Futures Planning

As part of the Horizon initiative, MTC and the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) conducted Futures planning, a new way of looking at long-range planning, focusing on exploring divergent “what if...” scenarios to identify strategies that would be effective in a wide variety of circumstances.

It replaced traditional scenario planning where funding and growth are distributed based on fixed assumptions; instead, the Futures process outlined a variety of potential political, technological, economic and environmental challenges that would impact the lives of Bay Area residents.

MTC and ABAG worked with stakeholders and residents 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.

Resilient and Equitable Strategies Report

January 2020

The Futures Final Report: Resilient and Equitable Strategies for the Bay Area's Future is the culminating report of the Horizon process. Building upon March 2019's Futures Interim Report, this final report explores how a potential suite of transportation, housing, economic and environmental strategies could put the Bay Area on a more resilient and equitable path forward over the next 30 years. While this report reflects the conclusion of the Horizon planning process, it also represents the beginning of critical conversations that will stretch into 2020 as part of Plan Bay Area 2050.

Opportunities and Challenges Report

March 2019

The Futures Interim Report: Opportunities and Challenges was a key milestone for the Horizon initiative. The report, released in March 2019, explored new opportunities created by future uncertainties as well as the major challenges that the Bay Area may face. The report outlined 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.

Three Futures

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.