Why a scenario planning methodology?
Planning for, anticipating, or predicting the future can feel overwhelming, especially for the state of Texas’ transportation system. With technologies emerging seemingly unexpectedly and causing significant impacts (e.g., ride-hailing, e-scooters), emerging but not quite ready (e.g., automated and connected vehicles) or emerging but having minimal impact (e.g., electric vehicles), a methodology attuned to the ever-evolving landscape of emerging transportation technologies is needed. For intercity travel (e.g., automated vehicles to high-speed maglev trains) and intracity travel (e.g., urban air mobility to low-speed electric vehicles), the future of transportation is wide open to the imagination, limited only by laws, the laws of physics, funding, and sometimes unpredictable human behavior.
With humankind’s on-going advances in science and engineering, predicting one or two possible futures based on business as usual with traditional transportation modeling and planning approaches is no longer a relevant exercise. Interestingly, in the 1990s the US Department of Transportation conducted an “Enhanced Planning Review” of 21 metropolitan planning area transportation plans and found that none of the plans included a scan of upcoming technologies (Conklin, 1999).
A scenario planning methodology responsive to information about emerging technologies and that generates several plausible futures allows TxDOT and participating MPOs to approach the future with fuller awareness of possibilities.
This website presents a scenario construction methodology that incorporates emerging technologies to make the overwhelming task of developing plausible futures become a manageable, substantive process integrated into TxDOT’s long-range, strategic, and project planning.
The websites provides an overview of how to construct scenarios using archetypes, how to gather and evaluate data of the past, present, and signals of the future to inform the formation of plausible futures, and how to develop proactive and reactive strategies to prepare for and respond to potential future scenarios. In other words, to make TxDOT and Texas resilient.
Framing the scenario planning process with archetypes compels participants to think through and develop vastly different plausible futures, which strengthens preparation for the future and generates substantive, thoughtful discussions.
Anticipating the future as much as possible requires paying attention to “signals of change” as much as possible. So, this is not a once-in-awhile or as-needed methodology. Rather, it is a methodology that requires an institutional structure and commitment to incorporate into the everyday operations. The result will be a nimbler, more informed agency more prepared for the future than compared to current planning practices.
The Harvard Business Review stated (Scoblic, 2020):
“Today the use of scenarios is widespread. But all too often, organizations conduct just a single exercise and then set whatever they learn from it on the shelf. If companies want to make effective strategy in the face of uncertainty, they need to set up a process of constant exploration—one that allows top managers to build permanent but flexible bridges between their actions in the present and their thinking about the future. What’s necessary, in short, is not just imagination but the institutionalization of imagination. That is the essence of strategic foresight.”