New analytics data visualization tools, now emerging for urban planning, are starting to make that possible.
One of the deployments at the leading edge of this technological revolution is the Sustainable Places Project (SPP) Analytic Tool Suite, sponsored by the city of Austin and a coalition of other central Texas communities and public agencies. Comprising multiple components, the system runs on a huge lash-up of processing power provided by the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) at the University of Texas.
While it's still a project under development, the SPP Analytic Tool Suite already has demonstrated impressive results in pulling together multiple resources from diverse agencies, processing vast volumes of regional data, and rendering fascinating urban planning products for decision-making. It's taking urban planning to a new level.
What it's now able to do is feed fairly large data inputs (like census data) into a specialized analytics package to forecast the impact of sustainable urban development, particularly in response to dynamics such as rail transit development planned for central Texas, with data visualization as a major product. In other words, planners, politicians and the public not only can get projections in the form of numbers, tables, graphs and maps, but also can see alternative 3-D simulations of what their communities could actually look like under different scenarios with different assumptions, as tweaked by users.