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Strategic Level Planning
Strategic planning is a means to help governments select policies and actions to address pressing long‐term issues fraught with uncertainty. Regions are faced with a number of matters of concern related to the development of sustainable transportation systems (e.g., energy, air quality, water, agricultural lands, public health, and economic development), as well as uncertainties about the future. Strategic planning tools allow exploration of many scenarios to assess policy/investment tradeoffs about complex systems enabling us to “think better” about intended and unintended consequences of our actions.
Strategic planning is becoming increasingly important as a means to help state and metropolitan area governments select policies and actions to address pressing issues that are fraught with uncertainty. The use of strategic level planning models in scenario planning may also be used to consider uncertain external influences, such as technological advances. Performance metrics from these tools can be useful at the early stages, and throughout, the planning, programming and project prioritization processes.
Tools and Resources
The Rapid Policy Assessment Tool (RPAT), formerly known under SHRP2 as SmartGAP, is a free and open source software application transportation planning agencies can use to conduct scenario planning to evaluate smart growth and other transportation investment policies. RPAT uses changes in built environment, travel demand, transportation supply, and transportation policies to quantify the effects of planning scenarios on future travel demand. RPAT addresses gaps that exist within common planning process practices by integrating land use strategies and quantitative methods into the investment decision making process.
RPAT provides transportation planning agencies with improved tools and methods for more accurately and comprehensively integrating investment decision making with land use strategies.
Impacts 2050 is a strategic model that uses a systems dynamics approach to understanding the fundamental relationships between social and demographic factors and travel demand, and how these relationships might change over time. The system dynamics approach also accounts for feedback within the system. For example, an increase in road supply might increase VMT, which leads to increased traffic congestion and then to road construction and expanded road supply. Alternatively, population growth might lead to increased traffic congestion, which, in the absence of road construction or other infrastructure improvements, could lead to an increase in the number of people leaving the region. The emphasis for long-range planning is on developing qualitatively accurate depictions of how different variable relationships evolve over time.Rather than produce detailed forecasts of travel behavior, it illustrates a range of future scenarios that could occur in a given region under a range of different assumptions.
VisionEval is a recently established partnership merging the successful GreenSTEP family of strategic planning tools into an open-source project with a supporting community forum of partner agencies and others sharing in its use and enhancement. The goal is to support a broad array of potential tool uses and enable pooled enhancements expanding the types of outcomes measured or refine the specificity of transportation and land use solutions considered. The work to date by the founding FHWA-OregonDOT partnership has focused on the technical components of putting the various tools on a common programming framework. Bolstered by interest at an RPAT Peer Exchange in October 2015, efforts are underway to build a supportive community around the tool, drawing from successful past and interested future users nationally, who will both define the policy needs and uses of these tools, and set their direction moving forward.
VisionEval is an open source common framework designed to provide tools for performance-based planning. Strategic Analysis Tools for Scenario Planning