An inside look at Transport 2050: TransLink’s record-setting public engagement


How do you spark a dialogue with an entire region? What does an engaging conversation on transportation look like? Where’s the best place to talk to people about the future?

These are some of the questions that TransLink had to think about when it first launched Transport 2050, its largest-ever public engagement, in May 2019.

Building on a legacy of forward-looking regional planning, Transport 2050 will lay out projects, services, and policies to keep Metro Vancouver moving for the next 30 years. Now that the first of three phases of engagement has concluded, what can be learned from Phase 1?

Big Picture: What is TransLink trying to achieve with Transport 2050

A regional strategy requires regional input. That’s why the project team was tasked with reaching Metro Vancouver’s 23 communities and going beyond the “transit bubble” to reach everyday people.

Phase 1 engagement ran from May to September 2019 and asked the people who live, work, and play in the region to share their values, concerns, priorities, and ideas for the future of transportation.

What does success look like? Broadly speaking, to drive as much awareness and participation in the engagement as possible – and doing it by being bold, loud, and inclusive of people from all parts of the region, no matter how they travel.

Sparking a regional conversation

The first step in any marketing campaign is to pique interest, and Transport 2050 followed suit by delivering ads and content in different mediums. From radio to movie theatres to billboards to social media (#Transport2050!) to on-system and digital ads, Metro Vancouver was covered with messaging about the future of transportation.

Some of the most memorable campaigns from Phase 1 included:

This provocative ad series prompted plenty of discussion online


Bus wraps that make you think

Experiential activations – Pick your turnstile: buses, trains, roads, or bikes?


Leveraging the future

Building a strategy that stands the test of time requires far into the future. After all, how do you build a 30-year strategy without considering all the disruptive changes – from automated vehicles to climate change – on the horizon?

Talking about the future in Phase 1 presented both an opportunity and a challenge. On one hand, talking about the new technologies drove a lot of interest in the project. On the other hand, getting people to discuss concepts like mobility-as-a-service or delivery drones was a challenge when many had just conventional bus service in mind. features content on transportation trends

One of the most popular parts of Phase 1 was the Ideas Board, which accompanied the public survey. Through the Ideas Board, people could submit, share, vote and comment on ideas for the future. Beyond driving interest, the Ideas Board constantly gave the project team material to work with and generated lots of media attention.

Ideas submissions were wide-ranging


In and around a diverse region

With 21 municipalities, one Electoral Area and one Treaty First Nation across 2,700 square kilometres, Metro Vancouver is big and diverse. Its 2.4 million residents live across seaside fishing villages, bustling metropolises, mountain slopes, and green suburbs. The project team visited each municipality, which was a daunting logistical exercise but well worth the effort. The Transport 2050 bus was a mainstay at the region’s farmers’ markets and community events throughout last summer.


Beyond the usual suspects

Like many public engagements, consulting with hard-to-reach groups can be challenging. But when you’re building a regional strategy that will affect people from all walks of life, inclusivity is crucial and requires a deliberate approach.

TransLink worked with community organizations to deliver specific workshops and events to low-income households, youth, and non-English speakers to ensure we had diverse representation. This also included setting up a Youth Advisory Council who delivered dialogues to their peers. The public survey was also provided in four different languages, which made it easier for diverse populations to participate.

To open up TransLink to new communities, the project team created the Transport 2050 Expo at the PNE Fair, Canada’s oldest amusement park and one of Metro Vancouver’s largest events. Over 150,000 people – many of whom don’t typically interact with TransLink – visited the Expo, which included a 3D-printed animated model and an immersive VR experience of the future of transportation.


Outcome: An engaged region!

Through these efforts, the project team counted nearly 160,000 conversations from 315 events and system pop-ups across 27 municipalities. Nearly 32,000 surveys and 4,000 ideas were submitted along with technical submissions from stakeholders. Overall participation roughly matched regional demographics and representation from youth, non-English speakers, New Canadians, people with disabilities, and those who rely on a car was excellent.

The next phase, launching in spring 2020, will ask the region to consider trade-offs between different approaches to the future. Finally, Phase 3 in fall 2020 will ask the public to weigh in on a draft strategy.

Upcoming CUTA Webinar

Interested in hearing from the experts who implemented Phase 1 of Transport 2050? Register for CUTA’s upcoming webinar on March 16, 1-2 PM ET.

Learn how TransLink set record-breaking engagement numbers, captured the region's attention, and consulted with typically underrepresented voices. As the project moves towards Phase 2 engagement this spring, find out how policy and public engagement are informing each other, and how a people-centred strategy for a diverse region is being advanced.

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