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We have been collecting all the questions that we got asked a lot about ArcGIS Urban. We hope that with this collection of frequently asked questions you will find all the answers that you are looking for. And if not, please ask us anything else you are curious about here! We are looking forward to hearing from you.

What are the key capabilities of Urban?

  • View a digital representation of your city in which all urban developments are visualized in one place for collaboration among stakeholder groups.
  • Visualize zoning rules in 3D. Convert legal text into a visual representation that can be used for detailed scenario planning down to the parcel level.
  • Generate plausible buildings and analyze the impact of plans with automatically generated capacity indicators data and by comparing different design scenarios.

How does Urban differ from ArcGIS CityEngine? Do I still need CityEngine if I am using Urban?

Urban and CityEngine have a lot of things in common (e.g., they use the same procedural engine under the hood to create models), but they also differ. In CityEngine, you can write custom CGA rules, whereas Urban provides a built-in rule that cannot be modified. What you can change in Urban are the parameters that drive the rule, such as the maximum height or the allowed floor area ratio. Urban is a web-based application, whereas CityEngine is a desktop tool that is installed locally. In general, Urban is a focused platform—not just a tool or web app—that supports urban planning workflows and facilitates communication between stakeholders. CityEngine supports the creation of detailed urban designs and produces sophisticated models of built-out scenarios.

How much does Urban cost and how can I buy it?

An Urban license is tied to a Creator User Type in your ArcGIS Online organizational account. The cost of a license depends on your local distributor. Please get in touch with our team for more information about licenses and prices.

Does Urban support completely new developments (greenfield development)?

  • Yes, greenfield development is supported in Urban. New parcels can be added and generated on the fly with the 3D drawing tools. You can draw new parcels in Urban; however, they will not be based on a cadastre management system. For small areas, you can easily subdivide large parcels directly in Urban, but for larger greenfield cases, you may consider opening the plan in CityEngine for automatically generating parcels based off the drawn street network.
  • With the parcel drawing tools, you can also outline rough lot lines. If you have a feature layer with proposed roads in it, you can use this to guide your scenario design. You also have the option to design a road network for the plan area in CityEngine and then bring it into Urban to guide scenario planning.

Besides urban planning, can other sectors benefit from using Urban?

Yes, the underlying concepts of Urban can also be used to solve other problems, such as the following:

  • Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC): How can we keep track of all our proposed, planned, and completed projects at the state and local level? 
  • Real Estate: How can we manage and display all the ongoing projects in our organization?
  • Education: How can we explain urban density and trends around settlement development to students in an interactive way?

Let us know if you have an idea for an application in your field/industry.

Can external data be added to Urban from different data sources?

Yes, external data can be added to Urban. We recommend using the built-in data manager tool in Urban to load data from feature layers or spreadsheets (e.g., CSV, Excel). External layers such as already published basemaps and existing buildings can also be attached there. In the plan and project configuration, external layers can be attached per scenario, and indicators support adding external web scenes that can be styled using the smart mapping capabilities of Scene Viewer.

Are there any built-in environmental indicators in Urban?

Yes, the built-in ArcGIS Living Atlas of the World indicators include the Trust for Public Land (TPL) indicator called ParkServe. The ParkServe platform provides information about park systems and the associated percentage of city, town, and community residents within a 10-minute walk of a park. This indicator is currently only available for the US.

Can the built-in capacity indicators be customized in Urban?

Yes, the built-in capacity indicators can be configured to fit your city's standards. The default values are an average over the whole US and can be used as a benchmark if you do not have knowledge about metrics such as average living area per capita. These assumptions are attached to the space use types in Urban and can be configured in the data manager.

What type of data does Urban generate?

Urban creates so-called plausible buildings as well as zoning envelopes. The application calculates capacity indicators based on the gross floor area per space use of the plausible buildings. Currently available capacity indicators are number of people, number of households, and number of jobs. The indicators are calculated based on assumptions such as average floor space consumption per capita or type of job. These assumptions can be configured by the user. The capacity indicators are displayed in Urban in a dashboard that can be filtered by the whole study area or a user-driven selection.

Does Urban use the Local Government Information Model?

No, Urban's data model is separate from the Local Government Information Model. It is focused on the representation of plans and projects and specialized to support the procedural generation of zoning envelopes and plausible building forms. You can use parcel and zoning information from the Local Government Data Model to populate the Urban data model.

Can I use local government solution templates to conduct spatial analysis on urban plans and projects?

Yes. You can access the plans and projects in Urban from ArcGIS Pro via the appropriate feature layers. These can be used in various analytical processes. The results of such spatial analysis can be published back to Urban as indicators or context layers for specific plans and projects.

What other types of data can Urban report on besides the capacity indicators?

  • There are various analytical models (some proprietary and some are open source) that are used for planning purposes. Urban can provide inputs to these models, expanding the in-app dashboards. Many times, these models are also localized to the city in which they are used; therefore, Urban can provide input that may be more detailed.
  • If you have the model, you can use the results that Urban generates and show the impact on various other indicators that you are interested in (e.g., trip generation, parking requirements).

Does Urban work for any city scale?

Yes, Urban is designed to work for small and large cities and, to a certain extent, on a county and regional level.

Do I need to have a 3D basemap to get started with Urban?

No, you don't need to have existing 3D content. Of course, we recommend building out a 3D basemap for a better experience and so that more accurate planning decisions can be made.

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