US Department of Transportation
FHWA Planworks: Better Planning, Better Projects
Visioning and Transportation
Visioning and the Decision Guide
Visioning is an optional public exercise where planners facilitate community stakeholders in defining their desired future, in order to inform planning and policy development. Visioning provides an opportunity for communities to establish a common foundation for a variety of community plans including, for example, land use, transportation and economic development. Using an adopted community vision as an input into transportation decision making ensures that transportation plans and projects are advancing the values and opportunities that the community supports.
When used to support transportation planning, visioning often includes scenario planning. Visioning scenarios extend beyond conventional 10-25 year planning horizons and address dynamic relationships among social, economic, educational, environmental, and technological factors, as well as mobility, accessibility, and system performance. The desired future may be illustrated in pictures or maps along with policies which can be supported by specific goals, objectives, and implementation strategies.
Visioning methods range from simple structured small group discussions to complex analyses with sophisticated renderings and extensive public engagement. A well-crafted vision relies on strong participation and genuine interaction among participants whose decisions and actions can support.
A successful outcome from visioning can improve both the quality and timeliness of transportation decision making. A vision provides the physical, economic and social context of a community's future, built on collaboration between decision makers and interested groups or individuals. Transportation decisions improve when decisions build upon the positive relationships and partnerships established by a process that is broad-based and inclusive of all of the diverse interests within a community. The result of this collaboration is agreement on the vision and a commitment to implement the vision. By considering this vision during transportation decision making, practitioners can gain local support for transportation improvements that support the desired future
Visioning can support all phases of transportation decision making. For a snapshot of the relevance of visioning to each Key Decision, roll over the Decision Guide graphic below. Click on any Key Decision to access detailed information about:
- Purpose and outcomes
- Partner roles
- Linkages across phases
- Questions to consider
- Data that support the decision
Key Decisions that are grayed-out have no specific relevance to the individual application or topic area but are still accessible from this graphic.
The Vision Guide
The Vision Guide was developed to enhance transportation practitioners' understanding of how broad-based community visioning processes can inform decision making. It explores community visioning efforts, identifies steps and activities for engaging in visioning, and highlights the links between vision outcomes and transportation. During visioning, stakeholders and the public come to consensus on four basic questions: Where are we now? Where are we going? Where do we want to be? and How will we get there?
The Vision Guide is an interactive graphic providing access to the many activities and decisions associated with integrating community visioning into transportation planning.
- Visioning Phases: The guide organizes visioning activities into three phases: Preparing, Creating, and Implementing. Click on a phase name to view an overview of what occurs within that phase.
- Visioning Activities: The questions in each column link to important activities for practitioners to pursue as part of visioning. Click on a question to learn more and to access case studies illustrating the practice.
- Visioning Decision Points: Vision-related approval and adoption decisions are the bold steps in the Vision Guide. These points require a decision to produce a vision outcome. Click on any of the Decision Points, to view information for these transition points.
Vision Guide Chart
|Preparing the Vision||Creating the Vision||Implementing the Vision|
Examples from Practice
Visioning can be used as an input to transportation planning in many different ways. The examples below illustrate a variety of approaches and outcomes of a visioning process. The use of scenario planning is a common feature of most.
CUUATS began their visioning process by statistically modelling changes in land use patterns, employment and population growth, public health, and travel demand patterns. Using the projected changes in these trends, as well as public input, CUUATS created two separate scenarios: The Traditional Development 2040 scenario, which projected developments through 2040 from historical trends, and the Sustainable Development 2040 scenario, which projected developments through 2040 based on MAP-21 performance goals and the performance goals of the region.
Within their Transportation Master Plan, Cheyenne Area MPO included a chapter on an unconstrained "Transportation Vision Plan." The MPO divided this chapter into sections on various modal choices and addressed what projects, if funded, could reduce congestion as well as increase mobility and safety. Using a fiscally unconstrained plan, Cheyenne considered the impacts of projects that were not feasible and developed strategies to fund those projects which they determined would have the greatest impacts on the community.
Evansville MPO held community visioning workshops in order to encourage greater public participation in developing a collective vision for their community. One of the tools used was the Boonville Downtown Revitalization Blog, which provided updates to citizens and contained a section for residents to voice their opinions and recommendations to community planners.
In 2014, Envision Utah conducted a values study to understand what matters most to residents of Utah. The study outcome was captured in three primary characteristics: Safe and Secure Environment, Cost of Living/Economic Opportunity, and Scenic Beauty/Outdoor Recreation. The use of scenarios and survey results, informed by the values allowed development of a vision for 2050.
Florida DOT based their transportation vision on five questions: Where have we been; Where are we today; Where are we going; Where do we want to go; and How do we get there. State, regional, and local agencies all attempted to answer these questions, and the general public was heavily consulted during the process. A state summit, five regional workshops, several local partner meetings, and online comment forms were all used to obtain input from the public in shaping the vision for Florida.
Hillsborough County MPO received feedback from the community on where residents would like to see the community grow and develop over the subsequent 25-year period. Using this feedback, the Planning Commission created a heat map to illustrate the preferred course for future development.
Public engagement for the On To 2050 plan began in April 2017. The focus was to "stress-test" assumptions about trends that may shape the future of the CMAP region. A robust set of strategies was used for this engagement and a wide variety of stakeholder were engaged. This information will inform the ongoing development of the ON TO 2050 plan.
Puget Sound Regional Council considered six major policy areas in developing their vision for the region: environment, development patterns, housing, economy, transportation, and public services. By understanding the impacts of a project to all of these areas, the agency was able to integrate land use, economic, and transportation decisions in a manner that supports environmental health, addresses challenges associated with climate change, strives to achieve social equity, and attends to the needs of future generations.