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 and ABAG are working to identify a suite of transportation, land use, economic development, and resilience strategies to “win the future," regardless of what happens in the decades ahead.

Opportunities and Challenges Report
The Futures Interim Report: Opportunities and Challenges is a key milestone for the Horizon initiative. The report, released in March 2019, explores new opportunities created by future uncertainties as well as the major challenges that the Bay Area may face, the report outlines what the Bay Area could expect in all three futures—Rising Tides, Falling Fortunes; Clean and Green; and Back to the Future—if no new policies beyond those in Plan Bay Area 2040 were implemented.

The three futures for Horizon are listed below:

Rising Tides, Falling Fortunes: 
Nationwide tax cuts and spending caps significantly reduce 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.

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.

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.

The Final Futures Report, identifying a shortlist resilient strategies in an era of uncertainty, will be released in fall 2019.