It has long been recognized that there is a need to move beyond a deterministic planning paradigm where a single set of forecasts are created and transportation systems are planned to accommodate those forecasts. The urgency of this need, however, has grown in the past few years as the pace of technological change continues to increase. Shared mobility, shifting or evolving consumer preferences, production technologies that could change the nature of goods movement, uncertainty over environmental policies, changes in travel characteristics and driver behavior, and fluctuating energy markets are all factors that warrant a scenario-based approach to transportation planning. It is important that agencies at all scales and levels of capacity are able to apply scenario-based approaches, even in the absence of data and resources to support sophisticated tools. This project will research and demonstrate low-cost methods of integrating scenario planning concepts with required transportation planning processes, benefiting state DOTs, MPOs, and local transportation agencies in a variety of contexts.
The objective of this project was to assist transportation agencies in conducting scenario planning with limited resources. Target audiences include smaller MPOs and states that may not have the budget for data-intensive analytical tools, and any transportation agency facing an abbreviated timeline for decision-making. The practical knowledge will also be useful for orienting new staff.
Scenario planning approaches are useful for considering uncertainty in future trends and how to make planning decisions that will hold up well regardless of trends beyond the transportation agency’s influence. One scenario planning technique is Robust Decision Making – a process for considering plausible futures and systematically testing the impact of alternative policies or actions within these futures.
A number of resources to support scenario planning have been developed including FHWA guidebooks and peer exchanges, NCHRP’s Foresight Series (Report 750), and NCHRP 8-36 Task 117 which reviewed and compared sketch tools for scenario analysis. However, some of the tools and techniques available to support scenario planning have the potential to be resource-intensive, and developing a scenario planning process can be intimidating, especially for smaller agencies with limited staff and technical capacity.
The final products include three documents:
1. The Final Report
2. An abstract for broad distribution
A slide presentation for decision-makers.