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

II. Project Definition

Identification of Study Area

The Interagency Transportation, Land Use, and Climate Change Working Group selected Cape Cod, Massachusetts as the location for the Pilot Project based on a number of factors, described below, that fit with the Working Group's goal and focus areas. As shown in Figure 3 , Cape Cod is located in Barnstable County in southeastern Massachusetts and encompasses 15 towns as well as several other landowners, including the NPS Cape Cod National Seashore, the FWS Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge, and the Massachusetts Military Reservation.

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.Description: Map of state of Massachusetts with Barnstable County highlighted.Description: Map of Cape Cod or Barnstable County labeled with 15 towns, major roads, and two areas represented in the legend: the Massachusetts Military Reservation and Cape Cod National Seashore.

Figure 3: Location of Cape Cod within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and map of the roadway network and government entities within Cape Cod. Source: MassGIS, PlaceMatters, and Placeways.

The Working Group selected Cape Cod for the Pilot Project due to the following factors:

Identification of Partners, Roles, Responsibilities, and Resources

The primary participants in the Pilot Project consisted of the project team, Planning Group, Technical Committee, and scenario planning consultant.

Project Team

The Volpe Center served as the coordinator, facilitator, and manager of the tasks and partnerships that comprised the Pilot Project. The Volpe Center is a fee-for-service research agency under the U.S. Department of Transportation's Research and Innovative Technology Administration. This role could be undertaken by other federal agencies or state or regional entities.

Sponsor Agencies

FHWA, NPS, and FWS contributed funding and staffing support to the Pilot Project in order to advance each agency's climate change adaptation and mitigation interests and activities and integrate their planning processes with those of other stakeholders. Outcomes of interest included the development of a shared transportation and land use scenario that would affect agency assets in the region, and the establishment of a successful and replicable process that could be distributed within these agencies and to their partners. Representatives from the sponsor agencies participated in the Pilot Project as members of the Planning Group but also guided its intended outputs and outcomes by recommending and requesting specific deliverables.

Regional Agencies

The Pilot Project's primary regional stakeholder agencies were the Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority, Cape Cod National Seashore, and the Cape Cod Commission, the region's land use planning and regulatory agency, which coordinates transportation planning activities under the guidance of the MPO. These agencies were responsible for providing certain necessary data, identifying and coordinating outreach to town representatives, and refining the selected scenario. These agencies will also lead efforts to integrate and implement elements of the refined scenario on Cape Cod.

Planning Group

The purpose of the Planning Group was to guide the development of the Pilot Project. The Planning Group comprised representatives from the sponsor agencies, regional agencies, and other federal agencies, including several from the Interagency Working Group as well as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Department of Defense.

The primary functions of the Planning Group, which were outlined in a charter, were:

The Planning Committee convened for monthly conference calls. The roster and charter for the Planning Group is included in Appendix A: Planning Group and Technical Committee Charters and Rosters.

Technical Committee

Based on Planning Group recommendations, individuals representing expertise in transportation, resource management, and coastal geology were asked to join a Technical Committee, which provided input and direction to the technical aspects of the project, including climate science and GHG reduction strategies. Although certain members of the Planning Group were also invited to join the Technical Committee, most Technical Committee members represented staff from state transportation, environment, and coastal management agencies, federal resource agencies, and scientific research institutions.

The primary functions of the Technical Committee, which were outlined in a charter, were:

Technical Committee members were convened on an as-needed basis. The roster and charter for the Technical Committee is included in Appendix A: Planning Group and Technical Committee Charters and Rosters.

During the Pilot Project, the Technical Committee was charged with two specific tasks:

  1. The development of localized estimates for SLR and storm surge impacts.
  2. The identification of transportation mitigation measures that could be applied to Cape Cod and quantification/estimation of the potential reduction in GHG emissions from the application of these measures to Cape Cod.

Section III presents a more in-depth discussion of these tasks.

Scenario Planning Consultant

To obtain the necessary expertise and software tools for use in the scenario planning process, the Planning Group developed a Request for Proposals (RFP), which the Volpe Center used to procure a scenario planning consultant. The final RFP is available in Appendix C: Request for Proposals. The RFP defined several roles for the consultant, including:

After reviewing a number of proposals, the Volpe Center selected a consultant team composed of representatives from PlaceMatters, Inc., Placeways, LLC, the University of Colorado Denver Center for Sustainable Infrastructure Systems, and the Transportation Research Center. Through its selection of this consultant team, the Pilot Project elected to use the software tool CommunityViz for scenario development. The tool had technical and interactive functionality that met the objectives of the Pilot Project. CommunityViz is a decision-support extension for ArcGIS, a group of geographic information system (GIS) software products that builds upon the information organization and presentation capabilities of GIS. CommunityViz enables users of a GIS to establish alternative futures, analyze their effects, and communicate results to stakeholders. The consultant team used CommunityViz in developing the preliminary scenarios, conducting the workshop, developing the refined scenario, and conducting an evaluation of the scenarios using performance indicators that linked transportation, land use, and population density data with VMT and associated GHG emissions.

Coordination with Existing Studies, Plans, and Processes

Various federal, state, regional, and local agencies and organizations have conducted studies related specifically to planning and climate change on Cape Cod specifically over the past decade. During the preliminary phases of the Pilot Project, the project team reviewed existing plans and studies that were identified through a scan of literature and based on recommendations from the Planning Group and Technical Committee. The project team reviewed relevant studies pertaining to climate change impacts nationally, regionally, and on Cape Cod. Local available plans included a Regional Policy Plan, Regional Transportation Plan, and Hazard Mitigation Plan. The literature review directly informed the expert elicitation on sea-level rise and climate change impacts and the development of GHG reduction strategies. The results of the team's literature review are available in Appendix B: Literature Review.

Identification of Outcomes

As a pilot project, the anticipated outcomes and outputs evolved over the course of the project as new challenges and opportunities were identified. This report and its accompanying materials, including the Technical Scenario Report, contain descriptions of the process and the main outputs, including a literature review, results of an expert elicitation, GHG emission reduction strategies, and the scenario planning model and database.

The project team worked with the FHWA, NPS, and FWS to help them consider how they could best integrate the approach of the Pilot Project into planning efforts nationally and in other regions. At the local and regional level, the project team worked with the Cape Cod National Seashore and Cape Cod Commission to incorporate the Pilot Project's specific outcomes into action plans to inform future planning efforts and project proposals.

An action plan identifies steps that can be taken to incorporate project outcomes or recommendations into existing and future plans and activities of an agency to ensure that those outcomes or recommendations are implemented. For example, the project team worked with the Cape Cod Commission to document the data, assumptions, and processes used to develop the Refined scenario and to detail opportunities to implement and build upon it at the regional and local levels. The action plan will ensure that the Refined scenario remains a viable long-term vision for the region by incorporating it into future land use, transportation, sustainability, and climate change plans. The Volpe Center also provided input for the Cape Cod National Seashore's Climate Friendly Parks Action Plan, which was developed concurrently with the Pilot Project and drew upon the GHG emission reduction strategies identified for the Pilot Project.

Observations and Recommendations

Initiating the Project

Observation 1: The Working Group selected Cape Cod to be the focus region for the Pilot Project. Therefore, the process was proposed to the region's regional planning agency, transit agency, and towns; those groups did not initiate the process. Although the federal role was vital in piloting the process followed on Cape Cod, federal involvement influenced the direction of the Pilot Project such that it was not solely based on regional needs and goals. For instance, local and regional stakeholders identified freshwater supply and wastewater treatment as more urgent constraints to growth than climate change adaptation and mitigation, though the latter were priorities of the project's federal sponsor agencies.

Observation 2: Cape Cod is subject to legislation that facilitates effective regional planning. In planning, there are states with legislation that requires comprehensive plans that are consistent horizontally and vertically and there are those without such legislation. Horizontal consistency requires that components within a single comprehensive plan be consistent (e.g., the land use plan provides zoning to accommodate housing types needed to meet the affordable housing plan's goals). Vertical consistency requires that regional and local plans, state plans, zoning regulations, and permitting be consistent. Massachusetts does not have state legislation that requires vertical consistency but there are regional exceptions, such as the towns within Barnstable County, which are required to have plans consistent with the Cape Cod Commission's regional comprehensive plan.[14] The Pilot Project benefited from working in a region that required local plans to be consistent with regional plans and transportation plans to be consistent with land use plans.

Establishing Project Goals

Observation 3: Since a transportation-focused work group initiated the Pilot Project and had pre-defined goals, other locally-important issues were not intended to be a primary focus. However, over the course of the project, stakeholders identified additional topics, such as water resources, as priority focus areas. Although water resources were considered indirectly as performance indicators in the scenario development process, they could have been used to constrain development and to better inform the process.

Defining Roles and Responsibilities

Observation 4: One of the most important aspects of the Pilot Project was the interagency nature of the project. Partners at all levels of government, including federal, state, regional, and local agencies, were intrinsically involved throughout the course of the project. The partners played a key role in developing the final output, and will ultimately be responsible for implementing actions identified. Keeping the various partners engaged was important, as each contributed essential data, tools, and resources.

Coordination with Existing Planning Processes

Observation 5: Regional, local, and agency-specific policy, transportation, and hazard mitigation plans are updated on a regular cycle, typically every five years. Plans for Cape Cod that had been recently updated were able to inform the Pilot Project, but the Pilot Project's results will not directly be incorporated into these plans until their next update.

Defining Desired Outputs of the Scenario Planning Process

Observation 6: Scenario planning can lead to a range of outputs, including the development of goals, the design of one preferred scenario, the provision of insights that inform the planning process, or the development of strategies, policies, and action items in pursuit of existing goals. In the case of the Pilot Project, building awareness around pressing climate change and transportation issues and identifying potential actions for investigating these issues in greater detail were just as important outputs as the final scenario. In fact, the final scenario will serve as a tool and resource for subsequent studies by stakeholder agencies on Cape Cod.

Updated: 12/23/2016
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