Quantitative, model-based projections of future conditions nominally undergird decision making across the spectrum of planning-related activities. Indeed, future projections and their underlying methods and data are absolutely vital to the planning enterprise. Yet we also know that planning is inherently a political activity. Later assessments of past projections often reveal large biases unrelated to the technical methods used. Rather, the assumptions and/or data from which the projections came often prove to have been unreliable.
Throughout the semester you will learn to employ state-of-the art methods for projecting future conditions in cities and regions including population, demographics, economic activity, and infrastructure demand. You will also learn to think critically about models, projections, and data and their application to real-world problems. To facilitate these two sets of learning objectives, the course will combine instruction in the quantitative and computer methods in common use today with readings and in-class discussions that encourage you to question convention while imagining how such models and their results can be most useful to decision makers and members of the public. You will become proficient in collecting, manipulating, and analyzing the data needed to solve common planning problems. You will make your findings interpretable through clear and compelling writing. A key emphasis of the course will be on policies and practices that prescribe the use of particular methods and data. Do the methods actually help us achieve our planning goals (e.g. sustainability, livability, etc.) or does an overemphasis on quantitative methods shield us from tackling tough questions around governance, local control, and regulation that need to be addressed simultaneously?
The course will cover six major topics including, in order:
- Data management using databases and spreadsheets
- Employing public data sources
- Time series models and projections
- Economic analysis tools
- Population projections
- Infrastructure demand, including transportation and housing