US Department of Transportation

FHWA PlanWorks: Better Planning, Better Projects

Creating the Vision

Activity Area: Where do we want to be?

Vision Activities

Within this activity, the practitioner’s responsibility is to identify alternatives for consideration and develop representations of those alternatives for assessment, to creatively engage participants in a process to provide input on alternatives, and to reach consensus on a preferred future(s).

Identify and evaluate potential futures – Developing potential alternative futures helps the public make informed choices. The process for identifying alternatives for analysis, representing those alternatives creatively, and then evaluating alternatives based on established values and indicators should be iterative, collaborative, and innovative. Potential products within this activity range from involved technical modeling efforts to simple and graphical representations.

Example: Envision Cache Valley developed alternatives scenarios through a process built on public workshops, technical analysis, and public vetting. Long Island 2035 developed scenarios with extensive evaluation criteria and public input opportunities.

Solicit public and stakeholder input – Providing the public the opportunity to view, assess, and provide preferences on alternative futures is the hallmark of successful visioning processes. For the best results, the process of engaging the public, soliciting input, and utilizing that input should be structured, transparent, and genuine. Interactive, targeted outreach and engagement strategies are utilized to provide creative opportunities for involvement.

Examples: One Bay’s Scenario Survey and Brochure are materials developed to solicit public input on alternatives. The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning’s GOTO 2040 process engaged in an in-depth public involvement campaign to test scenarios.

Develop consensus future – Collecting, refining, and utilizing public input in developing a preferred future is a keystone of the visioning process. Without a clear process to accept input in developing a common future, the entire process may disintegrate. Representation of the consensus future, whether by illustration, vision statement, selected alternative, or set of goals must reflect input provided.

Examples: The Tri County Regional Growth Vision was summarized in a public brochure, Puget Sound Regional Council’s Vision 2040 provided a comprehensive map, and Central Florida’s How Shall We Grow? developed a conceptual future vision.

The research report for the Vision Guide contains extensive information about reaching stakeholders and tools that support stakeholder engagement. See Linking Community Visioning and Highway Capacity Planning in the PlanWorks Library Reports.

Visioning Components
Name Tools & Resources
Reaching Stakeholders

Providing the public the opportunity to view, assess, and provide preferences on alternative futures is the hallmark of successful visioning processes. For the best results, the process of engaging the public, soliciting input, and utilizing that input should be structured, transparent, and genuine. Interactive, targeted outreach and engagement strategies provide creative opportunities for involvement. The result is a well planned stakeholder outreach strategy that helps ensures the community vision best represents interests and input from all stakeholders. This is key point in any visioning process and often the stage where clear communication and full participation is critical to ensuring later buy-in and commitment to the vision’s outcomes.

The selection of a scenario planning approach and associated outreach activities is a key element of this activity area. A variety of scenario tools and techniques can be used to foster participation, convey ideas and to solicit feedback and comments during vision development. The tools and techniques available range from complex technical software to basic role playing and board games. Each community is unique and available tools and techniques may be customized to provide the best fit for an area. Tool selection considerations might include cost and budget available or the focus of the tool (e.g., land use, transportation, and environment) among other criteria. From an outreach perspective, key considerations may be how intuitive or visually effective the scenario tool is in conveying information. The selection matrix in the previous section of this report provides additional information and links to a variety of scenario planning support options.

Practitioners may consider these questions when assessing outreach tools:

What is the most appropriate scenario planning approach for the community? (e.g. technical software or interactive role-playing games or conceptual visual preference surveys?

How can we best engage the maximum number of participants in viewing, learning, evaluating, and registering a preference for the alternative scenarios produced?

What innovative methods, technologies, or resources are available to reach the broadest range of stakeholders?

How can we best gather and utilize public input in a transparent manner so the process is not jeopardized?

What is the exact role of the public in crafting the final preferred future?

Considering Communities

Data should be used here to compare the trend analysis with those of a different set of program and policy selections that will likely lead to a distinct future. This data will help ground the ideas of the future vision, and provide critical input to the next activity.

Active Community Environments (ACEs) Community Assessment – This is an assessment tool designed to help the user identify ways that can help encourage and support bicycle movements. There are five short questionnaires and a rating system that can be used as a benchmark for community progress. See more at Active Community Environments.

Active Neighborhood Checklist – The checklist is designed to assess street-level features of a neighborhood thought to be related to physical activity. It can be used to produce descriptive statistics about an area, to raise awareness about the environment in supporting or discouraging pedestrian activity, and/or mobilize the community to advocate for enhancements or improvements. Download the checklist here.

Walkability Checklist and A Resident's Guide for Creating Safe and Walkable Communities – These checklists are designed for community members to determine if their neighborhood is a friendly place to walk. The guidebook can be referenced by participants to learn about roadway conditions, traffic problems that adversely affect pedestrian movements, and ways to help address these problems to make the environment more supportive of pedestrian activity. See more at A Resident’s Guide for Creating Safe and Walkable Communities and Walkable America.

West Peterborough Road Audit – This audit tool can be used to evaluate how well streets and adjacent land uses are performing as Places, and identify opportunities for future enhancements. Download the tool here.

Making Your Community Walkable and Bikeable: A Guidebook for Change – The guidebook is a step-by-step navigation tool to be used by local groups and citizens to effectively contribute to the planning process and build partnerships with transportation practitioners to enhance the local road network to be more supportive of walking and biking. Download the guide here.

Public Health Workbook to Define, Locate and Reach Special, Vulnerable and At-Risk Populations in an Emergency – The workbook can be used by practitioners and public health agencies to ensure that all populations are reached and informed in the event of an emergency. The sponsor agency can work with transportation agencies to ensure that evacuation routes are well defined and translated into the languages of limited and non-English speaking populations in their community. They can also identify transportation services to evacuate physically and mentally handicapped and elderly populations. Download the workbook here.

Thinking Beyond the Pavement Checklist – The checklist is a tool to be used by practitioners to assess the physical setting - both natural and manmade - in which proposed improvements would occur. The checklist can be used as part of the Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) approach. Download the checklist here.

Systematic Pedestrian and Cycling Environmental Scan (SPACES) Audit Instrument – A comprehensive instrument that is designed to measure the physical environmental factors that may influence walking and cycling in local neighborhoods. The instrument was developed to be used in combination with additional measures that are gathered through Geographical Information Systems (GIS). For more information see the Active Living Research web site.

Smart Growth Checklist, A Checklist for Municipal Land Use Planning and Management – This guide may be used by communities when making decisions about future land use and development patterns. It is designed to assess how well planning and land use policies and decisions in a community follow the principles of Smart Growth. Access the checklist here.