GIS and the Multiple Objectives Approach

It was interesting to read Couclelis’ article in conjunction with Aitken and Michel’s article, as they both highlighted the effect strategic planning has on communities. A frequent occurrence in urban planning is when community groups are given a few options or strategies to select from, the pros and cons of which have already been analyzed. This process, according to some, engages the public in the planning process. What often occurs, however, is that one or two of the options are portrayed in a positive light in comparison to the others. The natural, more logical choice for citizens, therefore, is the more attractive looking option, which is coincidentally the one planners wanted. This notion reflects greatly upon issues of promoting misleading information, which I discussed in my last post.

I particularly enjoyed the aspects of Couclelis’s article that focussed on storytelling. I think that instead of constructing options or strategies for the public to choose from, engaging in dialogue to determine the wants and needs of the community (as well as the fears and dislikes), which then informs strategies and options is a much more comprehensive approach. The important difference between these two approaches is that the first merely attempts to achieve a specific goal, for example to reduce travel times along a transit corridor by (1) road expansion or (2) building rapid transit. The second approach, on the other hand, enables planners to question a myriad of objectives, which arise because of storytelling. This is sometimes referred to as the multiple objectives approach.

In this transit project, perhaps it is discovered that reducing pollutants caused by vehicle emissions is actually the leading concern of the community. Preserving the character of the neighbourhood may be another major issue. From this approach, it may be understood that neither of the original goals may be suitable for the community, and that others should be explored. This inevitably increases the amount of effort required and creates a more complex planning process, but it arguably allows for more meaningful alternatives to be created.

The importance of GIS is in modeling and comparing the alternatives generated by this method. The objectives stated by the community can be weighed against each other and models can be compared. For example, a GIS may aid in determining that all transit improvement options share the benefit of reducing pollutants by 5%. This feature, therefore, can be removed from the analysis and allow for better, more transparent comparison of options.

- jeremy

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