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In previous work, Johnston has designed and applied a simple GIS-based urban growth model, UPlan, in a series of projects (Johnston et al., 2003). He has also applied the TRANUS and MEPLAN spatial competition models in the Sacramento, California region (Johnston and de la Barra, 2000; Rodier, et al., 2002; and Hunt et al., 2002). The latter model, in various incarnations, has been calibrated by Doug Hunt and John Abraham, at the University of Calgary, for this academic work.  

The Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG), with whom this work has been coordinated, has recently adopted MEPLAN for use in transportation planning, along with another GIS-based model, PLACES, to be used in scenario-generation exercises in the community. With this experience using both GIS and spatial economic models, and with the backing of a UCTC grant, the decision was made to develop and teach a graduate class. This course took a different approach than the past classes on this subject taught at other universities by presenting an overview course that included: Scenario-generation software (PLACES), simple urban models (UPlan), and complex, spatial economic urban models (MEPLAN). In addition to being fairly representative, these models were selected based on two other criteria.  First, they were readily available, “off the shelf” packages and second, they had local examples of application, which, among other benefits, served to enhance student interest.

Basic Course Design

The course was designed in the Winter of 2003, for offering in the Spring. The fundamental decision was to offer a broad course that covered what the authors determined to be the three basic types of models, rather than focus only on the advanced

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