Futures Planning | Plans + Projects | Our Work

Futures Planning

Futures Planning is a new way of looking at long-range planning, focusing on exploring divergent “what if” scenarios to identify strategies that are effective in a wide variety of circumstances. It replaces traditional scenario planning where funding and growth are distributed based on fixed assumptions; instead, the Futures process outlines a variety of potential political, technological, economic and environmental challenges that would impact the lives of Bay Area residents. Working with stakeholders and residents this fall, MTC/ABAG will identify a suite of transportation, land use, economic development, and resilience strategies to “win the future”, regardless of what happens in the decades ahead.

Through a daylong peer exchange in April with experts from across the region, MTC/ABAG developed eleven futures and has now narrowed down the list to three futures for further exploration. In the end, staff believes that the three futures featured in the shortlist below present unique opportunities and challenges for the Bay Area and merit exploration through June 2019 across all four topic areas of Horizon – transportation, land use, economic development, and resilience.

The three proposed futures for Horizon are listed below:

Clean and Green:
Recognizing the growing impacts of climate change, the federal government significantly tightens environmental regulations and implements an ambitious, nationwide carbon tax. New technologies thrive, with virtual reality enabling telecommuting and smaller-scale workplaces distributed across town centers. While high-tech manufacturing thrives in the United States, economic growth slows for other more energy-intensive sectors.

Rising Tides, Falling Fortunes:
Nationwide tax cuts and spending caps result a significant reduction in federal infrastructure funding. Combined with autonomous vehicles failing to live up to the hype, cities, regions, and states are forced to pay for much-needed traditional infrastructure projects themselves. Lack of regulatory action on climate change worldwide results in sea levels rising by three feet by 2050 – creating a new set of infrastructure needs in an era of slow growth.

Back to the Future:
The U.S. experiences continued prosperity and finds itself widely respected on the world stage, thanks to smart and strategic policy decisions on the national level. Rapid job growth means more people want to move to the U.S., and increased public investment in infrastructure makes the nation more attractive for businesses. Silicon Valley technologies are dominant worldwide in everything from cars to e-commerce. Wealthy Americans seek larger suburban homes and many depend on new technologies such as autonomous vehicles and hyperloop lines to access urban job centers.

Key milestones for Futures include:

  • Selection of specific futures for analysis: July 2018
  • Identification of opportunities and challenges in each future: December 2018
  • Collaborative development of policy solutions for each future: January 2019
  • Report detailing “win-win” strategies across futures: June 2019