On the campus of the University of California at Berkeley, a revolutionary planning technology platform is in the works. Paul Waddell, chair of the Department of City and Regional Planning, and his team of researchers and developers are working tirelessly to innovate their UrbanSim software and UrbanVision platform to help develop a new model for planning. The primary aim of this effort is to bring many of the antiquated practices of the planning and land use professions into the modern era of spatial and visual interpretation.
UrbanVision is a software application aimed at bringing 3D visualization and scenario creation into the practice of planning and land use. For the lack of being able to describe this remarkable system better than its creators, here is a short section of theoveriew page that describes what UrbanSim is all about:
“It is within this planning context that the UrbanSim model has been developed. The model implements a perspective on urban development that represents a dynamic process resulting from the interaction of many actors making decisions within the urban markets for land, housing, non-residential space and transportation.
By treating urban development as the interaction between market behavior and governmental actions UrbanSim is designed to maximize reality, thereby increasing its utility for assessing the impacts of alternative governmental plans and policies related to land use and transportation. Thus, the model design enhances the strategic planning capabilities of MPOs and other state and local agencies needing to evaluate growth management policies such as urban growth boundaries, assess consistency of land use and transportation plans, and address conformity with respect to air quality implementation plans.
The user interacts with UrbanSim to create "scenarios", specifying alternative packages of forecasts, land use policy assumptions, and other exogenous inputs. The model is then executed for a given scenario, and the results of one or more scenarios can be examined and compared.”
While that description is a bit dense, this model is worthy of your further investigation. The application is being developed in an open source format and is freely downloadable at the UrbanSim website. If nothing more, watch the video on the homepage to get an idea of what this powerful tool can do to revolutionize planning and land use practices as we transition into living in more dense urban environments.