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Dots & Dashes: Piecing Together Transit's Future

People playing the Dots and Dashes Board game

Creators: Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission

Creator Affiliation: FTA Public Transportation Participation (PTP) Pilot Grant Pro

Brief Description: Dots & Dashes is an interactive board game that is used at public planning meetings to engage stakeholders in long range transit planning. Groups of three to six people use game pieces with monetary values to choose the priorities of transit projects.

Extended Description: The intent of this project is to bring a "bottom-up" style of public engagement to the Delaware Valley residents and stakeholders for their long range public transit planning project. The project was funded by FTA's Public Transportation Participation Program (PTP). A board game was developed to both review group preferences as well as teach its participants about negotiations and constraints within the planning process.

Dots and Dashes was played at a number of different settings, including public outreach meetings and universities. ZIP codes collected at the meetings proved that a large sampling throughout the region was represented. This was in part due to the extensive promotion of the game. The DVRPC sent out postcard mailings and faxes; they developed and published the game website and advertised at various committees, street fairs and conferences.

The groups for the game were selected at random from the people in attendance of the meeting. This was done to encourage different points of views to be expressed and discussed. The players took turns choosing their preferred transit investment and placing the dot or dash on the game board. The game board consists of a large plastic coated blow-up map of the Delaware Valley Region with its transit lines visible. The dot or dash, cut outs with adhesive, are placed on the board and have an associated monetary value (represented in 2030 dollars). Once all the game pieces are placed on the board negotiations to meet the budget constraints began. This required the groups to choose priorities within their original plan.

The board allows the participants to see an aerial view of the region it is planning for and visualize the locations of impact. It also includes blank pages and markers for players to sketch their ideas to help convince other players of their ideas.

After the meetings the results, written up by the board players, were aggregated by DVRPC and informed their Long Range Vision Transit project. The results represented a clear top 5 corridor projects and top 3 station projects. These projects have now been listed by DVRPC as priority capital projects.

Dots and Dashes was developed with the possibility of having further reaches than the Delaware Valley. The map is intended to be adapted for any region wishing to participate in the game playing outreach program. The scale of the map can also be changed and the dots and dashes could represent smaller projects and possibly extend past just transit projects.

Time Frame: Continuing Project

Methods Used: Public Workshops

Tools Used:

  • Dots and Dashes Board Game

Results: DVRPC was able to identify priority projects for their long-range plan through the Dots and Dashes game results. Participants learned planning concepts, specifically the need to organize their projects based on budgetary constraints.

Who to contact now: Gregory R. Krykewycz, PP, AICP

Link to website:

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