Triple Access Planning

Framing through gaming

By Maha Attia, Sander Lenferink & Vincent Marchau, Radboud University

Triple Access Planning (TAP) for uncertain futures requires practitioners to rethink their approaches to planning. We apply the Framing, Exploring, Choosing framework (Marchau et al. 2019) to help the practitioners in a step-by-step redesign of their planning to urban accessibility. For the Framing phase, two gaming workshops were held in the cities of Utrecht and Nijmegen.

Figure 1: Elements of the DMDU approach (Adapted by (Malekpour et al., 2020) from (Marchau et al., 2019).

The game simulated decisionmaking within two departments (mobility and land use) in  how they choose their individual and, subsequently, collective package of policy options for urban accessibility. The game has two distinct lines through which it aims to contribute to practice, a collective aim and an individual aim.

Collective aim

The game simulates and stimulates interorganizational collaboration on policy options. Two municipal departments discover to what extent their thoughts on a TAP policy package align. The participants express a couple of experiences:

  • “The game showed how our mobility plans must explore future spatial developments and vice versa. This is not done sufficiently in practice.”
  • “Negotiating the different policy measures was interesting, especially looking into the synergies and working together was fun and helped create a good discussion.”
  • “It was good to discuss green spaces and energy efficiency, rather than merely focusing on more housing and transport connectivity”

During the gameplay the participants were able to formulate common goals and an approach to come to a selection of policy options. Most participants note that their trust in cooperation with the other department has increased through the game. They indicate a better feeling of the other departments interests, and more confidence that they can come to an integrated policy package for their cities.

Individual aim

The game was also used to test whether individual knowledge (framing) of the Triple Access System (TAS) has improved. Participants are asked to draw a mental model of their understanding of the TAS before and after playing the game. The image below shows two of these mind maps.

Preliminary conclusions that can be drawn from the mental maps are that after playing the games session planners added more digital connectivity factors and connections in their systems view. Also more indirect relations and additional land use and mobility factors were drawn. This seems to indicate that their system understanding has been broadened to include digital accessibility. During the debrief this was acknowledged by the participants:

  • Taking a step back to look at the whole system is not usually done in practice; it was a good exercise. We usually think of the system in our minds and have different assumptions about it, but putting it on paper is different.”
  • “It helped me develop an overarching thinking of the three different levels of accessibility, starting from each system’s internal dimensions/specifics and moving towards thinking in terms of a system of systems.
  • “It amplified the thinking about how the interdependencies can be positive and negative (e.g. adverse effects). There has to be a balance, also with allowing more digital connectivity, as this can negatively influence other parts of the system.”

Next steps

All participants indicated that the game was fun to interact with. It facilitated open discussions on accessibility and urban planning and it added new perspectives. As a consequence, every participant expressed a desire to be involved in the next game, which concerns the next step in the DMDU approach: exploring. To be continued …

Triple Access Planning

Participatory game design for learning

Maha Attia, Sander Lenferink and Vincent Marchau, Radboud University

A goal of the TAP for uncertainty project is to offer support for planners in dealing with uncertainty, specifically for an integrated system of proximity, mobility and digital accessibility. In order to offer support for planners, we aim to develop and play serious games to stimulate learning. Game design always needs validation from expert practitioners to assess the learning challenges: who needs to learn, what needs to be learned, how can best be learned, how to measure learning? We discussed these questions with experts from practice in a Workshop aimed at collectively formulating design considerations for a game that stimulates learning on TAP for uncertainty.

The participants in our participatory workshop on game design indicate that practitioners struggle with taking uncertainty into account. It is therefore recommended to focus learning by following the basic approach for Decision Making under Deep Uncertainty (DMDU) in SUMP practice. The DMDU approach (see Figure 1) of three stages (framing, exploring, and choosing) (Marchau et al, 2019), that could function as parts of the game.

Figure 1: elements of the DMDU approach (Adapted by (Malekpour et al., 2020) from (Marchau et al., 2019).

Besides the approach to DMDU, there is a longlist of things that practitioners could potentially be learned, that were raised in the discussion. The main challenge for stimulating learning in a game is to keep it simple and focused. Therefore the participants suggest to clearly define the learning goal and learning outcomes for each stage, and base  more specific game design choices on that.

Stage 1 (Re-)Framing:

The (re-)framing stage concerns a joint understanding of the system, its issues,  and specifying a shared vision and policy options. In order to learn TAP for Uncertainty, the experts agreed that the learning outcome should be focused on adding the digital perspective to the existing land use-transport system view in practice, effectively moving from a double access to a triple access system. This means that a game on Framing has the urban planners (mobility and land-use) to explore the potential role of digital planning and the impact of digital access opportunities on their plan’s objectives, as well as be aware of their (partial) responsibility in creating digital policy options. So, having the game focused on the influence of digital on the SUMP might make it more relevant for planners to think of digital as an alternative way to reach their goals. For example, include innovative digital policy options on the game cards, or play the game without (and later with) a digital policy officer role player.

Stage 2 Exploring

The exploring stage is about generating TAS futures and test policy options against these futures The experts agree that the learning outcome should be to help practitioners consider what could go wrong with their policy options. In order to make this happen, it is crucial to enable practitioners to think broadly, i.e. about futures outside their current imagination. Only by doing so can they relate the explored uncertainties directly to the policy option in question. The exploring game could therefore concern thinking about the implications of uncertain conditions on the success of the policy options they are testing, or, in other words, by exploring in which future this option will fail (or succeed). This game must include the land use and mobility planners from stage 1, but these participants can be complemented with regional or national planners as well as representatives from other fields to allow broadening up the thinking about TAP for uncertainty.

Stage 3 Choosing

The final choosing stage concerns selecting initial measures and examining pathways that help reach the vision, given alternative futures. For this stage, the learning outcome should be on understanding adaptivity by creating pathways. This specifically should include thinking about signposts and  triggers (i.e. the monitoring system), and responsive actions. In a game this can be done by selecting a promising initial option (from stage 2), and decide on contingent actions and adaptive pathways to pursue. This game could be made most specific by focusing on a local context, where actions have a direct effect on TAS.

Now what?

Based on the considerations above, three separate game workshops will be designed, which together offer a participatory DMDU approach to SUMP planning that is focused on TAP for uncertainty. These workshops will be held over the coming months with the Dutch cities involved, among which Utrecht and Nijmegen. We will keep you posted.


Malekpour, S., Walker, W., De Haan, F., Frantzeskaki, N., & Marchau, V.A. (2021) Bridging Decision Making under Deep Uncertainty (DMDU) and Transition Management (TM) to improve strategic planning for sustainable development. Environmental Science & Policy, 107, 158-167.

Marchau, V. A., Walker, W. E., Bloemen, P. J., & Popper, S. W. (2019). Decision making under deep uncertainty: from theory to practice. Springer Nature.

Triple Access Planning

Testing urban mobility plans against uncertain futures: Findings from a participatory workshop

By considering urban mobility in terms of accessibility, not only transport systems are important but also spatial configurations and digital infrastructure. In other words, when we talk about accessibility, we have to consider a dynamic system of physical transport, land use, and digital interaction. Many uncertainties surround such a system including for example uncertainties regarding; the extent to which telecommunication can (partially) take over physical mobility, how transport innovations might evolve, individuals‘ future location choices, and the future of goods mobility. These uncertainties might significantly affect the accessibility and decision-making in accessibility planning must, therefore, take these uncertainties into account. An extensive literature review, that we recently conducted, on using scenarios for handling uncertainty, concluded that integrating participatory explorative scenario approaches within the early steps of the planning for accessibility is necessary. It was observed that, involving stakeholders in scenario activities can be in three main forms: (1) informing, that aims at raising stakeholder’s awareness of a pre-developed plan; and sometimes have a say in weighting between alternative futures, (2) testing, where participants are given the opportunity to test how future-proof  a given plan is, i.e. explore  uncertainties that might influence it, and (3) creating, where participants are fully involved in planning and scenario creation.

In scenario planning activities, the “scenario development” process design is one of the most critical tasks.  Many choices need to be made in advance to guarantee results (scenarios) that address the surrounding level of uncertainty (Chakraborty & McMillan, 2015; Lyons et al., 2021). Among the most important choices are; selecting the scenario type (exploratory, normative, or predictive), scenario construction (qualitative or quantitative), scenario scope, scenario development duration, resources, scenario development approach (inductive or deductive), participation platform (online, or face-to-face), and the degree of stakeholders involvement. Some of these choices can be based on the addressed level of uncertainty; they change the “scenario development” process design, and consequently impact the results.

Figure 1: Nijmegen’s City center. ©IntoNijmegen/Wilger Brevoord

As part of our Triple Access Planning for Uncertain Futures project, we developed and applied a workshop to: (1) understand how stakeholders imagine uncertainties, and how scenarios can support handling these uncertainties, and; (2) to test the extent of stakeholders’ participation in scenario planning for accessibility futures.. In particular, participants were invited to stress-test the current urban mobility plan of the city of Nijmegen against different future uncertainties. The workshop was part of the AMS scientific conference: reinventing the city, and we prepared it in collaboration with a policy advisor from the municipality of Nijmegen. It was attended by 16 participants, ranging between transport practitioners, academic researchers to students. The workshop’s scope was focused on three main policies in Nijmegen: (1) The New Parking Policy: moving from facilitating to controlling, (2) The eHUB project: electric shared transport facilities i.e. e-bikes, e-cargo bikes, e-cars, and (3) The new traffic management system which involves prioritization of specific streets, impeding the growth of car traffic, and deployment of innovative ICT solutions for mobility Smart. A deductive approach  (approach that starts by identifying the future drivers of change, then exploring their effect on the future) was followed where, as recommended by Lyons et al. (2021), we used the STEEP framework (Social, Technological, Environmental, Economic, and Political), and a 2X2 chart to specify the level of importance and degree of uncertainty of each driver. The workshop was divided over two rounds, each of 45 minutes:

1. The first round aimed at exploring the vulnerabilities of the existing policies (i.e. how can the urban mobility plan fail) and opportunities (i.e. how can the plan succeed), based on the STEEP perspective. After identifying the vulnerabilities and opportunities, participants were asked to indicate the degree of importance and uncertainty for each of those (see Figure 2). Generally, the most frequently discussed vulnerabilities and opportunities related to the travel behavior change, the need for improving communication and information sharing (e.g. how would the elderly interact with the eHUB project), the rise of new modes of transport (e.g. autonomous vehicles), and possibilities of steering the city toward a more sustainable vision through infrastructure developments (e.g. parking, EV charging).

Figure 2: SUMP vulnerabilities and opportunities classified

2. The second round aimed at specifying measures to handle the important and uncertain vulnerabilities and opportunities (see figure 3). The most frequent measures mentioned in this round concerned regulating and incentivizing sustainable modes of transport (e.g. LEVs), and increasing participatory planning and information sharing to raise awareness (e.g. to guarantee effective behavioral change).

Figure 3: Measures to handle the identified vulnerabilities and opportunities

As a conclusion we came up with the following important points to be considered in future workshops:

  • It is very important to have prior knowledge of the workshop attendees (areas and level of expertise, number of attendees, affiliation/perspective, …etc.). This shall affect the workshop design and outcomes. E.g. depending on the experience of attendees, moderators need to focus more on explaining the prioritization ranges (e.g. important, unimportant, certain and uncertain).
  • The more specific the case study is presented, i.e. the mobility plan, the more specific the  solutions, i.e. preparatory measures, can be derived. I .e. the Nijmegen mobility plan can be broken-down into several specific policies, and these policies can be discussed in-depth.
  • Selecting the platform of participation act among the most important process-design choices, for improving the session and its outcomes. If the workshop is online, it is best to choose a clearly interactive and accessible platform (e.g Miro, MS teams,…etc.). Being able to see and divide the participants in smaller groups can improve interaction and provide reliable outcomes.
  • It is vital to increase participants’ knowledge of the subject and raise their awareness to motivate them to participate. Motivating participants can be through explaining  why they should participate, and how the workshop might help them; as well as why the workshop is important for the project. Including this in the workshop’s introduction and conclusion can help in that.

Finally, considering this workshop being a part of the Triple Access Planning for Uncertain Futures project, a more specific focus on the three TAP dimensions can guide the rounds besides the STEEP perspectives. This can help participants to think beyond traditional mobility planning and imagine a wider range of uncertainties.

Overall, the workshop was considered successful in achieving its goals, and we want to thank all attendees for participating and helping us organize our process.


Chakraborty, A., & McMillan, A. (2015). Scenario planning for urban planners: Toward a practitioner’s guide. Journal of the American Planning Association, 81(1), 18-29.

Lyons, G., Rohr, C., Smith, A., Rothnie, A., & Curry, A. (2021). Scenario planning for transport practitioners. Transportation Research Interdisciplinary Perspectives, 11, 100438.