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FHWA Scenario Planning Guidebook

Phase 1. How Should We Get Started?

Scope the effort and engage partners.

Scenario Planning Duration and Cost

The duration and cost of a scenario planning effort depend on a number of factors, including:

  • The agency's specific goals for using scenario planning.
  • External timelines associated with other planning processes.
  • Level and type of public involvement.
  • Agency staff size and capabilities.
  • Development of analysis tools.
  • Access to data.

Agencies participating in FHWA scenario planning workshops have reported that a typical regional scenario planning effort could take between six months and two years, but the process could be longer if the region or study area is very large or complex.

Scenario planning costs can range significantly, from $50,000 or less for a small effort to $5 million or more for a large effort coordinated by several agencies.*

* Cambridge Systematics. "State-of-the-Practice Alternative Land Use and Transportation Scenario Development: A Review of Eight Metropolitan Planning Organization Case Studies" (2009). Available at

Phase 1 focuses on initiating a scenario planning effort by identifying the major objectives of the process and the resources needed to support the effort. Phase 1 also engages partners and identifies ways to integrate scenario planning into existing agency policies and programs. Scenario planning does not need to be a separate effort but can be integrated into ongoing activities, such as work to update the metropolitan transportation plan or the long-range transportation plan.

There are several steps to Phase 1. Agencies should identify:

Each step is listed on the next page, along with associated key questions that agencies can consider. Some steps provide examples of additional issues or questions for further consideration.

Integrating Scenario Planning into Transportation Planning

Scenario planning can be integrated into transportation planning processes in different ways:

  • As a preliminary step to produce a vision or guiding principles that later become a framework for a transportation plan.
  • In advance of long-range or corridor planning to develop an understanding of the need for change or to highlight the importance of specific issues in transportation planning.
  • Throughout development of long-range or corridor plans, to involve the public and other partners as well as identify potential outcomes of transportation investments, land-use or growth patterns, or other trends.

Step 1.1: Identify the objectives, anticipated goals, and major components of the process.

Step 1.2: Develop a scope and budget.

Developing a Coalition for the Scenario Planning Effort

Scenario planning is most effective when a broad coalition of stakeholders and partners are involved. Throughout each phase of the process but particularly in Phase 1, agencies should explore opportunities to partner with others to build a broad coalition of stakeholders.

Potential partners could include:

  • The business community
  • City/town departments or agencies (e.g., department of parks and recreation, department of public health)
  • Community nonprofits
  • Developers
  • Economic development organizations
  • Emergency responders
  • Environmental groups
  • Historically underrepresented community members
  • Homeowners associations
  • Land-use authorities
  • MPO board members
  • Regional councils or authorities
  • State and Federal resource agencies
  • Tribal councils and Tribal members
  • Universities and schools
  • Utility providers

Step 1.3: Identify roles and responsibilities for involved stakeholders.

Phase 1 Output

A possible output of Phase 1 is a work plan to carry the scenario planning effort forward. This might also be the overall plan for accomplishing the update of the metropolitan transportation plan or the long-range transportation plan. The work plan is an administrative tool showing how the scenario planning effort will meet its stated goals and objectives within time and budget constraints. The work plan should explicitly document the expected outcomes and objectives for the effort and define roles and expectations for leadership and involved stakeholders. The plan should also describe anticipated technical support, research, and outreach activities.

Updated: 7/10/2012
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