MetroQuest: Building Smart Cities with Public Engagement

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Smart cities are about people. But that was not always well-understood. Much of the early smart city dialog focused on the technology: automation, sensors, and data collection. It is now recognized that the entire tech needs to ultimately connect with and improve the wellbeing of all the people who live, work, and play in cities. The “human” piece is both critical and unique for each city because quality of life means different things to different people.

Citizens must drive the vision for their smart cities, which is why community engagement is often regulatory-mandated. Luckily, public engagement has also become smarter. While there will always be town hall meetings, government agencies can no longer make multi-billion-dollar technology and infrastructure investments based on what 150 citizens have said at five public meetings. Trust and transparency are built on active public participation across broad citizen demographics.

To engage thousands of people, smart planners and public participation practitioners are going where citizens are: online! “If a smart city wants to engage thousands of citizens, to collect informed input and put a technology plan into action with broad public support, then it’s important to select the right online engagement tools,” says Mike Walsh, President of MetroQuest. Smart city planning is complex. Simple multiple-choice surveys that are text based don’t convey the nuances. Addressing the need, MetroQuest provides a SaaS solution with subscription-based licensing, enabling users to set-up and launch their own visually interactive MetroQuest Sites (surveys) to support their public engagement objectives.

MetroQuest is optimized to engage as many people as possible to collect informed input on city planning projects. With MetroQuest, agencies can engage thousands of people, while obtaining proven data and actionable results in support of their planning and investment decisions. Smart cities simply select 5 of 14 MetroQuest screen templates to gather input on visual preferences, scenarios, tradeoffs, priorities, projects, or budgeting to meet their unique project needs. MetroQuest makes online public engagement fast, fun, educational, and interactive to ensure public survey results are actionable. It can support multiple languages and the sites are compatible with any device–laptops, tablets, smartphones, and kiosks.

With MetroQuest, cities can engage thousands of people across a broad demographic, while obtaining informed input and actionable results in support of their planning and investment decisions

“If you design your survey to be visually engaging, keep it to five minutes (rather than 15), and ensure it’s responsive to mobile phones and tablets, you can expect participation rates to jump 600 percent! Engaging thousands brings credibility to your results,” advices Walsh.

In one instance, Clearwater Florida launched a project named the “Complete Streets Project.” The objectives were to enhance safety, comfort, and function for all citizens, especially pedestrians and cyclists. One of the primary goals of the project was to lay the groundwork for data needed for the full citywide plan. MetroQuest was used to engage nearly 1,500 residents online, providing more than 28,000 data points, including almost 2,500 spatial inputs that highlighted key opportunities and concerns.

Looking to the future, the team at MetroQuest is excited to leverage the efficiencies of its offering further to help cities become smart about engagement and drive the cost-per-participant even lower. “This, along with continued product enhancements will position MetroQuest to further penetrate the global market for smart engagement technologies in key sectors such as planning, transportation, and others to make cities smarter for people,” concludes Walsh.


Vancouver, BC

Mike Walsh, President

Established in 1997, MetroQuest is a public engagement software that is optimized for actionable outcomes. The company empowers planning firms and agencies of all sizes to engage hundreds of people across a broad demographic while achieving quantifiable data and actionable results in support of their investment and planning decisions. The company’s software is utilized by people to gain knowledge about sophisticated projects and to provide informed input. The effectiveness and quality of this data is a crucial element to the success of public engagement initiatives, and have a long term effect on agency plans, and their investment decisions. MetroQuest is offered as a SaaS providing with subscription-based licensing