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Scenario Planning Peer Workshop Report - Newark, New Jersey

III. Presentation and Discussion Highlights

Welcome and Introduction

Representatives from NJTPA, FHWA, FTA, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provided introductory remarks to welcome participants to the workshop.

Mary K. Murphy, Executive Director of NJTPA, opened the workshop by welcoming participants, speakers, and peers. Ms. Murphy noted that many partners are involved in NJTPA's scenario planning effort and were involved in organizing the workshop, including FHWA, FTA, HUD, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Rutgers University.

Ernie Blais, FHWA New Jersey Division Administrator, provided an overview of the FHWA New Jersey Division Office, located in Trenton, New Jersey, and introduced Division Office staff who were present at the workshop.

Marilyn Shazor, Regional Administrator for FTA's Region 2 (which serves New York and New Jersey), introduced FTA staff attending the workshop. Ms. Shazor noted the importance of visioning exercises, particularly for public sector agencies. Visioning allows agencies to bring stakeholders together to discuss views of their communities' futures. Public agencies are increasingly using visioning to promote consensus around goals and strategies. Scenario planning can incorporate visioning techniques and thus help agency staff work with other stakeholders to achieve better transportation planning outcomes.

Jennifer Cribbs, Lead Sustainability Officer for HUD Region 2 (which serves New York and New Jersey) noted the importance of integration and collaboration in regional planning and scenario planning efforts. She also recognized project partners, including representatives from FHWA, FTA, and EPA, who have been involved in the Region 2 work.

Federal Overview of Scenario Planning

Rae Keasler, Transportation Specialist with FHWA, and Jeff Price, Community Planner with FTA, provided an overview of scenario planning and the resources provided by FHWA and FTA to assist agencies in using this approach.

Scenario planning involves developing a variety of scenarios, each telling a different "story" about the future, to engage stakeholders in conversation about shared values, goals, and strategies for a particular community or region. Stakeholders, particularly members of the public, are actively engaged throughout scenario planning to help create and evaluate scenarios. Ultimately, the approach helps demonstrate how transportation, land use, and other decisions made today can affect future outcomes.

There are many benefits of scenario planning. The approach can help agencies engage in a more informed and strategic transportation decision-making process. Exercises used in conjunction with scenario planning, such as charrettes or chip games, can help stakeholders better understand and visualize future transportation and land use patterns. Scenario planning software programs can also help develop and assess scenarios, visualize the differences between alternatives, and encourage stakeholder participation.[6]

FHWA and FTA's scenario planning program, part of the Transportation Planning Capacity Building (TPCB) program, provides resources and tools to assist agencies in implementing scenario planning.[7] [8] The program supports transportation decision-makers and others to resolve the increasingly complex issues they face when addressing transportation needs in their communities.

The FHWA-FTA scenario planning program offers a variety of trainings and resources for scenario planning practitioners, including workshops, webinars, and case studies highlighting scenario planning best practices. Additionally, program staff developed a guidebook that highlights six suggested phases for implementing the approach (Figure 2).[9] These phases serve as the basis for many agencies' approaches to scenario planning, including NJTPA's. For example, NJTPA's public workshops will address the six phases by focusing sequentially on discovery, visioning, goal-setting, and implementation.

Figure 3. FHWA Six-Phase Scenario Planning Framework. Click image for detailed description.
Figure 3: Scenario Planning process steps (graphic courtesy of FHWA).

NJTPA Overview and Approach to Scenario Planning

Mary Ameen and Zenobia Fields, both of NJTPA, provided an introduction to NJTPA and its scenario planning activities.[10]

In 2009, NJTPA adopted its most recent long-range RTP: Plan 2035: Regional Transportation Plan for Northern New Jersey.[11] NJTPA is adopting a scenario planning approach to update the RTP. This approach will include visioning activities, outreach to engage partners and the public, and identification of action steps to address diverse regional needs. NJTPA will conduct three different types of public workshops as part of its scenario planning efforts:

Beginning in winter 2013, NJTPA and TNJ will conduct 18 discovery workshops, one in each of the 13 counties and five cities across northern New Jersey that comprise TNJ's planning region. These workshops will focus on the questions of "where are we now?" and "where are we headed?" Workshop attendees will participate in the chip game and shared values exercise to provide input about their visions for future regional development. Feedback from the workshops will help develop scenarios used in later workshops.

The visioning and goal setting workshops will focus on the question of "where do we want to be?" Workshops will take place in six locations to promote a more regional perspective. During these workshops, participants will discuss trade-offs between up to five different scenarios. NJTPA will also facilitate discussions to highlight what the trade-offs may mean for communities, current fiscal resources, open space preservation, and access and mobility, among other factors.

These workshops will help inform development of the RTP. They will also help NJTPA coordinate the RTP with the RPSD to establish a regional framework that promotes sustainability and community development through housing, employment, and transportation strategies.

Together North Jersey Overview

Jon Carnegie, Project Director for TNJ and Executive Director of the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers University, provided an overview of TNJ. TNJ is comprised of a steering committee[12] and standing committees on economic competitiveness and workforce development, livability and environment, and society and community. TNJ also includes affiliated partnership groups.

In 2011, TNJ received a $5 million HUD Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant. TNJ will use this funding to support several initiatives, including the RPSD and capacity-building technical assistance to assist communities in implementing sustainable strategies. TNJ will also fund 15 local demonstration projects through its Local Demonstration Project Program (LDP).[13] The LDP provides sustainability-focused technical assistance for areas or corridors with existing or future transit systems.

Shared Values Exercise

An important focus of this workshop was testing a pilot version of the shared values exercise, which will be used during NJTPA's discovery workshops. The exercise allows stakeholders to articulate values they hold for their communities and share feedback in real-time using electronic keypad polling technology. In presenting the pilot exercise, TNJ and NJTPA sought to solicit feedback from the peers and others to better tailor and refine the exercise for the discovery workshops.

During the shared values exercise, workshop participants used handheld keypads to log responses to a variety of questions related to topic areas such as personal growth and well-being, education, community, and nature. For example, participants were asked about the importance of neighborhood school quality, access to higher education, and opportunities for lifelong learning. A video screen displayed responses for all workshop attendees to view.

The second part of the shared values exercise focused on community planning goals. Participants used the keypads to submit feedback on the visions they have for their communities, responding to questions related to preservation of open space, environmental protection, and other issues. For example, participants were asked if they believed it was important to promote farmland preservation. Responses were compiled in real-time using the polling technology and displayed for all attendees to view.

Peer Presentations

Another important focus of the workshop was providing opportunities for the three peers to share examples of their agencies' involvement in scenario planning, best practices, and feedback for NJTPA to consider in its upcoming scenario planning efforts. Highlights from the peer presentations are provided below.


SPC is the southwestern Pennsylvania regional planning agency serving 2.66 million residents in 10 counties and 548 municipalities. SPC recently completed the 2040 Transportation and Development Plan for Southwestern Pennsylvania, an update to the SPC 2035 long-range transportation plan.[14] Adopted in June 2011, SPC's 2040 Plan integrated transportation, land use, and economic development and was developed using a scenario planning approach. As part of this approach, SPC conducted workshops with approximately 400 participants representing municipal, county, State, and Federal agencies, as well as school districts, community groups, economic development agencies, and transportation providers. By using a scenario planning approach, SPC sought to:

SPC discussed its initial policy statements with partners to ensure they reflected stakeholders' views. The agency also conducted a series of meetings that included keypad polling and break-out groups to encourage consensus-building and discussions. During the meetings, SPC presented the draft statements and asked participants to rank the policies. Simple charts, including value ladders that tallied participants' preferences, were used to visually depict participants' choices (Figure 3).

This image shows a value ladder that SPC used to gauge stakeholder feedback in the initial stages of its scenario planning process. The value ladder is a vertical diagram with number of responding participants (from 0 to 250) listed on the "Y" axis. Different shapes on the ladder represent stakeholders' preferences. For example, about 75 participants preferred policies that promoted the agricultural industry while more than 200 stakeholders preferred policies that supported business retention and expansion.

Figure 3: SPC used simple charts,
like the value ladder shown here,
to gauge stakeholder feedback in the
initial stages of its scenario planning

The results of these meetings helped SPC frame scenarios (SPC referenced prior research to determine the most appropriate number of scenarios to develop and how to keep scenarios focused on key topics).[15]

SPC initially developed several "sketch" scenarios focused on different development options including dispersed/fringe, infill and redevelopment, compact, transit-oriented, center, cluster, satellite, and corridor. For each scenario, SPC identified development density, mix, and primary transportation elements. For example, the corridor sketch scenario was characterized by a medium- to high-development density, low to moderate separation of buildings, and transportation elements that included automobiles, mass transit, trucks, and air and water travel. SPC then held a second round of meetings with partners to evaluate whether any of the sketch scenarios should be combined. From stakeholder feedback, SPC developed four blended scenarios (trend, dispersed/fringe, compact, and corridor).

SPC then used INDEX, a scenario planning software tool,[16] to evaluate the scenarios. With INDEX, SPC created scenario maps to show what policy decisions would look like if they were implemented and included accompanying scores to highlight what the maps represented. SPC released these maps during a one-night, web-based public meeting during which participants at 11 different locations voted on their preferred scenarios. The final scenario was a hybrid that combined the initially created compact and corridor scenarios.

To support implementation of the preferred scenario, SPC developed the Livability through Smart Transportation Program, which links transportation improvements to land use development strategies. SPC's 2035 and 2040 plans also aim to sustainably integrate transportation, land use, and economic development, serving as guidance for future regional investments.

Kermit Wies

CMAP is the MPO for seven counties in northeastern Illinois.[17] The region is about 4,000 square miles and includes approximately 9 million residents and more than 280 municipalities and 1,200 units of government. Mr. Wies presented on CMAP's scenario planning efforts and use of visualization techniques to develop and promote GO TO 2040, the agency's regional comprehensive plan published in 2010 and the region's first comprehensive plan since 1909.[18] To develop the GO TO 2040 plan, CMAP:

This image shows two bubble diagrams that indicate that while the CMAP region currently has 8.6 million residents today, it expects to have 11 million residents by 2040. The relative size of the circles helps indicate the difference in population.

Figure 4: CMAP used simple bubble diagrams to convey
information about its scenarios. The size of the
circles helps to convey growth expected for the region.

In addition, CMAP developed an online, interactive scenario planning tool based on customized MetroQuest software.[19] Using the tool, people could develop their own scenarios based on various policy choices and trade-offs (Figure 5). Urban designers and architects throughout the area also volunteered their time and expertise to create renderings of local landmarks so that stakeholders would recognize how new development could potentially fit in to the existing landscape.

This image shows a screenshot of CMAP's interactive, online scenario planning tool. The screenshot displays the different choices available to tool users (e.g., if development should be low density, follow current patterns, be moderately compact, or highly compact), a map displaying land uses in the region, and a map legend.

Figure 5: CMAP's interactive, online scenario planning tool allowed stakeholders to test and compare scenarios.

CMAP recognized that, when dealing with potentially unreceptive audiences or environments, it is important to focus on one or two key themes to draw out the core message of scenarios and bring a level of optimism and simplicity to the effort. CMAP also suggested that it is important to encourage partnerships to build and sustain collaboration.

To encourage implementation of the preferred scenario and the plan at the community level, CMAP offers planning support to municipalities interested in developing local land use plans consistent with the goals of GO TO 2040. Also, as an example of championing the plan's regional policies, CMAP established the Regional Tax Policy Task Force to make recommendations about State and local tax policy matters discussed in GO TO 2040. In addition, CMAP encouraged investments in major capital projects that aligned with the plan. Following plan adoption, CMAP reorganized its agency structure to better fit the tasks connected to implementing the plan. To measure progress going forward, CMAP produces an annual implementation report to note activities that occurred over the past year and benchmarks progress toward achieving quantitative targets.

Gabe Epperson

EU is a public-private partnership that promotes quality growth while supporting transportation, open space preservation, housing, infrastructure, and air quality considerations. Since 1997, EU has brought together local stakeholders to learn about what they envision for Utah's future and developed plans and strategies that reflect these perspectives. EU has used scenario planning throughout its efforts to create scenarios that stem from stakeholders' visions and consider factors such as land use, transportation, and economic development.

Mr. Epperson described EU's scenario planning efforts using the example of Cache Valley, an area in Utah that is growing rapidly. Cache Valley worked with EU to apply its scenario planning process. Given the very high level of expected growth, it was important for Cache Valley residents to think about what they envision for their community, particularly how they would like the region to grow, where and how residents will live, and what will be conserved.

As part of the Cache Valley effort, EU developed a baseline scenario for 2040 to show stakeholders what would happen if the same trends continued without change. EU also developed maps and charts to demonstrate information and conditions so that stakeholders could better understand what future development might look like. EU used current zoning and building and parcel data to build the baseline scenario and to project these trends to evaluate future housing and employment opportunities.

Using this baseline scenario, EU facilitated a series of public events and workshops to obtain feedback. EU emphasized its desire to have broad input from stakeholders to build a vision. Having maps and other visual products also helped EU to demonstrate how the feedback would be used to develop the scenarios. To encourage public participation at these events, EU developed a chip game (NJTPA is now working to adapt this exercise to the northern New Jersey region).

Mr. Epperson suggested the following considerations for NJTPA as it continues with its scenario planning effort:

This image shows examples of the maps that were provided to participants during EU's chips game as well as examples of how the map were translated into electronic versions that could be widely distributed. The maps contain stickers indicating stakeholders' preferred land uses.

Figure 6: EU used participant feedback provided on maps supplied during its public workshop to inform scenarios.

Using information obtained from the workshops, EU developed a series of digitized maps and then analyzed different trends (e.g., housing, employment, land use) to better understand stakeholders' preferences. From the maps and trends analysis, EU created two scenarios: Town Centers/Clustering and Urban Centers/Rural Edge. To further its analyses, EU also established performance measures. For example, to evaluate the impacts of new housing created in the scenarios, EU considered the average cost of new housing, housing density and mix, and residential energy consumption. Prior to finalizing the scenarios, EU provided them back to stakeholders for additional feedback and review. Overall, EU's focus on integrating public input as part of the scenario planning process helped to encourage stakeholder support and resulted in an effective scenario planning effort.

This image shows participants at the scenario planning workshop. Several people are gathered around a table while one person explains how to use the chips game map.

Participants at the FHWA-FTA scenario planning
workshop discuss NJTPA's chip game.

Chip Game

Following the peer presentations, NJTPA presented a condensed version of the chip game. The game consists of an aerial basemap, which serves as the game board, as well as a variety of chip, which represent different types of development, including single-use residential, single-use commercial, single-use industrial, and mixed use. During the game, participants identify what they envision for the area's future by placing their chips in places where they believe a particular kind of development would be most appropriate. Each chip is sized to scale so that participants have a better understanding of the development involved. Chips represent the total projected growth for development over the next 25 years.

This image shows a scenario planning basemap used during exercises that took place during the NJTPA workshop. The basemap is a large, color-coded map showing general features of the NJTPA region including the transportation network and land uses. People gathered around the table gesture to different areas of the map.

Participants test the chip game.

The pilot version of the game focused on Somerset County, New Jersey. In the next 25 years, Somerset County is projected to have an increase of 19,000 housing units and 75,000 jobs. When these projections are combined with those for surrounding counties, the number of expected housing units increases to 49,000 and the number of employment opportunities increases to 130,000. NJTPA asked workshop participants to consider these projections when identifying opportunities and locations for future new and infill development.

During the pilot, participants worked together in teams of approximately ten to allocate their chips and discuss the areas where they saw the possibility of development in the next 25 years. NJTPA staff served as facilitators for the teams and also documented the teams' final outcomes.

For the discovery workshops, NJTPA plans to tailor each chip game to be specific to the particular community hosting the workshop. Also, NJTPA staff intend to provide an overview of the community's population, density, housing and employment statistics, as well as areas of open space and preserved land prior to having participants start the game. This will allow participants to better understand the context of the area involved. NJPTA will also review what the chips represent. Participants will be allowed to "trade in" chips; for example, in exchange for a large-lot residential development chips, participants could receive several smaller-lot density development chips.

After playing the game, workshop participants reconvened to discuss their perspectives and suggest potential ways to improve the exercise. Highlights from the discussion are presented below:

Roundtable Discussions

During the second day of the workshop, NJTPA staff and TNJ representatives convened with the peers to engage in roundtable discussions focused on several topics of interest to NJTPA and TNJ. Through these discussions, NJTPA and TNJ obtained insight about how to best structure upcoming scenario planning workshops and identify next steps. Important lessons learned that emerged from these conversations included: acknowledge past work, tell a compelling story through the scenarios, and link stakeholder input to scenarios and implementation steps. Details from the roundtable discussions are presented below.

Roundtable #1: Building and Assessing Scenarios

The first roundtable provided an open forum to discuss insights about developing scenarios and share feedback about the chip game and shared values exercise. Participants also focused on the important factors to consider when building scenarios.

Public Outreach

Chip Game

Shared Values Exercise

Building Scenarios

Roundtable #2: Next Steps

The second roundtable focused on the steps needed after scenario evaluation as well as strategies that could foster scenario implementation and support translating outcomes to achieve results.

[6] Examples include Community Viz ( , MetroQuest (, and INDEX (

[7] For more information about FHWA and FTA's Scenario Planning Program, please visit:

[8] To access TPCB Program website, please visit:

[9] To view FHWA and FTA's Scenario Planning Guidebook, please visit:

[10] To learn more about NJTPA and its efforts, please visit:

[11] To view NJTPA's most recent long-range RTP, please visit:

[12] In addition to NJTPA, steering committee members include: Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, and Union counties; the cities of Elizabeth, Newark, Jersey City, New Brunswick, and Paterson; the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University; Building One New Jersey / New Jersey Regional Coalition; Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey; Institute for Sustainability at the College of New Jersey; New Jersey Future; New Jersey Office for Planning Advocacy/Department of State; NJ Transit; Plan Smart New Jersey; and the Regional Plan Association.

[13] To learn more about the LDP, please visit:

[14] To learn more about the "2040 Transportation and Development Plan for Southwestern Pennsylvania," please visit:

[15] For example, SPC looked closely at the report titled "Integrating Land Use Issues into Transportation Planning: Scenario Planning," by Keith Bartholomew, Assistant Professor, College of Architecture and Planning, University of Utah.FHWA sponsored this research. To read the report, please visit:

[16] To learn more about INDEX, please visit:\\tool\\index.

[17] CMAP's region covers the counties of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, and Will in northeastern Illinois.

[18] To learn more about the "GO TO 2040" plan, please visit:

[19] MetroQuest is a web-based tool often used in support of scenario planning efforts. Agencies can MetroQuest to solicit feedback on participants' visions for their communities. To learn more about MetroQuest, visit

Updated: 05/14/2014
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