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New Trends in Transportation and Land Use Scenario Planning

Appendix C. Case Studies

Case Study 5: Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC)


The TJPDC provides local and regional planning assistance to the City of Charlottesville and five surrounding counties in central Virginia, which have a collective population of approximately 225,000. Also known as the tenth (of 21) Planning District Commissions, the TJPDC also houses the Charlottesville-Abermarle Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO).

Figure 1. Map of Virginia's planning districts. The TJPDC is located in the central area of the state.

Figure 1. Map of Virginia's planning districts. The TJPDC is located in the central area of the state.

The TJPDC undertook a two-year scenario planning study, the Jefferson Area Eastern Planning Initiative (EPI), in the early 2000s to better integrate land use and transportation planning in its rapidly growing northeastern suburbs. The study had three primary goals:

The study was primarily funded by a $518,000 grant from the FHWA Transportation and Community and System Preservation (TCSP) Pilot Program. In-kind support and additional funding was provided by the TJPDC, the Charlottesville-Abermarle MPO, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), and the University of Virginia School of Architecture. The project team, which was led by TJPDC staff, included private consultants and University of Virginia design experts.

The EPI has been highlighted in three previous FHWA-sponsored scenario planning workshops34 and the process has been well documented elsewhere.35 To avoid duplication of efforts, this case study primarily focuses on how TJPDC linked EPI to livability goals and quantified livability measures using a scenario planning approach. A brief background of the EPI process is provided below.

EPI Background

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the northeastern areas of the TJPDC region experienced rapid population growth accompanied by increasing congestion on the major state highways leading to Charlottesville. Some residents were concerned that the suburban development patterns threatened the region's quality of life. Residents were also debating a proposed four-lane highway bypass around Charlottesville. Opponents argued that the bypass would create more congestion and lead to urban sprawl. Alternative transportation options, such as transit, had been suggested, but it was unclear whether the region was dense enough to support a transit system.

At the same time, interest in sustainable development in the region was growing, due in part to a multi-year initiative led by the TJPDC to establish regional agreement on 16 sustainability policies, known as the Sustainability Accords.36 The Sustainability Accords raised the expectations for the Charlottesville-Abermarle MPO and other regional agencies to update planning practices, tools, and documents to reflect these principles. Towards this end, the TJPDC implemented the EPI to address transportation and land use issues in its rapidly growing northeastern area while promoting a regional vision that supported sustainable growth and quality of life.

Workshops and Scenario Development

To involve the public in developing a regional growth vision, TJPDC hosted a series of four public workshops over the course of the two-year EPI effort.37 The workshops focused public input on three major questions:

  1. How will we live? The input from this workshop helped the EPI team develop a regional GIS-based map consisting of existing and potential future place types, or community elements. The 40-acre place types were distinguished by specific measurements, diagrams, and photos describing relative levels of density, diversity (mix of land uses), and design (e.g., organization of street grids and open spaces).
  2. Where will we live? Participants in this workshop engaged in interactive mapping games that the EPI study team used to develop and evaluate several alternative future land use and transportation scenarios.
  3. How will we get there? During this workshop, the EPI team led the participants to develop a regional map and an action agenda to advance the future vision for integrated land use and transportation.38

During the workshops, TJPDC specifically asked the public to offer suggestions on how to improve the region's livability, with a particular focus on achieving the sustainability accords. At the neighborhood scale, community members identified several desired characteristics conducive to livable communities, including development of community focal points and mixed-used areas, improvement of pedestrian access, and better use of open space.39 At the regional scale, participants helped the study team to generate three distinctly different future development scenarios (described below) and evaluate their impacts relative to the sustainability principles,

Figure 2. Town Centers Scenario.40

Figure 2. Town Centers Scenario.

Scenario Analysis: Development and Use of CorPlan

Because the travel demand model used in the early 2000s by VDOT was not sensitive to alternative transportation or non-motorized modes, TJPDC identified the need to develop a new tool that could better assess the livability- and sustainability-related outcomes of different scenarios. This new tool, called Community-Oriented Regional Planning (CorPlan), was a GIS-based land use scenario development and analysis tool designed to provide alternative socio-economic data and trip tables for the travel demand model. It supplemented, but did not replace, the traditional travel model.

CorPlan allows planners and community members to generate regional land use scenarios that are built upon existing or potential local development patterns and then to evaluate them based on criteria that reflect local values.41 The goal of developing CorPlan for the EPI was to produce results that would be understandable and technically acceptable to VDOT and the general public. CorPlan inputs can be viewed and adjusted in an accessible Excel-based spreadsheet format linked to a GIS application.42

CorPlan data was initially developed by combining the somewhat small amounts of GIS data available at the time with an analysis of aerial maps and field research. Using maps created by the public during the workshops, TJPDC translated the public's growth preferences into the CorPlan model. CorPlan then generated outputs to analyze scenario trade-offs according to the chosen indicators (See Table 1). In Table 1, the italicized figures under the Dispersed scenario column indicate that this scenario scored lowest on every measure as compared to other scenarios. These low scores indicate the public’s growth preferences in rejecting a dispersed, low-density pattern in favor of clustered enhanced communities along major corridors and key crossroads. The numbers under the ‘Dispersed,’ ‘Town Centers,’ ‘CoreL,’ and ‘CoreM’ scenarios show the comparison of each scenario’s land use and transportation networks with each of the measures in the left-hand column. For example, only 55 percent of land cover in the Dispersed scenario was comprised of farms and forests, whereas this figure was 64 percent in the Town Centers scenario. In the Dispersed scenario, it was estimated that about 155 billion gallons of gas would be consumed on an annual basis, whereas that figure was 121 billion gallons in the Town Centers scenario. Outputs were also entered into VDOT's travel demand model for each scenario to assess land use and transportation impacts. The scenarios and trade-offs were then presented back to the public for feedback.

Table 1. Scenario Analysis. 43

Measure / Sustainability Accord


Town Ctr



Bold-faced measures correspond to the Sustainability Accord measures
Red/Italics — Comparatively lowest

Pct. Farms and Forests
Retain peer_exchange/habitat/farms/forests





Pct. Developed
Retain peer_exchange/habitat/farms/forests





Pct. Living in Clustered Communities
Optimize use/cluster/human scale





Pct. Non-auto Trips
Transportation Alternatives





Annual Gallons Gas Consumed (billions)
Conserve Energy





Pct. Travel Congested
Employment/Education Access





Water Quality and Quantity
Water Quality and Quantity





To develop indicators that measured scenario trade-offs, the TJPDC identified factors that could be easily measured using CorPlan and the travel demand model and could be expressed in ways that reflected the region's goals as enumerated in the Sustainability Accords. The TJPDC also considered indicators that would be understandable and meaningful to the public. For example, the travel demand model produced estimates of vehicle miles traveled (VMT) for each scenario. In order to make the technical, abstract concept of VMT more meaningful to the public, the TJPDC developed estimates of indicators that were directly related to VMT, such as gallons of gas consumed and automobile emissions produced.

Ultimately, the preferred scenario incorporated the 'best' elements of each scenario, focusing development throughout the region in transit-oriented, walkable communities connected by logically designed networks of local streets and boulevards. Each locality received enough development to support its tax base, but the overall "footprint" of development was reduced to preserve open space and promote cleaner air and water. The possibility for more public-private development of roadway and transit networks was also increased.

The final vision document identified several key success factors that formed the basis for a regional agenda that furthered the preferred growth vision in concrete ways, such as preservation of rural areas and promotion of development in existing towns and city centers.44

Next Steps

Since the completion of the EPI, the region has moved forward on many of the key success factors. All of the member localities have updated their comprehensive plans, regulatory tools, or special area plans to incorporate the concepts of sustainability and livability. For example, rural Nelson County used the community elements concepts and place type diagrams developed during the EPI as part of its comprehensive plan update. UnJAM 2035, the Charlottesville-Abermarle MPO's updated long-range transportation plan, also established stronger policies to support compact, sustainable, urban, suburban, and rural development patterns.45

The TJPDC and Renaissance Planning Group, a consulting firm, have updated and refined the CorPlan model through subsequent planning initiatives in Charlottesville and across the country. Currently, the model is being adjusted to increase its capacity to evaluate sustainability-related indicators such as energy efficiency and peak oil conditions.46

The TJPDC has also collaborated with VDOT to update the regional travel demand model, including increasing its capacity to model the potential for nonmotorized modes, estimate travel demand in rural areas, and consider financial conditions such as reduced public funding availability. Ultimately, the TJPDC plans to use the updated travel demand model in tandem with CorPlan and other types of tools (e.g., GIS data) for better transportation and land use analysis.

Success Factors

The TJPDC reported the following success factors in using a scenario planning process to develop the EPI:


The TJPDC reported the following challenges in using a scenario planning process to develop the EPI:

Key Documentation

Annotated Bibliography on Health and Physical Activity in Transportation Planning (April 2004), which includes a description of CorPlan development:

Description of CorPlan from the TCSP:

TCSP case study on the EPI (September 2001):

FHWA scenario planning workshops featuring TJPDC as a peer speaker (August 2006 and June 2004):

TJPDC EPI Building Livable Communities brochure, EPI Policy Report and EPI Technical Report:


33 More information on the Sustainability Accords is available at

34 The TJPDC was a peer speaker at the Chico, California, workshop in 2006 and the Honolulu, Hawaii, workshop in 2004. In addition, the EPI was profiled as a case study in the FHWA scenario planning peer workshop for Burlington, VT (2007). For more information, see,, and

35 See the key documentation section of this report.

36 The Sustainability Accords were later adopted by local governments, public agencies and private sector partners; the accords are available at:

37 To guide and facilitate the workshops, TJPDC created a 35-member advisory committee comprised of elected officials, business leaders, residents, a VDOT representative, and others. The committee met nine times over the study period. In addition, TJPDC was assisted by the University of Virginia School of Architecture.

38 Questions are taken from TCSP case study on the EPI effort. The case study is available at (back)

39 The public was also asked to validate place types, such as 'urban mixed-use,' that the EPI project team had developed. To obtain public input, TJPDC printed different place types on large posters, which were accompanied by pictures that displayed examples of each place type from citizens' neighborhoods. Workshop participants used markers to draw on the posters and indicate growth and development preferences. After receiving public input, TJPDC refined and enhanced the types for use in the modeling process.

40 Graphic from EPI brochure at

41 More information on CorPlan is available at

42 CorPlan is available for download at

43 Table available at

44 Additional information on the success factors is available at

45 UnJAM 2035 is available at

46 For more information about applications of CorPlan in other communities, see:

Updated: 10/20/2015
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