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Transportation Planners - groups of 5

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Ability Level: Intermediate to Advanced
Prep time: 5-10 (printing and cutting)
Time: 20-30 mins
Class size: any

For groups of 5. One role card for each student. Each card has the scenario and one of the roles.


In the past twenty years the city of Brownsville has doubled in size from 200,000 people to 400,000. So now the roads are too crowded. As leaders of the city government, you must find a solution to this problem. Discuss possible solutions and try to agree on a solution. If you cannot agree then decide by vote.


You are the mayor of Brownsville. You want to do what is best for the city. However, one of your old friends is the owner of a subway construction company. He did a big favor for you two years ago. Without this favor you would not be mayor now.

You are the head of the city transportation department. You feel that building more highways around the city will be too expensive (50 million dollars). Building a subway system would be even more expensive, 80 million dollars. In your mind, the cheapest and simplest solution is to buy 300 new busses. This would only cost 20 million dollars.

You are the head of the city planning department. You think building more highways is the best solution. Most residents of Brownsville already own cars. You think it is unlikely that people will stop driving their cars to ride a bus or subway.

You are the head of the city environmental department. You know that building more highways is the worst solution; automobiles produce 70% of the air pollution in Brownsville. Building a subway system is the cleanest solution. Buying busses is also a fairly clean solution. Busses pollute, but 300 busses pollute less than thousands of cars. It is also possible to buy busses that use natural gas instead of gasoline, but this would cost more 30 million dollars instead of 20 million. Natural gas produces less pollution than gasoline.

You are the head of the city finance department. The government of Brownsville does not have a lot of money to spend on this project. If too much money is spent, other city services like police and fire departments, hospitals, schools, museums, and libraries will not have enough money. This problem could be solved by borrowing the money for this project. But you think borrowing money is a bad idea because it will cause money problems in the future (the city has to pay the money back).

Ian Ostrom

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