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Tools and Practices for Land Use Integration

Visioning and Scenario Planning

Planners use public processes to develop a transportation and land use "vision" for a region or multi-jurisdictional corridor and to evaluate future transportation and land use scenarios. Visioning involves a broad discussion about the future of a community, region, or State, often touching on transportation, land use, economic development, environmental issues, and public health. Scenario planning is a common analytical approach and engagement framework used for visioning. Planners use scenario planning to shake participants from previously held assumptions about the future. Planners typically present detailed scenarios, using software tools to help stakeholders both visualize and evaluate scenarios based on a variety of metrics. From there, stakeholders can weigh the costs and benefits of different alternatives, blend scenarios, and build consensus around policy directions. The results of these processes are typically implemented through the metropolitan transportation planning process and through additional actions to encourage land use changes at the local level.

Regional Visioning

Description: Map of regional vision, showing transit corridors and nodes of high growth.
2040 Vision | Puget Sound Regional Council

Regional planners engage the public to develop a "vision" and accompanying policy direction for the future. Visioning involves a broad discussion about the future of a community, region, or State, often touching on transportation, land use, economic development, environmental issues, and public health. MPOs employ a variety of analytical approaches and engagement techniques to build consensus around shared community goals.

Examples in Practice

Seattle Vision 2040
Puget Sound Regional Council (Seattle, WA area, MPO)

In 2009, the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) adopted VISION 2040, a transportation and land use vision for the region. VISION 2040 called for focusing growth in 24 urban centers and eight manufacturing/industrial centers. The urban centers are to include concentrations of population and employment in mixed-use, walkable environments, connected by high-capacity transit service. VISION 2040 is being implemented in a variety of ways, including: local plan development, voluntary regional review of plans for consistency, MPO-led outreach and demonstration programs, policies in the long-range transportation plan, and capital projects in the transportation improvement program.

Contact: Rick Olson, PSRC (206) 971-3050.

Envision Utah
Envision Utah Partnership (Salt Lake City, UT area Public/Private Partnership)
Envision Utah, a public-private community group, partnered with the State of Utah in 1996 to study the effects of growth in the 10-county Greater Wasatch Area in and around Salt Lake City. After three years of scenario planning, analysis, and public discussion, Envision Utah produced an overall "Quality Growth Strategy" for the region that will significantly reduce the amount of land consumed by housing, traffic congestion and pollution, and public investment in infrastructure. The effort illustrates the value of extensive public outreach and education. See also the Federal Highway Administration Toolbox for Regional Policy Analysis Case Study.

Contact: Peter Donner, Envision Utah, (801) 538-1529.

Grand Rapids Metropolitan Development Blueprint
Grand Valley Metropolitan Council (Grand Rapids, MI area, MPO)
Beginning in the early 1990s, The Grand Valley Metropolitan Council (GVMC) led the development of "Blueprint" principles and has since worked to implement these principles through a collaborative process with a series of sub-regional groups. Seven groups were formed around common geography and planning issues. The process included both local charrettes to plan identified "livable areas" in these sub regions, as well as broader planning techniques to address the unique regional qualities of each area. Since 2000, the MPO has given out annual awards recognizing projects and programs - such as the City of Grand Rapids Master Plan, the West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum, and a number of development projects consistent with Blueprint principles: compact, livable communities; regional centers of employment; retention of open lands and well-designed transportation and transit systems.

Contact: Gayle McCrath, GVMC (616) 776-7613.

Land Use Scenario Development

State and regional agencies and non-profit groups sometimes use workshop settings to tap the knowledge of local officials, staff, and the general public to develop future land use scenarios for a region, corridor, or community. The scenarios are developed by participants, within constraints such as policies, budgets, required densities to support retail or transit, and population trends. These scenarios help community members understand options within the community, realistic tradeoffs, and their own preferences. Planners can use this information to guide planning activities. Increasingly, GIS tools are being used for this process, in addition to or instead of printed maps (see the Scenario Planning Section

Participants at scenario planning exercise
Corridor scenario planning exercise | Envision Utah

Examples in Practice

"Make Your Mark" Scenario Planning Activity
Loluisa Transportation Planning Organization, (Daytona Beach area, FL MPO)

The Volusia County Transportation Planning Organization in Florida developed an innovative scenario planning activity as part of public outreach for its long range transportation plan. The agency held public workshops in which community members divided into small groups to create transportation and land use visions for the region. Participants had to work within given constraints such as funding limits, population, land use, and transportation systems. The process was meant to mimic the sorts of funding decisions that elected officials are faced with every budget cycle. It helped provide the community with information about the planning process and also gathered valuable feedback about community interests and priorities.

Contact: Lois Bollenback, Volusia County Transportation Planning Organization (386) 226-0422.

Interagency Transportation, Land Use, and Climate Change Pilot Project
Cape Cod, MA municipalities and federal resource agency partners
Through federal, state, and local stakeholder coordination, including the Cape Cod Commission, Cape Cod National Seashore, and Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority, and Federal Agencies, such as the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Federal Transit Administration, Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Cape Cod Interagency Transportation, Land Use, and Climate Change Pilot Project employed scenario planning to develop and evaluate several potential regional transportation and land use planning strategies. The group evaluated each scenario on a set of indicators, which included greenhouse gas emissions, transport energy use, preservation of natural/existing ecosystems, and accessibility indicators. The study area, which encompasses fifteen municipalities, faces a serious threat from sea-level rise. The project was completed in 2011 with a final report describing the process and preferred scenario. Cape Cod towns have begun to incorporate the preferred scenario into local comprehensive plans.

Contact: Benjamin Rasmussen, U.S. DOT Volpe Center (617) 494-2768.

Development Allocation Scenario Workshop for Regional Visioning Implementation
Envision Utah (nonprofit)

Envision Utah, a nonprofit organization that assists State and local governments in conducting scenario planning activities, used an allocation workshop approach both to develop a regional Quality Growth Scenario for the State of Utah and to help create community plans throughout the country. The Nebo Community Vision project provides one example. On a workshop map, participants identified areas to be included in a green space network. They were then asked to place the projected 2020 population increase within their community's boundary or annexation declaration. Development was placed by means of "chips," placeholders representing a constant acreage with a population that varied by development type. Development types range from "rural" to "conservation subdivision" to "Main Street." Quality Growth Scenario principles are beginning to be reflected in projects such as Daybreak, a 4,100-acre master-planned community situated adjacent to a proposed light rail station and featuring an extensive network of parks and open space, water-saving and energy-efficient building and site design, and a mixed-use, walkable development plan.

Contact: Kevin Fayles, Envision Utah, (801) 303-1462.

Interactive GIS-based Scenario Workshop
Sacramento Area Council of Governments (Sacramento area, CA MPO)

As part of the development of the Sacramento Regional Blueprint, the Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG) hosted a series of neighborhood workshops for residents and other stakeholders to review and create land use scenarios. SACOG used the interactive GIS-based program I-PLACE3s, in conjunction with the regional land use model and travel demand models, to provide real-time feedback in public workshops on the effects of different land use options on transportation, open space, and other conditions. Participants were able to modify land use and zoning map; scenarios developed at a neighborhood level were then aggregated to the county level and used in county-wide workshops. See also: FHWAs Blueprint Sacramento case study.

Contact: Kacey Lizon, Sacramento Area Council of Governments, (916) 340-6265.

Transit Oriented Development Scenario Workshop
City of Fort Worth,TX

The City of Fort Worth led an effort to identify opportunities for transit-supportive development in 10 urban villages along five significant transit corridors. The City held a series of public meetings and workshops with local property owners, neighborhood association leaders, and other interested parties. At one set of workshops, participants were given game pieces corresponding to different types of land use (e.g., mixed-use, rail station, green space) along with a price tag. This exercise helped participants explore development concepts that would support transit and urban design objectives, while recognizing budget constraints.

Contact: Eric Fladager, City of Fort Worth (817) 392-8011.

Binghamton Scenario & Long Range Transportation Planning
Binghamton Metropolitan Transportation Study (Binghamton, NY area, MPO)

Faced with the challenge of a slowly declining and aging population, the Binghamton Metropolitan Transportation Study (BMTS) used the 2004 update of the long-range transportation plan as an opportunity for a scenario planning process to address transportation, land use, and economic development issues simultaneously, with the objective of linking transportation to regional revitalization. BMTS conducted extensive public involvement to identify community goals, design principles, and growth scenarios. Scenarios included "outward" and "inward" development under "trend" and "growth" conditions. The result was consensus among planners and stakeholders to focus on the revitalization and redevelopment of the urban core communities. The most recent long-range transportation plan (titled Creating a Sustainable Future, adopted in 2010) continues the "moving inward" focus of the region's 2004 long-range transportation plan update.

Contact: Cyndi Paddick, BMTS (607) 778-2443.

Scenario Planning Software

Description: Sample of CommunityViz software interface, showing color coded parcel map, statistics and map elements toolbars.
CommunityViz Interface | CommunityViz

Some software applications allow planners to adjust multiple variables to analyze different land use and transportation scenarios. Such programs can be used to create maps or 3-D imagery of proposed plans or scenarios to better illustrate and visualize impacts. Different programs offer a range of analyses, including simple mapping and visualization functions, as well as the ability to analyze economic, environmental, demographic, or safety aspects. The following examples illustrate some useful software tools for scenario planning. This is neither a comprehensive list, nor an endorsement by FHWA.

Envision Tomorrow
Envision Tomorrow is an easy-to-use, analytical decision making tool for municipalities, regional governments, and private organizations to test and refine transportation plans, produce small-area concept plans, and build scenarios. The software includes a "Scenario Builder," which allows the user to design prototypical buildings and "paint the landscape" with different land uses and development patterns. This software then processes the scenario and evaluates the development's impact on several factors, including land use, housing, sustainability, transportation, carbon emissions, and economic conditions.

Examples in Practice

Imagine Waco
City of Waco, Texas
The City of Waco, Texas, used the Envision Tomorrow software to evaluate different land use scenarios for the metro area. The outputs of the model helped the city determine potential phasing options for increasing density in the central city, and identifying the costs and benefits of implementing a Bus Rapid Transit system.

Contact: City of Waco, Planning and Zoning Department. (254) 750-5650.

INDEX is a planning support software tool used to model land use/ transportation scenarios. INDEX is a GIS software extension that helps stakeholders create, implement, and achieve plans informed by indicator measurements to gauge planning actions. The software also includes a new "Cool Spots" module, which planners can use to estimate greenhouse gas emissions from buildings and transportation.

Contact: Eric Sprague, U.S. EPA, (202) 566-2861

CommunityViz is a GIS software package that allows users to create and manipulate a virtual representation of a town and explore different land use scenarios.

Examples in Practice

Land Use Scenarios for Long Range Transportation Planning
North Front Range Metropolitan Planning Organization
(Fort Collins area, C0 MPO)

The North Front Range MetropolitanPlanning Organization used CommunityViz to develop and compare alternative future land use scenarios and their impacts on the transportation system. Starting with baseline land use and environmental data for area communities, CommunityViz was used in consultation with local officials to allocate forecasted development. The model was used as part of the "Envision the North Front Range" project, which is now managed by the Envision North Front Range non-profit organization.

Contact: Suzette Mallette, North Front Range Metropolitan Planning Organization (970) 416-2257

Pedestrian Path Analysis
City of Longmont, CO

The City of Longmont used CommunityViz software to help plan the St. Vrain Greenway pedestrian path connecting the city with a newly developed community and district park, both located on the edge of the city. Use of CommunityViz helped the Master Plan Committee to comprehensively analyze social, economic and environmental sensitivities. Citizens and stakeholders were able to compare alternatives through predictive models. The effort resulted in the planning and implementation for a 7.5-mile greenway corridor that was widely supported by neighbors and the community. The last section of the trail was completed in October 2009, and connects to the Colorado Front Range Trail, a regional system.

Contact: Paula Fitzgerald, City of Longmont (303) 651-8448.

CorPlan is a GIS and spreadsheet-based model that creates regional development scenarios for input into travel demand models. CorPlan estimates regional land development potential using prototypical "community elements" as building blocks. Each element represents a quarter-mile diameter area and includes illustrative photographs and diagrams. Each element also has a unique set of socioeconomic and land use characteristics. Elements are manually assigned to different areas and then corresponding data are aggregated using GIS, and used as input to the travel demand model. The model is available through the Renaissance Planning Group.

Contact: Chris Sinclair, (407) 487-0061.

Examples in Practice

Regional Land Use Scenarios for Public Visioning Process
Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (Charlottesville area, VA MPO)

The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC) used CorPlan to develop and model alternative regional land use scenarios as part of the Eastern Planning Initiative, a public visioning process. Three growth concepts were created through public workshops: core, nodal, and dispersed. The results were modeled to show differences in transportation and other impacts for each alternative. See also FHWA: Land Use and Transportation Modeling Tools - CorPlan Model; TCSP Case Study #5.

Contact: Stephen Williams, Thomas Jefferson District Planning Commission(434) 979-7310.

MetroQuest is a regional scenario planning and analysis tool developed in Canada. MetroQuest allows agency staff and workshop participants to quickly create regional transportation and land use scenarios, see how conditions under different scenarios evolve over time, evaluate key tradeoffs, examine scenarios in detail, and compare scenarios side by side. Underlying MetroQuest is a model linking demographic, land use, transportation, economic, infrastructure, air quality, water, and energy data.

Examples in Practice

Scenario Visualization Workshops
Idaho Transportation Department

The Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) used MetroQuest in a two-year, scenario-based planning process to support the creation of a statewide transportation vision. The Idaho's Transportation Future: Getting There Together process engaged more than 750 people between 2002 and 2004. MetroQuest was used in a three-day workshop to create and visualize scenarios and evaluate the results using a suite of performance measures. The result was a comprehensive Vision Statement for the movement of people, materials, products, and information based on statewide transportation system partners' values and priorities. ITD plans to use MetroQuest in the future for scenario planning.

Contact: Matthew Moore, Idaho Transportation Department(208) 334-8484.

The PLACE3S model (Planning for Community Energy, Environmental, and Economic Sustainability) is a GIS-based analytical tool to support community land use and transportation planning. Using parcel or polygon level information on existing and/or future land use, the model calculates a range of community indicators including vehicle-travel, return on investment, housing type mix, land consumption, energy consumption, and other environmental impacts. I-PLACE3s is a variation which can be run over the Internet. PLACE3S software is in the public domain.

Examples in Practice

Scenario Visioning Workshops
Sacramento Area Council of Governments (Sacramento area, CA MPO)

The Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG) used I-PLACE3s in conjunction with a regional land use model and travel demand model enhancements to provide real-time feedback in public workshops on the effects of different land use options on transportation, open space, and other conditions. The model was used to support the Sacramento Blueprint regional planning and visioning project. For more information, see the Sacramento, CA: Blueprint Sacramento case study.

Economic Impact Model for Public Participation
City of San Diego, CA

Community stakeholders used PLACE3S to assess the impacts of alternative zoning and redevelopment plans for the Mid-City neighborhood in San Diego. A unique feature of the application was an economic impact model which shows the viability of new development on each parcel in the study area given existing zoning constraints, development costs, and market conditions.

Contact: California Energy Commission (916) 654-3948. See also TCSP Case Study #6.

Resources and Guidebooks

Updated: 10/20/2015
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