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Step 1: Creating a Framework for Your Scenario Planning Process

Step 1 Summary

View the full Scenario Planning Guidelines (PDF).

Step 1 outlines how to organize and facilitate a scenario planning process. This includes establishing who will be involved, defining the geographical scope of the process, determining political and technical leadership, identifying potential funding sources, and preparing a public involvement strategy.

Develop Local Support

Scenario planning to reduce light vehicle GHG emissions is an opportunity for local jurisdictions to build on past and current planning efforts to build momentum towards defining and achieving a long-term vision for their community's future. Local agencies undertaking this activity can include other issues that address broader benefits for their communities. It should include a clearly defined process, with clearly identified goals.

Identify Key Planning Issues

 It is recommended at this stage to conduct a series of in-depth interviews with stakeholders and review existing plans to help get a comprehensive picture of the region’s key issues. The results of these interviews can help guide:
  • The composition of an advisory committee.
  • The topics that need to be addressed in addition to GHG emissions.
  • The networks available to engage the public in the process.
A review of existing plans can uncover guiding principles, goals, objectives and issues identified in past planning efforts. These values and goals found in past planning efforts will help inform the development of guiding principles in Step 2. Additionally, as part of Step 4 an analysis of existing plans may reveal local and regional planning issues that could be also analyzed as part of a scenario planning process.

Define the Planning Area

Determining the geography of the planning area defines both the likely participants in the process and sets parameters for data collection and analysis. The planning area for a scenario process can cover a larger geographic area – beyond city or metropolitan boundaries - often encompassing the travel-shed area – in order to address regional issues or to coordinate planning among a number of different jurisdictions.

While the jurisdictions within the MPO boundary should take the leadership role, it may be beneficial to invite interested leaders and community members of adjacent jurisdictions, outside the MPO boundaries, to participate and/or be regularly briefed on the process.

Determine an Organizational Structure

The various agencies, interest groups, the general public, and even any consultants who might be involved, will need to come together at the beginning of the process to identify and collaborate for a common purpose. This partnership needs to be in place for the metropolitan area to commit to a scenario planning process, and to reap the rewards of implementation.

There are innumerable combinations of these methods. Metropolitan areas should consider the pros and cons of each, and collaboratively design a plan that best aligns with the metropolitan area's own goals.
Using MPOs
MPOs are a natural host agency for initiating a regional scenario planning process, especially for the early strategic assessment phase using GreenSTEP. They already have many of the technical skills, data and tools needed for scenario planning. 

Local governments within the MPO that have the authority and the obligation, to implement a preferred scenario in terms of transportation and land use.

Many scenario processes have included other local officials; leaders from business, education, environmental organizations; developers and builders and citizen groups.

Councils of governments (COGs), which may also be their region’s designated MPO, can be useful for bringing local elected officials into the scenario planning process, and for coordinating later implementation efforts. COGs also have the skills and procedures to accept and expend public funds.
Forming a New Consortium
In the absence of an already established vehicle for reaching agreement in a metropolitan area, forming a new consortium is an option. An Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) may be advisable if a new entity is to be created and if funds from several governmental agencies are being pooled to finance the effort. A sample IGA document for a scenario planning process is included in the Technical Appendix (PDF).
Using an Existing Non-Profit Organization
It is also possible for a scenario planning effort to be led by a local non-profit organization. These organizations often have a broad base of local leaders they rely on, are typically funded by corporation or foundation grants (along with public funds) and are in a good position to identify potential planning issues. They often delegate receiving or expending public funds to a MPO, COG, city or county.
Creating an Ad Hoc Organization
Sometimes no regional organization is able to bring together the broad coalition of groups necessary for a successful regional scenario process. In these cases a new ad-hoc organization can be formed, often supported tactically and financially by other organizations such as MPOs and regional non-profit foundations. The advantage is that a broad-based coalition can be formed without a pre-conceived agenda in the minds of the public, and draw on support and funds from a broad base. There are examples of this model being used successfully.

Determine Civic Leadership

A local elected official can often play the role of champion for scenario planning, or in some cases the MPO board can assume that champion role, since it is composed of representatives of multiple local jurisdictions.

For effective community engagement and investment, citizens and stakeholders must be able to trust the opinions and skills of the leadership. Leaders who represent the citizens and stakeholders must ensure they fairly represent them and that interested citizens and stakeholders have an opportunity to be heard throughout the process.

In some scenario planning processes, local officials have delegated leadership to an outside agency due to a desire to include a wider array of community leaders than exist on an MPO board - or due to the potentially controversial nature of the process. This gives more community members a seat at the table and opens the process to non-governmental stakeholders who can be crucial in crafting and implementing a strategy.

Establish a Policy Advisory Committee

In addition to the leaders and champtions identified above, the recommended approach is to form a policy advisory committee that includes a broad array of community representatives who represent some or all of the following interests on the advisory committee:
  • Participating jurisdictions (an elected officials or high level staff person)
  • Community leaders
  • Community-based organizations
  • Environmental organizations
  • Tribal leaders (if tribal lands are impacted)
  • Business community members
  • Chambers of commerce
  • Media organizations
  • Hospitals and health care organizations
  • Public and private utilities
  • Development interests
  • Local colleges or Universities
  • Faith-based organizations
  • Philanthropic groups
  • Cultural organizations such as music, theater, other arts and sports

Determine Technical and Logistical Leadership

The MPO, a county, or a large city are all logical candidates to be contracted to provide the technical or logistical support, including the staff who will be creating the actual scenarios. This selected agency will need to be able to receive, budget and expend state and federal monies, and have sufficient financial procedures in place to be successfully audited.

Given that scenario planning typically looks at a broader array of issues than most MPO and local planning processes, the technical committee should include a diverse group of stakeholders from many of the agencies and organizations listed below to ensure a variety of interests and viewpoints are represented:
  • County/city land use and transportation planners
  • State government representatives (e.g. DLCD, ODOT, OEDD)
  • Transit districts
  • Transit, bike, and pedestrian experts
  • Community non-profits
  • City and county administrators
  • Developers
  • Environmental organizations
  • Public health organizations/advocates
  • Small and large businesses or representatives
  • Transportation organizations
  • Tribal government officials
  • Universities and schools
  • School districts
  • Freight

Identify Funding Sources

The Scenario Planning Financing Report (2010) reported a wide range of costs for scenario planning. There are many potential funding sources, including some non-governmental sources not covered here.
State Funds
At the state level, the Oregon Transportation Commission has allocated funding to support metropolitan area scenario planning, and has provided funding to the Portland metropolitan area to conduct scenario planning.

Local jurisdictions are also eligible to compete for Transportation Growth Management (TGM) program funds to conduct scenario planning as part of their TSP update process.
Federal Funds
MPOs receive federal metropolitan planning funds that can be used for scenario planning.

Another active source of federal funding has been the Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant program, which is supported by the Sustainable Communities Partnership (Housing and Urban Development, U.S. Department of Transportation, and the Environmental Protection Agency).

The Livable Communities Act (the Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities) offers another funding source, which sets aside monies for local communities to develop or adopt “green” development practices. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has provided increasing support for scenario planning (FHWA) as part of the regional transportation planning process.
Local Government Funds
In many regional scenario planning examples from other states, local governments are asked to contribute a portion of the funds, in proportion to their size and ability (this can be in-kind too). This can also help fulfill any matching requirements of state, federal, and private funding sources.
Foundations, Utilities and Large Companies
Another source of funding commonly used outside Oregon is philanthropic foundations. This source of funding requires a non-profit, tax-exempt entity to receive and expend the funds. Local utilities or large companies may also fund a portion of the project, especially the outreach component.

Design a Meaningful Public Involvement Plan

Before designing a public involvement process, read through this entire guide, including the Step-by-Step Public Involvement section of the Technical Appendix (PDF), to identify the right moments and methods to reach out to the public.

When deciding on the scope and scale of the public outreach effort consider factors such as the size of the planning area, the level of the community’s involvement in past planning efforts, expected levels of community interest, the type of proposals likely to be considered in the scenario planning process and the available budget for outreach.

In order to bring the community into the planning process, it is important to describe scenario planning in terms of the livability criteria, or benefits, that the community will be considering. Many community goals – such as livable communities, health concerns, safety for children and others, walking and biking – have the additional benefit of also addressing GHG emissions.
Understand the Community’s Values and Opinions
Understanding the community's values allows planners to design a plan with benefits for the broadest segment of the community, not just motivated citizens involved directly with the planning process. Existing comprehensive plans and TSPs typically provide guiding principles, goals and a vision summarizing a community's values. In addition to existing written sources, it is often useful to conduct research on the area's values.
Public Engagement for Each Step
Step 1: Create a Framework for the Scenario Planning Process
Develop a public involvement strategy.
Step 2: Select Evaluation Criteria
Conduct forums and community values research.
Step 3: Set up for Scenario Building
  • Provide updates for those following a project website.
  • Provide updates on values from Step 2.
Step 4: Develop/Evaluate Current Base Conditions and Reference Case Scenario
  • Presentations to elected officials and appointed committees.
  • Create fact sheets or "report cards".
  • Host an open house or workshop to share results.
Step 5: Develop and Evaluate Alternative Scenarios
  • Consult with elected officials.
  • Hold an interactive visioning workshop.
  • Reach out to key stakeholder groups.
  • Provide newsletters, fact sheets and articles
  • Use social media tools such as websites or surveys.
  • Utilize online scenario building.
Step 6: Select the Preferred Scenario
  • Share results of the alternative scenarios with the public.
  • Use public input to help identify preferred strategies.
  • Use a focused stakeholder group.
Next Steps
  • Hold multi-agency meetings.
  • Other public engagement opportunities will occur as implementation measures are proposed and considered or as part of comprehensive plan and/or RTP updates.