Interdisciplinary blog

MDR Vacation Bursary Project: Modelling Co-evolution of Transport and Land Use

July 30, 2013
by Rory Devonport

By Rory Devonport, undergraduate student (MEng Civil Engineering), Faculty of Engineering and the Environment.


As a third year civil engineering student, I am well aware of the major, on-going projects within the UK specific to the improvement of transportation networks (for example Crossrail and HS2). Whilst it is expected and observed that such projects spur economic growth, there is a lack of quantitative approaches which directly allow the prediction of the impact of transportation improvements on urban development and of urban land use on transportation networks simultaneously.

Rory Devonport Transport and Land UseThere is of course a profound relationship between functional land use (and land development), and the capability and geometry of the connecting transportation links. Strong transportation links supporting an area can facilitate growth through increasing the attractiveness of the land, providing incentives for further investment in transportation, resulting in a strong positive feedback loop. Furthermore, the converse is also true, where poor transport links or a reduction in land use or resources will result in a loop of negative growth for developed urban land.

The principle goal of this project is therefore to create a model which demonstrates and is able to provide understanding of this co-dependent relationship. The land use model will take the form of an array, each cell representing an area of discreet land use type (variants of residential, commercial, industrial are expected) which provide an influence over the land use of local cell to replicate the formation of land use clusters replicating real urban areas (CBD, Suburbs, Sub-centres etc.) These will be facilitated by and exert demand on an overlaying transportation network which, in adapting in parallel to support the land-use requirements, provides means for further growth and expansion of the land use clusters and the developed urban area.

In order to achieve this, relationships between areas of both differing and similar land use must be established to determine their spatial and transport requirements. This may be obtained from the rich array of existing literature dating back more than half a century, which establishes these relationships and provide quantitative procedures, such as those finding the accessibility of land use zones. The key difference between many of these previous models and approaches however is the attempt of this project to implement the co-evolution of the land-use transport system.

Naturally, the computational model produced from this project will provide a foundation for future projects contemplating and addressing specific questions and ideas which can be represented within the developed model. By creating the model as a framework to understand the consequences of the co-evolution, the model can then be continually improved through further research for example in either improved calibration of attraction-repulsion relationships between different land use types, the impact of physical constraints (e.g. a coastal city) on the co-evolution or long term consequences of the transport policies and investment decisions of the city authorities.


Supervisor: Dr Ben Waterson

MDR Vacation Bursary blog series available at:


Categories: Blog. Tags: Complexity USRG, land use, Rory Devonport, Sustainability Science at Southampton, transport, and vacation bursary. Project names: Modelling Co-evolution of Transport and Land Use.