Decision Making Under Deep Uncertainty

Objective: Promote a broad understanding of practical approaches to effectively inform decision-makers faced with uncertainty underpinning baseline assumptions in travel forecasting and planning


AEP50 stakeholder comments highlighted the need and challenge to practically engage in uncertainty modeling. Resources and research are becoming increasingly available, but there is much work done to help bridge the gap between research and practice. At the core of this initiative is the question: how reasonable is it to produce a single best-guess 25 year forecast to inform the transportation planning practice? To stay useful (and relevant) to the public process, our tools and methods need to evolve.


The decision making under deep uncertainty (DMDU) approach developed in other industries presents a model for how travel forecasting and planning can shift from a “predict-then-act” approach that optimizes against a “best-guess” future to an approach that stress tests a plan in order to minimize regret across possible future scenarios. Making this shift would represent a fundamental change in mindset for the industry with far reaching dependencies on quantitative analysis tools and approaches as well as regulation, policy structure, and public engagement. 

Through this initiative, AEP50 will advance the state of the practice in the specification, development, and application of appropriate quantitative tools for DMDU. Of course, repurposing, reimagining, and renovating our models and approaches to support a DMDU type approach is a necessary, but not sufficient condition. Therefore, success of this initiative is dependent on and should be connected to other committees that are advancing planning under uncertainty from their perspective (e.g. regulation, policy, planning process).

This work will aim to build on FHWA’s TMIP work to promote planning and modeling with uncertainty as compiled in the recently published Transportation Planning for Uncertain Times report.  

To help get our arms around the topic and allow contributors to focus on their area of interest and expertise, the uncertainty initiative is organized into four key challenge areas:

Current Activities

 We still welcome volunteers to contribute to each of the challenge areas - please join the aep50 Uncertainty google group to connect and learn more.

TRB Annual Meeting - Uncertainty Initiative Meeting

For those of you traveling to TRB, I hope you can join us for an Uncertainty Initiative meeting on Monday, January 8 from 10:15-11:15 AM in Marriott Marquis Liberty Salon O (M4) [immediately following the AEP50 committee meeting, in the same room].

📚 Marty's Book Club: Transportation for Uncertain Times

🌐 The Idea:

Marty Milkovits is considering the formation of a 'book club' of sorts, with the focus on delving into the Federal Highway Administration's Transportation Planning for Uncertain Times.  We will use the report's framing to discuss methods and tools for decision-making under deep uncertainty (DMDU) and then reconnect on a regular basis to share experiences.

🤝Why a Book Club?

This informal and collaborative setting would provide us with the opportunity to: A) Share experiences implementing DMDU strategies in our agencies (or for our clients). B) Brainstorm ideas collectively. C) Develop additional materials that could assist others on a similar path. D) Foster a supportive community focused on advancing DMDU practices.

🧠What to Expect:

The format would be flexible, with discussions ranging from the practical application of the FHWA report to identifying potential gaps, and creating materials to support the broader community.

If the idea of a DMDU Book Club resonates with you, could you please LET MARTY KNOW 📬 with a brief indication of your interest? Your input will guide the next steps.

Previous Activities