Office of Planning, Environment, & Realty (HEP)
During the peer exchange's closing session, Rae Keasler of FHWA offered remarks that referenced the preceding sessions and provided overarching insights. A group of panelists, including Richard Brockmyer of the Utah Transit Authority, Alisa Fine of the USDOT Volpe Center, Dean Lookingbill of the Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council, and Philip Schaffner of MnDOT, also provided perspectives on the exchange. Following the peer panel, all peer exchange participants had opportunities to discuss the presentations and ask questions.
The closing session discussion underscored the fact that scenario planning is a flexible approach with many different possible interpretations. Across all of these interpretations, however, the process emphasizes developing scenarios that tell "stories" to which stakeholders can easily relate and understand. Further, the process uses scenarios as mechanisms to foster discussion and dialogue. Participants also noted the importance of outreach, transparency, and early stakeholder involvement throughout scenario planning, as well as the development of effective indicators to track scenario performance and sound implementation strategies to carry a process forward to next steps.
Because "scenario planning" may have different interpretations, it is important that all products resulting from the process, including scenarios themselves, performance measures, indicators, and implementation steps, are translated into language and values to which people can relate. Without tangible connections to people's lives, stakeholders may not necessarily consider scenario planning to be meaningful. To encourage strong awareness of scenario planning at a broad level, it can be important to involve stakeholders through different mechanisms that could include visioning exercises, interactive polling activities, workshops, meetings, community events, and collaboration with agency partners.
Scenario planning's end goals can include developing resilient policies and strategies that allow a community, region, or study area to be successful in uncertain circumstances. However, these strategies cannot be implemented without thoroughly developed and tested scenarios. Overall, robust scenarios result from comprehensive scoping activities, consideration of uncertain outcomes and risk, incorporation of stakeholder feedback, and leveraging of agency partnerships and existing efforts.
These insights and others will help inform peers as they continue current scenario planning efforts and begin new ones. Practitioners new to scenario planning can also adapt the lessons learned and success factors discussed during the event to shape their own processes. Moreover, the insights that emerged from the event will help further evolve the scenario planning state-of-the-practice. As a result of the discussions, FHWA and FTA plan to refine their scenario planning program to better meet the needs of scenario planning practitioners at all levels of experience across the country.