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Land use and transport models
Coimbra, Portugal

Cellular Automata models for land use and transport interaction

The use of modeling in common planning processes is many times a very demanding task as both common planning offices and practitioners are not technically prepared for it or do not have the necessary budget to acquire sophisticated consultancy support that could provide this kind of approach. There is also a latent tension between modelers and practitioners, on the one hand, and between modelers and decision-makers, on the other hand. Traditional practitioners (planners, architects, and also engineers) are many times suspicious of the capacities of models to effectively provide any kind of valuable help, which many times undermines the possibility of using sophisticated modeling approaches. Decision-makers, on the contrary, tend to be very keen of having solutions provided by advanced tools that help them to support their decisions by using state-of-the-art knowledge. The main goal of UrbCA is to simulate different planning scenarios of land use evolution taking the influence of the transport system (and therefore accessibility) explicitly into account.


This simulation is expected to help practitioners to evaluate these scenarios under different parameters in order to test their feasibility and to inform both the citizens in the participatory process and decision-makers in the planning process itself. UrbCA aims to be a simple-to-use, simple-to-understand decision support tool that can be used in any kind of planning process by any planning entity, regardless of financial or even technical requirements. It is designed to be a simple tool that can be used by planners with no specific background on modeling, by decision-makers who are not necessarily skilled to understand the mechanics of the model, and also by citizens who are also not skilled in participatory processes for evaluating different planning scenarios.


This modeling approach to planning is therefore relevant for providing informed solutions to different stakeholders at various stages of the planning process. CA models have been used to support planning processes, being one of the most used models the MOLAND model which is used by the Joint Research Center of the European Commission to support long term regional planning under the influence of climate change. UrbCA was not yet fully used in real-world planning processes, as it still is under development. It was already used in a research context for providing a test-bed for strategic scenario planning in a research project that included several planning officials from different planning agencies.

Outputs [P] [C] [O] [E]

[P5] Pinto, N, Antunes, AP & Roca, J 2021, 'A Cellular Automata Model for Integrated Simulation of Land Use and Transport Interactions', ISPRS International Journal of Geo-Information, vol. 10, no. 3, pp. 149.

Project partners

This project was funded funded by a doctoral scholarship of the Portuguese Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia. The model has been included in the META database of accessibility instruments.

Research Team

The project is lead by Dr Nuno Pinto, with Prof António Antunes (University of Coimbra) and Prof Josep Roca (Universitat Politecnica da Catalunya).

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