Symposium 2014 Wrap Up

In November, the Open Planning Tools Group hosted the 5th annual OPTG Symposium in Silver Spring, MD. With over 30 participants, it was the strongest turnout to date and a good reminder of the important role this convening plays in advancing the research and practice of integrating tools in the planning process. In particular, there were a number of sessions covering such topics as integrating health in scenario planning, tool and model development, integrating equity, visualization techniques and others. A few highlights of this years content and discussions (notes, etc. here);

  • OPTG Curriculum Committee work: Rob Goodspeed from the University of Michigan updated the group on an ongoing OPTG initiative to develop a library of curriculum materials to support scenario planning. The broader goal of the initiative is to increase knowledge of scenario planning methods and tools among the next generation of professional and citizen planners.
  • Integrating health in scenario planning: Jim Chapman from Urban Design 4 Health lead a discussion about integrating health and health tools into the planning process.
  • Sketch models and beyond: When to call in the heavyweights: Rolf Moekel and Harut Shahumyan from the University of Maryland, shared some of the research they are doing with modeling  – discussing various approaches from the simple to the complex – and how these approaches might integrate with the scenario planning process.
  • Integrating equity in planning processes: Holly St. Clair from MAPC lead a discussion on integrating equity into the planning process. MAPC has been doing some really innovative work in this area and it was great to have Holly share some of their lessons learned.
  • Open source geodesign: Matt Baker from GeoChasm and Denver Public Schools provided an overview of tools and techniques to support open source geodesign and how they could be incorporated into the planning process.
  • Visualizing transit planning and access: Kevin Webb from Conveyal gave an overview of work they have been doing in partnership with RPA in New York on ways to visualize transit and commute trips to support regional planning efforts.
  • Event keynoteDr. Paul Torrens provided a fascinating keynote lecture titled “Model People on Model Streetscapes”. In his talk, Dr. Torrens introduced new methodologies based around synergies between agent-based modeling, big data, machine-learning, and wearable sensors that offer significant promise in advancing our abilities to model streetscapes and the peoplescapes that give them life. These, in turn, have the potential to significantly expand the range of questions that we can ask of urban design, urban and regional planning, and policies in computer simulation

Thanks hugely to all who attended and contributed. In addition to funding provided by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and the Sonoran Institute’s Western Lands and Communities Program, we would like to thank the event co-sponsors: the National Center for Smart Growth at the University of Maryland for covering costs of facility rental and Montgomery County Planning Department for an in-kind contribution on facility rental rates. We would also like to thank PlaceMatters for co-coordinating the event.

Critter Thompson

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