Office of Planning, Environment, & Realty (HEP)
March 3, 2005
Scenario Planning for Better Transportation Decision Making
Scenario planning provides a framework for evaluating and testing future alternatives related to the various forces that impact communities. The Federal Highway Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, and other federal agencies are actively promoting its use by state agencies, metropolitan planning organizations, and local governments to enhance the transportation decision-making process involving environmental- and growth-related concerns. This live, two-hour national broadcast featured scenario planning leaders and practitioners who discussed how land-based scenario planning might fit within the context of the metropolitan and statewide transportation planning and decision-making processes. The panel examined lessons learned from three initiatives underway in California, Idaho, and Utah. In addition, the panel discussed the range of available software tools and technical assistance, as well as future research needs. This program included an interactive question and answer session between the panel and national audience. Questions or comments are still being addressed by the panel and other audience members for the next two weeks through CTE's "After The Program" Web-based discussion forum.
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FHWA Scenario Planning Guidebook (October 2010). The purpose of this guidebook is to assist transportation agencies with carrying out a scenario planning process from start to finish. Transportation agencies can use the guidebook as a framework to develop a scenario planning approach tailored to their needs. The guidebook provides detailed information on the six key phases that agencies are likely to encounter when implementing a scenario planning process. For each phase, the guidebook provides considerations, steps, examples, and strategies to help guide agencies in managing and implementing a comprehensive scenario planning effort. While this guidebook focuses on regional scenario planning, it recognizes that scenario planning is flexible and can be used to address many different issues at multiple scales, such as at the statewide level. (PDF, 1.29MB).
New Trends in Transportation and Land Use Scenario Planning (April, 2010) This report summarizes important findings from a literature review on scenario planning processes and a scan of stakeholders. It also presents case studies on innovative, 'next generation' scenario planning efforts. The project team defined next generation scenario planning efforts as those that seek to capture a broader range of issues and challenges than previously considered in transportation and land use scenario creation and analysis. The purpose of the report is to identify key issues and practices to provide direction for future scenario planning workshops. (PDF, 1.1MB)
Public Roads Magazine Article: Scenario Planning A New Paradigm in Transportation Decision Making (September 2005) This new paradigm for decisionmaking is helping communities and States prepare for the future.
FHWA Scenario Planning Webinar (April 2012)
A Scenario Planning Webinar was conducted on April 5, 2012, which shared information on the Denver Regional Council of Government’s (DRCOG’s) previous scenario planning work with a national audience, including the agency’s use of innovative visualization and public engagement techniques. The webinar also explored how DRCOG intends to use several new scenario and land use analysis tools as part of a scenario planning approach to update its regional plan, Metro Vision 2040. Finally, the webinar provided a forum for DRCOG to engage in dialogue with a panel of five nationally recognized experts on scenario planning. highlighted the advanced phases of scenario planning. (PDF, 70KB)
FHWA Advanced Phases Webinar (August 2011)
A Scenario Planning Webinar was conducted on August 17, 2011, that highlighted the advanced phases of scenario planning. It outlined some suggested steps in how agencies can create and evaluate scenarios; additionally, it provided examples of how agencies around the country have created scenarios, assessed their impacts, and used scenarios as a framework for action planning. The webinar featured peer speakers from the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission in Dayton, Ohio, and the Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG) in California. (PDF, 94KB)
FHWA Getting Started with Scenario Planning Webinar Summary (March 2011). A Scenario Planning Webinar was conducted on March 1, 2011, that examined how transportation agencies can get started to use scenario planning. The webinar highlighted some of the key initial steps that are involved with scenario planning and also outlined how scenario planning can be incorporated as part of an agency's existing long-range planning processes. It featured peer speakers from the Denver Regional Council of Governments in Colorado and the Metropolitan Transportation Planning Organization for the Gainesville, Florida, Urbanized Area. (PDF, 104 KB)
FHWA Introduction to Scenario Planning Webinar (September 2010). This summary describes a 90-minute webinar held in September 2010 on scenario planning. The purposes of the webinar were to: 1) to provide an overview of transportation scenario planning; 2) to share the experience of an agency that implemented scenario planning; and 3) to gauge interest in additional scenario planning training opportunities. Webinar speakers included representations from the FHWA Office of Planning, the FHWA Resource Center, the U.S. Department of Transportation Volpe Center, and the Chittenden County Metropolitan Planning Organization (CCMPO) in Burlington, Vermont. Topics included an overview of FHWA's concept of scenario planning and the FHWA Scenario Planning Guidebook, as well as a background on tools and resources to implement the technique and information on CCMPO's experience using scenario planning as part of a 50-year planning study. (PDF, 285KB).
FHWA and FTA National Scenario Planning Peer Exchange Report - July 8-10, 2012 New: 02/28/2013 This report summarizes a national scenario planning peer exchange jointly sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). The exchange was held as part of the Transportation Research Board (TRB) Summer Meeting in Irvine, California, on July 8-10, 2012. Participants in the event shared examples of scenario planning processes across the United States as well as best practices, challenges, and success factors. Participants included representatives from Federal agencies, State departments of transportation, metropolitan planning organizations, councils of government, transit agencies, and private sector organizations. The peer exchange provided a unique opportunity to discuss the state-of-the-practice of scenario planning across the nation. (PDF, 1.7Mb)
Denver, Colorado (June, 2012) New: 02/21/2013. This report summarizes the proceedings of a two-day scenario planning workshop that took place June 7-8, 2012, in Denver, Colorado. The workshop was hosted by the Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG), the metropolitan planning organization for the Denver region, and was co-sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). Approximately 130 participants attended the workshop, including DRCOG and Federal staff as well as representatives from State, local, and county government agencies and other organizations. The purpose of the workshop was to initiate a scenario planning exercise that will inform DRCOG’s update to Metro Vision 2040, the regional long-range transportation plan. Four peer experts also participated in the workshop to share their experiences with scenario planning and lessons learned, including representatives of the Universities of Colorado, Utah, and California-Berkeley, as well as the University of Maryland’s National Center for Smart Growth. (PDF, 515 KB)
Birmingham, Alabama (July 28, 2011). This report summarizes a workshop on scenario planning in Birmingham, Alabama. The workshop was co-hosted by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham (RPCGB), the metropolitan planning organization (MPO) for the Greater Birmingham, Alabama, region. The purpose of the workshop was to introduce the scenario planning approach to elected officials, planners, and representatives of local government, advocacy groups, and other organizations from across the region. RPCGB intends to use scenario planning to help develop an integrated regional transportation plan. The workshop included peer speakers from the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission (SPC), the MPO for the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania region. SPC speakers presented on their experiences with scenario planning and shared lessons learned. (PDF, 793 KB)
Vancouver, Washington (April 28, 2011) This report summarizes a workshop on scenario planning in Vancouver, Washington. The workshop was co-hosted by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council (RTC), and the Washington Department of Transportation. The purpose of the event was to provide RTC staff, local elected officials, and community leaders with an overview of scenario planning and potential process steps, share notable examples, demonstrate the benefits of scenario planning, and brainstorm potential steps for applying scenario planning in the southwest Washington/Clark County region. The workshop included a peer speaker from Envision Utah, a Utah-based nonprofit, to share success factors and lessons learned. Given outcomes from the day’s activities, RTC plans to develop a strategy to conduct scenario planning in the region. (PDF, 642 KB)
State College, Pennsylvania (September 22, 2010) This report summarizes a workshop on scenario planning in State College, Pennsylvania. The workshop was co-hosted by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and The Thomas D. Larson Transportation Institute (LTI) at The Pennsylvania State University (PSU). The purpose of the workshop was to identify issues that might in the future significantly affect the Centre Region portion of Centre County, a rural county in central Pennsylvania, and discuss ways the region might better prepare for future transportation and land use changes. The event provided participants with an opportunity to discuss several different future scenarios that had been developed by LTI/PSU prior to the workshop. Discussions of scenarios included expected measurable outcomes (e.g., traffic congestion) and the potential effects of these factors on quality of life and community identity. Participants also discussed forces of change that could impact the region's future. (PDF, 382 KB)
East Lansing, Michigan (July 13, 2010). This report summarizes a peer workshop on tools and effective practices for scenario planning in Michigan. The workshop was co-hosted by the Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) Michigan Division Office, the Michigan Department of Transportation, and the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission in Lansing. The event preceded the 34th Annual Michigan Transportation Association Conference and convened participants from FHWA, public and private sector transportation agencies from around the state, and several local government agencies. The workshop provided participants with an overview of the scenario planning process, lessons learned, challenges and benefits encountered by other agencies, and a description of available resources. A peer speaker from the Chittenden County Metropolitan Planning Organization in Burlington, Vermont, also participated in the workshop. (PDF, 587KB)
Nashville, Tennessee (June 4-5, 2009) This report summarizes a Peer Workshop on tools and effective practices for scenario planning in Tennessee. The Workshop was hosted by the Tennessee Department of Transportation and convened participants from the Federal Highway Administration as well as transportation agencies and academic institutions from across the state. The event provided participants with an overview of the scenario planning process, lessons learned, and challenges encountered by agencies implementing the approach, and a description of available resources. Exercises were conducted that demonstrated scenario planning development and analysis using an interactive 'chips' game and software programs. (PDF, 770 KB)
El Paso, Texas (June 4, 2008) This report summarizes a Peer Workshop on tools and effective practices for scenario planning in El Paso, providing participants with an overview of the scenario planning process and described available resources and tools to assist with scenario planning analysis. (PDF, 416KB)
Burlington, Vermont (November 2007) This report summarizes a Peer Workshop on tools and effective practices for scenario planning that provided participants with an overview of the scenario planning process and described available resources and tools to assist with scenario planning analysis. Attendees were provided with information on implementing scenario planning in a variety of community contexts. (PDF, 521KB)
Fargo, North Dakota (May 2007) The Workshop hosted by MetroCOG in Moorhead, Minnesota provided participants with an overview of the scenario planning process and described available resources and tools to assist with scenario planning analysis. Local planning staffs, elected officials, and consultants joined MetroCOG for a one-day scenario planning workshop. Presenters from the Chittenden County Metropolitan Planning Organization, Community Planning Association of Southwest Idaho (COMPASS), and the Federal Highway Administration provided the group with information on implementing scenario planning in a variety of community contexts. (PDF, 968KB)
Frankfort, Kentucky (March 2007) A Peer Workshop on tools and effective practices for scenario planning in Frankfort, Kentucky provided participants with an overview of the scenario planning process and described available resources and tools to assist with scenario planning analysis. Members of metropolitan planning organization (MPO) and area development district (ADD) staffs joined members of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet staff for a one-day scenario planning workshop in Frankfort, Kentucky. Attendees hailed from across the state and shared their regional perspectives on introducing scenario planning to their planning processes and hear presentations from Florida and a national perspective. (PDF, 353KB)
Chico, California (August 2006) In August 2006 a daylong Peer Workshop was held in Chico, California to assist transportation planners from the Butte County Association of Governments, Shasta County Regional Transportation Planning Agency, and Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. Presenters from the FHWA provided participants with an overview of the scenario planning process and described effective practices, available resources and tools to assist with scenario planning analysis. Local presenters discussed population, quality of life, and development trends in their regions which are known for natural resources and prime agricultural lands. Facing development pressure, these agencies are proactively planning for change and growth, and are interested in using scenario planning techniques to do so. (PDF, 308KB)
Traverse City, Michigan (July 2006) A Peer Workshop on tools and effective practices for scenario planning was held in Traverse City , Michigan on July 27, 2006. The region faces demographic shifts, as more retirees relocate to the area and the population balance shifts. Presenters from San Luis Obispo Council of Governments (California) and Michigan's Grand Valley Metropolitan Council presented information on their regions' scenario planning efforts, including using real-time feedback to engage stakeholders and both high and low-tech methods for scenario planning. Lively debate ensued in the breakout sessions and discussion periods, focused primarily on stakeholder engagement and incorporating scenario planning into upcoming planning studies in the Traverse City Region. (PDF, 269KB)
Monterey, California (June 2006) A Peer Workshop was held to provide participants with an overview of the scenario planning process and described available resources and tools to assist with scenario planning analysis. Local presenters from Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments (AMBAG) discussed population, quality of life, and development trends in the Monterey region, including economic trends the region faces such as unaffordable housing for many of the region's inhabitants. Peers from San Luis Obispo Council of Governments; California, the Puget Sound Regional Council; Washington and the Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments; South Carolina provided examples and insights of how their region's scenario planning efforts enhanced their planning processes. (PDF, 746KB)
Kansas City, Missouri (April 2006) The Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) and the FHWA Kansas Division Office hosted a half-day scenario planning peer workshop at the Midwest Transportation Planners Seminar in Kansas City , Missouri in April 2006 for transportation planners throughout the Midwest . MARC discussed population and development trends in the Midwest as well as MARC's visioning and scenario planning initiative "Creating Quality Places." Scenario planning peer presentations from Binghamton , New York and Albany , New York , provided their perspectives from both upstate New York regions' scenario planning efforts. The peer presentations discussed slow population growth projections, sustainability and quality of life, economic forecasting, and treasured places. (PDF, 589KB)
Mooresville, North Carolina (July 2005) This Peer Workshop brought planning professionals together to talk about tools and effective practices that could be utilized for scenario planning as a way to address growth issues in Mooresville, Iredell County, North Carolina. The Town of Mooresville, the North Carolina Department of Transportation, and the FHWA North Carolina Division Office were among the presenters at the workshop who provided information and facilitated discussion on the scenario planning process. (PDF, 614KB)
Champaign, Illinois (June 2005) The following report summarizes a Peer Workshop on tools and effective practices for scenario planning. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) coordinated and supported the one day workshop. The FHWA Illinois Division Office and the Champaign-Urbana Urbanized Area Transportation Study hosted the event in Champaign, Illinois. Presenters at the workshop provided participants with an overview of the scenario planning process, shared examples of scenario planning efforts from elsewhere in the country, and described available resources and tools to assist with scenario planning analysis. Participants then brainstormed ideas for scenario planning in Champaign County. (PDF, 800KB)
Dubuque, Iowa (May 2005) The following report summarizes a Peer Workshop on tools and effective practices for scenario planning. The Workshop was coordinated and supported by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). The FHWA Iowa Division Office and the East Central Intergovernmental Association hosted this one-day workshop in Dubuque, Iowa. Presenters at the workshop provided participants with an overview of the scenario planning process, shared examples of scenario planning efforts from elsewhere in the country, described available resources and tools to assist with scenario planning analysis, and participants then brainstormed ideas for scenario planning in the Dubuque region. (PDF, 318 KB)
Orlando, Florida (December 2004) The following report summarizes a Peer Workshop on tools and effective practices for scenario planning. The Workshop was coordinated and supported by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). The FHWA Florida Division Office hosted this one-day forum in Orlando. (PDF, 1MB)
Binghamton, New York (June 2004) The following report summarizes a Peer Workshop on tools and effective practices for scenario planning. The Workshop was coordinated and supported by FHWA and was hosted by the Binghamton Metropolitan Transportation Study (BMTS), Binghamton's MPO. (PDF, 199KB)
Newport, Rhode Island (June 2004) The following report summarizes a Peer Workshop on tools and effective practices for scenario planning. The Workshop was coordinated and supported by FHWA and was hosted by the Rhode Island Statewide Planning Program (Statewide Planning) - Rhode Island's MPO. The Newport Exchange included presentations by peers from the Sacramento Council of Governments (SACOG) and the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC). (PDF, 216KB)
Honolulu, Hawaii (June 2004) The following report summarizes a Peer Workshop on tools and effective practices for scenario planning. The Workshop was coordinated and supported by the FHWA. The FHWA Hawaii Division Office and the Hawaii Local Transportation Assistance Program (LTAP) Center hosted the Forum. (PDF, 228KB)
Using a variety of tools and techniques, participants in scenario planning assess trends in key factors. They bring the factors together in alternative future scenarios, each reflecting different trend assumptions and tradeoff preferences. As a result of the process, all members of the region - the general public, business leaders and elected officials - strive to agree on a preferred scenario. This scenario becomes the long-term policy framework for the community's evolution, is used to guide decision-making and can be embodied in the long-range transportation plan.
There are a number of tools available to communities to help them tackle land use, community development, and environmental protection challenges. Here are four broad categories of decision support tools. These categories reflect critical steps of a successful community design and decision-making process-steps that ensure civic engagement and lead to informed decision making.
The following websites provide more detail on the four broad categories of decision support tools:
In addition, FHWA has other resources to assist those who are interested in pursuing scenario-planning applications. These are as follows: