A Demonstration of Robust Decision Making at SACOG

Session Description

Prediction-based approaches form the heart of much of current long-range transportation planning practice. But rapid economic, technological, and social changes are making the future even more difficult to predict with confidence. Thus, the standard prediction-based methods used to support transportation and land use decision-making may no longer be adequate in today’s rapidly changing conditions.

In this webinar we will present an initial demonstration of how robust decision making (RDM) might enhance current long-range planning. RDM, a quantitative, exploratory, scenario-based method, informs decisions under deep uncertainty by stress-testing proposed plans over thousands of plausible futures, identifying scenarios that best distinguish futures in which plans meet and miss planning goals, and using these scenarios to identify more robust plans. The RAND Corporation has worked with the Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG), the metropolitan planning organization for the Sacramento region, to apply an RDM approach to selected components of SACOG’s regional transportation plan.

The pilot work suggests that SACOG’s ability to meet critical mobility and climate goals depends on socioeconomic growth, fuel price, and fuel efficiency assumptions, variables often held constant in traditional scenario planning. In addition to the study design, approach, and findings, the webinar will also speak to the experience of bringing RDM into planning practice, current limitations, and next steps to better enable a broad array of planning activities in adopting a full RDM approach. We find that such an approach offers a promising complement and possibly future alternative to current prediction-based and scenario approaches that could help planners better manage in today’s conditions of fast-paced change.  

The paper is available at  https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/01944363.2020.1727766


Robert Lempert

Robert Lempert is a principal researcher at the RAND Corporation and Director of the Frederick S. Pardee Center for Longer Range Global Policy and the Future Human Condition. His research focuses on risk management and decision-making under conditions of deep uncertainty. Dr. Lempert’s work aims to advance the state of art for organizations managing risk in today’s conditions of fast-paced, transformative, and surprising change and helping organizations adopt these approaches to help make proper stewardship of the future more commonly practiced.  Dr. Lempert is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a convening lead author for Working Group II of the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report, a chapter lead for the Fourth US National Climate Assessment, chair of the peer review panel for California’s Fourth Climate Assessment, a member of California’s Climate-Safe Infrastructure Working Group,  and has been a member of numerous study panels for the U.S. National Academies, including America’s Climate Choices and Informing Decisions in a Changing Climate. Dr. Lempert was the Inaugural EADS Distinguished Visitor in Energy and Environment at the American Academy in Berlin and the inaugural president of the Society for Decision Making Under Deep Uncertainty (http://www.deepuncertainty.org). A Professor of Policy Analysis in the Pardee RAND Graduate School, Dr. Lempert is an author of the book Shaping the Next One Hundred Years: New Methods for Quantitative, Longer-Term Policy Analysis.

Garett Ballard-Rosa

Garett Ballard-Rosa is a senior analyst at the Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG), the metropolitan planning organization for the six-county Sacramento region in northern California. His work focuses on developing quantitative information to support transportation and land use decision-making at various scales, ranging from individual transportation projects to region-wide investments and plans.

Before joining SACOG, Garett worked at the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, with prior experience in Washington D.C., New Orleans, and abroad. His work in New Orleans on Hurricane Katrina recovery received the Congressional Award and the President’s Volunteer Service Award. Garett holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley, and a Master’s in Urban Planning from UCLA.