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Step 7: Next Steps


At this point, several alternative scenarios have been developed and evaluated. Based on extensive community review, a preferred scenario representing how the community wants to grow and develop over the next 20-25 years or more was selected. The details of the preferred scenario define the next steps, including changing plans and pursuing other actions that help make the vision of the preferred scenario an on-the-ground reality. Many of the general strategies needed to bring the preferred scenario forward should already be spelled out in the scenario itself. However, be sure to take time to prepare an implementation strategy based a more thorough evaluation of the most feasible and effective opportunities and actions.


Following Step 6, the preferred scenario should consist of:
  • A vision document describing shared desires for the future and details about overarching and targeted strategies supported by the public and stakeholders.
  • A concept map depicting a generalized view of the future linked to the vision.
  • A technical scenario in GIS representing a potential distribution of future land uses at a scale that enables a range of analysis.
If the public engagement process has been successful, those organizations and individuals likely to support or implement strategies from the preferred scenario will have been identified and will be ready to take action. This step provides insight about some of the options that metropolitan areas may pursue in moving beyond the scenario planning process toward implementation of the strategies that emerged in Step 6.

Implementation will come through many forms; some actions may result in quick benefits, while others may take decades to be fully effective. This section outlines several optional approaches to implementation which can be employed within Oregon’s planning system including:
  • Changing transportation or land use plans – such as comprehensive plans, zoning and other implementation ordinances to allow any new uses envisioned in the scenario.
  • Forming public-private partnerships to coordinate development of new land use and transportation patterns that shorten automobile trips or encourage walking, biking and using transit.
  • Developing new programs or actions, such as travel demand programs or detailed plans for important districts such as downtowns or key transit supportive areas.
  • Focusing public investments to carry out actions that support key elements of the preferred scenario, from sidewalks and transit to electric car charging stations.

Choosing to Implement

Implementation of the preferred scenario depends on voluntary, cooperative and individual efforts among effected cities, counties and regional agencies, and requires general agreement on the significant overarching strategies. These general strategies are fundamental to the preferred scenario. The final products of the scenario planning process however, should not be contingent on absolute agreement on every strategy.

The preferred scenario will be implemented over time by pursuing targeted strategies that result in updates and amendments to development codes, comprehensive plans and TSPs. In the near-term, some of the individual strategies of the preferred scenario can lead to more immediate action. An individual city in an MPO region may choose to act upon a specific strategy on its own, which might also move the whole metropolitan area closer to its goals. For instance, Medford may develop an implementation strategy to improve transit on a specific corridor. That decision does not require agreement by all cities within the metropolitan area, but could benefit the entire area with reduced GHG emissions and reduced travel times.

Begin with early wins. There are probably several strategies, both overarching and targeted, within the preferred scenario that enjoy universal support. Some of these strategies may not bring about the biggest benefits, or even the best value, but each early success, even at a small scale, can go a long way toward helping the metropolitan area realize its shared future goals. Working through some of the easier actions or programs can help the affected agencies develop the collaboration framework needed for other aspects of implementation. It is better to test out the strategy framework on non-controversial issues before trying to tackle some of the larger issues that may have been identified through the scenario planning process.

Develop an Implementation Plan

The purpose of scenario planning is to get broad public consensus on possible land use and transportation changes that can better achieve community goals. Adoption of a preferred scenario does not by itself result in specific actions or changes to existing plans, but rather provides guidance to subsequent local actions and plan changes. While Step 6 generates a preferred scenario and strategies, comprised of actions, programs and policy options, with enough detail to inform future actions, a key last step is development of an implementation plan.. In this step, key strategies and policies identified in Step 6 should be utilized to create a detailed description of implementing actions, and to identify general timeframes (short, medium and long term). Selecting the implementation approaches will involve negotiating with key parties and securing their agreement to participate. The implementation plan should link proposed actions to the guiding principles developed in Step 2.

Creating a written implementation plan or strategy is an important step to identify the actions needed to implement the preferred scenario and the parties responsible for those actions. Implementation plans are non-regulatory plans that contemplate specific actions and allocation of resources, such as people or capital, to achieve those ends. They can serve as prioritized action plans with recommended immediate actions as the first steps towards realizing the metropolitan area’s policy goals. Besides a clear description of recommended programs and improvements, the plan can include a matrix to identify what departments or organizations will have primary responsibility, and what potential funding sources may be available. It can also note the timeframe for each action and the relative priority for each action. Discussion around priorities not only helps allocate limited public funds, but also yields better project definition and clarity.

Potential Implementation Plan Components

Align the RTP and Other Transportation Plans
One of the most common ways to implement the preferred scenario is to incorporate it into the metropolitan area’s RTP, whether it is a part of a RTP update or the result of a separate scenario planning process. For example, the preferred scenario should include a detailed land use forecast, which can be incorporated into the housing and employment distribution used to identify regional transportation needs. These plans are important because they identify regional priorities for transportation funds. The vision, goals and strategies from the preferred scenario can incorporated into the regional transportation plan or used to help shape regional transportation investments.

Evaluations developed from the sketch planning tool, Metropolitan GreenSTEP and possibly other tools, will show the potential benefits of the preferred scenario that can be achieved by a modified distribution of housing and jobs. Since the regional transportation infrastructure forms the backbone for land use, this new land use allocation, and associated urban design information, should be used in future modeling and analysis. Cities and counties may need to think beyond individual transportation projects that their constituents have asked for previously and consider more regional efforts.
Modify Comprehensive Plans and Implementing Ordinances
The majority of strategies contained in the preferred scenario will be implemented at the local level, by cities and counties. If land use changes are a substantial component of the preferred scenario, comprehensive plans may need to be changed. Even if scenario planning was conducted as part of a comprehensive plan update, it is important that the preferred scenario not mandate such changes. A better approach is for the preferred scenario to tie incentives to changes. For example, directing resources toward transit improvements linked to plan updates might be most effective.

Typically, changes to comprehensive plans focus on specific areas where different land uses may be of benefit. For example, for the preferred scenario’s GHG reduction strategies, recommendations may include changing land uses to allow greater mixing of uses, higher intensity development, or employment in areas rich in housing. Other changes could include new connectivity standards or support for transit-oriented development. While some of this has been used in Oregon planning for decades, in a few areas its application may be fairly new.

Another land use based approach is to use the preferred scenario as common ground to obtain commitments between cities. For example, industrial facilities may have roadways sized appropriately for freight, but not for shopping. One city in a metropolitan area may see some short-term economic benefit by allowing rezoning for a major retail operation. However, heavy shopper traffic in a local area could have negative impacts if the freight function of the regional road network is undermined.

Metro provides an example: following the adoption of the Metro Region 2040 Growth Concept, many local jurisdictions modified their plans to include the centers and corridors concept, a key component of the region’s preferred scenario. After nearly 20 years, there are few plans in the region that have not been modified to adapt to the 2040 Growth Concept. While Portland Metro has some land use authority, the majority of these changes were done in cooperation with local governments, who had an interest in the regional plan’s implementation.
Update Zoning Ordinances
One common finding from scenario planning efforts is that local zoning ordinances might not permit, or guide, the types and locations of new development described in the vision. Zoning ordinances should be updated to encourage the private sector to develop the types of land uses the city and metropolitan area would like to see.

As part of a scenario planning process in North Central Texas, the City of Dallas learned that capturing a larger share of the region’s housing was critical to their economic development desires, and at the same time helped to diminish region-wide VMT. However, faced with an outdated zoning code, developers had a difficult time producing the mixed-use and higher density housing the city and region were hoping to see. In response, the city developed several new zoning districts that could accommodate mixed-use and higher density development. The new districts were added to the zoning ordinance, but not applied to any specific properties. The intent was to provide new options for interested developers, while not initiating any legislative zoning changes on properties whose owners may not be ready or interested - until some successful examples could be built.

In 2011, Dallas used the momentum of creating new housing near transit stations to apply for and receive a grant for nearly $1,000,000 from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The grant is allowing the City to do detailed planning to apply new zones, and investments, in and around five light rail stations.
Develop a Strategic Plan
There are many areas within Oregon where comprehensive plans currently allow for mixed-use and higher density urban housing, but where the real estate market has not followed suit. For example, the 2011 Beaverton Civic Plan planning process discovered that downtown Beaverton zoning allowed much larger buildings than were being built. In similar cases, metropolitan areas cities and counties will want to work with the development community to determine why properties are often built to lower intensities than planned, or why they remain underutilized despite a healthy marketplace..

Strategic plans are non-regulatory plans that contemplate specific actions and allocate resources, such as people or capital, to achieve those ends. Besides a clear description of recommended programs and improvements, the plan should include a matrix to identify what departments or organizations will have lead responsibility, and what potential funding sources may be available. It should include an estimated timeframe and the relative priority for each action. Discussion about priorities not only helps in the allocation of limited public funds, but also yields better project definition and clarity.
Strategic Action Plan Example: Beaverton Civic Plan

Potential Funding and Support Mechanisms

For many years Oregon’s Transportation and Growth Management (TGM) Program has linked land use and transportation planning in the state. MPOs can also direct infrastructure funds toward projects that enable local implementation of the preferred scenario. Metropolitan areas can also take advantage of other methods to support implementation, such as those described below.
Using Transportation Projects
Transportation projects can designed to implement parts of the preferred strategy. These may range from transit enhancements, demand management programs, expanded bike paths, bike-sharing programs, workplace incentives, or electric vehicle incentive programs. The funding allocations for specific program in the TIP may also be a funding source. Metro allocates part of its TIP for Transit-on-Demand (TOD) and targeted funding for boulevard designs along transit corridors. Metro’s funding criteria gives preference to sidewalk and bikeways projects that promote development in centers, thus supporting the desired outcomes of creating town centers.
Pilot Programs and Catalytic Developments
This approach includes zoning code rewrites, strategic plans, and encouragement of new real estate projects. Well-known implementation projects in the Portland area following adoption of the Metro Region 2040 plan include the Belmont Dairy and Orenco Station. Each received some assistance as examples of the region’s preferred scenario vision.
Technical Training for Staff
Agencies within the metropolitan area should be encouraged to share their expertise with other planners and decision makers. An agency or organization, such as the MPO or a nearby college or university, may have facilities that can be used for periodic training sessions. Metro has a training room with multiple computers and occasionally contracts with educators and experts to teach techniques to planners and technicians from around the region. The Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) implemented a similar program following their scenario planning process known as Toolbox Tuesdays. Besides contracting for educators, SCAG often recruits experienced volunteers from the private sector to offer training in techniques ranging from use of sketch planning tools to photo-simulations for communicating planning concepts. The programs are free of charge and have the added benefit of providing access to training that does not require costly travel.
Forums and Awards Programs
Much of the work to implement the preferred scenario will happen through the daily planning activities of cities and counties, rather than grand investments in infrastructure. Periodic forums provide a great way for practitioners to share their methods, successes and best practices. SCAG hosts an annual awards program to showcase local efforts that successfully break new ground. These types of events help expand the number of people with ownership interest in the preferred scenario. Such events can range in size and scale, need not be overly expensive, and can often be hosted in partnership with local non-profit organizations. Private sector business can also include and often help to cover costs through sponsorships, providing refreshments, or sharing audio-visual equipment. A good example can be seen in the work of Building a Better Bend. In order to bring notable speakers to Bend, the non-profit host relies on annual sponsorships ranging from $250 to $1,000, as well as fees for attendance.
Regular Progress Reports
Implementation efforts benefit from keeping the scenario planning effort, and the preferred scenario, in the public’s eye. Progress should be shared through regular press reports, website updates, and social media. Metro surveys residents annually on the 2040 Plan and other issues related to planning. They publish the results on their website along with information about current projects within the region, from large-scale corridor plans to smaller individual transportation-oriented developments.

Monitoring Programs

A good monitoring program evaluates both implementation methods and accomplishments. Monitoring involves both how well the strategies of the preferred scenario are being carried out and how well the region is doing in meeting broader regional goals and objectives – for example reducing GHG emissions or household spending on transportation. Specific performance measures should be based on the evaluation criteria developed in Step 2. A good monitoring program not only evaluates the effectiveness of policies and actions, but provides regular feedback to agencies so they can make any needed adjustments or corrective actions to keep the metropolitan area, or the individual city or county, on course.


The scenario planning process creates a shared vision of how the metropolitan area can be better off. The vision of the preferred scenario is an important starting point for a broad range of efforts throughout the community, including updating land use and transportation plans, and the creation of new partnerships within the community to achieve that vision.

However, scenario planning is just the beginning of a process that depends on regional collaboration to move toward success on a range of shared goals, including GHG reduction. Implementation programs are successful if they are based on realistic outcomes of what can be accomplished. Even a modest implementation program can move the metropolitan area toward the better future depicted by the preferred scenario. Local governments and public agencies have a key role to play by pursuing public investments, programs and actions to achieve the vision.