US Department of Transportation

FHWA PlanWorks: Better Planning, Better Projects

Preparing the Vision

Activity Area: What is important?

Vision Activities

Within this activity, the practitioner’s responsibility is to develop a core set of shared community concerns or consensus issues areas; to facilitate a common understanding of community; and to reach agreement on and to clearly document the desired outcomes of the visioning process.

Determine key issues – Establishing significant community considerations, key priorities, or driving research questions informs the scale and scope of a visioning process. This activity will help focus the vision and direct future outreach, partnering, and organizational efforts.

Example: South Central Florida’s Heartland 2060 effort identified priority issues and values early in the process.

Identify study area – Developing an understanding of community boundaries will shape the scale of the visioning process, as well as determine the stakeholders and partners involved. This activity also includes establishing a common community identity, which may be a component of early stakeholder engagement efforts.

Example: The Power of 32, an expansive regional organization of counties within Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, and Ohio, recognizes sub-regional definitions.

Establish desired outcomes – Managing expectations of participants, setting objectives, and reaching agreement on project purpose is an important early activity. Documenting outcomes may help reduce conflict among stakeholders further in the process, may guide the scope of work, and may establish early objectives.

Example: The Power of 32 regional initiative developed a project summary highlighting the structure, budget, timeline, and goals and objectives of the process.

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

Establishing significant community considerations, key priorities, or driving research questions informs the scale and scope of a visioning process. Stakeholder outreach will help determine the boundaries of the region, the communities involved, the range of topics addressed, and the desired outcomes of the process. Outreach activities are often focused on obtaining feedback on what communities know now and want to know more about. Informative techniques may be utilized such as interviews with community leaders or key stakeholders, agency coordination meetings and opinion surveys or questionnaires. Collaboration with community leaders will support the development of a visioning process that is widely supported.

Practitioners may consider these questions when assessing outreach tools:

Is there a common regional or community identity?

How far into the future are we looking?

What key issues should be considered and addressed?

What can stakeholders tell us about desired outcomes?

Considering Communities

Having established a set of core issues, an initial set of preferred indicators can be selected. This list will likely be informed, but not limited to, those identified in earlier activities. Documenting likely outcomes using measures may help reduce conflict among stakeholders further in the process, may guide the scope of work, and may assist in establishing early objectives.

PolicyMap, Geographic Information Systems Mapping Services and Software – This online tool with the capacity to map and report indicators related to demographics, real estate, crime rates, health, schools, housing affordability, employment, energy, public investments, and others. Access The Policy Map.

Community Context Audit – This audit form guides practitioners when identifying community characteristics that make each transportation project location unique to its residents, its businesses, and the public in general. Findings help define the purpose and need of proposed transportation improvements based upon community goals and local plans for future development. Access the tool here.