• Brownfield Redevelopment
     • Green Building Standards
     • Accessory Dwelling Units

     • Historic Preservation
     • Main Street Program

     • Alt. Energy Ordinances
     • Stormwater Management

     • Smart Growth Code Fixes
     • Form-Based Codes
     • LEED-ND
     • Transit Oriented Dev.
     • Zoning Ordinances
     • Scenario Planning

     • Agricultural Security Areas
     • Clustered Subdivisions
     • Official Map Ordinance

     • Access Management
     • Complete Streets Policy
     • Impact Fees
     • Traffic Calming
     • Walkability

Illustration of community with homes, streets and buildings

Scenario Planning

Scenario planning is an analytical tool used to visualize the various forces that impact long-term development and growth. These tools are used to predict possible future development patterns, using factors such as transportation, economics, environmental impacts, and land use. Scenario planning can occur at a statewide level, for regions, or for local communities. The goal of scenario planning is to weigh all available factors in order to create a plan for future growth that will best meet the needs of the community.  A defining characteristic of successful public sector scenario planning is that it actively involves the public, the business community, and elected officials on a broad scale, educating about growth trends and trade-offs, and incorporating values and feedback into future plans. 


  • Tools allow the creation of models so the public may visualize potential development patterns 
  • Helps to illustrate how different development patterns each affect land use, transportation, the environment and economic development, and simplifies complex relationships
  • Generates interest in long-term planning and answers the question “what if?”
  • May be used to integrate a variety of goals and planning systems and track progress


  • Extensive public outreach is necessary to broaden the discussion and include as many viewpoints as possible – it takes time
  • Broad long-term goals may be difficult to model and illustrate
  • Tools may not be easily accessible
  • Tools may be complicated to use
  • Data for scenario planning inputs may be costly to acquire

Practical Tips

  • Use scenarios which clearly show a difference – start broad and then refine
  • Use data that is readily available
  • Free software and apps are available
  • Identify available grant programs and technical support programs for your efforts



  • The Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission, the regional planning agency serving the greater Pittsburgh 10-county area, developed six “sketch-scenarios.” These scenarios were developed into four more distinct draft scenarios: Trend; Dispersed/Fringe; Compact/Infill/Transit-Oriented; and Corridor/Cluster.  These scenarios were presented for public input via a Webcast Regional Town Meeting. Participants were allowed to vote on which scenarios they preferred, and this input was used to generate the Regional Vision Scenario, a part of the 2040 Plan. 
  • Plan Peters 2020 - Peters Township, Washington County, PA
  • Scenario Planning Summary Report - Peters Township, Washington County, PA