How do you understand and measure mobility preferences in a rural municipality? The best option is to ask the locals who daily experience the infrastructure. But in sparsely populated areas, traditional community meetings are less effective due to low population density and long distances that locals have to cover to get to a meeting place. Yet, planners still need to obtain precise information about the current state of the mobility network, tap into the local knowledge, and get suggestions for improvements.
To effectively engage the local population and gather valuable data for a municipal mobility plan, Luxplan opted for digitizing citizen engagement with Maptionnaire. Its interactive map-based surveys engaged more people than would have been possible with in-person means and provided planners with digitized data for working on the mobility plan. Additionally, Luxplan realized that digital engagement increases commitment and more residents take interest in subsequent participation activities.
Designing a Mobility Network in a Rural Municipality in Luxembourg
Luxembourg is a small country in the heart of Europe with a population of about 640,000 people, and nevertheless, the country has mobility problems like everywhere else. There isa lot of congestion, particularly due to cross-border traffic, as well as high dependency on cars.
At the same time, the government puts a lot of effort into promoting sustainable mobility: for example, the National Mobility Plan for 2035 addresses these issues. Also, Luxembourg is the first country to introduce free public transport for everyone. Yet there are still areas that require improvements of their local mobility networks, and Luxplan, an engineering consultancy firm within the LSC Engineering Group, works with one of such municipalities.
The municipality invited Luxplan to create a mobility plan that would solve a set of problems identified by the College of Aldermen: speed hazards, unattractiveness of public transport, issues with pedestrian safety, and lack of accessibility.
But the main challenge is that the municipality is in a rural area. So, there is a lack of infrastructure and connectivity with the main parts of the country. There is also a behavioral preference towards driving. How do you tackle citizen engagement in rural planning?
Managing Citizen Engagement in Rural Areas
In this particular case, Luxplan wanted to engage citizens and really understand their position, needs, and priorities, and, based on this knowledge, to propose a tailor-made solution for the municipality. Usually, in-person meetings are organized to poll locals about their mobility preferences. Not that many residents would learn about this meet-up, and even fewer will show up. Although those in-person conversations are extremely valuable, they are usually not representative enough.
Maptionnaire Citizen Engagement Platform helped Luxplan reimagine this process by moving public participation and data collection stages to a digital space. Luxplan designed an engagement survey that combined traditional and map-based elements which residents could fill in and contribute to infrastructure solutions from the comfort of their homes — instead of heading to a meeting.
Luxplan’s engagement strategy in the mobility project
First, the planners published informational booklets to help residents learn more about possible solutions and sustainable mobility concepts. Although residents couldn’t yet influence the process, they were introduced to the main goals of the project, which is an important part of the engagement strategy.
Then, Luxplan set up a mobility survey with Maptionnaire Platform. It was followed up by a participatory workshop, where the planners could discuss the engagement results face-to-face with some of the residents.
We chose Maptionnaire because the platform enhances traditional surveys with participatory and mapping aspects. Maptionnaire made it very easy to identify a specific place.
Ariane Scheffer, Project Manager for Traffic and Mobility at Luxplan
Designing and Implementing a Mobility Survey in Maptionnaire
Maptionnaire helped Luxplan elevate traditional mobility surveys to a new level — by adding map-based engagement to the mix. Participatory mapping helps planners to understand specific areas and their problems, which can be especially difficult in rural areas. With Maptionnaire, every answer (for example, routes or intersections used when commuting) is placed on a digital map, and follow-up questions can be asked about the level of satisfaction or possible improvements.
Luxplan collaborated closely with the municipality when creating the survey. They’ve jointly planned its content —what questions they ask and which format is the most suitable (e.g., a map-based or an open-ended question). Maptionnaire’s editor offers more than 20 different question types, so the survey is really flexible to your needs. The planners and the administration also defined together the length of the questionnaire — it was crucial to make it compact so that it doesn’t take too much time to fill in.
Importantly, they’ve defined together who the target audience is. Who do they want to reach and how to engage most of the population? Which language do they speak? How to promote the questionnaire?This defines both the structure of the survey and the way it is advertised to the locals.
The survey consisted of three thematic sections. The first one was a mobility survey, in which respondents were asked about the usage of and satisfaction with various transportation modes. This helps planners to understand the status quo and the needs of local residents.For example, residents could mark up to six places where they usually go. Foreach answer, there is a pop-up question about the mode of transport they use to get to this destination and how often they visit this location.
The second part — the most important one — is related to the diagnostics and development of the network. Respondents could locate their favorite places and the areas that need improvement. It was also crucial for Luxplan to enable residents to share their own ideas for solutions that can be implemented in the new infrastructure.
Here the mapping capacities of Maptionnaire were really fundamental.
Ariane Scheffer, Project Manager for Traffic and Mobility at Luxplan
Ariane Scheffer points out that although the focus was on the areas that need improvements, it was also crucial to ask residents about their favorite places. First, to have positive aspects in the questionnaire. Second, planners managed to identify a few places where a relevant mobility solution — for example, a low-traffic area — is already at work and satisfies residents. In turn, it will be easier to introduce more low-traffic areas since there is already a precedent for that.
The third part of the survey asked for socio-demographic indicators. The questions were quite standard — about age, gender, and professional and educational background — and similar to other surveys conducted by Luxplan. All of these socio-demographic questions were made facultative because some people won’t be comfortable sharing sensitive information. Especially in sparsely populated areas where it becomes much easier to identify the exact person even when the survey is anonymous.
When it comes to outreach, the administration of the municipality did most of the work: they sent out newsletters, put the information on their website, organized a workshop to explain the value of soft mobility and public transport, and drew attention to the project. To begin with, Luxplan didn’t expect high participation — in rural areas, it is exceptionally challenging to reach people. But in the end, the locals were really motivated and participated in the survey.
Analyzing the Results of Citizen Engagement
The planning team from Luxplan got useful data from the engagement survey. Thanks to the socio-demographic data, they could validate the representativeness of the results by comparing them with national statistics data. Which was quite satisfactory and also numerous since a big percentage of the residents participated.
By filtering engagement results by demographic parameters, the planners could observe, for example, if elderly people experience more problems with their commute. Or if people without a driving license are the only ones who are not satisfied with the accessibility of the public transport network.
The planners also evaluated the satisfaction rate for different modes of transport, which guides their prioritization of the upcoming work. This data will also be used in the future for monitoring the success of the improvements — it’s easy to compare how the satisfaction has changed if the municipality decides for a follow-up survey.
WordClouds, generated automatically from open-ended comments within Maptionnaire, helped Luxplan identify what the emerging trends, sentiments, and problems are.
Most importantly, having the exact GIS coordinates of all spots marked by the respondents helped the planners identify the exact problematic areas of the current network. They could even investigate the area on the spot and decide which interventions can improve the situation. For example, it appeared that only a small section of existing infrastructure needs radical improvements — not the whole system.
But overall, residents clearly wished for safer streets, better security for pedestrians, and accessibility. The comprehensive solution proposed by Luxplan included the introduction of speed limitations in residential areas, a hierarchy of road networks within the municipality, an improvement of the public transport and cycling infrastructures. The planners prepared a list with all the potential measures, identifying their location, feasibility, efficiency, compliance with national standards, and budget estimation.
Luxplan also explored how public transport is used in the municipality. It appears that the connections are inadequate and few, and that people are not really using them.Probably, the residents struggle finding an alternative for some of their routes. Although the data is discouraging at first glance, it indicates a window of opportunities for the municipality — namely, to improve public transport and ensure that residents know about its availability.
In this respect, the accumulated engagement data could also be useful for negotiating with the public transport office — if the municipality decides to expand the public transportation network. The engagement results revealed that there are several important streams that should be covered by adequate public transport infrastructure.
Although enlarging the public transportation network wasn’t seen as the key solution for the area,it was really valuable to have this engagement data on our hands to go and speak with the governmental bodies and argue for the introduction of new routes.
Ariane Scheffer, Project Manager for Traffic and Mobility at Luxplan
Assessing the Impact of Digital Engagement
As a next engagement step, Luxplan organized an in-person workshop. As mentioned, those gatherings are commonly not numerous, but this time more people showed up than usual — and Maptionnaire’s survey played a crucial role in it. Organizing a pre-planning survey created a sense of shared responsibility and ignited more interest among the locals. Hence they wanted to contribute more and participate in the workshop.
The engagement workshop made use of the data received from the Maptionnaire survey. It functioned as a perfect icebreaker! For example, since the facilitators already knew which areas were the most problematic, they directed the group discussions around these spots. They also presented the preliminary results at the workshop, and participants could explain the results from their standpoint.This is a great example of using digital community engagement tools in the in-person setting.
Using Maptionnaire for Shared Mobility at Luxplan
In the second case study that Luxplan shared with us, the company used Maptionnaire for its internal sustainable mobility initiative. Around 300 people work at Luxplan, and the project’s goal was to make their transit more sustainable and effective by introducing a carpooling scheme.
Before Maptionnaire, Luxplan tested a traditional survey for matching drivers with passengers. But this information was really difficult to visualize without a map and understand which routes people actually take.
Maptionnaire changed the setup: in a map-based survey, drivers and passengers could indicate their routes and pick-up points. The information was then available on an interactive map — Maptionnaire’s built-in feature. Employees could see the responses and match with a colleague who could give them a lift.
The new carpooling arrangement was piloted at a company’s Christmas lunch: the event took place far away from the office and there was no public transportation available.Carpooling was an obvious option to limit the number of car rides. Given the short duration of the survey (it was released only two days before the event), Luxplan saw a good output — already 16 rides were shared. And that’s just a start!
- Luxplan, a civil engineering company from Luxembourg, found Maptionnaire’s map-based surveys highly effective for engaging residents in a mobility planning project. The platform combined both traditional and geolocated surveys and supplied the planners with precise and versatile data about residents’ experiences, mobility patterns, and wishes.
- Maptionnaire helped Luxplan to engage more residents than usual: digital community engagement made it easier to reach out to locals, especially in this rural planning project. As a result, more people learned about the project and attended follow-up meetings where the planners presented engagement results and possible solutions.
- The citizen engagement platform provided Luxplan with precise and impactful data. It fed directly into proposals to ensure accessible and safe infrastructure, while the data was also used for negotiating with public transport authorities.
- Maptionnaire is a versatile solution adaptable to many use cases: Luxplan used its interactive mapping features to set up a carpooling system within the company.