Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Technology for planners: going beyond maps and post-its

Inspired by the enthusiasm of Yingling Fan we recently hosted Dr. Ted Grossardt from the University of Kentucky Transportation Center. His expertise is in Structured Public Involvement, which is a protocol for using technology to greatly enhance the quality of public involvement processes in planning. In his presentation, he discussed how he and his colleagues have achieved useful feedback through enhanced modeling techniques (using fuzzy modeling) and computer-aided visualization technologies. More information on his work is included below.

In addition, he has graciously agreed to share his presentation slides here

A fundamental problem of most public infrastructure planning and design projects is how to usefully and efficiently engage the public in the appropriate aspects of the process. Well-meaning but lengthy meeting processes exclude citizens with limited time budgets, while rapid, short processes limit the quality and quantity of overall public input and reduce its usefulness to professionals. In both cases, as well, various subsets of the public can legitimately claim process injustices and challenge planning and design outcomes. As the questions become more complex, the challenges to effective public involvement multiply, and professionals are caught in a choice among bad solutions.

Structured Public Involvement is a protocol that combines the use of innovative dialogic techniques, technological tools for representation and feedback, and quantitative tools for capturing and modeling public responses. CommunityViz® is used as the visualization tool to help residents better understand the differences between potential land development patterns, an audience response system was used to gather their preferences in real time, and Fuzzy Knowledge Builder® was used post process to model the complex interplay of development pattern properties that were most preferred and least preferred by citizens. The development patterns vary by percent mixture of housing types, percent mixture of land use types, percent given over to green space, the ratio of sidewalk to total paved area, and the connectivity of the road network. These five parameters were chosen as the most useful and fundamental measures of differences between development patterns, and citizens’ preferences were derived based on them. Public input for this town was successfully gathered and modeled and the resulting preference patterns made available to city planners for use in updating their comprehensive plan.

This protocol is notable in that it exhibits high process transparency and public satisfaction with the process.

Relevant References:

Bailey, K, Grossardt, T. and Pride-Wells, M. 2007. Community Design of a Light Rail Transit-Oriented District using CAVE (Casewise Visual Evaluation). Socio Economic Planning Sciences 41(3): 235-254

Nelessen, A. 1994. Visions for a New American Dream: Process, Principles and an Ordinance to Plan and Design Small Communities. American Planning Association Press, Chicago and Washington D.C.

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