The Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis


CASA Working Paper 32


1 July 2001

Can Geocomputation Save Urban Simulation? Throw some agents into the mixture, simmer and wait ...

There are indications that the current generation of simulation models in practical, operational uses has reached the limits of its usefulness under existing specifications. The relative stasis in operational urban modeling contrasts with simulation efforts in other disciplines, where techniques, theories, and ideas drawn from computation and complexity studies are revitalizing the ways in which we conceptualize, understand, and model real-world phenomena.

Many of these concepts and methodologies are applicable to operational urban systems simulation. Indeed, in many cases, ideas from computation and complexity studies - often clustered under the collective term of geocomputation, as they apply to geography - are ideally suited to the simulation of urban dynamics. However, there exist several obstructions to their successful use in operational urban geographic simulation, particularly as regards the capacity of these methodologies to handle top-down dynamics in urban systems.

This paper presents a framework for developing a hybrid model for urban geographic simulation and discusses some of the imposing barriers against innovation in this field. The framework infuses approaches derived from geocomputation and complexity with standard techniques that have been tried and tested in operational land-use and transport simulation. Macro-scale dynamics that operate from the topdown are handled by traditional land-use and transport models, while micro-scale dynamics that work from the bottom-up are delegated to agent-based models and cellular automata. The two methodologies are fused in a modular fashion using a system of feedback mechanisms. As a proof-of-concept exercise, a micro-model of residential location has been developed with a view to hybridization. The model mixes cellular automata and multi-agent approaches and is formulated so as to interface with meso-models at a higher scale.

This working paper is available as a PDF. The file size is 988KB.

Authors: Paul Torrens

Publication Date: 1/4/2001

Download working paper No. 32.