance of public participation through an orientation program and ongoing interaction with the DVRPC Office of Communications and Engagement. Even when they do not have direct contact with the general public, they know that their work has an impact on how our region functions and on how DVRPC is perceived by the public.

Public Participation Goals

DVRPC's public participation goals are to:

  1. Provide opportunities for interested parties to identify regional concerns and priorities.
  2. Encourage public involvement among our various audiences, including traditionally underserved groups.
  3. Increase the public's awareness of opportunities and activities to actively participate in DVRPC plans and programs.
  4. Obtain meaningful public input to inform the Commission's planning and decision-making process.
  5. Inform and educate our stakeholders, share information, and increase overall awareness of regional planning, land use, economic, environmental, equity, and transportation issues and activities in the Delaware Valley region.

Public Participation Objectives

In order to ensure that DVRPC has a proactive and meaningful public involvement process that provides complete information, timely public notice, full public input to key decision-making processes, and supports early and continuing involvement in developing regional plans and projects, the Commission pursues the following objectives:

  • The dissemination of information will be broad and wide, using multiple communication channels in order to understand the region's needs and strengthen regional policy making.
  • DVRPC's constituency will be broadened by increasing public- and private-sector and intergovernmental communications, and by reaching out to those who are underserved in the region.
  • The Commission will ensure that the public has ample opportunity to participate in the decision-making process for regional projects and plans, including, but not limited to, the TIP and the LRP.
  • DVRPC will coordinate its public participation strategy with ongoing public involvement processes of its member governments, whenever possible, to enhance public participation and reach new stakeholders.

Development of the Public Participation Plan

Federal guidelines require the participation of interested parties in the development of transportation plans. The Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act defines “interested parties” as citizens, affected public agencies, representatives of public transportation employees, public ports, freight shippers, providers of freight transportation services, private providers of transportation, representatives of users of public transportation, representatives of users of pedestrian walkways and bicycle transportation facilities, representatives of the disabled, and other interested parties.

To initially develop this plan in 2014, DVRPC conducted a public comment and review process for members of the public, federal and state planning partners, and other stakeholders to participate. It was amended in 2018 when the Commission updated its Access to Records Policy, Appendix B of the Public Participation Plan.

Evaluation of Public Participation Activities

DVRPC's Public Participation Plan is not a static document but an ongoing strategy to meet public outreach needs of DVRPC plans and programs. There is no singular approach to public engagement, and outreach and participation for specific projects may be different. The residents of this region are also not a homogeneous entity; therefore, methods of outreach may also be different depending on the intended audience. At the same time, in order to maintain a successful participation program, the Commission must evaluate what worked and what did not work in the public participation process.

The FHWA recommends the following elements for effective public participation:

  • clearly defined purpose and objectives for initiating a public dialogue on transportation issues;
  • specific identification of the affected public and other stakeholder groups with respect to the plans and programs under development;
  • identification of techniques for engaging the public in the process;
  • notification procedures that effectively target affected groups;
  • methods and measures for evaluating the effectiveness of the public involvement program;
  • education and assistance techniques that result in an accurate and full public understanding of transportation issues;
  • follow-through demonstrating that decision makers seriously considered public input; and
  • solicitation of feedback from the public and stakeholders on the effectiveness of the public involvement process.[2]

[2] Adapted from Federal Highway Administration's publication, "The Transportation Planning Process Key Issues: A Briefing Book for Transportation Decision makers, Officials, and Staff."

DVRPC uses performance measures, analytics (website, social media, and email), event evaluations, and flash surveys to determine the effectiveness of DVRPC public participation efforts. Staff monitor and evaluate public participation activities on a regular basis and document efforts in monthly reports available to the DVRPC Board and the general public, upon request. Documentation of public participation and outreach efforts are also included in DVRPC's mandated documents, specifically the LRP and TIP. Evaluation methods include both quantitative data and qualitative methods.

Public Participation Procedures: Engaging the Region

To encourage a rich and diverse public participation process, interested parties must be informed and educated about regional issues, as well as about ongoing and planned projects. DVRPC utilizes the following strategies to ensure that all audiences receive timely information in a variety of formats, and that various opportunities are available for public engagement.

Public Meetings and Other Events

Public meetings, open houses, workshops, and information sessions will be scheduled, when deemed appropriate, to allow the greatest opportunity for attendance by the general public and interested groups (e.g., evening or lunch meetings, meetings held on weekends) based upon available staff and resources. In addition, the Commission utilizes a number of timely public participation strategies that may include listening sessions, facilitated exercises, online surveys, and qualitative research to gather input. The PPTF and DVRPC's standing committees are also resources to gather in-depth input and disseminate information.

Public meetings will be held prior to the adoption of DVRPC's LRP, TIP, and other major amendments. Authorization to proceed with public distribution of pertinent materials, to open public comment periods, and to hold public meetings must be sought from DVRPC's Board.

Meetings will be conducted in locations that are American with Disabilities Act (ADA)-accessible and convenient to public transit, when possible. Sign language interpreters or other auxiliary aid requests can be accommodated if requested seven days in advance. When DVRPC knows there may be a community that has LEP populations within a study area, staff will arrange for language interpretation proactively and promote the availability of language assistance.

Where appropriate, visualization techniques will be employed throughout DVRPC's public participation activities to aid the public in understanding proposed plans. Examples of visualization techniques include sketches, drawings, artistic renderings, physical models and maps, simulated photos, videos, computer modeled images, geographic information systems- (GIS-) based scenario planning tools, wall sized maps, web maps, slide presentations, and computer simulation.

Notification of Meetings and Events

  • DVRPC Board MeetingsThe scheduled meeting dates of the DVRPC Board are published annually in newspapers of general circulation in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Any changes to those meetings' dates, times, or locations will require legal notice at least 48 hours prior to the meeting's start time.
  • Public Meetings for Ongoing Planning ProcessesNotification via legal advertisements in newspapers of general circulation, as well as minority and alternative language newspapers, is required for DVRPC Long-Range Plan public meetings, adoption and amendment, and for TIP public meetings and adoption. Additionally, DVRPC will send out a media advisory announcing the public meeting and public comment period for these significant processes.
  • Other DVRPC-Sponsored MeetingsAll DVRPC-sponsored meetings open to the public are also posted on an events calendar.The initial public meeting or activity used to kick off a major public involvement effort or project will be announced broadly to the news media, as well as to the state, county, and municipalities involved most directly in the event. Advance notice will depend upon the project and its timeline, but a minimum of 15 days' notice should be given for public participation events. Email and mail databases are updated regularly to ensure proper notification to as many contacts as possible. Meeting notification may also be sent to area libraries, community centers, organizations, schools, municipalities, and other entities as required. Community organizations and non-profit groups may be consulted as a source to reach certain constituencies more effectively.

Notification of Public Comment Periods

As per federal requirements, DVRPC will provide adequate time for public review of draft documents. The length of the review and comment period should be at least 30 days for the TIP, LRP, and other major documents; and at least 45 days for review of major changes to the Commission's Public Participation Plan. The Public Participation Plan may be subject to minor changes that do not incur a 45-day public comment period. Major Commission actions are advertised as legal notices in a variety of regional newspapers, including a Spanish-language newspaper.

Draft documents for public review will be placed in regional libraries, DVRPC's Resource Center, and other community locations as determined by staff. DVRPC's website contains draft documents for review, as well as other pertinent public notices and information. Tribal Governments are also sent materials for review.

Use of Public Comments

All public input should be gathered from as diverse a range of stakeholders as possible. As appropriate and whenever possible, public comments should be used to inform work scopes, plans, and programs.

DVRPC staff is responsible for responding to comments received during a public review period in a timely manner and/or forwarding the original public comments to appropriate regional agencies, project sponsors, planning partners, or member governments for their responses.

Public comments submitted to DVRPC during a public comment period are considered part of the public record. Summaries of comments received will be updated, made available to the public, and forwarded to decision makers considering action. Public comments are reviewed and forwarded to the appropriate agency, and are also provided to the various DVRPC advisory committees, and the DVRPC Board for consideration before final action of the Board.

If a final document, plan, or TIP varies substantially from the one which was made available for public comment and review, DVRPC will provide a summary of changes and may hold an additional public comment period if necessary.

Public Comment on Board Action Items

DVRPC Board meetings will include a time for public comments concerning agenda and non-agenda items during the consideration of business; however, the Board chair may limit the length of comments or provide other options for public comments as he or she deems fit.

The public can also comment on Board action items using an online commenting form on the DVRPC website. Information related to Board action items will be posted approximately 10 days before a scheduled Board meeting. The online commenting form will be live until 12:00 PM the day before the Board meeting. The public may also submit comments:

  • by U.S. mail(c/o Office of Communications and Engagement, DVRPC, 190 N. Independence Mall West, 8th Fl., Philadelphia, PA 19106);
  • by fax at 215-592-9125;
  • via e-mail at public_affairs@dvrpc.org

The public may also submit public comments to the Board on non-action items by using a similar commenting form, also available at www.dvrpc.org/GetInvolved/BoardActionItems/, which remains open indefinitely.

DVRPC staff will follow up on any questions or comments; all public comments submitted will be forwarded to DVRPC Board members in their entirety. DVRPC reserves the right to delete comments submitted that are offensive, abusive, or off topic. An archive of comments received and responses issued is available on DVRPC's website with Board meeting minutes.

DVRPC's Communication Tools

DVRPC uses a variety of communication tools, including but not limited to: website, monthly newsletter, social media, HTML emails, media relations, and surveys. DVRPC's website is a continuously updated source of information on every aspect of the regional and transportation planning process. A wide scope of resource material, covering all of DVRPC's planning areas is available, as well as an event calendar, regional data, community resources, meeting notices and agendas, information related to public participation activities, and Title VI/EJ information. The website also includes staff, Board member, and member government contact information; and links to related agencies and municipalities. The DVRPC website, including this Public Participation Plan, may be translated into multiple languages through Google Translate.

DVRPC's various products include publications, newsletters, web applications, interactive mapping applications and a gallery of maps available for download. Products are available via an online search. DVRPC can translate Commission documents into any language or format, if requested.

DVRPC News is the Commission's newsletter and is published digitally every month. The newsletter provides information about the Commission's various projects and activities, and includes information on how to contact the Commission and its staff. The newsletter is emailed, available in a printed format (if requested), and posted online. To receive this newsletter by mail or email, please contact the Office of Communications and Engagement at 215-592-1800 or public_affairs@dvrpc.org or subscribe to the Commission's email lists

Media Communications

DVRPC regularly issues media advisories and press releases to the region's electronic and print media outlets. Occasions for media advisories or press releases may include announcements for funding programs, a high-profile event, significant Board actions, and high-profile publications.

DVRPC Resource Center

The DVRPC Resource Center serves as a clearinghouse for the many products that DVRPC produces, including a variety of brochures; studies; and assorted transportation, data and planning-related documents that are available both online and in print. The Commission also issues an annual report that summarizes major activities of the agency for the prior fiscal year.

The Resource Center is open during regular business hours. Alternatively, one may contact the Office of Communications and Engagement by phone at 215-592-1800 to make an appointment. Staff can assist with a relevant research question or provide a print copy of a DVRPC publication. The use of the Resource Center is free; however, some fees may apply to some publications or photocopies of documents.

Speakers Bureau

The Commission maintains a Speakers Bureau to promote presentations to residents, organizations, and communities. DVRPC's staff, which comprise professionals in a variety of planning and transportation specialties, are available to speak at meetings on a variety of topics, such as transit planning, freight planning, open space preservation, and regional transportation safety. For more information, please contact DVRPC's Office of Communications and Engagement. DVRPC's Communications Manager receives speaker requests and directs the opportunity to relevant staff members.

Planner's Methodology

DVRPC has developed a Planner's Methodology hich is designed to provide guidance to staff in meeting federal non-discrimination mandates and in structuring a public participation plan at the project or study level. Meaningful public participation may differ widely, depending on the type and scope of a project. The Planner's Methodology sets a framework for developing public involvement for specific projects, offers a "tool kit" of public participation strategies to meet the goals in DVRPC's Public Participation Plan, and builds upon the Commission's philosophy of placing public participation at the forefront of our priorities. The Planner's Methodology is available on DVRPC's website.

Promoting Open and Accessible Involvement

DVRPC is committed to an open and transparent planning process. The Commission's Access to Records Policy is available online

For More Information

For additional information about DVRPC or the Public Participation Task Force, to have your name added to our email lists, or if you have any questions regarding public participation activities at the Commission, please contact the Office of Communications and Engagement at public_affairs@dvrpc.org, 215-592-1800, or https://www.dvrpc.org/GetInvolved/.Last Updated December 28, 2018