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New Trends in Transportation and Land Use Scenario Planning

Appendix C. Case Studies

Case Study 2: Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP)


CMAP is the regional planning organization for the northeastern Illinois area, including Chicago. CMAP's region includes six counties and the agency serves a total population of approximately eight million residents (see Figure 1). CMAP was established in 2005.The region is growing by about one percent per year. By 2040, nearly three million additional residents and 2 million additional jobs are expected.

Figure 1. Map of northeastern Illinois, including the CMAP region.

Figure 1. Map of northeastern Illinois, including the CMAP region.

Overview of CMAP's Scenario Planning Effort

CMAP conducted an extensive scenario planning process as part of the GO TO 2040 effort.7 GO TO 2040 is the comprehensive regional plan to guide future development and growth. Scenario planning was used because CMAP viewed it as a best practice in developing complex LRTPs. In addition, CMAP reported that the scenario planning approach allowed it to conceptually test out various ideas before making actual recommendations on policies, strategies, or investments. Consultants, including Fregonese Associates and Envision Sustainability Tools, Inc., assisted with components of the CMAP scenario planning process.

Prior to the scenario planning portion of GO TO 2040, CMAP had developed a regional vision8 and collected extensive data on the region. With the assistance of a local community foundation (as well as the Volpe Center), CMAP also developed snapshot reports9 and strategy papers10 that identified important issues in the region and potential strategies to address those issues.

Three scenarios were constructed in 2008. During the summer of 2009, the public provided feedback on the scenarios during a series of "Invent the Future" workshops and other public outreach events. A draft preferred scenario was chosen and is currently being reviewed by the CMAP board. The total cost of the GO TO 2040 effort was approximately $10 million (including staff time) over three years, of which about $300,000 was spent on visualization tools.

Key Findings

The scenario planning process conducted by CMAP for GO TO 2040 was an example of innovative scenario planning for several reasons:

Scenario Construction

CMAP constructed three scenarios for GO TO 2040 with the help of internal working committees that identified key, cross-cutting themes, then grouped themes into discrete scenarios. All scenarios used the same socioeconomic projections. Brief descriptions of each scenario and its associated recommended policies are listed below:

CMAP did not intend the scenarios to be mutually exclusive. Ultimately, the preferred scenario combined the 'best' strategies from all three scenarios.

Scenario Assessment and Analysis

To assess the performance of the three scenarios, CMAP developed 250 regional indicators, including land consumption, open space, air quality, congestion, and environmental justice. Indicators were developed with feedback from internal CMAP committees as well as the public and CMAP ensured that good data were available for each one. CMAP will monitor future growth and development using these indicators.

Scenarios were analyzed using in-house models, including a four-step travel model. CMAP also worked with consultants to develop spreadsheet models to calculate scenario outcomes. Land use patterns and investments were varied to test which scenarios reduced congestion and other factors. The model did not fully consider existing development and constraints, as CMAP believed that land use patterns could change in the future. However, CMAP did restrict development on open spaces in line with open space preservation strategies.

Public Outreach

To solicit public feedback on the scenarios, CMAP conducted an extensive public outreach campaign that included a series of 55 "Invent the Future" workshops during the summer of 2009.14 Each workshop averaged 20–30 participants and lasted about one-and-a-half hours. The first half of each workshop focused on providing participants with an introduction to the GO TO 2040 effort. Participants were then polled (using keypad devices) on their preference for each scenario and associated policy options. The second half of the workshop focused on discussion of results from the polling exercise.

CMAP also deliberately separated technical scenario analysis from public outreach to keep the workshops comprehensible and the public engaged.

MetroQuest software was used during the "Invent the Future" workshops as well as on CMAP's website as a public involvement and educational tool to show participants how their policy choices might 'play out' in the future. MetroQuest was built by Envision Sustainability Tools, Inc., a Vancouver-based consultant.15 The software was designed to simplify complex scenarios for use in a general public forum.

During the workshops, participants used keypad polling devices to anonymously vote on preferred development patterns. The most popular responses were chosen and input to the MetroQuest tool. The tool then displayed the results of the chosen development pattern in real-time. The displayed results were based on analyses that had been performed ahead of time and programmed into the MetroQuest tool.

Additional considerations regarding CMAP's use of MetroQuest are listed below:

The CMAP website also offered the public opportunities to construct their own scenario using MetroQuest software. Using the software, the public could also see the outcomes of each scenario as compared to indicators (while the specific indicators were built into MetroQuest, users could vary the priority level for each indicator) (see Figure 2).

Figure 2. Screenshot of "Invent 2040," a MetroQuest-based online tool available on the CMAP website that allowed users to develop their own scenarios based on various policy choices and tradeoffs.16

Figure 2. Screenshot of 'Invent 2040,' a MetroQuest-based online tool available on the CMAP website that allowed users to develop their own scenarios based on various policy choices and tradeoffs.

Use of Additional Visualization Tools

CMAP offered a variety of online visualization tools on its website, including general images that displayed each scenario as it might look like in the future. These images were used to help the public better understand the impacts of their choices.

In addition to these general images, CMAP worked with several architecture and urban design firms to create scenario outcome-based images specific to several communities. These images displayed the outcomes of the preserve, reinvest, and preserve scenarios as each might be overlaid on community-specific maps and plans (see Figure 3).

Figure 3. Innovate Scenario as it might look for the City of Blue Island, Illinois.17

Figure 3. Innovate Scenario as it might look for the City of Blue Island, Illinois.

Preferred Regional Scenario

The draft preferred regional scenario18 was selected by CMAP after extensive analysis and was consistent with public input provided during the "Invent the Future" workshops. The preferred scenario includes a focus on dense, mixed-use redevelopment, strengthening the region's green infrastructure (i.e., interconnected open spaces and other green spaces), and other issues, such as development of innovative finance options and intergovernmental cooperation. The preferred regional scenario was endorsed by the CMAP Board in January 2010.


The CMAP board endorsed the preferred scenario in January 2010. Next, CMAP will focus on the details of implementing the preferred scenario components in winter and spring 2010. Next steps might include:

To build support for the preferred scenario, CMAP's executive director has coordinated with area COGs and other stakeholders to explain the vision and its associated recommended policies, strategies, and actions.

Lessons Learned and Benefits

CMAP reported the following lessons learned in conducting the GO TO 2040 scenario planning process:

CMAP already receives significant support from USDOT and believes that its priorities are well aligned with USDOT's planning priorities. However, it would always be helpful to look for additional opportunities to continue strengthening the relationship between CMAP, FHWA, and USDOT.


CMAP reported the following challenges:

Key Documentation

GO TO 2040 strategy papers:

Regional indicators for scenarios:


7 General information regarding GO TO 2040 can be found at

8 To build the vision, CMAP conducted a visioning workshop in the fall of 2007. About 150 participants attended the event; group brainstorming sessions and keypad devices were used to capture and prioritize key growth themes for 2040, such as sustainability and environmental health. A draft vision was then developed by CMAP and provided to internal committees for review and feedback. Ultimately, the preferred growth vision was approved by CMAP board in June 2008. Additional information on the visioning workshop is available at The regional vision plan and additional information on the development process are available at

9 More information on the snapshot reports in available at

10 The strategy papers are available at

11 More details on the reinvest scenario can be found at

12 More details on the preserve scenario can be found at

13 More information on the innovate scenario can be found at

14 As part of the campaign, kiosks were displayed in high-traffic public areas to solicit feedback on future development. CMAP received nearly 20,000 responses to the kiosks.

15 For more information on MetroQuest software, see

16 Graphic from the GO TO 2040 website at

17 Graphic from the GO TO 2040 website at

18 More information on the draft preferred scenario is available at

Updated: 10/20/2015
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