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Updated TAZs on a Cloud Platform: Provide NFRMPO Communities a Clearer Picture

For the North Front Range Metropolitan Planning Organization (NFRMPO), the time has come to begin updating their Regional Travel Demand Model. Growth and change have been rapid in Northern Colorado since the current model was completed in 2014. With growth in Larimer and Weld counties expected to outpace statewide growth, NFRMPO is turning to a customizable, web-based socioeconomic forecasting interface.

By migrating away from a desktop GIS platform to the UrbanSim Cloud Platform (UCP), NFRMPO staff can easily and transparently share results and feedback as communities grow and change. The UCP allows users to simulate land use policy changes and see how well the results align with community and regional visions in an interactive online experience.

NFRMPO staff are currently in the process of updating and revising their Traffic Analysis Zones (TAZs) with input from local communities. A TAZ model provides trip origination and termination points on the model network. Alignment of TAZ data with other spatial data sets makes the model data more useful to both communities and the North Front Range region. To take full advantage of the UCP, the updated TAZs will be built on Census Blocks and will adhere to local community Urban Growth Boundaries. NFRMPO’s current TAZs do not aggregate to jurisdictional boundaries, making it difficult to associate travel patterns with a specific community or provide useful data. For a small community like LaSalle, which is 1 square mile and currently straddles seven TAZs for a total area of 40 square miles, the change will bring more accurate model outputs for use in local traffic studies, development plans, and more. TAZ-level outputs from the UCP will allow NFRMPO and its communities to collaboratively draw a clearer connection between land use policy and regional travel.

Scenario planning in the UCP is facilitated through the simulation of development projects, constraints, and adjustments. Staff will be able to quickly and easily edit land use assumptions on a case-by-case basis. For instance, if a large single-family subdivision is planned along US 287, the user can simulate the start year and duration of construction, in addition to the number of units and average unit size for the development project. More generally, if rezoning near I-25 is anticipated in 2025 to accommodate additional employment capacity, constraints can be lifted in the forecast year for specific Blocks along the corridor. Additionally, for places like Colorado State University and the University of Northern Colorado, where non-market processes dictate employment and household figures, users can create adjustments based on household income, number of residential units, or job sector. Once the necessary data is uploaded to the UCP, each of these functions can be easily demonstrated when working with stakeholders without advanced training.

The updated TAZs and UCP outputs will become inputs to NFRMPO’s 2018 Regional Travel Demand Model as the region begins planning toward 2045. The forecasting capabilities of the UCP may also add value to other long-range planning efforts.

The UrbanSim Cloud Platform (UCP) is a web-based interface built for visualizing spatial data, editing files, and launching simulations. Source: UrbanSim.

The UrbanSim Cloud Platform (UCP) is a web-based interface built for visualizing spatial data, editing files, and launching simulations. Source: UrbanSim.

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