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Center Identification Number:  77931

Project Title: Assessing the Impact of Proposed Transit Investments and Public Policy Choices on Land Use Patterns (A Simulation Approach with UrbanSim)


Principal Investigator:

Chanyoung Lee

Center for Urban Transportation Research
University of South Florida

Phone: 813-974-5307
Fax: 813-974-5168


External Project Contact:     

Diane Quigley, Project Manager
Florida Department of Transportation
Transit Planning Office

Start and End Dates

Start Date:  December 2011               Expected End Date: May 2012

I.  Project Objective/Problem Statement

Transit systems, such as commuter rail, light rail, bus rapid transit, and high speed rail, can generate significant impacts on land development patterns over time. According to the TCRP Report 35 “Economic Impact Analysis of Transit Investments”, land development and changes in property values are listed as a redistributive impact of transit investments. Most efforts to assess the potential impacts on a neighborhood of a proposed transit investment are made by comparing the proposed transit investment plan to other communities that have already made similar investments. Although this type of analysis is informative, it is also of very limited value because a particular transit investment’s impacts on a specific neighborhood or area are the result of complex interactions between existing conditions; local market forces; choices made by individual businesses and families; and land use decisions made by local government that vary significantly from region to region.

As an aid to local decision-making, it would be very helpful to have a simulation model which can be developed, validated, and calibrated with local data to forecast the impacts of a proposed investment and to assist in determining which policy choices might achieve a desired result. It is believed that such a tool may also help minimize potential conflicts over proposed transit investments when more is known about the future with some level of confidence.

This study aims to develop a model using UrbanSim to assess the changes that might result in a specific geographic area from a decision to construct a “Fixed Guideway” or other similar transit investment. It is believed that UrbanSim has the potential to be a powerful tool in evaluating the benefits of transit investments because it works on a much smaller geographic scale than other alternative systems and can simulate location decisions made by individual business and families. Recently, it was applied to measure the impact of the proposed Phoenix Light Rail transit system on land use and household characteristics. The UrbanSim model produced results which are mostly in line with the literature on transit and land use connections but also add some surprising caveats to this literature.

UrbanSim is an open source urban simulation system which has been available on the web ( since 1998 at no cost for anyone to use, modify, or redistribute. The initiative for developing the new land use model, UrbanSim, was to integrate land use with the transportation models. As a result, UrbanSim is sensitive to and can predict the physical changes that might occur in a particular neighborhood in response to a potential transit investment and proposed land use decisions made by local governments. A recent review (TCRP Report 48) of land use models found UrbanSim to be one of the best because of its ability to be integrated with a number of different transportation models, such TBEST or FSUTMS, as well as its ability to perform scenario analysis to address long-range planning issues. The following software tools are required to run UrbanSim: TDM software (FSUTMS), Open Platform for Urban Simulation (OPOUS), MySQL, and Python. MySQL is a powerful open-source database management system which can handle the input and output tables for UrbanSim modeling. Python is a high-level programming language managed by the non-profit Python Software Foundation.


II. Objectives/Tasks

This study aims to develop a Land Use Model (LUM) using UrbanSim to assess the changes that might result in land use patterns from new “Fixed Guideway” or other similar transit investments in Hillsborough County. The potential of UrbanSim as a tool to evaluate the impact of proposed transit investment will be evaluated and documented.

The objectives for this study include the following:

• Perform a literature review to produce a synthesis of assessing the impact of proposed transit investments and public policy choices on land use patterns • Select a proper study area and assess the data requirement for UrbanSim model • Develop an UrbanSim model and test scenarios • Run the developed UrbanSim model and summarize findings

The scope of services for this project consists of the following supporting tasks:

Task 1. Conduct Literature Review The research team will conduct a thorough literature review to investigate the state-of-practice on assessing the impact of proposed transit investments and public policy choices on land use patterns. Also, the latest version of UrbanSim will be obtained and evaluated with default sample data.

Task 2. Identify Study Area Boundary and Scenarios In this task, the research team will work closely with FDOT to decide the study area boundary. The selection criteria will rely upon the availability of up-to-date geographic information system (GIS) data as well as parcel-level property data. After finalizing the site selection, test scenarios will also be developed. The developed scenarios will include various transit investments such as new light rail system or BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) system. Scenario data will include FSUTMS networks representing selected scenarios as well as base year transportation networks with transportation improvements listed in the LRTP (Long Range Transportation Plan).

Task 3. Data Preparation The data requirement for an UrbanSim model will depend on the purpose of the model building and scenarios to be analyzed. Along with the results of Task 2, a detailed list of required data will be developed. In general, UrbanSim requires about 60 data tables which are used in the complete database. Each table has a well defined structure. Obtaining good quality information on land valuation, improvement valuation, type of construction, and year of construction is critical to developing an URBANSIM model in an effective and efficient manner. The data for this study will be collected from online sources, such as Census data and Public Use Microdata Sample (PUMS) Files, as well as public agencies. If necessary, the list will be presented to county officials, including the county appraiser, engineers, and other key staff, who may have parcel level information. These county officials will be asked to provide feedback regarding data availability. Based on the completed list, data will be downloaded and formatted to use for UrbanSim model development. UrbanSim database requires information for every household in study area by their special attributes. There is no single source from which, this entire data can be obtained. For this reason, UrbanSim provides a utility called as Household Synthesis Utility. As its name suggests this utility synthesizes the household data with the help of an iterative proportional fitting algorithm.

Task 4. Development and Calibration of UrbanSim models UrbanSim consists of nine sub-models. Parameter estimation for these sub-models is an important part of building an UrbanSim model. UrbanSim generates model coefficients for some of the sub-models, but not all. To simulate future developments based on the past development process, it is necessary to estimate coefficients for several sub-models from historical data collected from the study area. Model coefficient estimation will be accomplished by using external software such as Nlogit econometric software.

Calibration is similar to the estimation process, but it uses a different dataset. The household and employment forecasts for target years will be obtained from UrbanSim and will be compared with the socioeconomic and demographic forecasts adopted in the target year LRTP. This step attempts to find a good correlation between the simulated result by UrbanSim and observed value at the level of the parcel. This validation result provides us with a reasonable level of confidence in the model forecasts.

Task 5. Scenario Testing The UrbanSim simulations will be conducted to test the selected scenarios. The simulation process will include interactions between UrbanSim and the FSUTMS models. The simulation results will be discussed and summarized in the final report. The scenario for different levels of transit use will be generated by changing the modal split for all the transport analysis zones (TAZs) that include the stations. Accessibilities for all the TAZs (not just the ones including the stations) were recalculated such that for the 5 percent scenario, 5 percent of the total number of auto trips in the transit-affected TAZs (around the stations) can be added to transit and subtracted from auto. A similar procedure of increasing transit ridership was adapted for the 15 percent and 25 percent scenarios.

Task 6. Summary of Findings A draft final report will integrate and summarize all research work from Tasks 1-5 of this project. The final report will contain a framework for measuring the impact of proposed transit investments and public policy choices on land use patterns with UrbanSim, and recommendations for implementation. The report will be edited for grammar, clarity, organization, and readability by the director of the National Center for Transit Research prior to submission to FDOT for technical approval. Upon approval by FDOT, CUTR will prepare and submit a final report to FDOT for final approval.

Work not included in this scope of service is not to be performed and will not be subject to compensation by the Department.


III. Deliverables

USF will deliver: 1. Technical Memorandum 1 for Tasks 1 and 2 and Technical Memorandum 2 for Tasks 3 and 4 (5 pages or less for each memorandum), written for their appropriate audiences 2. PowerPoint presentations based on the Technical Memorandums, to be used by the Project Managers as needed

Project Kickoff Meeting A kick-off meeting shall be scheduled to occur within the first 30 days of execution by the university. The preferred method for the kick-off meeting is via teleconference or video conference. As a minimum, the project manager and the principal investigator will attend. The Research Center staff must be advised of the meeting and given the option to attend. Other parties may be invited, as appropriate. The subject of the meeting will be to review and discuss the project’s tasks, schedule, milestones, deliverables, reporting requirements, and deployment plan. A summary of the kick-off meeting shall be included in the first progress report.

Progress Reports The university will submit quarterly progress reports to the Research Center. The first report will cover the activity that occurred in the 90 days following the issuance of the task work order.

Reports should be submitted within 30 days of the end of the reporting period. Reports are due even if little or no progress has occurred (in which case, the report should explain delays and/or lack of progress). Progress reports should be sent in MS Word to Sandra Bell, .

Progress reports must include the following information: 1. Contract number, task work order number, and title 2. Work performed during the period being reported 3. Work to be performed in the following period 4. Anticipated modifications (i.e., to funding, schedule, or scope). This section is for reporting/informational purposes, not for officially requesting an amendment.

Note: To request an amendment to a contract, the contractor must provide the project manager with the appropriate information (i.e., what is being requested with justification) in the required format. If the project manager concurs with the request, he/she shall forward it with his/her approval and commentary, as appropriate, to the Research Center for administrative review and processing (pending available funds, etc.)

5. A progress schedule updated to reflect activities for the period being reported.

Failure to submit progress reports in a timely manner may result in termination of the work order.

Draft Final Reports The Draft Final Report is due 90 days prior to the end date of the task work order. The draft final report will be submitted to Sandra Bell, It should be edited for technical accuracy, grammar, clarity, organization, and format prior to submission to the Department for technical approval. The Research Center expects contractors to be able to provide well-written, high-quality reports that address the objectives defined by the scope of service. Draft final reports must be prepared in accordance with the “Guidelines for Preparing Draft Final and Final Reports” posted at This document provides information on all report requirements, including format, the technical report documentation form, disclaimer language, and so forth. Closeout Meeting A closeout meeting shall be scheduled during the final 30 days of the project. The purpose of the closeout meeting is to review project performance, the deployment plan, and next steps. Attendees shall include, as a minimum, the project manager, the principal investigator, and the Research Center performance coordinator. This meeting is to occur prior to the expiration of the contract and subsequent to the approval of the draft final report. Final Reports Once the draft final report has been approved, the university shall prepare the final report. The university will deliver a minimum eight (8) copies on CD or DVD – seven (7) CDs should contain the final report in PDF format, one (1) CD should contain the final report in PDF format, MS Word format and a Summary of the Final Report.

The CD/DVDs should be labeled in a professional manner and include at a minimum the contract number, task work order number, project title and date.

The final report is due no later than the end date of the task work order and should be delivered to the following address:

The Florida Department of Transportation Research Center, MS 30 605 Suwannee Street Tallahassee, FL 32399-0450


 IV. Project Schedule

The project schedule is estimated to be 18 months with a budget of $99,870. The anticipated start date is December 1, 2011, and the end date is May 31st 2012. The project schedule and budget sheet are attached.


V. Project Budget

Total Lump Sum Amount            $99,870.00


VI. Equipment

No equipment purchase will be required.


VII. Supplies

An econometric software (Nlogit). The total estimated cost for the software will not exceed $810.


VIII. Travel

Local travel will be needed to obtain required data in Hillsborough or Pinellas Counties. All travel will be in accordance with Section 112.061, Florida Statutes. FDOT employees may not travel on research contracts.


IX. Use of Graduate Student(s) and Other Research Assistants

This research project will involve intensive work to locate and prepare data for UrbanSim simulation as well as UrbanSim model development. A graduate assistant will assist with the tasks and an OPS student will provide additional help to download and format data. A research program assistant will support researchers on project administrative work and report preparation as needed during the project period.





National Center for Transit Research · at the Center For Urban Transportation Research · University of South Florida · 4202 E. Fowler Ave., CUT100 · Tampa, FL 33620-5375 · (813) 974-3120 · (813) 974-5168 · · Comments: