Office of Planning, Environment, & Realty (HEP)
The purpose of the Scenario Planning site is to:
The Federal Highway Administration is actively encouraging and supporting scenario planning. We believe that scenario planning can help citizens, businesses, and government officials understand the impacts of growth, especially the relationship between transportation and the social, environmental and economic development of regions. This relationship is a two-way street: growth and development affect transportation performance, while transportation affects social, environmental, and economic development.
FHWA sees scenario planning as an enhancement of, not a replacement for, the traditional transportation planning process. It enables communities and transportation agencies to better prepare for the future. Scenario planning highlights the major forces that may shape the future and identifies how the various forces might interact, rather than attempting to predict one specific outlook. As a result, regional decision makers are prepared to recognize various forces to make more informed decisions in the present and be better able to adjust and strategize to meet tomorrow's needs.
FHWA and transportation agencies must continue to explore ways in which GIS can be applied in project areas in order to achieve time and cost savings and enhance stakeholder involvement in transportation projects. Promoting an enterprising and collaborative organizational structure that encourages GIS endeavors is vital to achieving these objectives.
More than any other Federal program, transportation has a strong, well-funded planning process to shape decisions. Transportation planning first appeared in federal transportation legislation 43 years ago, with the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1962. Metropolitan regions were required, as a condition for receiving federal funding; to adopt long-range transportation plans for entire urban areas and for multiple modes of transportation. The planning required under the Act was to be "continuing, comprehensive, and cooperative."
Over the years, the emphasis on effective transportation planning has been strengthened, through legislation, Federal funding, and guidance and technical assistance from FHWA and the Federal Transit Administration. This has led to the development of regional long range transportation plans for each metropolitan region. Plans are based on projecting demographic, housing, employment and other conditions 20 years into the future. Public involvement, financial feasibility, conformity with air quality standards, consideration of the environment, and intermodal coordination are all key requirements for transportation planning.
Regional transportation planning is a collaborative process, led by the metropolitan planning organization (MPO) and other key stakeholders in the region. The process is designed to foster involvement by all interested parties - businesses, community groups, environmental organizations, and the general public through a proactive public participation process conducted by the MPO in coordination with the State department of transportation and transit operators.
Transportation planning from a regional context provides the information, tools, and public input needed for improving transportation system performance. Transportation planning should reflect the community's vision for its future, whether it is Charlestown, WV or Charleston, SC. It should include a comprehensive consideration of possible strategies; an evaluation process that encompasses diverse viewpoints; the collaborative participation of relevant transportation agencies; and open, timely, and meaningful involvement of the public.
Transportation planning requires a comprehensive, holistic look at the needs and the future of the region and its inhabitants. Scenario Planning enhances this regional planning process by making participants aware of external forces of change (such as population growth, immigration, economic factors, and aging of the population) and by enabling participants to consider alternative approaches to shaping their future, including especially land use policies, environmental policies, and transportation policies. Inevitably, there are difficult trade-offs, especially relating to land use policies, so public participation is essential to raise people's awareness and foster collaborative thinking that projects the region's future needs and desires. Scenario Planning allows a region to realistically evaluate a wider variety of potential futures and determine what the community wants the future to look like.
The premise of scenario planning is that it is better to get the future imprecisely right than to get the future precisely wrong. We know that our predictions of the future are never exactly correct. Rather than picking one definitive picture of the future and planning for that future, scenario planning allows a region to consider various possibilities and identify policies that can adapt to changing circumstances. Scenarios do not describe a forecasted end state. Scenarios are narratives or stories about future conditions that convey a range of possible outcomes. The scenario planning process can help people understand the driving forces of change and the collective choices they have to respond.
Listed below is a suggested six-phase framework for implementing scenario planning. This framework is detailed in the FHWA Scenario Planning Guidebook. The Guidebook contains additional information on each phase as well as strategies, steps, and examples
While each scenario planning approach is unique, the framework illustrates a possible overall structure for scenario planning. It outlines questions, considerations, and strategies to help guide agencies in managing and implementing a comprehensive scenario planning effort. The framework also provides information on potential outputs from each phase.