Contingency-Based Planning

Planning that deals with uncertainly by identifying solutions to potential future problems


TDM Encyclopedia

Victoria Transport Policy Institute


Updated 11 June 2014

This chapter describes Contingency-Based Planning and how it can be applied to TDM programs.




Contingency-Based Planning is a Planning strategy that deals with uncertainly by identifying specific responses to possible future conditions. Contingency-Based Planning tends to be particularly appropriate for TDM and Parking Management programs.


A contingency-based plan typically consists of various if-then statements that define the solutions to be deployed if certain problems occur: if parking supply proves to be inadequate then we will implement certain strategies, and if those prove to be insufficient then we will implement an additional set of strategies. For example, a Contingency-Based parking plan might initially allow developers to build fewer parking spaces than required by conventional minimum parking standards, with a list of solutions that will be applied if that proves inadequate and motorists experience significant problems finding parking or neighbors experience parking spillover problems. These solutions might include a combination of additional capacity (some land might be reserved for future parking lots, or a potential budget identified to build a parking structure, if needed), various Parking Management strategies (such as programs to encourage employees to use alternative modes, arrangements to share parking facilities with nearby buildings, and increased regulation and pricing of onsite parking), and improved enforcement if needed to address any spillover problems.


Contingency-Based Planning recognizes that the future is impossible to predict and conditions may change, and so it is often best to have a variety of flexible and responsive solutions available. Because solutions are only implemented if actually needed and can be adjusted to reflect future conditions, this approach tends to provide savings and increase user benefits. It gives decision-makers confidence to try new management solutions. Contingency-Based Planning is particularly important when future conditions are uncertain or variable, such as during periods of rapid growth and economic change, or to deal with Special Events and disasters.


Contingency-Based Planning reflects good management practices and helps create more Resilient transportation systems. It is common, although it is not generally recognized as a specific approach. It reflects a general trend among transportation professionals and organizations to encourage more efficient use of existing facility capacity through more emphasis on Operations and Demand Management programs. The key, therefore, is to communicate to decision makers the full benefits of implementing Contingency-Based Plans that involve management solutions as an alternative to rigid plans that rely primarily on facility capacity expansion.



How It Is Implemented

Contingency-Based Planning can be applied by virtually any organization or level of government, as part of virtually any Planning process. It generally involves the following steps:


  1. Identify objectives (general things that you want to achieve) and targets (specific measurable things that you want to achieve).


  1. Identify various strategies that can help achieve the objectives and targets. These can include both capacity expansion (more traffic lanes, larger parking lots, etc.) and demand management strategies.


  1. Evaluate the costs and benefits of each strategy (including indirect impacts, if any), and rank them according to cost-effectiveness or benefit/cost ratios. The ranking can take into account other relevant factors such as ease of implementation, public acceptance and additional benefits.


  1. Implement strategies as needed to achieve the stated targets, generally starting with the most cost effective and easy to implement, and working down the list to more costly and difficult. This approach reflects Least Cost planning principles, which means that demand management strategies are given equal consideration as capacity expansion, and ranked by cost effectiveness. This creates a supply curve of strategies that help achieve the stated objective, ranked by declining cost-effectiveness.


Strategies can be grouped into various implementation phases and packages. For example, a plan might include one group of strategies to be implemented right away, another group that will be implemented if needed after one year, and others that will only be implemented if required to meet specified targets (such as a specified reduction in traffic volumes) or address particular problems (such as spillover parking). Some innovative strategies can first be implemented as pilot projects, to help identify their costs and impacts, and therefore their cost effectiveness.


  1. After they are implemented, evaluate the programs and strategies with regard to various performance measures, to insure that they are effective.


  1. Evaluate overall results with regard to targets to determine if and when additional strategies should be implemented.



Benefits and Costs

Contingency-Based Planning tends to reduce costs, improve efficiency, and expand the range of possible solutions compared with more rigid planning. Because strategies and programs are only implemented if actually needed, and can be adjusted to reflect future conditions, this approach tends to provide savings and increase user benefits. It gives decision-makers confidence to try new management solutions, and defer or avoid costly road and parking facility expansion programs.



Best Practices

Contingency-Based Planning should be considered in virtually any planning process. It should reflect Least-Cost Planning principles, which means that demand management solutions are given equal consideration as capacity expansion, and that all significant impacts are considered. Planners should:








Relationships With Other TDM Strategies

Contingency-Based Planning and investment practices support most other TDM strategies. It is closely related to Planning, Least-Cost Planning, Comprehensive Transportation Planning, Operations, Institutional Reforms, TDM Programs, and Change Management.



Examples and Case Studies


Contingency-Based Parking Management Plan

Table 1 illustrates an example of a contingency-based parking management plan, which includes various phases, some of which will be implemented within one year, some to be implemented within two year, and some of which will only be implemented if needed to achieve specific performance objectives, such as keeping peak-period occupancy to a specified maximum.


Table 1            Contingency-Based Parking Management Plan







Within one year.

1.       Improve parking information with signs and a parking facility map.

2.       Shift from dedicated parking spaces to “open” (shared) parking spaces in each lot.

3.       Impose 2-hour limitations on the most convenient parking spaces.

4.       Encourage employees to use less convenient parking spaces.

5.       Improve enforcement of parking regulations and fees.

6.       Establish an evaluation program, to identify impacts and possible problems.




Within two years.

7.       Price the most convenient parking spaces.

8.       Impose 2-hour limit on a larger portion of parking spaces.

9.       Arrange shared parking agreements with neighbors that have excess parking supply.

10.    Install bicycle storage and changing facilities.

11.    Establish a commute trip reduction program.



If peak-period occupancy exceeds 85%.

12.    Gradually and predictably increase parking fees (e.g., 10% annual price increases).

13.    Improve area walkability and address security concerns.

14.    Provide real-time information on parking availability using changeable signs.



As needed, based on peak-period occupancy rates.

15.    Address spillover parking problems.

16.    Address barriers to walking between remote parking and destinations.

17.    Develop overflow parking plans for special events and peak periods.



If problems continue.

18.    Expand the portion of parking spaces that are priced and regulated.

19.    Increase support for commute trip reduction programs.

20.    Provide shuttle van services to bus stops and remote parking during peak periods.

This table illustrates a contingency-based parking management plan. Some strategies are implemented right away; others over a longer period, and some are only implemented if needed, based on specific indicators such as excessive parking congestion or spillover problems.



Wit and Humor

“The one thing we need to do to solve our transportation problems is to stop thinking that there is one thing we can do to solve our transportation problems.”

-Robert Liberty, Executive Director of the organization 1000 Friends of Oregon



References And Resources For More Information


American Planning Association ( has extensive resources for community and transport planning.


Desmond Connor (1997), Constructive Citizen Participation: A Resource Book, Connor Development Services (


CTI Centre for the Built Environment ( provides planning resources.


Reid Ewing (1996), Best Development Practices, Planners Press (Chicago;


FHWA and FTA (2002), “Establishing Meaningful Performance Measures for Benefits and Burden Assessments,” Transportation & Environmental Justice: Effective Practices, Federal Highway Administration, Federal Transit Administration, FHWA-EP-02-016 (


ITE (1997), A Toolbox for Alleviating Traffic Congestion and Enhancing Mobility, Institute of Transportation Engineers (; available at!.pdf.


Hugh McClintock (2001), Comprehensive Transportation Planning Bibliography, Institute of Urban Planning, University of Nottingham, U.K (


OTM, Transportation Performance Measures, Office of Transportation Management, Federal Highway Administration ( 


John Poorman (2005), “A Holistic Transportation Planning Framework For Management And Operations,” ITE Journal, Vol. 75, No. 5 (, May 2005, pp. 28-32.


Toolbox for Regional Policy Analysis Website ( by the US Federal Highway Administration, describes analytical methods for evaluating regional economic, social and environmental impacts of various transportation and land use policies.


Transport Geography on the Web ( is an Internet resource to promote access to transport geography information, including articles, maps, figures, and datatsets.


Transportation Control Measures Directory (\tcmsitei.nsf) is a U.S. EPA resource that provides a searchable database of TDM program case studies.

This Encyclopedia is produced by the Victoria Transport Policy Institute to help improve understanding of Transportation Demand Management. It is an ongoing project. Please send us your comments and suggestions for improvement.




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