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FHWA Scenario Planning Guidebook

Phase 2. Where Are We Now?

Establish a baseline analysis. Identify factors and trends that affect the state, community, region, or study area.

Phase 2 focuses on collecting data to describe the state, community, region, or study area. Data can include information about the transportation system, demographics, environmental resources and constraints, as well as land-use patterns as they relate to transportation. Obtaining baseline data is important for several reasons. First, data will be compiled into a baseline analysis to compare alternative scenario outcomes with current conditions. Baseline data can also help agencies to tailor scenario analysis tools—if such tools will be used in the effort—to reflect specific regional conditions. A range of planning partners and the public can be involved during Phase 2 to help identify and obtain baseline data.

Overall, gathering baseline data can help to answer the following questions:

There are several steps to Phase 2. Agencies should:

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.

Involving Planning Partners in Gathering Baseline Data

In 2007, the MPO for the Nashville, Tennessee, region began the Tri-County Transportation and Land Use Study to explore growth options for three of its member counties.* Results of the study will be used to generate ideas for the regional transportation plan.

The effort has involved conducting public visioning workshops to identify regional growth goals and developing several scenarios to test growth alternatives. The MPO is in the process of building a growth assessment model to assess completed scenarios.

To gather data on the suitability and desirability of buildable areas for this effort, the MPO met with focus groups to assess priority locations for development. Focus group members included planning policy-makers, real estate agents, developers, and utility departments. Qualitative information gathered from the focus groups was supplemented with quantitative data obtained from tax assessments and censuses.

*For more information about the Nashville MPO, see

Step 2.1: Characterize the supply, suitability, and demand for transportation and land use as it relates to the transportation system.

Building a Land Suitability Map

As part of the Tri-County Transportation and Land Use Study, the MPO for the Nashville, Tennessee, region used several modeling tools to evaluate the region's potential for growth.*

As a first step, the Nashville MPO created an aggregate land suitability map that evaluated land parcels on their proximity to several factors, such as water/sewer infrastructure, network roads, major intersections, parks and other recreational opportunities, transit stations, and environmental features (e.g., floodplains, rare species). The aggregate map will be used to assess how the region is growing and could grow in the future.

The aggregate map is shown below. Red coloring indicates the parcel(s) with highest suitability for development. Blue coloring indicates the parcel(s) with the lowest suitability.

Nashville MPO growth projection

Next, the MPO assessed demand for development. Population and employment growth were projected to 2035 for residential and nonresidential areas at the household and square-footage levels. Distribution of future growth was plotted on a map, using inputs from land suitability analyses.

The results of the land suitability and demand analysis will be used to build scenarios that explore growth options for the MPO's member counties.

*For more information on the study, see

Step 2.2: Consider how trends could impact these factors in the future.

Phase 2 Outputs

Possible outputs of Phase 2 are analyses of baseline data that describe the supply, suitability, and demand of transportation and transportation-related land use in the region. The products that document the baseline conditions could include an inventory of transportation systems, a land suitability analysis, or evaluations of historical population growth or land use. Information from the baseline assessment will be used later in the scenario planning process to build and assess both baseline and alternative scenarios.

Updated: 10/20/2015
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