Many of the ills facing metropolitan areas, such as traffic congestion, strained public infrastructure, and regional inequality, are caused, in large part, by the negative impacts one community faces because of the decisions of another. For example, as a town far outside the urban core develops more housing, it may create more traffic for communities further in as commuters shuttle through to centers of employment or education. Without effective mechanisms for both horizontal (e.g. city to city) and vertical (e.g. city to nation) coordination of planning and governance, the metropolitan region can face a “tragedy of the commons,” where the prosperity and quality of life declines for the region as a whole.

In an effort to support the growth and development of a high-quality metropolitan region, the Boston Metropolitan Regional Planning Commission’s (MAPC) MetroFuture regional planning process engaged over 4,000 of the area’s residents between 2002 and 2009 and produced a new vision and action plan for the region.

Evan Thomas Paul (MCP ’11) looks at the strengths and weaknesses of the effort and concludes that the process can serve as a model for other regions, while cautioning against some of the political, financial, and citizen burnout challenges of the process.

You can learn more about this topic by reading Evan’s full thesis “Projections, Politics, and Practice in Regional Planning: A Case Study of MetroFuture.”