The Plan

Scenarios for the Future

Imagining Our Future Differently

Scenarios tell a story of how choices we make today might impact our region in the future. Three scenarios were developed from 115 citizen-created maps, while a fourth scenario was created by continuing past trends into the future.

The Business-as-Usual ScenarioBAUicon
This scenario assumes an unaltered projection of the region’s development patterns from 1990 to 2010 out to the year 2050 in order to place the additional jobs and homes the region could hold by 2050. This is the unlikely “do-nothing” approach we can use a starting point to measure the progress made in the alternative scenarios.

What if we imagined a different future for our region?

The Scenario Planning Open Houses give citizens a chance to do just that by offering four possible approaches to land use and comparing how these scenarios would impact some of the region’s priorities. After seeing what sort of region Buffalo Niagara could become under each scenario, citizens can help shape a new way to move One Region Forward.

 The Scenarios

250_BAUThe “Business As Usual” Scenario would see the trends of the past continue into the future. New jobs and homes would continue to eat up rural land while homes in first-ring suburbs as well as central cities would be abandoned. This sprawling development would be harder to serve by public transit.

  • 1,553 lane miles of new roads to build and maintain
  • 2 out of 3 new homes would go on previously undeveloped land
  • Over 60,000 homes would be left abandoned in parts of our cities, suburbs and elsewhere
  • Over 58,000 acres of current and potential prime farmland would be lost to development
  • Local governments would have to spend 36% more than the amount they collect in revenue
  • Only 1% of new homes and 4% of new jobs would have access to frequent transit service

Learn more about the Business as Usual Scenario


The “Sprawling Smarter” scenario would see some outward growth of new jobs and homes, however, these would take on a much denser, mixed-use form. Abandonment would still be an issue for central cities and older suburbs. Less farmland and open space would be lost to development.

  • 7 out of 10 new homes would be built in mixed-use, walkable communities
  • 79% of new jobs would go in areas that are already built up
  • Residents of Buffalo Niagara would drive about the same number of miles each day as today
  • 1 out of 3 new homes would be go on previously undeveloped, “greenfield” sites
  • Nearly 80% of the region’s current open space would be preserved from development
  • The costs for governments to maintain services and infrastructure and would exceed revenue

Learn more about the Sprawling Smarter Scenario

250_villagesThe “Region of Villages” scenario would see new jobs and homes concen-trated in our city, town, and village centers. Neighborhoods would be more walkable, and improved transit would connect these places better. A great deal of farmland and open space would be protected for agriculture and “environmental services.”

  • The region would become 3.5 times more walkable than the “business as usual” scenario
  • 84% of open space would be conserved from development
  • 92% of new jobs and 86% of new homes would go in areas that area already developed
  • 6 out of 10 new jobs and 4 out of 10 new homes would have access to frequent transit service
  • Because of new development, local governments would generate 22.5% more in revenue than the cost to maintain services and infrastructure


Learn more about the Region of Villages Scenario

250_CityThe “Back to the City” scenario would see nearly all new jobs and homes concentrated in our core cities. Transit would serve this denser development much better. More existing homes would be rehabbed than abandoned and our former industrial sites would be reused as employment centers.

  • 75% decrease in abandonment compared to business-as-usual
  • Nearly 22,000 jobs brought back to former industrial sites
  • 9 out of 10 new homes would go in areas that have already been developed
  • 96% of new jobs would go in areas that are already built up
  • Revenue of local governments would exceed the costs of maintaining services and infrastructure by over 48%


Learn  more about the Back to the City Scenario

Measuring the scenarios against our priorities

Using an open source software package called Envision Tomorrow, we can actually test out what some of the impacts would be if each of the four scenarios became a reality. By measuring and comparing key indicators under each scenario, the impacts that future choices will have on the region itself  and the things we all value, become clear.


Although each citizen-created map was unique, there were a set of common values that almost everyone expressed as priorities for the future of development in Buffalo Niagara. By looking at how the different approaches of each scenario would impact these common values, we can make more informed decisions on what approach to development we actually want to see in the future.   

These  common priorities were:

  • Grow where we’ve already grown by reusing and filling in the areas that are already developed
  • Create more walkable, livable places  by placing homes near jobs and amenities while focusing new development to give easy access for pedestrians, not just drivers
  • Connect our region by expanding transportation options and developing close to our public transit network, rather than in areas that can only be accessed by car
  • Protect farmland, parks and nature by avoiding development on natural, open land and instead concentrating in and around areas we have already built on
  • Ensure fiscally-sound local governments by limiting extensions to our infrastructure network while capitalizing on areas that are already serviced

To learn more about the feedback that led to these priorities, click here.