The Internet can be a great way to supplement public meetings and get more people to participate in registering their opinions and preferences for planning alternatives. (Of course there are equity issues but that's a discussion for another piece.)
The image below is an example of a question asked on the online visual preference survey used by Midtown Columbus Georgia. Results from the survey, gathered both in public meetings and online, are being used as a foundation for guiding the future planning recommendations for Midtown Columbus. The visual preference survey is a technique in which people view different images and vote on their preferred choice or the concepts they would like to see applied to a specific project.
The Midtown Columbus survey, which took approximately 30 minutes to complete, contained a range of potential development scenarios, parking options, and streetscape improvements for participants to evaluate on a sliding scale of negative 10 to positive 10. Participants were asked to consider How appropriate or inappropriate is the image you are seeing now and in the future for Midtown Columbus?
In addition to gathering people's general feelings about visual preferences that can be used for visioning and master planning, the visual preference technique can be used to obtain feedback on specific design choices for projects. In Contra Costa County, California, city planners asked residents (in addition to public meetings) to voice their opinon online for four alternative pedestrian bridge designs for the Horse Trail Overcrossing of Treat Boulevard. Over 550 individuals indicated their perference online, and designers are currently working on the preferred choice.