Area used PLACES in 2002 and 2003.) The students were generally satisfied with most of the evaluation indicators (described in the appendix of the manual for the PC version).
The assignment was to play around with scenarios for Alameda County, using the PC version of the model, and then to describe PLACES and evaluate it, in terms of how well it represents basic urban economics concepts in practice. The students generally thought the interface was complex and unclear but acceptable, and that the model was an easy way to describe land use scenarios and to evaluate them. They did not think the vehicle miles of travel (VMT) measures were accurate enough to use, since they were based on local land use density, not related to travel. The students also did not like the fact that the user can just plug in any development (any number of buildings, of any size or density, and for any use) anywhere, without considering the balance between jobs and housing, applicable local zoning, or other factors.
Most students favored using UPlan, instead of PLACES, as UPlan allows changing land uses not by polygon but by policy, such as changing the densities for each land use category, or changing the general plan for each city or county. They favored this approach as being more systematic and requiring the consideration of countywide tradeoffs and needs in setting policies. All of the students in this class were graduate students in a transportation program. Most, but not all, had B.S. degrees in civil engineering. Students in urban design and landscape architecture may evaluate UPlan and PLACES differently.
The MEPLAN Model