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A Framework for Considering Climate Change in Transportation and Land Use Scenario Planning

Table of Contents


Report Notes and Acknowledgements

This report was prepared by the U.S. Department of Transportation John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center in Cambridge, MA, for the Federal Highway Administration, National Park Service, and Fish and Wildlife Service. The project team was led by Benjamin Rasmussen of the Transportation Planning Division and included Lindsey Morse, also of the Transportation Planning Division, and Gina Filosa, David Perlman, and Carson Poe of the Program and Organizational Performance Division. The project team would like to thank the sponsors, Planning Group, Technical Committee, and local and regional stakeholders - in particular the Cape Cod Commission, Cape Cod National Seashore, Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority, and towns - for their participation and contributions.



The Interagency Transportation, Land Use, and Climate Change Cape Cod Pilot Project (Pilot Project) is a federally-sponsored project that took place between early 2010 and mid 2011. Initiated by a federal interagency working group, the Pilot Project resulted in a multi-agency transportation and land use development scenario for Cape Cod, Massachusetts, focused on reducing future greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and considering the potential impacts of sea-level rise (SLR) on the region. This scenario was developed through a process of data collection, scenario development by a consultant and by regional and local government during a workshop, and scenario assessment. The outcomes of this scenario planning process will inform and support the region's long-range transportation planning and other related efforts, as well as the planning efforts of local, state, and federal agencies. This project represents one approach to climate change and scenario planning; other methods exist and can be pursued separately or in concert with this approach. Project members collaborated to document the project's steps and to offer significant observations and recommendations that can inform future applications. This information is presented in this report.

Report Purpose and Audience

The purpose of this report is to document the process followed by, successes of, and lessons learned during the Pilot Project in order to provide other communities with recommendations on how to replicate or build upon this process in the future.

This report provides a framework for federal, state, regional, and local agencies to use to work collaboratively to reduce GHG emissions and to assess, mitigate, and adapt to SLR and other potential climate change effects and impacts in transportation and land use planning using scenario planning. General observations and recommendations are applicable to other areas throughout the U.S. The report describes potential inputs to and outputs of the process and provides examples and additional details in appendices and companion reports. The recommendations are not meant to be prescriptive in nature. Rather, they represent the views of the Pilot Project team on the successes as well as opportunities for improving the Pilot Project's method.

This report is intended to serve as a resource for staff within organizations that may be interested in, or stand to benefit from, incorporating consideration of climate change into transportation and land use planning, including metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), regional planning organizations (RPOs), state departments of transportation (DOTs) or other state agencies, counties, and cities. Federal land management, transportation, natural resource, and emergency management staff, as well as any federal land-owning agency, may be similarly interested in understanding the value of the described process and how it can be incorporated into and used in support of local transportation, land use, and climate change mitigation and adaptation initiatives.


The report outlines the steps in the transportation, land use, and climate change scenario planning process followed by the Pilot Project, which closely match the phases outlined in the FHWA Scenario Planning Guidebook. However, it is important to note that this report differs from the FHWA Guidebook in its nature and scope. The FHWA Guidebook discusses common steps for typical scenario planning exercises, while this report focuses on the application of those steps to achieve outcomes that address climate change problems. The Pilot Project process focused on the incorporation of climate change mitigation and adaptation considerations and goals into a regional-level scenario planning exercise, whereas the FHWA Scenario Planning Guidebook discusses more general applications of scenario planning that are applicable across a variety of topic areas.

For purposes of this report, the scenario planning process was organized into the following chapters, which are described in brief below.

  1. Project Definition
  2. Data Requirements
  3. Scenario Development
  4. Scenario Assessment

The chapters provide information on the actual process followed, observations made, and the resulting recommendations for future implementation based on the experience of the Pilot Project. Observations and recommendations from the project's approach are presented at the end of each of the first three chapters. The fourth chapter, Scenario Assessment, provides observations about how the scenarios performed. Relevant observations and recommendations for the assessment methodology are captured in Data Requirements and Scenario Development.

The conclusion of the report reviews the goals of the project, outlines recommended steps and considerations for future applications of the process, and reviews the role that various participants - federal, state, regional, and local - can play in the process.

Project Definition

Project definition consists of selection of the study area, identification of roles and responsibilities, coordination with existing plans and research, and determination of outputs and outcomes. Stakeholder coordination and communication were very important due to the involvement of many federal, state, regional, and local agencies. A review of the existing literature and efforts around related topics created a foundation of work on which the Pilot Project could build, not replicate, and use as appropriate. Finally, the involved entities worked together throughout the Pilot Project to define desired and expected outcomes and outputs, and to determine how best to incorporate them into federal, state, regional, and local agencies' project proposals and short- and long-range plans.

Data Requirements

Scenario planning is a data-intensive process and, accordingly, the Pilot Project depended on robust data for each of its major elements: creating the baseline of existing conditions, developing the performance indicators for evaluation, and projecting future conditions. Data on transportation infrastructure and services, land use, population, resource protection and preservation, and SLR were integral to the development of the land use and transportation scenarios and evaluation of the scenarios based on identified performance indicators.

Scenario Development

The Pilot Project developed a total of 10 transportation and land use scenarios with the assistance of a scenario planning consultant and software tool that were selected through a request for proposals. Five of these scenarios, including the final Refined scenario, were developed by stakeholders during a series of workshops and meetings. These scenarios consisted of the following:

All the scenarios involved the placement of population and employment based on growth assumptions for 2030 and the identification of transit improvements.

Scenario Assessment

The 10 scenarios were assessed using a set of performance indicators that covered GHG mitigation, adaptation to SLR, transit access, and protection of natural ecosystems and other areas of significance. Performance indicators, or measures of performance, allow participants to compare the effects or consequences of different land use and transportation decisions.

Updated: 12/23/2016
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