GIS for Urban and Regional Planning

Planning Support Systems

GIS Supports Planning and the Public Participation Process With Planning Support Systems

Advances in GIS and supporting technologies have led to the development of decision support systems that facilitate the community planning process. There are several planning support systems available on the market today to Esri users. PSS uses indicators and alternative development scenarios to measure the attributes and performance of communities and their plans.

Planning support systems are instrumental to successful community planning and public participation processes because they focus on the needs and the know-how of users as opposed to focusing on or requiring a high degree of GIS expertise. Planning support systems can measure and compare performances of different planning scenarios according to planner- or citizen-defined indicators for land use, transportation, natural resources, and employment, to name a few.

The ultimate goal is to bring together all potential players to work collaboratively on a common vision for their community. GIS-based planning support systems allow planners and citizens to quickly and efficiently create and test alternative development scenarios and determine their likely impacts on future land use patterns and associated population and employment trends, thus allowing public officials to make informed planning decisions.

Smart Growth

San Antonio's Broadway Corridor was modeled three ways in Smart Growth INDEX®: existing conditions, current build-out plan, and stakeholders' alternative build-out plan. The latter emphasizes mixed live/work/shop land uses.

3 models of San Antonio's Broadway Corridor; click to see enlargement

The final INDEX "report card" for the corridor revealed that the stakeholders' new proposed plan would create much better conditions than the current plan. In this way, the GIS tool gave participants rapid, critical feedback on the validity of their work to date and the promise of their future efforts. The catalyst for bringing these stakeholders together was an offer from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to apply Smart Growth INDEX, a GIS-based planning support tool that EPA is distributing nationally to selected communities.

What if? Scenarios

The compare scenario functionality in What if?™ enabled council planners from the shire (township) of Hervey Bay, Australia, to undertake visual comparative analysis of alternative urban growth scenarios generated for Hervey Bay 2021.

Click each caption to see enlargement.

Scenario 1—No Land Use Controls Scenario 2—Land Use Controls

The diagrams above illustrate two resultant land use patterns based on different sets of user-specified input values. The No Land Use Controls scenario scatters residential development (shown in magenta) across the shire to areas outside the map window extent. The Land Use Controls scenarios concentrate residential development within and around the city of Hervey Bay, filling in undeveloped land tracts (shown in yellow) and rural urban fringe areas (shown in green).


Growth Strategies

click to see enlargementLike many other small rural communities across North America, Bowen Island in British Columbia, Canada, is feeling the pressures of urban growth, and it is actively exploring new smart growth strategies and integrated planning frameworks for navigating a path forward. A key element of this planning framework is the capacity to envision and assess viable pathways toward community sustainability. Bowen Island is using CommunityViz™ to support this process of planning and "what if" analysis through a powerful suite of integrated GIS modeling and landscape visualization tools that provide both context and focus for community-based decision making.

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