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This report summarizes a scenario planning peer workshop that FHWA sponsored in Birmingham, Alabama, on July 28, 2011. The workshop was hosted by the RPCGB, the metropolitan planning organization (MPO) for the Greater Birmingham, Alabama, region.
The workshop introduced scenario planning to elected officials, planners, and representatives of local government, transportation agencies, nonprofits, advocacy groups, and other organizations from across the Greater Birmingham region. Sixty-five participants attended, representing a variety of public, private, and nonprofit organizations. See Appendix C for the workshop agenda. Appendix D includes a complete list of attendees.
RPCGB serves 1.1 million people in six counties in central Alabama. RPCGB is preparing to update the region's long-range transportation plan and would like to use scenario planning to help address regional transportation problems and coordinate future development and transportation improvements throughout the region. RPCGB requested the FHWA-sponsored scenario planning workshop to learn how Pittsburgh, a region comparable to Birmingham in size and socioeconomic characteristics, successfully used scenario planning to address planning challenges. Additionally, RPCGB sought to convene stakeholders to solicit feedback on how the Greater Birmingham region could utilize scenario planning.
During the workshop, FHWA Headquarters and FHWA Resource Center staff provided an overview of scenario planning and resources available to support the process. Participants from RPCGB and the Birmingham Business Alliance discussed trends occurring in the region. Peer speakers from the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission (SPC), the MPO for the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania region, presented on their experiences with scenario planning (SPC also discussed its use of INDEX scenario planning software at a technical session for RPCGB staff held on July 27, 2011, at RPCGB's offices).
The workshop represented the first tri-agency scenario planning workshop conducted as part of the Federal Partnership for Sustainable Communities (Partnership). The Partnership is an initiative led by the USDOT, US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). During the workshop, staff from USDOT's Office of the Secretary of Transportation (OST), HUD, and EPA discussed the Partnership's current efforts and offered information about resources available to Birmingham. The Partnership supports Federal livability principles by coordinating work in communities across the Nation. Finally, workshop participants engaged in several breakout sessions during which they discussed how scenario planning could be implemented in the Greater Birmingham region.
RPCGB intends to use scenario planning to help develop an integrated regional transportation plan in the near future. Post-workshop evaluations collected from participants showed that the event allowed attendees to obtain a greater understanding of scenario planning, its key steps, and some of the benefits realized by agencies implementing the process. Moreover, participants believed that a scenario planning process could help Greater Birmingham address transportation and land use issues through building consensus among diverse stakeholder groups.