As part of a growing effort to harness technology for better long term planning, the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, in partnership with PlaceMatters, is presenting the 6th Annual Open Planning Tools Symposium at the University of Texas at Austin.
The symposium is the nation’s top gathering for developers of applications known as scenario planning tools, which help government agencies and the public make decisions about land-use, transportation and other issues that require thinking about the factors that will shape an uncertain future.
“In the face of climate change, population growth and rapidly changing land use, the availability of technology to help us plan for an uncertain future is more important than ever,” said Armando Carbonell, senior fellow and chairman of the Department of Planning and Urban Form at the Lincoln Institute.
Communities have for many years used software in “visioning” exercises, but scenario planning tools have yet to be widely adopted across cities, counties, metropolitan planning organizations and other agencies that engage in long term planning.
In 2012, the Lincoln Institute published a report, Opening Access to Scenario Planning Tools, recommending several actions to help expand the use of these tools, including establishing better data standards, providing for public education and technical training, creating a model scenario planning process, and improving interoperability between platforms through the use of open-source software development practices.
The report coincided with the launch of an online clearinghouse to bring researchers, planners, and software developers together under the banner of the Open Planning Tools Group.
As one example of how this group is helping to advance planning tools and technology, software developers have added several new tools to Envision Tomorrow, which lets planners and the public test different strategies for shaping the ideal urban community. New features include real-time feasibility modeling for redevelopment, a fiscal impact tool, and cloud-based scenario creation.
The Lincoln Institute has announced it will support four new proposals to further develop and improve scenario planning tools:
- From Social Vulnerability and Neighborhood Effects to Planning Knowledge: Tools for Considering Social Equity in Scenario Planning: This project, led by Robert Goodspeed of the University of Michigan, will create tools to investigate which populations might be vulnerable to planned change, the demographic profile and anticipated well-being of residents for each scenario, and what effects a given scenario will have on the residents of surrounding areas.
- Alpaca: An Economic Evaluation Plug-In for Scenario Planning Tools: This project, led by Colby Brown of Manhan Group LLC, will create an open software library that will calculate property prices and values as a result of the interaction between competing consumers in the real estate market, enabling the computation of more robust economic indicators to address topics such as housing affordability, fiscal effects, income inequality, and gentrification.
- Open Vulnerability Mapper: This project, led by Bev Wilson and Arnab Chakraborty of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, will support better planning for climate change through an open source tool to map where the most vulnerable people live and where the most hazardous places are. The mapper will be developed for the Chicago area, with a toolkit for adapting it to other places.
- Scenario Tools for Equitable Corridor Reinvestment and Affordable Housing Preservation: This project, led by Elizabeth Mueller of the University of Texas at Austin and Jennifer Minner of Cornell University, will build on a metric developed for Austin, Texas, which helps cities identify areas most vulnerable to displacement from infill development, where preservation is urgent. It is intended to help replicate this tool in other fast-growing cities, with integration into a widely used scenario planning tool known as ET+.
These projects support the Lincoln Institute's goal of fostering better planning practices to address major social challenges such as climate adaptation, housing affordability and inequality. In the coming months and years, the Lincoln Institute will mobilize new research and development to further advance tools that address these challenges and others, such as water resource allocation.