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A Framework for Considering Climate Change in Transportation and Land Use Scenario Planning

IV. Scenario Development

This section details what land use and transportation scenarios were developed and the process by which they were developed. The Pilot Project resulted in the development of 10 scenarios, consisting of the following:

  1. Trend
  2. Dispersed - Standard Transportation
  3. Dispersed - Enhanced Transportation
  4. Targeted - Standard Transportation
  5. Targeted - Enhanced Transportation

All the scenarios involved the placement of population and employment based on the growth assumptions described in the previous section. Placement involved the use of digital "chips," or map point features attributed and symbolized with various sizes to represent quantities of households and employment (see Figure 4). In workshop exercises and in developing the refined scenario, participants placed the chips themselves, while in the preliminary scenarios, the scenario planning consultant placed chips in a mostly automated fashion with a subsequent review by the project team. Any reference to chips in this report regards the digital representations of households and employment as shown in Figure 4. For all scenarios, placement was not permitted within the Cape Cod National Seashore boundaries, reflecting the assumption that such land will not be available for development.

In addition to population and employment placement, the workshop and refined scenario involved the placement of new transit stops and the ability to change the frequency, or headways, of the service.

Description: Software window showing the size and types of green housing and red employment chips that participants could choose to place on the map.

Figure 4: The CommunityViz Style Palette contained different sized "chips" that represented numbers of dwelling units and employees, or new jobs, available for participants to place during the Pilot Project's scenario planning workshop in November 2010. Source: PlaceMatters and Placeways.

Preliminary Scenarios

The consultant team prepared five preliminary scenarios to demonstrate the possible range of future scenarios. The five scenarios consisted of the Trend scenario, which continued historic growth patterns into the future, and four that were combinations of two levels of development intensity and two levels of transportation investment (see Figure 5). The two levels of development intensity were intended to showcase "extreme" scenarios: dispersed/even growth and intense/focused growth. The Dispersed scenario followed a spread-out distribution of development, using a random allocation. The Targeted scenario allocated new development to existing high density residential areas and commercial and industrial centers, based on town Land Use Vision Maps (LUVMs)[22] where they existed and zoning where they did not. The change in housing density from existing (2008) conditions for these three scenarios is shown in Figure 6.

The two levels of transportation, shown in Figure 7, consisted of:

Description: Diagram showing how five scenarios were developed from the baseline, or existing, scenario. First, choices in development patternresulted in dispersed, trend, or targeted scenarios and then choices in transit, either standard or enhanced, resulted in two scenarios for each the targeted and dispersed develpment scenarios.

Figure 5: Visual matrix of transportation choices crossed with development intensity. Source: PlaceMatters and Placeways.

Description: Map showing household density by percentage change from baseline for the trend scenario; most of the increased density occurs in the Upper and Mid Cape, slightly dispersed but still along road corridors. Description: Map showing household density by percentage change from baseline for the trend scenario; the new housing is fairly widely and evenly distributed but the main density increases occur in the Upper Cape and Outer Cape.
Description: Map showing household density by percentage change from baseline for the trend scenario; there are very few areas of new housing, concentrated in existing urban areas, and all represent a high increase in density. Description: Legend to maps, showing the National Seashore, military base, vulnerable areas to sea level rise, and percentage change from baseline in density of households, ranging from no change to over 200 percent in 25 percent increments.

Figure 6: Trend, Dispersed, and Targeted Scenarios - Change in Density from Baseline Household Density. Source: PlaceMatters and Placeways.

Description: Map of the location and modal type (bus, ferry, multimodal, or rail) of the planned transit for 2030. Description: Map of the location and modal type (bus only) of the proposed additional bus stops for the enhanced dispersed scenario based on population distribution under that scenario.
Description: Map of the location and modal type (bus only) of the proposed additional bus stops for the enhanced targeted scenario based on population distribution under that scenario. Description: Legend for the modal or transit type: bus, ferry, multimodal, and rail.

Figure 7: Standard and Enhanced Transit Scenarios. Source: PlaceMatters and Placeways.

Workshop Scenarios

The one-and-a-half day workshop was held on November 15 and 16, 2010. The purposes of the workshop were to facilitate discussion on the Pilot Project's focus among the multiple agencies, introduce the concept of scenario planning and the software tool, and develop future transportation and land use scenarios that took into account change considerations that could then be consolidated into one proposed vision.

Representation and Involvement

The primary audience for the scenario planning workshops consisted of town and regional administrative and planning staff. As these individuals will ultimately be responsible for integrating the outcomes of the scenario planning pilot into long range planning efforts, their involvement in the workshops was vital to the success of the project's process. The project team worked closely with the Cape Cod Commission to identify administrators, assistant administrators, and planners from each of Cape Cod's fifteen towns, and to invite them to participate in the workshops. Other local participants included staff from the MPOs on Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket, and a representative from the Massachusetts Military Reservation, a military base that occupies a large area of land in the Upper Cape sub-region.

Members of both the Planning Group and Technical Committee were also invited to attend the workshop, though only those members whose work related directly to Cape Cod were asked to contribute to scenario development (for instance, Cape Cod National Seashore planning staff). Federal and state agency representatives from both groups were asked to attend as observers and resources in case questions arose related to federal or state support.

Final representation at the workshop was as follows:

The Pilot Project elected not to host a public meeting to develop a scenario as, given the size of the region and the scope of the project, targeting town staff was determined to be a more effective approach. However, a public involvement approach may be preferable in a smaller region or as a step in an iterative scenario development process.

Use of Technology

For the stakeholder workshop, the consultant team provided four laptop computers loaded with CommunityViz and relevant baseline data (population density, land use, transportation system, and conservation, water resource protection, historic preservation, and climate change vulnerable areas). Each laptop was also connected to a novel display and interaction system developed by PlaceMatters' Decision Lab, which allowed participants to view and interact with CommunityViz as though it were a tabletop map (see Figure 8).

Description: Photograph of seven workshop participants sitting and standing around a table on to which a map is projected. One person is using the infrared pen to place a chip and there is a smaller photograph showing a close-up of the pen and map interface.

Figure 8: Workshop participants navigated CommunityViz and allocated projected new housing and employment units in CommunityViz using infrared pens, a Nintendo Wii remote, and a vertically-mounted projector. Source: Volpe Center.

Workshop Agenda

The workshop occurred over one and a half days. The full agenda can be found in Appendix H: Scenario Planning Workshop Agenda. During the first day, representatives from the project's federal and regional partner agencies expressed their interest in the project and their expectations for its outcomes. Experts from the Technical Committee also made brief presentations on issues central to the project and Cape Cod, including GHG emissions, SLR and climate change impacts, VMT, transit ridership, and, as mentioned previously, water resources, which were not originally a focus area but were included as performance indicators.

The scenario planning consultant then provided an overview of the scenario planning process and presented the preliminary scenarios that it developed prior to the workshop. The consultant also conducted several polling exercises to establish demographic information about attendees and to identify the issues of highest priority on Cape Cod (see Figure 9 and Table 2). These issues matched the performance indicators described in Section III. Regional stakeholders identified preservation of (1) water resources and (2) critical habitat and conservation areas as the top two issues for Cape Cod; the four climate change issues identified by the Pilot Project's initiators ranked third through sixth in the polling exercise. The top two issues have significant and immediate implications for the placement of development and the polling results indicate a need for Cape Cod to work to integrate water resource considerations more thoroughly into future iterations of the scenario planning model and process.

Description: Pie chart of poll results, described in Table 2.

Figure 9: Results of polling exercise to identify the issues of highest priority on Cape Cod; poll administered during November 2010 Scenario Planning Workshop; participants were asked to identify their top two issues. Source: PlaceMatters and Placeways.

Table 2: Results of polling exercise

Priority Percent of participants
Water Quality and Supply
Avoid Development in Critical Habitat and Conservation Areas
Reduce Traffic and VMT
Avoid Development in Vulnerable Areas
Reduce Cape's GHG Emissions and Air Pollution
Increase Access to Transit and Non-motorized Vehicles
Access to Services and Employment
Protect Integrity of Historical Preservation Areas

Following these introductory presentations, local stakeholders divided into four groups based on their region of Cape Cod (see Figure 10) and used the scenario planning software, CommunityViz, to identify areas requiring protection, areas able to accommodate growth in housing and employment, and transportation needs and challenges (see Figure 11). This exercise was conducted as a primer to the second day's activities, and emphasized discussion about important protection, development, and transportation issues over the use of technology-based scenario planning tools.

Description: Map of Cape Cod, showing the four regions of Cape Cod (Outer Cape, Lower Cape, Mid Cape, and Upper Cape) and Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket.

Figure 10: During the first day of the scenario planning workshop, local stakeholders divided into breakout groups based on the four sub-regions of Cape Cod. Representatives from Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard were assigned to the Mid Cape and Upper Cape respectively based on the primary ferry service routes (Woods Hole to Martha's Vineyard and Hyannis to Nantucket). Source: Volpe Center.

Description: Map of Cape Cod, with colorful markings showing conservation areas, residential areas, economic development areas, and transportation with call-out descriptions. Map intended to represent the discussion but not provide specific details. For more information, contact the Volpe Center Library at 617-494-2306, 617-494-2117, or

Figure 11: Resulting mark-up of regional map from the first day's breakout groups by subregion of Cape Cod. Green indicates conservation areas, red major areas of development, and blue important transit needs. Source: PlaceMatters and Placeways.

On the workshop's second day, stakeholders reconvened and, following a brief recap of the activities of the first day, divided into breakout groups with mixed sub-regional representation in order to develop scenarios for the entire region. A representative from the consultant team joined each breakout group to operate CommunityViz and facilitate the exercise. First, the groups were asked to allocate 28,000 new households and 16,500 jobs, projections developed for 2030 based on the 2000 U.S. Census projection. Participants were able to view various data layers within the GIS interface, including areas vulnerable to SLR and other climate change impacts, water resources areas, historic preservation areas, high priority conservation areas, transit and highway routes, and existing population and employment density. Participants used CommunityViz tools to allocate new household and job chips throughout the region and keep track of chips remaining. Figure 12 and Figure 13 shows the resulting chip distribution for all four of the breakout groups at the Workshop.

Description: Legend with symbology for the size and types of green housing and red employment chips that participants could choose to place on the map, the sea level rise layer, the FEMA flood layer, hydrology, the military base, and the National Seashore.

Figure 12: Legend for the Workshop Group maps.

Group DGroup BGroup AGroup CDescription: Four maps representing the distribution of housing (green) and employment (red) chips through Cape Cod. There was quite a bit of variation, with Group C having the most concentrated distribution.

Figure 13 Workshop group maps, displaying the placed housing (green) and employment (red) "chips."

Once each breakout group allocated all of the projected new housing units and jobs, they were asked to modify Cape Cod's existing transit system by adjusting the frequency of existing routes and designating new stops based on allocations of new population and employment.

After each of these exercises, where time permitted, the CommunityViz model was refreshed so that participants could evaluate the indicator performance of the decisions they had made. The resulting maps from each of the breakout groups can be found in the accompanying Technical Scenario Report.

Following the development of the breakout group scenarios, one facilitator met with representatives from each of the breakout groups to consolidate the four scenarios into one refined scenario, described in more detail below. During this time, the rest of the workshop participants discussed the list of potential GHG emission measures described in Section III. The results of this discussion are described below. The workshop concluded with a presentation by the refined scenario group and a discussion of anticipated next steps.

Incorporation of Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation

The workshop scenario development accounted for climate change mitigation and adaptation in several ways. Participants were able to impact GHG emissions through the scenario planning exercise using CommunityViz by making predictions about the future location of new households, jobs, and transit stops. These predictions resulted in changes to the 5Ds and consequently in changes to VMT and then GHG emissions. For adaptation, participants were able to view the layer identifying areas on Cape Cod vulnerable to the anticipated effects of climate change, as discussed in Section III, as they placed new housing and employment units.

Additionally, workshop participants discussed and voted on the list of potential GHG emission measures described in Section III. The list was used as a starting point to facilitate discussions among town planners and regional stakeholders on what actions to pursue. These measures were not integrated directly into the refined scenario but nonetheless spurred discussion among a diverse group of stakeholders. While representatives from each breakout group met to consolidate their scenarios, the other workshop participants discussed the proposed strategies, noting challenges and opportunities for each. Feedback on specific strategy categories included:

Following the general discussion of the proposed strategies, participants voted for the top two strategies that they believed would be the most effective and feasible for Cape Cod. Five different polls were taken: one for the Cape Cod region as a whole, and one each for the Upper-, Mid-, Lower-, and Outer Cape sub-regions.[24] Appendix G: Priority Transportation Strategies for Cape Cod presents the polling results for all areas.

Public transportation strategies ranked highest in each poll, with land use strategies scoring second highest for all regions except the Outer Cape. While ITS strategies did not receive any votes for the region as a whole, it did score high in the Outer and Upper Cape sub-regions. Alternative fuel strategies did not receive votes in any of the polls.

As the group discussion and polling results demonstrate, regional and local governments on Cape Cod will need to pursue a range of GHG reduction strategies, each tailored to the specific context of the local community.

Refined Scenario

A refined scenario, which drew upon the results of the scenario planning workshop, was produced through a series of meetings and exchanges involving staff from the Cape Cod Commission, Cape Cod National Seashore, and Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority, and town planners, from November 2010 through March 2011. The meetings to develop the refined scenario consisted of:

In recognition that the conditions on and data for Cape Cod are evolving, participants involved in developing the refined scenario agreed that the refined scenario will be used as the foundation to inform further conversations and changes in the future, and should not be considered an unalterable scenario.

Figure 14 shows the change in household density in the Refined scenario from existing (2008) conditions. For transit, the same assumptions as for the Standard transit scenario (see Figure 7) were used, but with a service frequency of 30 minutes, an increase from the existing 60 minutes.

Description: Map showing household density by percentage change from baseline for the refined scenario; the new housing is high density and concentrated in several places with existing or proposed developed throughout Cape Cod. Description: Legend to map, showing the National Seashore, military base, vulnerable areas to sea level rise, and percentage change from baseline in density of households, ranging from no change to over 200 percent in 25 percent increments.

Figure 14: Refined Scenario, Change in Density from Baseline Household Density. Source: PlaceMatters and Placeways.

Observations and Recommendations

Use of Technology

Observation 14: The scenario planning workshop utilized innovative technology designed to allow participants to view data and interact directly with the software planning tool. However, due to the complexity of the technology, it required additional setup time and also required some unconventional facility characteristics, including high ceilings and no halogen light bulbs.[25] More importantly to the scenario planning process, most workshop participants faced a learning curve to operate the software using the infrared pens, and the innovative and novel technology partially overshadowed the process.

Recommendation: Evaluate whether and how to use advanced technology to allow participants to build a scenario during a workshop. As part of this decision, weigh the implications for time allocation and process against the ability to display volumes of data easily, quickly, and dynamically. Furthermore, computerized tools will likely be necessary for the analysis of any scenario and can provide benefits, but it may be useful to consider a mix of computerized and manual processes.

Regardless of the role that technology will play, introducing the technology, data, and process via webinar prior to a workshop would familiarize participants ahead of time and save time, avoid confusion, and make participants more informed and effective in their actions, as discussed in Observation 13. Other aspects of the scenario planning process are also possible to conduct via webinar, but given the rich conversations that took place during the Pilot Project's stakeholder workshop, at least one in-person meeting is preferable.

Workshop Exercises

Designing the scenario planning workshop is a critical step in the process. It is important to consider the amount of time needed for participants to effectively complete each exercise and whether scheduling additional follow up workshops would helpful.

Observation 15: During the scenario planning exercise, the breakout groups allocated housing and jobs and proposed changes to regional transit facilities. Although the model included a number of data layers that could have informed the allocations, participants did not have time to review or reference them. In addition, each group was only able to evaluate the impact that their choices had on the various performance indicators once during the exercise due to the amount of time needed to refresh the indicators. This made it difficult for participants to understand the relationship between the placement of jobs, housing and transit facilities, and the consequences of those decisions, as captured by the performance indicators.

Observation 16: The architects of the breakout and final scenarios for the Pilot Project were mostly town and regional planners. Some of these participants found it difficult to freely place chips outside the context of existing zoning regulations and planning proposals. As a result, much of the projected growth was allocated within existing zoning parameters.

Observation 17: The rules of the scenario planning exercise asked participants to place all 28,000 new housing units and 16,500 new employment units within rigid time bounds. Participants in certain breakout groups were rushed to finish on time. Participants noted that due to the sizes of the chips (with the largest chip size only allocating 1,000 units at a time) it was difficult to fully allocate all the chips in the allotted time.

Observation 18: The scenario development was set up so that one subgroup of workshop participants was responsible for developing a final scenario based on the scenarios developed by each of the four breakout groups. However, it was impossible for the subgroup to thoroughly consolidate the allocations of growth assigned in the breakout groups into a final scenario due to time constraints and the way the breakout groups' information was presented. Instead, the group assigned growth to a new map using the breakout scenarios as references. As a result, the growth allocations the breakout groups made did not directly translate into the final scenario, which required additional input from stakeholders after the workshop.

Observation 19: Because estimates for the emission reduction potential of mitigation measures at the local level do not exist for Cape Cod, consideration of mitigation was limited to making changes in density, land use placement, and transit access during the scenario planning exercise and a discussion of potential GHG emissions reduction measures.

Observation 20: During the scenario development, local participants noted in passing that several existing population and employment centers located within vulnerable areas are dependent on existing state and/or federal transportation infrastructure. Time was not built into the workshop agenda to discuss the implications of this relationship, nor were the appropriate state and/or federal representatives present to discuss the availability of resources or assistance for fortification, rehabilitation, or relocation of these assets.

Updated: 03/27/2014
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