In early 2016, ABAG and MTC developed and evaluated three land use and transportation scenarios as part of the update of Plan Bay Area 2040, the region’s long-range transportation and housing plan. 

Scenarios show different options for how the Bay Area can grow and change over time in ways that help us meet our goals for a more prosperous, sustainable, and equitable region. Open houses held in May and June of 2016, as well as online comment opportunities, provided the public, community groups and local officials the opportunity to offer feedback on the three scenarios. A Draft Preferred Scenario that combines elements of the three scenarios was released by MTC and ABAG in early September 2016. 

What is a scenario?

Scenarios represent alternative futures based on distinct land use development patterns and transportation investment strategies. They can help us better understand the effects of various strategies on the adopted goals and performance targets for Plan Bay Area 2040.

The scenario development and evaluation scenario process is described in more detail here, in this Nov. 2015 memorandum.

Why scenarios?

In order to understand where we and future residents will live, where we will work and how we will get around, planners at MTC and ABAG have generated regional forecasts for:

  • Jobs: what will the economy look like and where will new jobs be?
  • Housing: where will new housing be developed and who will live there?
  • Population: how will our region grow?
  • Travel Needs: where will people need to go and how will they get there?
  • Funding for Transportation Improvements: what funds will be available from gas taxes, sales taxes, bridge tolls and the like? 

To help us understand how these forecasts might play out over time—and to ensure that we are meeting the goals and targets identified for Plan Bay Area 2040—the three scenarios depicted a different combination of: Housing Development, Commercial Growth and Transportation Investments.

What were the three scenarios evaluated?

Main Streets Scenario places future population and employment growth in the downtowns in all Bay Area cities. This scenario would expand high-occupancy toll lanes and increase highway widenings. It would also assume some development on land that is currently undeveloped.

Connected Neighborhoods Scenario places future population and employment growth in medium-sized cities and provides increased access to the region’s major rail services, such as BART and Caltrain. It would place most of the growth in areas that cities determine as having room for growth, with some additional growth in the biggest cities. There would be no development on open spaces outside the urban footprint.

Big Cities Scenario concentrates future population and employment growth within the Bay Area’s three largest cities: San Jose, San Francisco and Oakland. Transportation investments would go to the transit and freeways serving these cities. There would be no development on open spaces outside the urban footprint.

What happens next?

With the release of the Draft Preferred Scenario in early September, attention turns to taking public comment on this milestone leading to the Draft Plan Bay Area 2040. Public comments on the Draft Preferred Scenario should be submitted by October 14 to MTC via email at, or via U.S. mail to MTC, 375 Beale Street, Suite 800, San Francisco, CA 94105.

The Draft Preferred Scenario will be presented to the Regional Advisory Working Group (RAWG), the MTC Planning and ABAG Administrative Committees, and ABAG Executive Board. All input will be used to refine the preferred scenario before the MTC Commission and ABAG Executive Board are asked to adopt a final preferred scenario at a joint November 2016 meeting.

All of this work, in turn, will form the foundation for Plan Bay Area 2040, jointly adopted on July 26, 2017.

Alameda County:  Thursday, June 2; 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.; MetroCenter Auditorium, 101 8th Street, Oakland

Contra Costa County:  Thursday, May 26; 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.; East Bay Center for the Performing Arts, 339 11th Street, Richmond

Marin County: Saturday, June 4; 8:30 a.m. to 1p.m.; Corte Madera Community Center, 498 Tamalpais Drive, Corte Madera

Napa County:  Thursday, June 9; 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.; Elks Lodge, 2840 Soscol Avenue, Napa

San Francisco County: Tuesday, June 14; 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.; Hotel Whitcomb, 1231 Market Street, San Francisco

San Mateo County:  Wednesday, June 1; 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.; City of Burlingame Recreation Center Auditorium, 850 Burlingame Avenue, Burlingame

Santa Clara County:  Thursday, May 26; 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.; The Tech Museum, 201 S. Market Street, San Jose

Solano County:  Monday, June 13; 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.; Solano County Events Center, 601 Texas Street, Fairfield

Sonoma County:  Monday, June 13; 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.; Luther Burbank Center for the Arts —Grand Lobby, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa