Urban Simulation

Breakthrough in infrastructure planning – Application and Case Studies

More spatially-efficient investment choices in both economic and basic infrastructure spending can make a significant impact on the equity, efficiency and sustainability of human settlements. Emerging from work conducted as part of a Department of Science and Technology (DST)-funded Integrated Planning and Development Modelling (IPDM) project, it argues that decisions about infrastructure investment in South African metropolitan areas ought to be grounded in robust and rigorous analysis and scenario evaluation. More evidence, and better evidence, and an understanding of spatial trends as well as the underlying forces that shape them, is needed to support planning and infrastructure investment. Urban simulation platforms offer valuable tools in this regard. Findings of simulation work in three metropolitan areas (eThekwini, Nelson Mandela Bay and Johannesburg) are presented to demonstrate this and some implications for spatial policy, planning and infrastructure investment are highlighted. Click to read more...

Application Case Studies

Mindful of documented failures of technology-focussed (“black box”) approaches to urban simulation, UrbanSim was developed to promote an open, participatory approach to alternate policy evaluation by emphasizing the behaviour of agents, their choices, and their dynamic interaction over time. Agent–based approaches simplify communication about the model and the real-world phenomenon it represents: housing, population, employment, workplaces, networks, travel, transport, land use, etc.

Capitalising on this advantage, the CSIR introduced the concept of ‘living laboratories’ in all four metros to involve all the relevant stakeholders in the process illustrated in the Figure below.

Typical process followed with estimate of effort required

Based on the observation that the activities on the left hand side of the diagram are generally best understood by users (officials) while activities on the right hand side are best understood by modellers (CSIR), the living laboratory approach was used to, over time, bridge the gap in understanding between users and modellers. Such a mutual understanding is critical not only to avoid another “black box” failure but to ensure that core members of a living laboratory process provide longer term continuity for iterative improvement of the simulation up to the point where a metro may completely take over the simulation as an operational model.

To achieve this outcome, the technical project team (comprising planning facilitation, information and modelling experts accompanied by interns, students and DST representatives where relevant) had to travel to the relevant metro and conduct interactive, on site work-sessions supplemented by tele-meetings, tele-conferences and other forms of communication such as reports and e-mails. In most cases the living laboratory (Read more on Living Labs) events where supplemented by smaller technical working teams convened for specific purposes such as understanding the definition of data supplied by the municipality or gaining a better understanding of the rationale behind proposed planning interventions.

Specific case study application areas, where collaboration enabled teams to identify the value and implementation lessons since the inception phase of research and development, are:

eThekwini: What would the impact of future growth be on spatial policies?

The aims and objectives of doing the urban simulation exercise in Ethekwini Municipality (EM) was to allow planners and decision-makers to assess the likely impact of demographic and economic growth in the context of specific spatial policies or plans or to evaluate the impact of investment decisions such as a proposed mass transit scheme. Click to read more...

Nelson Mandela Bay: How will investment decisions influence financial sustainability of households and of the city?

The NMBM and the CSIR have since December 2009 been collaborating on a project sponsored by the Department of Science and Technology to establish an Urban Simulation Model for the NMBM to study urban growth patterns 30 years into the future. The model simulates the dynamic interaction between government policies, economic cycles, where people live, where they work and how they commute between home and work across various networks over extended periods of time. This allows planners and decision-makers to assess the likely outcome of various policy scenarios and improve long term planning for the provision of social facilities and major investment decisions such as proposed mass transit schemes. More recently the NMBM formed the Long Term Financial Sustainability Working Group (LTFSWG) and appointed the CSIR to update the Urban Simulation Model and integrate the work done by the CSIR, SHISAKA and BIGEN AFRICA in a way that will allow the LTFSWG to assess the potential outcome of policy/investment scenarios to support the long term financial sustainability of the NMBM.Click to read more...

Nelson Mandela Bay: Managing growth and land-use densities to support public transport investment

The specific case study conducted by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform in collaboration with CSIR and Nelson Mandela Bay Metro aimed to investigate the value of using Urban Simulation in support of public transport decision-making and land use management. In this case it was applied to identify the requirements in terms of densities and land use along the proposed corridors to support and ensure efficiency and viability of the integrated public transport systems, under certain growth conditions. Click to read more...

Current Initiatives

City of Tshwane: Refining the Capital Investment Framework

The purpose of this ongoing project is to support the City of Tshwane’s Planning and Development Department to refine the Capital Investment Framework (CIF) by applying the UrbanSim platform to simulate future settlement patterns as a market response to a range of spatial planning scenarios already contained in the GSDF, MSDF and RSDFs as well as specific investments contemplated in terms of the CIF. Click to read more...

For more information contact:

Quinton van Heerden, CSIR

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