Research

Navigating Trade-Offs in Complex Systems

Principal Investigator: Asim Zia (Transportation Research Center)
Funding Agency: US DOT

Project Summary

Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) are required by Federal law to develop a long-range Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP) at least every five years. This research focuses on assessing the trade-offs between business-as-usual MTP scenario of gasoline driven transportation infrastructure and suburban growth with two alternate sustainable community design scenarios in Chittenden County Metropolitan Planning Area (CCMPO). The CCMPO adopted its last long-range transportation plan in 2005 for a temporal horizon of 2005 to 2025 and is currently updating 2025 MTP to 2035 MTP. We implemented two focus groups with multiple stakeholder representatives of the regional transportation planning network and conducted numerous interviews to implement a participatory multi-criteria evaluation of 2035 MTP scenarios. Three MTP scenarios are evaluated on twelve decision criteria: operational performance, sustainable land-use, safety and accessibility, minimize time and total costs, protect built and natural environs, community development, access and mobility, transportation system efficiency, energy efficiency and conservation, improve alternate travel modes, public education and cost effective and inclusive. Our analysis reveals that the underlying expected value functions of all stakeholder representatives in the regional transportation planning network overwhelmingly reject business-as-usual MTP scenario. Instead, a more sustainable, growth contained community design scenario emerges with the highest expected value for all stakeholder groups. Formal implementation of sustainable community design scenario would, however, require CCMPO and regional transportation planning network actors to overcome a series of legal, political and economic challenges. We discuss the implications of these trade-offs, challenges and opportunities on the development and implementation of sustainable community designs.