Modeling Tools

A baseline projection is usually developed using a scenario modeling tool. At this point, data gathered during this phase of the project is used to model or build the baseline projection. Planners increasingly use computer models to evaluate the long-term impacts of today's land-use and transportation decisions, and developers and lenders use models to assess the financial viability of projects. When modeling tools are employed, stakeholders can operate from a common set of data to evaluate both a baseline scenario and alternative scenarios.

At the data gathering and baseline projection stage of the process, it is helpful to have the data prepared in a format that's compatible with the selected modeling tool. There are a variety of modeling tools to choose from. The Technical Analysis section of this workbook discusses modeling tools in greater detail and outlines how tools can be used in a scenario planning process—taking a specific look at one modeling tool, Envision Tomorrow Plus (ET+).

The original planning tool, Envision Tomorrow, was developed by Fregonese Associates of Portland, Oregon; Envision Tomorrow Plus is the product of a close collaboration between the University of Utah's Metropolitan Research Center (MRC) and Fregonese Associates. The "Plus" consists of approximately 20 "apps" developed at the MRC. The apps are models derived from cutting-edge empirical research on a range of planning-related topics and then functionally inserted into the original Envision Tomorrow framework. Envision Tomorrow Plus (ET+) is an open-access scenario planning package that allows users to "paint" development scenarios on the landscape, and compare scenario outcomes in real time. Scenario comparisons include a comprehensive range of indicators relating to land use, housing, demographics, economic growth, development feasibility, fiscal impacts, transportation, environmental factors, and quality of life. ET+ provides a quick, sketch-level glimpse of the possible impacts of policies, development decisions and current growth trajectories, and can be used by communities to develop a shared vision of a desirable and attainable future. It can be applied at scales from a single parcel to a metropolitan region.

The tool has been applied to select demonstration sites across the Utah region as part of the Wasatch Choice for 2040 project. Cities and regions all over the United States are also using ET+. Chicago uses the tool to conduct housing studies; Baton Rouge is analyzing future growth scenarios. The Southern California Association of Governments is examining the potential for emissions reduction through different land use policies. In Portland, the regional government is refining its ability to test land use and transportation policies through scenario planning. Smaller cities like Waco, Texas, and Mountlake Terrace, Washington, have found ET+ to be a valuable addition to their planning toolbox.

More information about the ET+ software can be found here
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