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Forecasting versus Envisioning: A New Window on the Future



In this essay I examine the ways in which the future has evolved from sweeping vision to technocratic projection. I argue that despite the centrality of a focus on the future in all of planning, forecasting alone is an inadequate and unsatisfying way to arrive at a concept of the future that can truly guide planning. In fact, projections of future needs and costs have become instruments by which powerful interests justify their efforts to impose their projects on the populace. I close by arguing that modern forecasting methods nevertheless can be used to explore alternative futures and the planning policies that they imply or suggest. In that way, forecasting can actually become a central part of collaborative planning.
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Forecasting versus Envisioning: A New Window on
the Future
Martin Wachs
To cite this article: Martin Wachs (2001) Forecasting versus Envisioning: A�New�Window
on�the�Future , Journal of the American Planning Association, 67:4, 367-372, DOI:
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the toolkit for other members of the profession to use.
Only in this way can planners truly develop the profes-
sionalism needed to approach the topic of the future
with authority.
Current Contributions
The following group of essays on the future in plan-
ning extends our knowledge in important ways. Origi-
nally prepared as part of a panel discussion on the use
of the future in planning at the 1998 annual meeting of
the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning, they
have been substantially revised for the present volume.
Neither individually nor collectively do these essays ad-
dress the comprehensive issue of the future in planning.
But each makes an important contribution that hope-
fully will stimulate the profession in different ways.
In “Forecasting versus Envisioning: A New Window
on the Future,” Martin Wachs addresses competing
metaphors for planners’ work that make distinct as-
sumptions about how we should approach the future.
He concludes with recommendations for how forecasts
should be used within a contemporary, collaborative ap-
proach to planning.
In “Dare to Dream: Bringing Futures into Plan-
ning,” Sam Cole explores the contributions that a fu-
tures orientation can bring to the planning profession.
As both a planner and a futurist, the author provides an
overview of the futures field, explaining its differences
from and similarities to the planning profession. He also
provides a guide to the rich resources offered by futures
studies. Many of the ideas of futurists may prove helpful
to planners who need to think about the longer run and
the broader implications of planning decisions.
My essay “Demographic Futures as a Guide to Plan-
ning: California’s Latinos and the Compact City” advo-
cates using demographic forecasts to more fully guide
urban planning. After explaining the general advantages
of the demographic approach, the essay presents the ex-
ample of the growing Latino population in California
and what it foretells about the future of the state. Fo-
cusing on the desired goal of building more compact cit-
ies, the analysis explores how Latinos’ higher-density liv-
ing arrangements and greater use of public transit might
alter future development patterns. Far from reaching a
definitive conclusion, this essay sketches the opportuni-
ties provided by following the demographic futures ap-
Taken together, these essays nudge planners for-
ward, urging a stronger grasp of the future in our work.
They demonstrate important insights and raise new
questions for others to pursue. Hopefully, the readers of
this journal will take up the challenge.
ACSP Strategic Marketing Committee. (1997). Anchor points
for planning’s identification. Journal of Planning Education
and Research, 16, 223–224.
Helling, A. (1998). Collaborative visioning: Proceed with cau-
tion! Results from evaluating Atlanta’s Vision 2020 pro-
ject. Journal of the American Planning Association, 64, 335–
Isserman, A. (1985). Dare to plan: An essay on the role of the
future in planning practice and education. Town Planning
Review, 56, 483–491.
Myers, D., & Kitsuse, A. (2000). Constructing the future in
planning: A survey of theories and tools. Journal of Plan-
ning Education and Research, 19, 221–231.
Forecasting versus
A New Window on the Future
Martin Wachs
In this essay I examine the ways in which the future has evolved from
sweeping vision to technocratic projection. I argue that despite the
centrality of a focus on the future in all of planning, forecasting alone
is an inadequate and unsatisfying way to arrive at a concept of the fu-
ture that can truly guide planning. In fact, projections of future needs
and costs have become instruments by which powerful interests justify
their efforts to impose their projects on the populace. I close by argu-
ing that modern forecasting methods nevertheless can be used to ex-
plore alternative futures and the planning policies that they imply or
suggest. In that way, forecasting can actually become a central part of
collaborative planning.
ne of the defining characteristics of planning as a
eld is its concern for the future. While planners
differ from one another by focusing on housing,
the environment, economic development, or transpor-
tation systems, what we have in common is an orienta-
tion toward the future. And, as many have observed, our
understanding of planning has changed greatly over
time as planners’ concept of the future has itself changed.
APA Journal Autumn 2001 Vol. 67, No. 4 367
The Future as Seen in the Past
Many planners tell ourselves and our students that
in the early days of planning the field was dominated by
visionaries such as Frederick Law Olmsted, Daniel Burn-
ham, Ebenezer Howard, Clarence Stein, and Rexford
Guy Tugwell who saw the future in bold outline. To
them, things should and would be different and better in
the future in ways that people could see and hear and
feel. Never mind that politics and economics got in the
way; their idealized futures and grand visions were guide-
posts for current actions. This utopian vision was also
the roadmap that planners used to navigate the present.
It was the inspiration to continue on the path toward a
brighter future no matter how many obstacles were en-
countered along the way.
Today we understand that this conception of plan-
ning history is in part truth and in large part myth. Early
planners had to be as responsive to the political pres-
sures of their day as modern planners must be today.
These icons of our field were, like us, trying to be effective
at their jobs, yet their master plans were rarely, if ever,
fully achieved, despite their ability to inspire and moti-
vate. When viewed through the lens of a grand master
plan, the future as utopia was a powerful metaphor that
gave their plans direction and purpose.
Many planners are nostalgic for the days of visionary
thinking and urge us to return to the utopianism that
characterized our roots (e.g., Isserman, 1985). By com-
parison to these historic visionaries, planners today have
in our thinking become “ordinary bureaucrats seeking
a secure career, some status, and regular increases in
salary” (Krumholz, 1983, p. 275). Michael Brooks, for ex-
ample, writing in this journal, stated:
In my view, we sorely need to return to the utopian
tradition in planning. The urban planning profes-
sion needs a new generation of visionaries, people
who dream of a better world, and who are capable
of designing the means to attain it. That, after all,
is the essence of planning: to visualize the ideal
future community, and to work toward its reali-
zation. It is a much-needed role in our cities, and
young men and women continue to enter the pro-
fession because they want to perform that role. Let
us nurture their instincts, and thereby restore the
urban planning profession to its historic mission.
(Brooks, 1988, p. 247)
Process Replaces the Grand Plan
Why do planners no longer think about the future in
visionary or utopian terms? There are a number of dif-
ferent explanations which can be seen as either compet-
ing or complementary. One reason might well be that
planning thought has evolved from concentrating on
end states to focusing on processes. Planners today de-
fine ourselves using different metaphors than we did a
hundred years ago. The master plan is no longer our holy
grail, but planning is everything. We have rejected physi-
cal determinism; few of us today think it is adequate or
even appropriate to envision master plans as the most
highly prized products of our work. Instead, our goal is
to increase access to the planning process and to ensure
that those with the power to make consequential deci-
sions hear and listen to many voices. We are more con-
cerned with establishing the legitimacy of multiple vi-
sions than we are with pursuing any one of them. Thus,
we focus less on the intellectual and motivational power
of clear, coherent—and inevitably elitist—visions of the
future than on ways to encourage the increasing number
of participants in planning processes to foster many dif-
ferent visions.
We could think of this new direction as a different
kind of vision, but its open, participatory, messy proc-
esses lack the motivational power inherent in master
plans. Goals of diversity are hard to rally around; it is in-
herently more difficult to reify multiple goals than a uni-
tary image of the future. No wonder some of us are nos-
talgic for visionary notions of the future. Our futures
today seem timid and lack inspirational power, no mat-
ter how well meaning they may be. Furthermore, this
emphasis on multiple visions leaves us with the difficult
task of resolving differences and finding compromises
among competing visions. Unlike the grand physical
master plans of the past, today’s process of inclusion and
compromise seems to be almost the antithesis of vision-
ary thinking.
Futures are Forecast Rather than
Another reason that vision has receded from the
planning horizon may well be that after World War II,
the earlier dominance over planning thought and uni-
versity education by architects and designers shifted to
the current prominence of analytical thinking by applied
social scientists and engineers. The future is no longer
envisioned, but rather is forecast using elaborate data-
bases, mathematical models, and algorithms. From re-
gional plans to proposals for public facilities to plans for
private developments, the starting point for public dis-
cussion is typically a forecast of demand for use and pub-
lic or private cost. A technical forecast to be accommo-
dated by professional activity is extremely different from
a vision to be fulfilled by bold action.
368 APA Journal Autumn 2001 Vol. 67, No. 4
The Role of Technical Analysis
Forecasting is almost the opposite of visionary
thinking. Plans today are descriptions of courses of ac-
tion and enumerations of facilities that are needed to ac-
commodate forecasts of changes in population, travel,
residential needs, office space, and the like. Most often,
plans are responses to forecasts of potential problems—
for example, unless some action is taken, there will be a
housing shortage; unless an intervention is planned,
water pollution will worsen; if no airport plans are made,
there will be long travel delays.
Furthermore, to the extent that they depict future
conditions, forecasts provide dry, technocratic images
that hardly have the power to motivate committed re-
sponses. Elaborate databases and complex mathematical
models are used, and the reports in which the forecasts
are presented are weighty and dominated by technical
jargon, equations, graphs, and tables. They are often pre-
pared by consultants or highly trained technical staff of
public agencies. The forecasts that justify plans for tran-
sit systems, dams, power plants, or regional shopping
centers may have been prepared by dozens of specialists
using computer software packages that others have de-
veloped and geographic information systems that still
others have assembled. Forecasts of retail sales at a po-
tential shopping center or patronage on a proposed tran-
sit line are the consequence of mathematical models that
use as inputs the results of a chain of other forecasts. For
example, forecasts of employment and economic growth
rely on the results of still other forecasts of population
growth, which rely upon the results of yet other forecasts
of migration and birth rates and death rates. Most com-
monly, forecasts are actually projections. Using recent
trends in many underlying causal variables, the future
values of some other dependent variables are modeled.
Since all the causal variables are presumed to be follow-
ing their historical trends, the forecast is not a vision of
the future at all—it is rather a foreseeable consequence
of intersecting trends.
The politicians and administrators who commis-
sion forecasts rarely understand them and often quote
their conclusions without subjecting them to critical re-
view. They tend to repeatedly cite the projections that
support their positions while ignoring those that do not.
Lay citizens and public interest groups rarely have the
technical expertise, the time, or the budget to repeat, ver-
ify, analyze, or critique complex forecasts. Nevertheless,
plans for the physical development of communities, the
provision of public and social services, and the improve-
ment of environmental conditions all treat forecasts as
the starting point for planning. And, rather than claim-
ing that forecasts incorporate vision or creativity, plan-
ners assert their validity by citing the complexity and so-
phistication of the models. We assert that our forecasts,
rather than being right because they incorporate appro-
priate values and goals, are appropriate and useful be-
cause they are the products of scientific or mathematical
models that encapsulate empirical truths instead of our
subjective ideals.
The Role of Assumptions
Sophistication in the techniques of forecasting,
however, is more apparent than real because of the criti-
cal role of assumptions (Wachs, 1990). While equations,
computers, and databases give forecasts an aura of sci-
entific complexity which invests them with a certain
amount of authority in the political arena, the most crit-
ical inputs needed to make a forecast often consist of as-
sumptions about the future. The simplest population
forecast, which might employ any one of many different
mathematical models, will depend to a greater extent on
assumptions than on the particular model that is em-
ployed. Will future birth and death rates be the same as
those in the recent past? Will migration rates rise or fall?
We often assume that recent trends will continue for a
decade or more, thus turning a simple projection of past
trends into our most authoritative forecast. But, of
course, such assumptions are not based on knowledge
of what those trends will actually be. William Asher
(1978), an expert on forecasting methods, asserts that
the core assumptions underlying a forecast almost al-
ways play a larger role in determining the outcome of the
forecast than does the complexity or sophistication of
the forecasting model that is employed. Computers are
used because these models contain many variables, a
great deal of data, many units of analysis, and several
time periods. The planners who do this work have re-
ceived advanced training in computer modeling, but
they have no special knowledge of the future. In the end,
their forecasts are merely elaborations of the conse-
quences of numerous assumed trends, and, in the end,
they are not much more likely to be right than simpler
forecasts made in earlier times using more primitive
methods (Wachs, 1989).
Blatant Abuse of Forecasts
The accuracy of a forecast cannot be verified unless
the time period for which it was made has passed and
until the action it was used to evaluate has been taken.
Thus, if some political purpose was being served by mak-
ing a forecast, that forecast need not really be correct in
order for it to have its intended effect. For example, if we
predict that a housing shortage will be critical in 20 years
unless action is taken today to build a new stock of hous-
APA Journal Autumn 2001 Vol. 67, No. 4 369
ing, the effect will be construction of the housing,
whether or not the shortage materializes. In order to ver-
ify that the forecast was correct, we would have to wait 20
years. Furthermore, if the result of the forecast was a pol-
icy intervention, it is impossible to know whether the
forecast conditions would have come to pass without
that intervention.
Planners and policymakers know that forecasts are
politically influential and that their accuracy is difficult
or impossible to prove. They are also technically com-
plex and difficult for the public and elected officials to
understand. Thus, for decades planners have used fore-
casts to promote interventions that they consider desir-
able for a wide range of purposes. A development pro-
ject is more likely to be approved if its advocates show
that it satisfies an anticipated overwhelming growth in
demand and can be built at modest cost. If the passage of
time shows that the demand was exaggerated and the
cost underestimated, those who made the forecast are
not held liable for the expenditures of public resources
that their studies helped to promote. This is true in part
because so many different people participated in mak-
ing the forecast that it is literally impossible to hold any
individual responsible (Thompson, 1980). For example,
forecasts of dramatic increases in the demand for elec-
tric power justified enormous public expenditures on
nuclear power plants by electric utilities that later went
into bankruptcy when the anticipated growth in de-
mand failed to eventuate. Several authors have docu-
mented the extent to which forecasts of future patronage
of urban rail systems have been inflated and forecasts of
those systems’ costs have been underestimated in order
to gain political support and federal grants for projects
which later proved to be far less cost effective (Kain,
1990; Pickrell, 1992). In his biography of Robert Moses,
Robert Caro (1975) detailed the ways in which Moses
masterfully misrepresented future demand for and costs
of the facilities he advocated in the New York metropol-
itan area. And recent news reports make it seem that the
cost overruns associated with the “Big Dig” in Boston
are but another example of self-serving forecasts that
misrepresent the truth.
Neutral Expert or Advocate?
The roles planners play in forecasting also reveal one
of the internal contradictions that characterize our pro-
fession. By carrying out forecasts as scientific and tech-
nical exercises, we are to a great extent ascribing to a
model of planning that is value neutral. Assumptions
made to operationalize models are thought to be appro-
priate technical judgments and not efforts to promote
the purposes of particular interests or to favor particular
communities over others. In this role, the job of plan-
ners is to accommodate the growth that is forecast and
to serve the projected demand for services; evaluation
tools such as benefit-cost analysis provide a rationale by
which to accomplish these tasks. Their decision-making
framework values economic efficiency and judges the
needs of all groups to be equal. On the other hand, the
idea that planning is all about process and access gives a
different message. According to this idea of planning,
planners are activists who seek to advocate on behalf of
interest groups, particularly those, like the poor and mi-
nority populations of our cities, who have the least pow-
erful voices when it comes to the allocation of societal
Over many years, Howe and Kaufman (1981) sur-
veyed planning practitioners about a number of scenar-
ios that typified situations likely to be encountered in
planning practice. They were able to classify planners on
the basis of their responses. Some planners clearly saw
themselves as “technicians,” neutral experts whose role
was to analyze, model, project, and objectively solve
problems on the basis of this information. Others saw
themselves as “advocates” or activists who saw the core
values of planning as promoting the interests of client
groups. Interestingly, a third group of planners emerged
who internalized some of the characteristics of both
groups. Howe and Kaufman called these people “hy-
brids” because they sometimes responded as technicians
and sometimes as advocates.
It is possible to interpret Howe and Kaufman’s anal-
ysis in two ways. On one hand, it could well be that plan-
ners internalize some of the values of each group, at-
tempting to function sometimes as unbiased, objective
technical experts and other times as advocates. It is cer-
tainly possible that different situations call for different
types of behavior in this regard. An alternative interpre-
tation, however, could be that we vacillate between these
roles, uncertain of whether we should aspire to one or
the other.
The lack of clarity in planners’ roles partly explains
the dilemma described above. If a forecast is merely an
enumeration of complementary and intersecting trends
and assumptions are simply technical judgments about
the parameters of forecasting models, then the planners
who execute these forecasts can be characterized as neu-
tral experts. If it is understood that the assumptions that
underlie forecasts are the most critical ingredients and
that they dominate methods in determining outcomes,
it is possible to characterize a forecast as an exercise in
advocacy. Better yet, if one understands the power of as-
sumptions to determine the outcome of a forecast and
realizes that it is impossible to verify the correctness of a
forecast until the target date has arrived, then one can
370 APA Journal Autumn 2001 Vol. 67, No. 4
be an even more effective advocate by asserting that one
is merely an objective technical expert. In other words,
the most effective way for a planner to impose his or her
values on a plan is by asserting that he or she is merely
carrying out a value-neutral process of forecasting, while
in fact adjusting the assumptions of the forecast to pro-
duce preferred outcomes. Experience has taught many
planners, then, that hypocrisy can be a defining charac-
teristic of the work of the effective professional planner.
Metaphors and Role Conflicts
Earlier, I described as a metaphor the visionary
thinking contained in the master plans of the 19th cen-
tury. In the 20th century, different metaphors arose that
emphasize planning as a participatory process that re-
lies on technical or scientific analysis. Despite the change
in our metaphors, we retain a nostalgic attachment to
the vision we associate with the master planning era.
George Lakoff and Mark Johnson (1980) have ar-
gued that metaphors are far more than linguistic devices
of the poetic imagination and the rhetorical flourish.
They believe that human thought processes are largely
metaphoric and that metaphors are basic principles by
which we organize our conceptions of the world. We
simplify complex phenomena through metaphors and
rely upon them as guides for action.
The concept of metaphor helps us to understand the
role conflict inherent in planners’ views of the future and
that, I fear, remains one of the defining characteristics
of our field. On one hand, we long to be visionaries,
imagining and creating the future as a creative product
of our idealism. On the other hand, we see ourselves as
technocrats, asserting that the future is the inevitable
consequence of interacting trends and planning is the
process of accommodating forecasts of forces that are
beyond our control. These roles are clearly in conflict,
and that gives us a great deal of discomfort. As advocates
we try to shape the future, and as technicians we try to
forecast and merely accommodate it. Uncertain of which
metaphor defines us best, we vacillate, and as a result we
sometimes engage in duplicitous behavior.
Forecasts and Collaborative
As the new century begins, the reigning metaphor
among planning theorists is collaborative planning. In
this model, many perspectives are brought to the deci-
sion-making arena by legitimate interests, and the plan-
ner must find a path that respects and responds to them
through an open process of give and take. In this model,
what is the place of the technician who prepares fore-
casts of the future on the basis of standard forecasting
methods and appropriate assumptions?
On one hand, modern views of planning have re-
placed both the paradigm of planning based on techni-
cal forecasts and that of visionary master planning, each
of which results in a unitary vision of the future. We now
live in a world in which competing concepts of the fu-
ture and competing plans are hopefully to be equally re-
spected. On the other hand, advances in geographic in-
formation systems, computer modeling, and mastery by
planners of increasingly sophisticated statistical meth-
ods need not be irrelevant to policymaking.
Proponents of collaborative planning have not been
friendly to the role that technical forecasting has played
in planning. Critics of the application of quantitative
analysis to planning do not assert, however, that analyt-
ical models are inherently irrelevant to decision making
(Friedmann, 1973). Rather, they dispute the view put for-
ward by many traditional planning technicians that fore-
casting methods yield an unavoidable truth that must
be heeded. We know that assumptions are critical to
forecasts no matter how sophisticated their technical
characteristics may be, and that different forecast as-
sumptions are more satisfying to different interest
groups. Interactive and collaborative planning need not
ignore technical forecasts. A collaborative planning
process can incorporate competing plans derived from
different forecasts based on alternative assumptions and
a wider range of modeling outputs produced by those
assumptions. Collaborative planning would benefit
greatly from the capacity to test alternative assumptions
and different model parameters in accordance with dif-
ferent preferences and understandings of the partici-
pants. Such a process could use insights from the appli-
cation of complex databases and analytical models as
long as those techniques are seen as tools for the elabo-
ration of competing assumptions.
Forecasters have frequently been criticized for fail-
ing to enumerate their assumptions and for stating the
results of their forecasts without presenting measures of
the forecasts’ sensitivities to changes in the input para-
meters. Modern computing gives us greater capacity to
test alternative forecasts and to vary input parameters
systematically. The ultimate subjectivity of forecasts
need no longer be defined as a shortcoming. In the hands
of intelligent analysts, this characteristic of forecasts can
and should make them far more useful to collaborative
planning analyses and decision-making processes.
Rather than thinking of a forecast as a defined and in-
variant input upon which to base a plan, it is far more
realistic to see it as an enumeration of the consequences
of a particular set of assumptions that can be varied to
reflect the competing interests of contending parties.
APA Journal Autumn 2001 Vol. 67, No. 4 371
The future is not a single grand vision or an inevitable
consequence of trends, but rather an object of manipu-
lation, discussion, debate, and eventually, perhaps, even
The author gratefully acknowledges the valuable comments
that were made by Dowell Myers and Anthony Brinkman on
an early draft of this article.
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planners. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Brooks, M. P. (1988). Four critical junctures in the history of
the urban planning profession: An exercise in hindsight.
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New York. New York: Vintage Books.
Friedmann, J. (1973). Retracking America: A theory of transactive
planning. Garden City, NY: Anchor Press/Doubleday.
Howe, E., & Kaufman, J. (1981). The values of contemporary
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ation, 47, 266–278.
Isserman, A. M. (1985). Dare to plan: An essay on the role of the
future in planning practice and education. Town Planning
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Dare to Dream
Bringing Futures into Planning
Sam Cole
Futures studies and planning follow parallel and sometimes overlap-
ping paths. Both are idealistic activities seeking to make people’s fu-
tures more secure and more fulfilling. Many futurists wish that their
dreams could be implemented, and many planners dream that their
work could be less shortsighted and parochial. If only to fulfill these
needs, these groups should pay more attention to each other. In this
article, I attempt to strengthen the bridge between futurists and plan-
ners. My observations come from the perspective of someone with a
professional and pedagogical interest in both planning and futures
studies. I illustrate past, current, and potential contributions of fu-
tures studies to planning as follows: (1) the beginnings of futures stud-
ies in science fiction films, journals, and international development;
(2) the role of envisioning, polling, and forecasting methods; and (3)
the challenges of linking futures studies methods to planning. I then
argue for a diverse approach in terms of methods and participants
and assert that if planners are to embrace the future, their plans must
begin with the future.
n a provocative article “Dare to Plan: An Essay on the
Role of the Future in Planning Practice and Educa-
tion” Andrew Isserman (1985) remonstrated that
planners may well have lost sight of the future. He en-
treated planners to become experts in the study of
change—past, present, and future—and to begin to de-
velop methods for studying the future. It is not evident
that planners have heeded his admonition. In the United
States there is, at best, a growing recognition of the need
for more imaginative thinking about the future in urban
planning. This is witnessed by recent book titles such as
Visions for a New American Dream (Nelessen, 1994) pub-
lished by the APA Planners Press and also by the topic of
the 1998 Association of American Collegiate Planners
conference, “Tomorrow’s Cities Today—Building for the
Future.” Unfortunately, there is still rather little “future”
in contemporary planning education and practice. In
particular, while many U.S. planning schools are intro-
ducing courses dealing with globalization and teaching
forecasting techniques, few have futures studies courses
or a futures specialization. It is not surprising, therefore,
that Dowell Myers and Alicia Kitsuse (1998) recently
have reiterated Isserman’s plea.
372 APA Journal Autumn 2001 Vol. 67, No. 4
... Many authors suggesting a stronger and more established connection between planning and futures studies see the value in precisely this aspect of exploring and creating futures collaboratively. Participatory futures-processes can be a tool of better advocacy for often marginalised groups in planning (Wachs 2001;Chakrobarty 2011;, implement ideals of deliberative democracy , ensure that the need for broader participation in planning does not lead to shorter time horizons (Fernández Güell & Redondo 2012), help to make technical aspects of planning more transparent and inclusive (Chakrobarty & McMillan 2015), provide planners with more realistic understanding of the complexity and uncertainties characterising contemporary cities Fernández Güell & González López 2016), initiate the co-learning and co-intelligence needed for regional systemic transformations and mobilize action and resources, leading to tangible strategies and their implementation . In sum, authors perceive participatory futures studies as a practice both enhancing better informed planning and making planning more inclusive and equitable. ...
... All are mentioned as tenets that have invigorated the future-orientated ethos of planning as well as making futures studies methods relevant in the context of planning (Cf. Wachs 2001;Chakraborty 2011;Fernández Güell & Redondo 2012;Perveen et al 2017;. ...
... Participatory scenarios and participatory visioning processes are often mentioned as arenas where different forms of knowledge and experience by different stakeholders can be treated equally (Chakraborty 2011;Fernández Güell & Redondo 2012;Chakrobarty & McMillan 2015;. Analysis on the reported case studies emphasises the function of the participatory scenario process in making differing views and interests regarding desirable outcomes visible and eventually compatible with the quantitative, model-based and visual format of planning (Wachs 2001;Fernández Güell & Redondo 2012;Chakrobarty & McMillan 2015;. ...
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The dissertation deals with the effects of carbon neutrality goals of cities on spatial planning. The special focus is on the utilization of backcasting future scenarios in this new context. Hundreds of cities around the world have set goals for carbon neutrality to be achieved over the coming decades. These politically defined strategic goals provide a new kind of framework for urban planning. They provide normative, numerical indicators on what society and cities of the future should look like in the coming decades. Simultaneously, the desired carbon-neutral future will act as a vantage point for planning, replacing a present resulting from historical trends. The title of the dissertation, Re-focusing on the future, refers to this change. Within futures studies this type of normative scenario approach is called backcasting, referring to imagined, logical pathways extending from a distant future to the present. The study contributes to planning theory by suggesting ways in which backcasting scenarios are being embedded in urban planning and by explaining how normative goals on carbon neutrality change goals, contents and process of urban planning. These topics are being elaborated using three case studies and a literature review, all written as individual academic journal articles. The literature review (presented in Article 1 “Planning Meets Futures Studies. Systemic societal change and the possibility of transformational planning) explores how the relationship between planning and futures studies has been described in previous academic literature. It provides context to the inquiries on backcasting and its potential role in spatial planning. The first case study (presented in Article 2 “Low-carbon futures and sustainable lifestyles: A backcasting scenario approach”) depicts and explains the logic behind the backcasting scenarios created in the SPREAD Sustainable Lifestyles 2050 project. The case explores the function and purpose of backcasting scenarios in transitions towards a carbon-neutral society. The second case study (presented in Article 3 “Metropolitan vision making – using backcasting as a strategic learning process to shape metropolitan futures”) presents a description and analysis of the Greater Helsinki Vision 2050 process. This process intended to create a long-term transformative vision for a territory that previously lacked formal governance structures. The third case study (presented in Article 4 “The New Normative: Synergistic Scenario Planning for Carbon-Neutral Cities and Regions”) explores the emerging role of carbon neutrality targets as ‘the new normative’ in urban and regional planning. The context of the new normative is being illustrated through a review of the Greater Manchester process on developing climate mitigation, low-carbon and carbon neutrality policies since the 1990s. The main results of the dissertation are related to explaining how backcasting generates higher-order, strategic and collective learning that can increase agency, change problem framings and enable new forms of collaboration and co-production. Additionally, the role of un-learning as an outcome of backcasting is highlighted, referring to an idea that different actors can see the future as dependent on choices made in the present day, instead of as something determined by external forces. The main practical relevance of this thesis arises from explanations on why backcasting scenarios are an indispensable tool in planning toward carbon neutrality and how their benefits appear. For urban planning, these scenarios expand the view on decarbonisation and help discover a more detailed and wider scope of solutions than what planning has previously provided. Examples include traditional density, public transit and walkability-related frameworks on climate mitigation. This is bound to become increasingly important as the decarbonisation of primary energy production and urban mobility are accelerated and the priorities in emission reductions move to other domains of consumption and urban lifestyles.
... Against the "wicked" nature of problems (Rittel and Webber 1973), planners were urged to reconsider the approaches used to address these challenges and the stakeholders involved in the process (Wiebe et al. 2018). As a result, different scenario traditions, including visioning (Shipley 2000(Shipley , 2002, consensus building (Susskind, McKearnan and Thomas-Larmer 1999), forecasting (Isserman 2007;Wachs 2001), and scenario planning approaches (Avin 2007;Goodspeed 2020), surged in urban design and planning as effective tools to address challenges and uncertainties. ...
... With scenario methods, varying from highly intuitive to highly technical, planners adopted new analytical methods and tools from diverse disciplines, such as corporate planning, applied science and engineering (Wachs 2001). While the diversity of approaches, tools, and techniques offered planners the advantage of using them creatively and interdependently (Avin 2007), the glut of methods has contributed to a "methodological chaos" (Bradfield et al. 2005) and a misuse of terms (Godet 2000). ...
... They can be either qualitative, generated through the Delphi method (experts answering an iterative questionnaire), or quantitative, formulated through Time-Series or Causal analysis among other techniques. Wachs (2001) considered forecasting a projection and thus the opposite of visionary thinking. Alternatively, Myers and Kitsuse (2000, 223) characterized forecasts as a "best guess about the future achieved by adding judgement about the most likely future rates of behavior" while projections are mechanical exercises that clarify current trends' implications. ...
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Rising complexities and uncertainties have emphasized the need to employ scenario thinking in urban design and planning. While different scenario methods have been widely used across disciplines, a comprehensive review of scenario approaches in planning literature is limited. Thus, we provide an overview of scenarios and existing scenario approaches currently in practice. We also review a scenario building process to provide a guide for developing scenarios in the context of urban design and planning. The process highlights the different steps that contribute to adaptive planning and improve decision-making.
... In the language of demography, projections are conditional statements about the future dependent on the veracity of the input data and the posited relationships between inputs and outputs, whereas forecasts are a demographer's best guess as to the future that will come to pass (e.g., Smith et al., 2013). One key difference in whether transportation professionals are presenting projections or forecasts involves how they perceive their role or how they are expected to comport themselves based on the needs and requirements of their organization and/or their superiors (Howe and Kaufman, 1979;Wachs, 2001). While discussions of ethics have shifted to favor presenting multiple scenarios/projections and interpreting their tradeoffs for the public, much of practice still involves presenting a single forecast and defending its accuracy (Klosterman, 2013;Wachs, 2001;Voulgaris, 2019). ...
... One key difference in whether transportation professionals are presenting projections or forecasts involves how they perceive their role or how they are expected to comport themselves based on the needs and requirements of their organization and/or their superiors (Howe and Kaufman, 1979;Wachs, 2001). While discussions of ethics have shifted to favor presenting multiple scenarios/projections and interpreting their tradeoffs for the public, much of practice still involves presenting a single forecast and defending its accuracy (Klosterman, 2013;Wachs, 2001;Voulgaris, 2019). ...
... It is these inputs that often drive model outputs regardless of paradigm (four-step, activity based, sketch planning, etc.). Because of the importance of input data, models can be easily made to produce estimates that make projects appear maximally (un)attractive and systematic mischaracterizations are common (Flyvbjerg et al., 2005;Wachs, 1989), although the situation may be improving in the United States (Voulgaris, 2020b). ...
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Public transit ridership forecasts have long played a role in understanding the potential success of a policy or investment, but their limitations have led researchers and practitioners to identify other performance analysis approaches. Accessibility, or the ease of reaching opportunities, has become very popular and widely used for this purpose. But commonly used accessibility measures also embody weaknesses that are seldom acknowledged; these limit their utility for truly understanding the benefits of transit investments. In this paper, we identify the pros and cons of these competing approaches and offer a third strategy. Specifically, we describe how revealed travel behavior data, potentially combined with near-term forecasts, can provide information about how current public transit users will be affected by a new project. While acknowledging the limitations of this approach, we demonstrate how accessibility can be misleading when applied without an understanding of ridership patterns.
... La reivindicación del papel «visionario» es popular entre arquitectos y urbanistas que evocan a figuras como Olmstead, Burnham, Howard o Stein (Wachs, 2001). Por una parte, es innegable el impacto de grandes visiones (o «utopías urbanas») como las de Howard, Le Corbusier o Lloyd Wright en determinados arquetipos espaciales de desarrollo urbano y transporte (Timms et al., 2014): el «howardiano» (de media densidad, equilibrado, comparable a la ciudad sostenible o al modelo de «concentración descentralizada»), «corbusiano» (infraestructuras de transporte de alta capacidad y altas densidades) y «wrightiano» (modelo «deurbanizado», de baja densidad y sustentado en modos de transporte particulares). ...
... Teniendo presente la confluencia de distintas culturas y modelos de plan y, al mismo tiempo, de la apertura de la planificación urbana a diferentes paradigmas estratégicos, la reivindicación del carácter «visionario» del planificador y la búsqueda de instrumentos para construir el futuro ha de afrontar una serie de dilemas (Wachs, 2001). ...
... Respecto a qué instrumentos concretos muestran un mayor potencial para representar el futuro en los planes, parece difícil decidir ante las múltiples tipologías y aplicaciones de los escenarios señaladas al principio de este apartado (Börjeson et al., 2006), y la gran diversidad de técnicas existentes (Bishop et al., 2007). Desde el propio ámbito de la planificación, destacan tres instrumentos básicos con potencial representar el futuro en los planes en los que se incidirá aquí (Cole, 2001;Couclelis, 2005;Myers & Kitsuse, 2000;von Stackelberg & Jones, 2014;Wachs, 2001): las visiones de futuro, la elaboración de escenarios y el uso de historias persuasivas. En la Tabla 2-6 se revisan los rasgos destacados por estos autores para cada instrumento, considerando potenciales aportaciones a la planificación. ...
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La tesis plantea los siguientes objetivos: A. Definir un marco conceptual para la exploración y gestión de diferentes tipos de incertidumbre en la planificación. B. Proponer un marco de evaluación de escenarios futuros basado en su capacidad para gestionar diferentes situaciones de incertidumbre en entornos de planificación. C. Plantear modelos y pautas argumentativas para la identificación e interpretación de imágenes e hipótesis de futuro en la planificación urbana y del transporte. D. Generar determinados arquetipos de escenarios o narrativas de futuro sobre el metro ligero, el transporte y el desarrollo urbano capaces de integrar diferentes aspectos y visiones de la planificación en Granada.
... Travel demand forecasts are appealing because they directly calculate transit ridership change which can be easily communicated with stakeholders and decisionmakers. However, the limitations of forecasting methods are well documented (e.g., Flyvbjerg et al., 2005;Karner, 2022;Klosterman, 2013;Voulgaris and Carole, 2020;Wachs, 2001). These include, among others, lack of accuracy, reliance on expensive surveys, complex models, and sophisticated software. ...
Public transit agencies around the world are increasingly using bus network redesigns (BNRs) to address ongoing ridership declines, but little is known about the equity impacts of these redesigns on vulnerable populations most likely to use transit to meet their daily needs. Despite Federal Transit Administration requirements for public transit agencies to assess the equity impacts of major service changes (like BNRs), analysis results are often perfunctory and unsatisfying. The academic literature has also proposed and evaluated many different performance measures in the context of equity evaluations. In this paper, we investigate a controversial BNR undertaken in Richmond, Virginia. During the planning and implementation process, different analysts reached different conclusions about potential impacts. We employ different performance measures, including service area and access changes, to show that the redesign is largely equitable but baseline levels of accessibility for vulnerable groups remain low. We also argue that a complete understanding of BNR impacts requires examining off-peak times. Meaningful public engagement is crucial for any equity analysis since the results can change substantially depending on the chosen parameters, and these parameters should be chosen by those most affected by a BNR.
... Anticipation is thus concerned with extended time horizons, where the future is open-ended and unpredictable. Building foresight capacity-or what some describe as "futures literacy" (Larsen et al. 2020)-is a key goal in anticipation, allowing us to imagine alternative futures and test courses of action before we deploy them (Fuerth 2009;Wachs 2001). ...
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This open access book addresses the way in which urban and urbanizing regions profoundly impact and are impacted by climate change. The editors and authors show why cities must wage simultaneous battles to curb global climate change trends while adapting and transforming to address local climate impacts. This book addresses how cities develop anticipatory and long-range planning capacities for more resilient futures, earnest collaboration across disciplines, and radical reconfigurations of the power regimes that have institutionalized the disenfranchisement of minority groups. Although planning processes consider visions for the future, the editors highlight a more ambitious long-term positive visioning approach that accounts for unpredictability, system dynamics and equity in decision-making. This volume brings the science of urban transformation together with practices of professionals who govern and manage our social, ecological and technological systems to design processes by which cities may achieve resilient urban futures in the face of climate change.
... Anticipation is thus concerned with extended time horizons, where the future is open-ended and unpredictable. Building foresight capacity-or what some describe as "futures literacy" (Larsen et al. 2020)-is a key goal in anticipation, allowing us to imagine alternative futures and test courses of action before we deploy them (Fuerth 2009;Wachs 2001). ...
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Anticipatory thinking is a critical component in urban planning practices and knowledge systems in an era of unpredictability and conflicting expectations of the future. This chapter introduces “anticipatory resilience” as a futures-oriented knowledge system that intentionally addresses uncertain climate conditions and explores alternative, desirable future states. It suggests a portfolio of tools suitable for building long-term foresight capacity in urban planning. Examples of knowledge systems interventions are presented to explore the trade-offs, constraints, possibilities, and desires of diverse future scenarios co-generated in settings with people that hold different perspectives, knowledge, and expectations.
... In this vein, collaborative processes elicit normative visions of a desired future, to which interventions may be directed. Real-world policy processes and the discourses that surround and authorize them often shift back and forth between these frames (Hopkins & Zapata, 2007;Wachs, 2001). Separately, each frame may downplay uncertainty in different ways, with potentially negative effects. ...
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Managing future uncertainty is the essence of planning. How planners conceptualize the future therefore has important practical and normative implications as contemporary decisions have long-term impacts that may be irreversible and distribute costs and benefits across society. A discourse analysis of strategies prepared under the 100 Resilient Cities programme reveals that while they are ostensibly forward-looking and cognizant of uncertainty, most presume a knowable future (epistemic certainty) and focus on well-understood or recently experienced risks. Few acknowledge the future’s inherent unknowability (ontic uncertainty). Those that do emphasize community self-help; others describe top-down, government-led initiatives. Most strategies also present an image of societal consensus, downplaying the potential for legitimate disagreement over means and ends (discursive uncertainty). These findings suggest that new conceptualizations of future uncertainty have had limited impacts on planning practice.
Sustainable development has long been promoted as the best answer to the world’s environmental problems. This term has generated mass appeal as it implies that both the development of the built environment and its associated resource consumption can be achieved without jeopardising the natural environment. In the urban context, sustainability issues have been reflected in the promotion of sustainable urban development, which emphasises the sensible exploitation of scarce natural resources for urbanisation in a manner that allows future generations to repeat the process. This chapter highlights attempts to promote sustainable urban development through an integration of three important considerations: planning, development and the ecosystem. It highlights the fact that spatial planning processes were traditionally driven by economic and social objectives, and rarely involved promoting the sustainability agenda to achieve a sustainable urban future. As a result, rapid urbanisation has created a variety of pressures on the ecosystem upon which we rely. It is believed that the integration of the urban planning and development processes within the limitations of the ecosystem, monitored by a sustainability assessment mechanism, would offer a better approach to maintaining sustainable resource use without compromising urban development.
The last two decades have seen an exponential growth in the fields of electronic communication and information technology. Not surprisingly, ICT devices have become an integral part of our daily life. As demands for the development of more compact and versatile devices arise, there is mounting pressure on the designers to efficiently use the available resources. The new age ICT has become a matter of serious concern for the environment due to increased power consumption by the devices, the backbone infrastructure and eventual electronic waste disposal. This chapter describes techniques to reduce power consumption in ICT by reducing power at the very basal level of usage, which is the hardware. Careful architecture and design in hardware that keeps the principles of carbon reduction in mind can not only increase the efficiency of the device but also help in making it a green device. The primary focus of the chapter is to reduce the power utilized in the computation part of the device. The chapter also provides a background to other studies being carried out to reduce power consumed by the device as a whole.
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The now-classic Metaphors We Live By changed our understanding of metaphor and its role in language and the mind. Metaphor, the authors explain, is a fundamental mechanism of mind, one that allows us to use what we know about our physical and social experience to provide understanding of countless other subjects. Because such metaphors structure our most basic understandings of our experience, they are "metaphors we live by"--metaphors that can shape our perceptions and actions without our ever noticing them. In this updated edition of Lakoff and Johnson's influential book, the authors supply an afterword surveying how their theory of metaphor has developed within the cognitive sciences to become central to the contemporary understanding of how we think and how we express our thoughts in language.
The planning profession today proclaims its problem-solving orientation and its pragmatism. In the meantime, planning is sacrificing its roles as visionary and idealist and abandoning its responsibility to be a source of inspiration and to produce ideas about what might be and what ought to be. Population forecasts and their use in planning practice are analysed to illustrate that the relationship between planning and the future is askew. Courses of study are recommended that are designed to help planning schools rediscover the future and in the process restore our confidence in planning and our pride in its accomplishments.
That many different officials contribute in many different ways to decisions and policies in the modern state makes it difficult to ascribe moral responsibility to any official. The usual responses to this problem--based on concepts of hierarchical and collective responsibility--distort the notion of responsibility. The idea of personal responsibility--based on causal and volitional criteria--constitutes a better approach to the problem of ascribing responsibility to public officials. Corresponding to each of these criteria are types of excuses that officials use in defending the decisions they make. An analysis of the conditions under which the excuses eliminate or mitigate responsibility provides a foundation for accountability in a democracy.
This article describes the misuse of land-use and ridership forecasts by Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART). DART made extensive use of clearly unrealistic land-use forecasts and optimistic ridership forecasts in its unsuccessful efforts to obtain voter approval for a 91-mile rail transit system. When alternative analyses indicated that the proposed $2.6 billion rail system would carry only slightly more riders than an unimproved bus system, DART tried to conceal the information. Subsequently, when a citizen's group obtained the release of these unfavorable findings, DART attempted to mislead voters about their significance and released cost-effectiveness analyses based on earlier, and clearly incorrect, ridership forecasts. -Author