Litman provides a brief paper on the core planning principles and practices used nowadays. He commences with an overview of the ways some basic concepts are understood by planners and other people and outlines the principal differences, which can be summarized as the attempts of the planners to reach the goal using more complex ways than those most of the people use.
Author introduces us to planning with its definition as of the decision-making process solving the questions of what to do and how to do the process. Planners are defined as the facilitators of the decision making processes, who influence the process indirectly. According to the planning guideline, planners have to look deep into the problem instead of choosing only a single aspect of it, they should also understand the influences the problem has. The information provided by planners needs to be properly arranged and followed with visual supplements. In order to follow certain plan or strategy they should try to possible foresee the future development of certain events and try to be the most accurate in their predictions. There is a common demand for the planners to remain objective in their judgments and be fair to the parties involved in the planning process; this also throws pressure on them and often makes a subject for the raising criticism since the role of planners is sometimes not treated correctly. Planners cannot be limited in their interests as they serve to people with diverse requests. Planning gets constant improvements and amendments but no cuts, thus involving more and more information for the planners to check on. Planners distinguish between different sustainability issues, grouping them for better accessibility.
Any planning process may not be defined without using the planning framework. The most essential and typical components of the planning framework are goals, objectives, principles, target etc. All of the components are related, as they are used together or one component may cause the appearance of another. Specifications are important in the planning process as they predetermine the scope of planning in terms of direction of change. Another part of planning is economic evaluation that allows determining the importance and thus the value of certain resource or activity. Litman believes evaluation should consider all the impacts, even some of them are hard to be measured. Evaluation may be related to objectives or other components of planning framework and they are used together for better results. Planners use reference units for making the comparisons more flawless and these units depend greatly on the sphere of their application.
The author states that usually any generic planning process can be used as a basis for the decision-making process, including planning minor events for a few people and expanding way further to creating the transportation networks. Generic planning process constitutes of 11 steps in total, and it commences with identification of the responsible performers and ends with program evaluation and final plan revision. Another important point in the planning process is the involvement of the community or public in general, since it allows the early detection of potential issues and cooperation with the public representatives allows gaining support for the future. Planners sometimes have to consider the results of the land use research, made based on different patterns consisting of the numerous attributes (e.g. density, mix, clustering etc.). The attributes of land use can be measured beginning with the site as the least and ending up at the level of a region. Land use issues may be also evaluated in terms of geographic areas, commencing with urban territories and ending up with green space lands. According to Litman, transportation and land use are tightly related and planners have to consider their relation when making important decisions. Planners use various strategies for creation of the complex transportation system that would satisfy the demands of the majority of the people.
Litman lists a number of practices that appear to be the best for the planners. They include integrated planning, comprehensive analysis, clarity of the planning process, prediction of the potential problems, distinguishing between different options, readiness to accept setbacks and work on the necessary improvements efficiently. One of the most effective practices is contingency-based planning which allows the identification of the variety of solutions for the problems and suggest the top stratehies allowing cutting the cost during every stage of the plan implementation.
Litman introduces a few examples of the successful planning processes that were recently implemented in different locations under different circumstances. One of such cities was Chattanooga, where city planners worked in cooperation with the residents and the city fully recovered a few decades after the project was launched, since it turned from the depressed to one of the most livable cities in the US. Seattle commenced struggling with the climate issues in 2005 by issuing a set of strategies directed at upgrading of the city transportation system. Portland successfully develops, increasing all the key economical factors due to five historical legislative acts that took place around a quarter of century ago, with the exception of the Metro charter approval in 1992.
The case studies on different issues briefly explain the meaning of bad planning and lack of decent research of the problem. An example of that is federal investment in the recovery of the poor areas by improving the living conditions while the key issues of poor education and missing job spots remain left behind. Another example of bad planning is the government project dated back to 1960s that was directed at constructing highways across the states. Its main drawback was the miscalculation of the cost of construction in the urban areas, where neighborhoods were destroyed, urban areas sprawled and the costs turned out to be way higher than initially planned. Finally, Litman suggests a set of solutions for solving the problem of sidewalk usage by people moving there in different modes, e.g. waling, skating, cycling.