System Dynamics Approach to Urban Planning

by K. Preston White, Grad. Asst.; Dept of Mech. Engrg., Duke Univ., Durham, NC,
Jarir S. Dajani, (M.ASCE), Asst. Prof. of Civ. Engrg.; Duke Univ., Durham, NC,
Donald Wright, Asst. Prof. of Mech. Engrg.; Duke Univ., Durham, NC,

Serial Information: Journal of the Urban Planning and Development Division, 1974, Vol. 100, Issue 1, Pg. 43-56

Document Type: Journal Paper


Forrester employs a system dynamics technique for modeling complex, multiloop, feedback systems—a technique which he claims bridges the gap between engineering and the social sciences—to transform his theory of the economic and demographic growth and decay of a city into a computer model. In this paper both the modeling technique and its specific application to an urban area are considered. Forrester uses the urban dynamics model to describe the natural evolution of a city and to test the effects of various public policies on the urban system. Simulation results and the disconcerting policy recommendations Forrester extracts from them are considered. It is concluded that although the urban dynamics model is not itself an accurate representation of a city, the potential of systems analysis in social simulation is great.

Subject Headings: Computer models | Urban areas | Dynamic models | Model accuracy | Urban development | Structural models | Social factors | Simulation models

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