The Regional Vision for the future, as established in the Regional Master Plan, indicates a desire for a strong regional economy, preservation of community character, and maintenance of the region’s natural and recreational resources. Further, the regional vision states a desire to strengthen community centers and maintain traditional landscapes, provide a variety of housing choices, invest in supportive infrastructure, and provide improved services for residents and businesses. Scenario planning supports the regional vision by identifying and comparing the benefits and impacts of multiple, differing futures. It also can help decision-makers understand how policy choices may impact achieving a desired future condition. In this case, the RPC is utilizing three related planning and forecasting tools to gauge two prospective alternatives for the magnitude of growth in the region (slow or strong growth), and two alternatives for the pattern of that change on the landscape (dispersed or concentrated growth).
Scenarios, in the realm of transportation and land use planning, are organized sets of assumptions that explore the ways in which a region might change and grow (USDOT, 2011). They provide a structure to envision potential needs as well as possible future policy and investment options. Scenario planning is a process that planners utilize to create this framework for looking into the future. By analyzing various community and regional demographic and land-use changes, stakeholders can better understand how these forces may potentially impact the overall scale and distribution of development in a region; through that, the impacts on transportation networks, housing needs, and the environment. There are many ways to implement scenario planning, however, there are several key elements that should be included in all cases:
Use of scenarios to compare and contrast interactions between multiple factors, such as transportation, land use, and economic development.
Analysis of how different land-use, demographic, or other types of scenarios could impact transportation networks or other systems.
Identification of possible strategies that lead toward achieving desired elements of the future conditions examined.