Scenario Planning Peer Workshop Report - Birmingham, Alabama
Appendix A. Small Group Breakouts and Participant Responses
This appendix provides a record of responses received during two small-group discussions held during the workshop. The first discussion helped attendees connect scenario planning to the Birmingham region and identify components from SPC's experiences that would be particularly relevant for the region. The second discussion provided an opportunity for participants to consider in detail how scenario planning could work in the region.
What are the top three ideas most relevant to the greater Birmingham region that you learned from SPC's presentation?
- The actual process, including live polling.
- Financing the plan. There is a need to be proactive in soliciting private and non-profit funding.
- Community involvement. Everyone needs to participate.
- End results should guide project selection process.
- Involve stakeholders early and often, especially through web-based participation.
- Final scenario can be a hybrid and a guideline. SPC merged two early scenarios.
- Need to be flexible to change.
- Collect the voice of the community.
- Choose relevant stakeholders.
- Obtain input from outlying counties.
- Foster regional participation to engage all residents.
- Use electronic polling.
- Use non-jargon and non-polarizing words.
- Get full engagement from the USDOT and private partners.
- Encourage consensus in small groups at meetings.
- Transit should be a regional issue, not just an issue for the core.
- Transit is a divisive social and racial issue for the Birmingham region.
- Bring all partners, advocates, and critics to the table.
- Determine where you want to focus the investment of all public dollars.
- Straw polls can help foster accountability.
- Encourage large-scale public participation.
- SPC and RPCGB share many similar characteristics.
- Show the cumulative impacts of projects.
- Involve policy-makers in the process.
- How to combine opposing solutions into a compromise.
- Baselines and current conditions need to be known.
What values might guide future transportation planning in the greater Birmingham region?
- Recognize and promote existing neighborhoods within Birmingham and surrounding communities.
- Support and use existing developed areas and infrastructure before expanding.
- Community gateways can help create a sense of place.
- Improve inclusiveness and equity of access to services.
- Improve safety in all of its forms.
- Evaluate existing communities, perhaps Pittsburgh, to provide a benchmark.
What are your expectations from RPCGB's regional plan development process?
- Ensure genuine outreach to the community.
- Maintain transparency.
- Have original, interesting public meetings.
- Be open and honest, inclusive, fair, objective, and informative.
- Finish on time and on budget.
- Raise the public's expectations and then exceed them.
- Build trust with and between stakeholders.
- Develop a realistic, implementable plan from the start.
- Talk to the private sector.
- Be transparent, well researched, and make sure conversations are documented.
- Keep an objective and non-biased perspective.
- The tough, institutional issues surrounding transit in greater Birmingham should be on the table from day one of the process.
- Don't think of transportation modes as separate; be multimodal instead of having modal-allegiance.
- Keep everybody on the same page at the same time and ensure coordination.
What would a successful scenario planning/regional transportation plan process in the greater Birmingham region look like for this group?
Recurring themes from tables:
- Ensure the final plan is easy to consult and understand and that it is a useful tool to guide transportation and development.
- The final plan should include genuine public input gathered at highly attended meetings across the region.
- The planning process should be fast and cost effective. The plan should not bankrupt RPCGB, and it should be produced quickly so that Greater Birmingham has not changed between the start of the process and publication of the plan.
- Produce a useful plan to guide policy-makers.
- Best case: the plan should be adopted as law by each jurisdiction.
- The plan has to have teeth.
- Problem is that elected officials move out with the elections.
- Highlight the good things that planning can bring.
- Identify real needs in the planning process.
- Inclusiveness should be a metric of success.
- Focus on planning strategies rather than the planning process.
- Avoid discussing specific projects during scenario planning, this can create unneeded controversy.
- Determine how the public sector will be involved.
- Genuine participation in the plan, buy-in from stakeholders and attendance at meetings.
- Incorporate positive and negative feedback.
- Diversity of stakeholders is a sign of success.
- Funding should not be a problem.
- Supplement existing staff with contractors or staff from other agencies.
- Take advantage of multiple venues across the region.
- Ensure a high level of participation from the public.
- Electronic polling to get a sense of the room.
- Need buy-in from ALDOT.
- Stakeholder support and understanding of the process, not just the ideas.
- GIS is a powerful tool.
- The final product should be conclusive.
- Timely completion and implementation of the plan.
- Obtain buy-in from all.
What issues should be brought together in the scenario planning process (e.g., economic development, fuel prices, disaster recovery, water conservation)?
- Address regional topography, which can create natural limits and barriers.
- Consider infrastructure costs, including maintenance and construction.
- Consider and address local geopolitics. There are local issues created by borders.
- Regional problems need regional funding.
- Lack of transit and the need for geographic coverage.
- Poor relationships between urban areas, suburbs, small towns, and rural areas.
- Cultural, economic, geographic, political, and jurisdictional concerns.
- Safety issues.
- Negative perception of density by many.
- Socioeconomic issues.
- Questions about where people can make a smart housing choice that is also a good investment.
- Quality of life, including access to good schools, etc.
- Fear and mistrust of gentrification brought about by making improvements.
- Assessment of existing infrastructure to guide investment.
- Redevelopment versus new development. Redevelopment can better utilize existing infrastructure.
- Changing demographics and an aging population.
- Include the young in the scenario planning process. They will have to live with the results longer.
- Congestion management.
- Access to healthcare and food.
- Fiscal sustainability.
As the Greater Birmingham region moves forward with scenario planning, who should be involved? Who would be the core stakeholders and local champions?
- Agriculture, forestry, mining.
- Alabama Roadbuilders Association.
- Daily transportation users.
- Planning commission.
- School superintendents.
- Utilities; e.g., gas, water, telecom, sewer.
- Elected officials.
- Freight community.
- Neighborhood groups.
- Public housing authorities.
- Social service agencies.
- State and Federal Government.
- Transit riders and commuters.
- Transit authority.
- Road builders and contractors.
- Religious community.
- Younger people.
Based on what you know about scenario planning so far, what resources do we already have for scenario planning and what resources would we need?
What we have:
- Modeling tools to use data.
- Electronic poll equipment.
- Contractors to supplement staff time.
- Interested locals.
- Need for regional planning.
- Time to plan. It is cost-effective to plan during a recession. This would facilitate implementing a plan when the economy picks up.
What we need:
- Cooperation, especially from landowners and ALDOT.
- Champions to help initiate and guide the process.
- A point person to represent the process.
- More data collection.
- A scope and set of goals.
- Commitment from stakeholders.
- Inventory of existing processes and plans.
What about scenario planning do you think would be most useful to the greater Birmingham region, and what about it might be challenging?
- Simply getting everybody into a room to talk about shared values and concerns will be very useful.
- Helping this group articulate their shared regional vision would help Greater Birmingham.
- Fostering genuine regionalism will also be useful.
- The certainty or predictability of transportation funding from Federal and State sources would be useful.
- The precedent of weak long-range plans could hinder the process.
- Getting started will be a challenge.
- Finding common ground between diverse people representing diverse interests and lifestyles will be challenging.