Preferred Alternatives

Evaluation and Selection of Preferred Alternative(s)

The process of evaluating and selecting alternatives involves judging how each alternative would meet the goals and objectives defined in prior tasks. Too many evaluation and selection techniques exist to be reviewed in this Guide; however, these techniques can be broadly classified into two categories: (1) economic and (2) multi-criteria. Economic techniques transform meaningful impacts into monetary values as costs or benefits. Non-market impacts, such as environment-related impacts, are translated into monetary estimates using economic valuation techniques (Bateman et al. 2002). The benefits and costs produced during the project’s economic lifespan are taken into account to produce economic indicators of performance such as net present value, internal rate of return, and benefit/cost ratio.

Multi-criteria techniques do not translate impacts into monetary units. This category of evaluation techniques often makes use of a matrix to compare the performance of each alternative with respect to identified objectives. If quantitative PMs have been produced, these can be placed in the corresponding criteria cells. If only qualitative analyses are available, agency staff try to make sure the estimates are as objective and unbiased as possible. The performance of each alternative usually is summarized according to the selected measures via colors, codes, or key words that explain the results depicted in the matrix, making it understandable to decision makers. An example of an alternatives comparison matrix can be found online at http://www.warner.nh.us/downloads/Rt103/WarnerRoute103ComparisonMatrix.pdf (Warner Town, 2013).

Tasks involved in the evaluation and selection of preferred alternatives are:

  • Stakeholder outreach and agency coordination
    • Public and private stakeholders need to be actively involved in the evaluation and rating of alternatives for several reasons:
      • They may rate one decision criteria as more important than the others.
      • Stakeholder agreement on the evaluation is needed to ensure their long-term support and to advance implementation of the initiative.
      • The agency leaders, not the agency staff conducting the analyses, will be the decision makers.
    • Planners usually recommend and explain the trade-offs among alternatives, as well as the consequences of inaction, to the actual decision makers. Group problem-solving processes, such as the Delphi method to prioritize and select the highest priority projects or initiatives (Linstone and Turoff 2002), and the nominal group technique (Delbecq et al. 1975), can be used to facilitate the coordination of stakeholder rating.
  • Data collection:
    • It is important to ensure that the stakeholders participating in the DM process provide specific information about the level of importance they attach to each of the various decision criteria, and that a consensus is reached about these valuations of importance. It is highly advisable to conduct such an exercise before the actual evaluation process takes place, as this reduces the possibility of any manipulation of the process to favor specific alternatives.
    • During the evaluation of alternatives, it may be necessary to supplement data/information collected to provide stakeholders with information about the alternatives that they need to make decisions.
  • Assessment and analysis
    • Because of the trade-offs involved, often there is no clear best alternative. In such cases, it is important to get input from stakeholders about the relative importance of the different decision criteria, as this will help the selection process.
  • Generation of outputs:
    • Outputs from this task are a prioritized list of the alternatives to be recommended for implementation, together with estimates of the time and resources required, responsible agency and/or stakeholders, and any other information deemed useful to be included in the Action Plan.

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