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Summary of the Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) Scenario Planning - Advanced Phases Webinar

August 17, 2011
1:00 - 2:30 PM (EDT)

Also available for download (PDF, 94KB)

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These notes provide a summary of the presentations discussed during the webinar, and the question-and-answer session that followed the presentations.

Copies of the speakers' presentations are available from any of the presenters listed below.


Name Organization Contact Information
Fred Bowers Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Office of Planning (202) 366-2374
Alisa Fine U.S. DOT Volpe Center (617) 494-2310
Martin Kim Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission (MVRPC) (937) 223-6323
Kacey Lizon Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG) (916) 340-6265
Brian Betlyon FHWA Resource Center (410) 962-0086


Approximately 70 participants attended the webinar.

Introduction to Webinar and the FHWA Scenario Planning Program
Fred Bowers

Mr. Bowers welcomed participants and thanked them for attending the webinar. The webinar focused on advanced phases of the scenario planning process. It was the third in a continuing FHWA webinar series on scenario planning.

Notes and recordings of the two previous webinars, as well as the FHWA Scenario Planning Guidebook and additional resources related to scenario planning, are available on the FHWA scenario planning website at

The goals of the webinar were to:

Overview of FHWA Scenario Planning Program

Mr. Bowers explained that the FHWA supports scenario planning as an enhancement to the existing transportation planning process. FHWA's scenario planning program was established in 2004 as part of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users. Scenario planning is a flexible technique that is adaptable at many scales and may address many different issues.

FHWA actively promotes scenario planning as a way to support collaborative and strategic transportation decision-making. As part of its scenario planning program, FHWA:

FHWA Scenario Planning Guidebook
Alisa Fine

Ms. Fine provided a brief overview of the FHWA Scenario Planning Guidebook. The guidebook provides a generic, non-prescriptive framework for scenario planning and details six phases that agencies are likely to encounter when implementing the technique. Ms. Fine reminded participants that the guidebook is available through the FHWA scenario planning website and that it can also be requested as a hard copy by contacting FHWA staff.

Ms. Fine briefly reviewed the six-phase structure of the guidebook and detailed phases four, five, and six, which comprise the advanced phases of scenario planning:

Martin Kim

MVRPC is the MPO for the Dayton, Ohio, metropolitan region. MVRPC used scenario planning in its integrated regional land use visioning process called Going Places. The impetus for Going Places was the realization that if past land use and development trends continued, the region would continue to grow much faster in area than in population, resulting in lower average population density and a "thinner" tax base, thus leading to concerns about future quality of life.

The objective of the vision planning process was to address where and how the region should develop by 2040 using a "bottom-up" strategy involving broad public engagement and scenario planning.

During the webinar, Mr. Kim detailed the Going Places scenario planning framework and focused on its intersection with phases four, five, and six of the FHWA Scenario Planning Guidebook. Details are provided below:

Phase Four (What could the future look like?)

Phase Five (What impacts will scenarios have?)

Phase Six (How will we reach our desired future?)

Kacey Lizon

SACOG includes 22 local governments and six counties. It is the MPO for the Sacramento metropolitan region in California. The region is home to more than two million people and lies in north-central California between the San Francisco Bay and the Lake Tahoe areas. The region is fast growing and has been designated by the Environmental Protection Agency as an air quality non-attainment area.

SACOG began using scenario planning as part of its Blueprint 50-year regional vision study. The scenario planning process took more than two years. The effort sought to better integrate land use and transportation planning in response to forecasts that showed that regardless of how transportation funds were invested in the 2000 long-range transportation plan, traffic congestion and air quality would worsen. SACOG partnered with Valley Vision, a local philanthropic organization, on public outreach and stakeholder engagement.

During the webinar, Ms. Lizon detailed the 50-year regional vision process, focusing on its intersection with phases four, five, and six of the FHWA Scenario Planning Guidebook. While SACOG's process steps closely followed the guidebook's, there were some differences. For example, SACOG selected analysis tools earlier in the process than suggested by the guidebook. Details are provided below:

Phase Four (What could the future look like?)

Phase Five (What impacts will scenarios have?)

Phase Six (How will we reach our desired future?)

Lessons Learned

Ms. Lizon stressed that technically sound data and selection of the appropriate analysis tool are important factors to encourage buy-in from participants as well as local communities' implementation of the vision.

Key Points from the Webinar
Brian Betlyon

Mr. Betlyon summarized key points from the webinar presentations:

Closing Information
Fred Bowers

To conclude the webinar, Mr. Bowers thanked the presenters and hosts. He invited participants to contact FHWA staff for further assistance with scenario planning. He also reminded participants about FHWA's scenario planning resources:

Summary of Questions and Discussion

The questions and answers presented here are summaries and are not direct transcriptions of what occurred during the webinar proceedings.

  1. What tools does SACOG make available for public use or partner governments' use?

    SACOG: We provide the I-PLACE3S tool and provide support to member communities in using the tool. A number of additional topic-focused tools are under development to supplement the I-PLACE3S tool.

  2. What type of funding did SACOG use for the community design grant?

    SACOG: Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) Program funds and local funds.

  3. Is regional population in MVRPC's region still declining and is that affecting planning operations?

    MVRPC: It is not declining. We project about a 3 percent increase in population from 2000 to 2040.

  4. Can you tell us more about MVRPC's mind mapping exercise?

    MVRPC: Mind mapping is an exercise where participants brainstorm ideas on a central theme and chart them on a blank sheet of paper, drawing lines between ideas to show how they are inter-related.

  5. Did SACOG identify its smart growth principles as specific visions? How did SACOG develop these principles?

    SACOG: We looked at a lot of resources to develop them, including our previous plans. We started by conducting internal discussions and then reviewed the principles with our board of directors and other agency stakeholders. Finally, we vetted the principles with the public.

  6. Can you provide more information about the cost of performing these multi-year scenario planning processes?

    MVRPC: Our original budget was $1 million for a four-year process. We stayed close to that but are now going slightly over budget. We kept costs down by doing almost all of the work in-house.

    SACOG: We committed $2 million of our core funds. We also received grants and earmarks totaling $2 million. Valley Vision helped us to secure a number of the grants.

Participant Polling

Question 1: Who do you work for?

  Number Responding Percent Responding
Federal Government 12 25%
State Government 8 17%
City/County Government 1 2%
Metropolitan Planning Organization/Regional Planning Council or Organization 27 56%
National Association 0 0%
Private Sector 0 0%
Academia 0 0%
Other 0 0%

Question 2: How many people are participating in this webinar with you?

  Number Responding Percent Responding
0-2 43 90%
3-5 3 6%
6-10 2 4%
More than 10 0 0%

Question 3: What experience do you have with scenario planning?

  Number Responding Percent Responding
No experience. 4 9%
I have heard about it but do not have firsthand experience. 15 32%
I have participated in scenario planning exercises. 24 51%
I have led a scenario planning exercise. 5 11%

Question 4: How did you learn about today's webinar?

  Number Responding Percent Responding
FHWA's email announcement 39 87%
Other 6 13%

Question 5: Did you participate in FHWA's previous scenario planning webinars in September and March?

  Number Responding Percent Responding
Yes, I participated in both webinars. 7 17%
Yes, I participated in one webinar. 9 21%
No, I did not participate in either webinar. 26 62%

Question 6: Was the information presented in today's webinar useful?

  Number Responding Percent Responding
Very useful 21 52%
Somewhat useful 18 45%
Not as useful as expected 1 3%

Question 7: What topics would you like to see addressed in future webinars?

  Number Responding Percent Responding
Climate change 12 29%
Broader environmental issues (e.g. open space, air quality, wetlands preservation) 10 24%
Demographics 14 33%
Economic Changes 16 38%
Energy (availability, price, alternatives) 10 24%
Financial Resources Available for Future Investments 15 36%
Funding Resources Available for Scenario Planning 19 45%
Land Use Planning 23 55%
Public Health 8 19%
Transportation Investments or Infrastructure 28 67%
Updated: 10/20/2015
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