Large-Scale Urban Modeling

by Otto J. Helweg, (M.ASCE), Assoc. Prof.; Dept. of Civ. Engrg., Univ. of California, Davis, Calif.,

Serial Information: Journal of the Urban Planning and Development Division, 1979, Vol. 105, Issue 2, Pg. 89-101

Document Type: Journal Paper


Large-scale urban modeling has been criticized for failing to produce practical tools despite great costs. Among the simulation techniques proposed for modeling the socioeconomic sector is Forrester's Systems Dynamics, which has also been criticized as being impractical and misleading. This paper reviews the pros and cons of large-scale urban modeling as well as the use and misuse of Systems Dynamics. The main thesis is that Systems Dynamics is a valid approach to simulation when correctly used and urban modeling is useful when limited to a sector of the urban system. Applying these constraints overcomes most of the shortcomings of large-scale modeling and produces a cost-effective tool for planning in urban systems. A model of the education sector of the urban system is proposed to demonstrate the application of small-scale modeling using Systems Dynamics that mitigates the historic shortcomings of the more comprehensive simulation attempts.

Subject Headings: Simulation models | Decision support systems | Urban areas | Scale models | Social factors | Financial management | Education | Dynamic models

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