UrbanCanvas Modeler

UrbanCanvas Modeler is a web-based platform designed for planners and modelers to generate long-range, small area socioeconomic forecasts using UrbanSim to inform Regional Transportation Plans. You can craft and analyze multiple scenarios using an interactive 2D and 3D mapping environment to manage model data inputs and results. You can quickly configure and launch UrbanSim simulations harnessing cloud-based, scalable, on demand computing power. UrbanCanvas Modeler is designed to help planners manage workflows for developing input data relevant to land use and future development. It also supports rapidly creating new policy and investment scenarios and running UrbanSim simulations to explore their impacts on the real-estate market. UrbanCanvas Modeler makes UrbanSim accessible to users regardless of in-house technical expertise and computing capacity. UrbanCanvas Modeler is provided as an annual or monthly subscription basis, with new features and data updates incorporated as they become available.

Using our UrbanSim model templates, you can configure and operate UrbanSim models at a variety of different geographies at the parcel, census block, or zonal-level. To make state-of-the art urban modeling as accessible as possible to smaller and medium sized metro areas, we offer subscriptions to the block-level UrbanSim template with pre-built models for almost every metropolitan area in the United States. We have already done the hard work of assembling the data, specifying the models, estimating their parameters, calibrating them against observed data, and summarizing the validation of the models. All that is needed for users in virtually any metropolitan area in the United States is a subscription to begin using this powerful platform. For users worldwide, we are providing consulting services to build versions that run at a zone or a parcel level of detail.

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Click here for a list of current UrbanSim users and UrbanCanvas Subscribers



Design scenarios based on existing and proposed policies interactively and visually to simulate variations of land use and transportation plans. These scenarios can be compared across various attributes to allow regional planners to make calculated and informed decisions.



Simulate the regional real estate market at the level of individual decision-makers such as households, employers, and real estate developers. UrbanSim runs on the cloud, for one or many scenarios, and rapidly generates results.




Use a large and flexible portfolio of indicators to gain insight into existing conditions and the effects of alternative scenarios. Visualize existing conditions and indicators in a dynamic 3D web mapping environment, and invite users to review results, or share them with the public.




Harness the power of the UrbanSim microsimulation engine

UrbanSim is an open source simulation platform for supporting planning and analysis of urban development, incorporating the interactions between land use, transportation, the economy, and the environment. It is designed for use by Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs), cities, counties, non-governmental organizations, real estate professionals, planners, researchers and students interested in exploring the effects of infrastructure and policy choices on community outcomes such as motorized and non-motorized accessibility, housing affordability, greenhouse gas emissions, and the protection of open space and environmentally sensitive habitats. UrbanSim has become the operational modeling approach for a number of the leading MPOs in the United States and has been cited widely in the academic literature. UrbanCanvas Modeler, makes UrbanSim easily accessible to any metropolitan area, anywhere in the world.

Click here to read more about the UrbanSim model system


Input Data

Use our precompiled national datasets and upload your own local data

UrbanCanvas Modeler allows you to upload data for an UrbanSim simulation and to download simulation results and indicators. The block-level UrbanSim template comes ready to go with employment, household, and socioeconomic data for almost 400 MPOs across the United States and street networks from OpenStreetMap to compute accessibility metrics. As you incorporate regional data, you can choose to share the data and its maintenance with local jurisdictions. UrbanCanvas Modeler can be used as a platform to maintain and share parcels, buildings, development projects, and zoning data to keep everyone up to date with the most current and accurate data, helping you to develop more detailed and sophisticated models and plans.

Alternatively, users anywhere in the world may build a model application by selecting a model template we provide that is based on a geographic unit such as zone for more data-constrained users, or parcel for users with more robust data available. We offer data uploading functionality that informs users of the data requirements for the selected model template, and generates diagnostic reports on the uploaded data to help assess its readiness for use in modeling. Once the data is in usable condition, we provide our cloud-based tools for automated model specification and calibration, and generate model validation reports to prepare the model for operational use.


Track Developments

Incorporate future real estate developments

Development project information can be inserted into UrbanSim simulations as scheduled development events with: 1) new built space and quantities of residential units inserted into the simulation; 2) timing and phasing of construction; 3) location; and 4) detailed building characteristics, such as unit affordability for residential projects. Depending on the model template you use, developments can be associated with either specific parcels or, in the case of the block and zone models, specific census blocks or zones using block, parcel, or zone identification number, a specific spatial location (x, y coordinate), or an address. These development projects can also be visualized based on the input data allowing planners to present the impacts of these development projects interactively.


Edit Constraints

Incorporate current and future zoning constraints and policies

After inputting your current regional zoning information, you can easily test different alternative land use policies by creating new zoning designations or development constraints at the parcel, census block, or zonal level. Zoning constraints can be specified to change for a location over the forecast time horizon. Census block and zonal based zoning constraints are based on residential and employment capacities, while parcel based zoning constraints can be specified using detailed zoning designation information including: floor-area-ratios, setbacks, building types, unit density, lot coverage, and max heights. This allows you to alter the development feasibility calculus for specific time periods and locations in order to, for example, upzone blocks surrounding a new transit station in the year 2025.


Create Scenarios

Rapidly compose multiple scenarios representing a suite of land use and transportation policies

Composing an UrbanSim scenario is now easier than ever. An UrbanSim scenario represents a bundle of transportation and land use policies and assumptions. You can specify which inputs to incorporate into a scenario such as: model base data and transportation network, travel model skims, household and employment control totals (or growth rates), vacancy rates, and specific development projects, development constraints, and model adjustments.


Run Multiple Simulations on the Cloud

Harness the processing power of the cloud

After composing different scenarios, you can run one or many UrbanSim simulations on the cloud quickly without being constrained by in-house computing resources. Our cloud platform provisions as many resources as needed, so that you can run an unlimited number of scenarios simultaneously. For most metropolitan areas, simulations run in well under a minute per simulation year. This creates an interactive environment for rapid exploration of alternatives, dramatically increasing not only productivity, but also the quality of the results, since you can easily explore a greater number of alternatives.


Visualize Indicators

Compute indicators and interrogate simulation results

Indicators are variables that are calculated on UrbanSim base-year data or on simulated data generated by UrbanSim runs. When simulation runs have finished, indicators give you the ability to summarize and compare results between runs and the base-year at a variety of spatial aggregations ranging from the parcel to the census block to the county and even your own zonal geographies. These calculated indicators can be downloaded for use elsewhere or can be visualized within UrbanCanvas Modeler as a 2D or 3D map for a specific year or for a time-series. Indicators that can be calculated include: densities, transportation network accessibility queries, and summary statistics.


UrbanSim has partnered with The Nature Conservancy’s California chapter to offer UrbanCanvas Modeler Parcel Model subscribers in the state of California access to the Conservation Module. The Conservation Module is a natural and agricultural resource accounting module that evaluates the development and density patterns produced in UrbanSim scenarios and quantifies the impacts to natural and agricultural resources. Metrics are calculated for water resources (e.g. reductions in groundwater recharge, impacts to water quality, development within drinking water source watersheds), agriculture (e.g. economic impacts from the loss of cropland), biodiversity and habitat (e.g. development within known conservation priorities, reduction in acres of habitat for threatened and endangered species), and the potential greenhouse gas emissions from loss of carbon stored in the land base.


Model Adjustments

Engage stakeholders and incorporate feedback

To improve accuracy and incorporate local input, simulation results may need to be adjusted based on local expertise and policy input from stakeholders in the planning process. No model is perfect, and sometimes local considerations suggest that adjustments are needed to make the model results meet local expectations for specific local areas. The model adjustments feature, which has been known in the UrbanSim community as 'refinement', allows you to assert values of specific prediction outcomes for a location. For example, you can assert target numbers of households, employment, and residential units for a specific year. These model adjustments can be assigned to specific time periods and geographies in your region and associated with a scenario.


Travel Model Integration

Connect UrbanSim to your travel model

We offer consulting services to connect your travel model to UrbanSim to facilitate two-way feedback between changes in land use and accessibility over time, allowing you to capture the complex interrelationships between transportation and land use.