Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

Modeling Land Use and Transportation: An Interpretive Review for Growh Areas


Urban growth is taking new forms in recently urbanized or formerly suburban areas, characterized by low density, heavy dependence on automobile transportation, and multiple activity centers. In order to understand better such 'contemporary urban areas', researchers need land-use models that realistically capture the key features of such areas and that can handle detailed data sets.

We review the literature on large-scale land-use modeling with this objective in mind. Characterizing the known models along several dimensions describing purpose, conceptual basis, mathematical content, and level of detail, we select models that are representative of the range of approaches taken. Six of these are reviewed in detail, and four others are discussed more briefly.

We find that the existing literature forces one to choose between tractability and suitability for contemporary urban areas. The key omission in the tractable models is economies of agglomeration that would help explain the emergence of subcenters. Most tractable models also lack a dynamic structure suitable for handling rapid disequilibrium growth. Models that contain these two features are suitable for broad-brush computer simulation, but they cannot be calibrated with real disaggregated land-use data. This conclusion leads to some brief suggestions on directions for future work.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View