Several weeks ago, I attended a hybrid meeting in Oak Park: a discussion on local historic preservation challenges (of which there are many) followed by a visioning session for GO TO 2040, CMAP’s current long-range regional visioning process.

The visioning session uses CMAP’s instant-polling process to develop a regional growth scenario based on the choices of those in the room. There’s pretty quick feedback, too — the system spits back a report card of outcomes right after the scenario’s basics have been set.

A few improvements I’d make, or general drawbacks to this approach:
1. The feedback metrics are still pretty darn wonky. It’s tough to avoid this, of course, since part of the entire problem with regional planning is that all of it is way too abstract. (Jane Citizen typically isn’t motivated by the idea of “there will be a few PPM less of air pollution in the sky if I do this.”) Metropolis 2020’s work on regional metrics came up with some good metrics that people can relate to, like “hours spent in a car”; maybe these could be brought into the scenario modeling.
2. The presentation format tried a bit too hard with the hokeyness, especially for what seemed to be a very buttoned-up Oak Park crowd. This was Unity Temple, after all.
3. The choices presented to the audience always were in groups of three. The three choices always ended up sounding like a Goldilocks scenario: “too hot — too cold — just right,” and it’s no surprise that answers flowed towards “just right.”
4. The presenters found themselves constantly apologizing for the illustrations for the choices; many were photographs of buildings or a neighborhood, when they were really aiming to illustrate region-wide approaches. Perhaps illustrations showing a broader approach would have been more appropriate.