A Multi-Agent Planning Support-System for Assessing Externalities of Urban Form Scenarios: Results of Case Studies

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Urban scene - Praha, CZ. Original Image.

Rachel Katoshevski-Cavari (Urban Planning, Israel), Theo Arentze and Harry Timmermans (Technical University Eindhoven) have published a new paper presenting an excellent analysis of four urban planning scenarios, based on case-studies.  The abstract: The relationship between various planning-ideas and sustainability is described, using a dedicated multi-agent model and demonstrated by a case study. The analysis supports planning based on preferences and behavior of a target population. Two objectives are addressed: (1) Examine the effect of different planning ideas-scenarios on the development of the built-environment and, in particular, how different planning scenarios can contribute to a sustainable built environment, and (2) Demonstrate the relevancy of the multi-agent model as a tool for planning and evaluating planning alternatives. Four planning scenarios are included and three performance indicators measuring aspects of sustainability (accessibility, mobility, and viability) are employed in the analysis.

The introduction to their interesting analysis reads:

The literature in urban planning and related disciplines has evidenced an explosion in the development and application of cellular automata models of urban. Common to most of these studies is the division of the study area into a set of grid cells and the use of a set of transition rules to represent the influence of a particular land use on changes in another type of land use, to simulate land use change. Studies differ in terms of the specification of these rules and especially in terms of the choice of grid cells influencing land use changes in any particular cell.

In addition to the cellular automata models, another important line of research on land use dynamics concerns the so-called integrated land use—transportation models. Whereas cellular automata models simulate land use change as a function of transition rules, integrated land use transportation models treat land use change primarily as a function of accessibility. The spatial configuration of land use influences traffic flows, which in turn influence accessibility. In simulating this mutual influence, the dynamics in land use and accessibility can be modeled.

These two approaches cannot escape two essential criticisms:

(1) The behavioral basis of cellular automata models is weak and needs improvement: grids do not make any decisions;

(2) Simple trip-based models of transport demand, used in most models, need to be replaced by the activity-based models which allow us to incorporate several inter-dependencies in activity travel behavior (the integrated modeling approach).

To avoid these potential weaknesses of the two mentioned approaches, Arentze and Timmermans suggested a planning model that simulates the behavior of the various actors involved in urban development including the planning agency, providers of location-based urban facilities and users of these facilities. This approach differs from the cellular automata models and the integrated land use transportation models in that

(i)                  behavioral models are formulated for each of these agents and not for grids,

(ii)                a traditional traffic model is replaced with a comprehensive activity-based model which simulates daily activity-travel patterns, and

(iii)               locations decisions are based on multiple factors and not on accessibility only.

Although the model can be applied with different planning objectives in mind, most performance indicators associated with the model have been formulated to evaluate land use configurations in terms of sustainability. In a previous study, we reported the results of a comparison between three city forms using this model. That comparison showed that a city road system with a few concentric circular roads creates a compact city, that is, a city that includes the highest number of accessible facilities and shorter travel distances. The advantage of compactness of the city is emphasized by different authors. Dumreicher et al., for example, argued that the sustainable city should be compact, dense, diverse and highly integrated. Hence, based on our previous study and references we decided to use the compact city form as a basis for this study that is for the development of four city scenarios.

The present study has two objectives: first, it aims to achieve a better understanding of the effects of various planning ideas on the development of the built environment. Second, it demonstrates the relevance of the model as a tool for planners to create an outline plan and/or evaluate different land use planning alternatives from the perspective of sustainability. To this effect, in this study, four outline plans are developed, based on distinctive planning ideas. The created plans are compared using three sets of performance indicators representing different aspects of sustainable development.

In this paper, we illustrate the multi-agent model, its components, and analyze the likely impact of different planning scenarios on a set of performance indicators. The paper is organized as follows: First, we briefly introduce the multi-agent system. Next, we outline the scenarios. This is followed by a discussion of the results. The paper ends with a discussion of our major conclusions.

Read the full article in PDF format by clicking here.

Citation: Katoshevski-Cavari, R.; Arentze, T.; Timmermans, H. A Multi-Agent Planning Support-System for Assessing Externalities of Urban Form Scenarios: Results of Case Studies. Sustainability 2010, 2, 2253-2278.

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