Usp543 Geographic Applications to Planning Fall 2010 crn 14223 Course Description

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USP 543 Geographic Applications to Planning Fall 2010

USP543 Geographic Applications to Planning

Fall 2010

CRN 14223

Course Description:
Meets: Tue. – Thu. 4:40 – 6:30 NH439

Instructor: Ric Vrana

Adjunct Professor of Urban Studies

Planner Analyst, TriMet Capital Projects

503.962.2290 (TriMet)

URB 370B Adjuncts’ office

Traditionally this course has been about theoretical descriptions of spatial models used in planning and urban analysis. These include models of urban morphology, distance-decay gravity models, location-allocation, models of spatial diffusion and network connectivity. More recently the emphasis has been on learning how to represent spatial information and act on it with GIS data models such as vector topology, raster tessellations, network routing and linear referencing. In the coming weeks these models of spatial form as well as geospatial data representation will all make their appearance but this time we will be addressing them under the general rubric of integrating GIS into Planning Support Systems.
Therefore we will be reading from a text selected for this purpose and available at the PSU bookstore for this course:
Planning Support Systems for Cities and Regions. 2008. Richard K. Brail, ed. Cambridge, MA: Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.
At several times during the quarter we will also have invited guest presenters who develop or have experience using planning support systems integrated with GIS.

Course Objectives:
The principle objective of the course is to get you to think about GIS as a central technology supporting the management and planning of urban development, infrastructure, and business applications. To do this you will examine how concepts such as the fundamental geographic models mentioned above are implemented with the techniques of spatial analysis found in GIS software. Building on your familiarity with ESRI ArcGIS core software, you will learn to use such extensions as Spatial Analyst, 3D Analyst, Network Analyst, and the data model that supports the concept of linear referencing for route measurement and description.
In addition to this main objective are several supporting ones:

  • Develop a perspective on the state of the art of planning GIS through a critical reading of the literature,

  • Crafting and solving a planning problem in a project to be addressed with innovative use of the techniques presented in the class, and

  • Communicating the procedure and results of the analysis clearly and efficiently.

Course Mechanics:
This course is taught in the computer lab/classroom in Neuberger Hall 439. Tuesday sessions will feature classroom presentation on core concepts and reviewing applications of them. On Thursdays you will present and direct a discussion of the weekly assigned reading. Whatever time is available on either day will be used in lab mode for you to progress through a series of tutorials to strengthen your GIS skills with several new software modules integrated into the ArcGIS suite. Of course your presence and participation is expected at both weekly sessions.
We will use Blackboard CE6 online course delivery software. This clunky and kludgy platform is far from ideal but it will allow your patient instructor to post handouts, powerpoint lectures, and syllabus updates. Evidence of completion of tutorial exercises will be submitted using this facility. It also includes a class email list useful to contact the instructor or other members of the class.

Graded Events:
Your success in this course will be evaluated on the basis of you performance of three sets of tasks.

  1. Successful completion of software tutorials and workbook assignments as described below.


  1. Written review and critical evaluation of planning support systems as presented through course readings and additional research.


  1. Completion, presentation, and written description of a course project integrating one or more of the spatial data models presented in the course.



Enrollment in this course gives you free access to five on-line ESRI Virtual Campus courses, plus one off-line Network Analyst tutorial. Your progress through these courses is more or less self-guided although introductory background and helpful hints can be provided by your helpful and energetic instructor. Expected time to complete one of these courses is between 15 and 18 hours. Although there will be time in class to work on them most weeks, you will obviously need to spend time outside of class hours to do this work. If you do not already own a student copy of ArcGIS 9.3, a disk can be provided you by your generous instructor. The data for the specific tutorials are downloaded from the Virtual Campus website. In addition to these software tutorial sessions, there are two workbook exercises, Chapters 10 and 11 in the ESRI Press GIS Tutorial Third Edition that can be used to gain proficiency with the Spatial Analyst and 3d Analyst ArcGIS extensions.

The on-line tutorials include:

  • “Working with Rasters in ArcGIS”

  • “Learning ArcGIS9 Spatial Analyst”

  • “Learning ArcGIS9 3D Analyst”

  • “Linear Referencing with ArcGIS Desktop”

  • “Introduction to Urban and Regional Planning Using ArcGIS9”

  • The off-line tutorial for Network Analyst will also be made available to you.

These six tutorials, plus the chapters in the GIS Tutorial book, constitute a possible 8 exercises. Remember, the idea is to use this part of the course to practice the technical details of the software as well as to gain an understanding of the techniques of spatial analysis they enable. You will be given instructions for what you must provide as evidence that you have completed them. To get a ‘B’ grade you must satisfactorily complete 4 of them. 5 = B+, 6 = A-, 7 or 8 = A. All of these MUST BE completed by the 9th week in the quarter as indicated on the course schedule. None will be accepted afterward as the last two weeks of the quarter are devoted to the project.

Comprehensive Literature Review.

Instead of a course exam you will write a paper in the form of an extended book review of the Brail text. Throughout the quarter you will have read the chapters and benefitted from their discussion as initiated in class by your peers. Now it is up to you to summarize what you have learned about Planning Support Systems and the technologies that contribute to them. Though it might not be necessary to comment on each text chapter, you should offer insights and some comparison/contrasts that illuminate basic issues and opportunities presented by integrating GIS and planning operations. You should also place the course readings in context by bringing in any addition reading you have done or are doing on related subjects. There will be opportunities to discuss specific strategies and approaches later on with your scholarly instructor.

As with the tutorial exercises, this must also be completed by the ninth week in the course. Plan your time between this assignment and the tutorials accordingly. Read ahead if necessary. You will need the remaining time for the project work.
Course Project.

Your crowning achievement in this class will be the formulation, execution, and presentation of a course project. The project can be a collaborative effort of no more than three students, so long as each student contributes equally and your vigilant instructor knows who did what. There are at least three ways to approach the projects.

1) Focus on one or more of the spatial data models we introduce in class, exploring ways to exercise it beyond what was presented in the tutorials.

2) Design a project that mimics a real world planning application you may have seen at work or learned about from this class. Make it work with real data and any combination of GIS techniques.

3) Do something analogous to the first two approaches in the context of a commitment made to a client business or community group that has asked you to perform some analysis it needs. If you do this, your inquisitive instructor wants to know who it’s for and what it’s about. It is particularly important to structure this in a way that is doable within the severe time constraints of this course.
The project may contribute to but is NOT a field area paper or master’s thesis. Hand in a one page project description by Nov. 4. Your kindly instructor will provide feedback that may help you reign it in if it is too involved or flesh it out if you don’t have a fully developed idea. Identify relevant data sources and approaches and plan an analysis that focuses on an answerable research question. The class schedule points out suggested milestones in this process. The project must be presented on Dec. 7 in class and a final report detailing your analysis and findings must be turned in by Dec. 9. No credit will be given for projects that do not meet these deadlines. No “Incompletes” will be given for an extension to finish a project that was not done on time.
More detail about the project will be presented in class. Extra time for its completion will be provided toward the end of the quarter.

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