About five years ago, I was invited to join a group of researchers who planned to undertake a smart mobility research project in partnership with community stakeholders in Benton Harbor, Michigan. Unlike in much of my prior research on scenario planning which relies on learning from professional practice, in this project I had the opportunity to actually design and lead a process, thanks to the support from a robust team and funding from the National Science Foundation. We made every effort to embed the data and modeling in a highly collaborative process that used scenarios to foster discussion about transit futures. Although we definitely encountered a few challenges along the way (one of which was the pandemic!), I am proud of what we accomplished. We summarized our work in an open-access article published this month in the journal Case Studies on Transport Policy, titled “”Improving transit in small cities through collaborative and data-driven scenario planning.” Here’s the abstract:
Small communities lack effective transit planning methods that integrate diverse forms of knowledge, foster collaboration, and envision better transit futures. To address this need, this paper presents a case study of a project conducted in Benton Harbor, Michigan. The case study demonstrates a collaborative and data-driven scenario planning process conducted for a small region, and evaluates it through a mixed-methods research design. Through the use of quantitative normative service scenarios and qualitative exploratory scenarios, the project generated financially and operationally feasible proposals that community leaders can implement in the future, and also fostered constructive dialogue among transit stakeholders. Survey data show that participants experienced high levels of learning, engaged in quality deliberation, and are generally optimistic about the potential for improved transit. The project’s approach can be replicated elsewhere through the use of five essential elements: a steering committee, stakeholder analysis, a series of engagement workshops, normative and exploratory scenarios, and interaction between data and modeling. Collaborative planning with scenarios can help the transportation field address the need to foster collaboration and epistemic inclusion in a changing world.
Citation: Goodspeed, Robert, Kidus Admassu, Vahid Bahrami, Tierra Bills, John Egelhaaf, Kim Gallagher, Jerome Lynch, Neda Masoud, Todd Shurn, Peng Sun, Yiyang Wang, and Curt Wolf. 2023. “Improving transit in small cities through collaborative and data-driven scenario planning.” Case Studies on Transport Policy 11: 100957. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cstp.2023.100957.