UrbanCanvas Modeler

UrbanCanvas Modeler was launched in August, 2017 for use in local and metropolitan planning applications. The platform runs UrbanSim models on the cloud, and provides a web browser user interface, making it possible to begin using UrbanSim quickly and without extensive hardware and software requirements. It is being provided as an annual or monthly subscription basis, with new features and data updates incorporated as they become available. We are planning three versions of the platform that run at different levels of geography. Within the United States, we have released pre-built and calibrated UrbanSim models for most metropolitan areas using a census block geography as the base representation of location. For users worldwide, we are providing consulting services to build versions that run at a zone or a parcel level of detail, and then to create scenarios and to simulate them year-to-year for planning horizons that are often up to 30 years for long-term infrastructure planning.

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 Cloud Platform 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. 



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 agent-based simulation 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 is the world's most widely cited and used model system for urban planning, and with the release of our UrbanSim Cloud Platform, it will no longer be restricted to larger organizations with substantial technical staffing and budgets. Our goal is to make it accessible to any metropolitan area, anywhere in the world.

Read more about the UrbanSim model system.


Input Data

Use our precompiled national datasets and upload your own local data.

UrbanSim Cloud Platform gives users the ability to upload input data for a model and to download the results as tables or maps. Moreover, the block-level UrbanSim platform comes ready-to-go with employment, household, and socioeconomic data for almost 400 Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) in the United States, street networks from OpenStreetMap saving users time and resources from having to download and prepare these for use themselves. 

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. Scheduled availability for this option will follow closely the release of the census block model release.


Track Developments

Incorporate future developments.

Development project information feeds into the UrbanSim model as scheduled development events: 1) new built space inserted into the simulation with user-specified characteristics; 2) quantities; 3) timing; and 4) location. The block level UrbanSim platform specifies the development project data at the block level, while the the user of the block model can associate development projects with a block 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. In the parcel level UrbanSim platform, development projects are associated with one or more parcels.


Edit Constraints

Incorporate future zoning constraints.

A user can easily restrict the maximum number of residential units or jobs that can exist in each location by residential and employment zoning capacity fields through the UrbanSim Cloud Platform user interface. With this capability a user can set new capacities for blocks to take effect in later years in order to, for example, upzone blocks surrounding a new transit station in the year 2025.


Create Scenarios

Compose multiple scenarios representing a suite of land use and transportation policies.

Composing an UrbanSim scenario is now easier than ever. An UrbanSim scenario is a bundle of policies and assumptions. A user can specify which of the uploaded input data (i.e. travel model skims, household control totals (or growth rate), development projects, development constraints, and model adjustments) to apply to a given scenario through the new scenario composer.


Run Multiple Simulations on the Cloud

Harness the processing power of the cloud.

After composing scenarios that represent combinations of control totals for regional growth, development constraints, transportation infrastructure, and development projects, a user can run one or many simulations on the cloud quickly, without being constrained by in-house computing resources. Our cloud platform provisions as many resources as needed, so that users can run many scenarios simultaneously. This dramatically increases not only productivity, but also the quality of the results, since a greater number of alternatives can be easily explored.


Visualize Indicators

Visually interrogate simulation results.

Indicators are calculated variables on UrbanSim data and they can be calculated on UrbanSim base-year data or on simulated data generated by UrbanSim runs. When simulation runs have finished, indicators give the user the ability to summarize and compare results between runs and the base-year. These calculated indicators can be downloaded a stable for use elsewhere or can be visualized in the platform 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, summary statistics, comparisons between years and datasets, and model validation metrics, among others.


Model Adjustments

Incorporate stakeholder feedback.

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', enables users to assert values of specific prediction outcomes for a location. The new UrbanSim Cloud Platform user interface allows a user to assert target numbers of households, employment, and residential units for a specific year. These model adjustments can be assigned to one or more blocks, or optionally to an identification number of a coarser geography by associating them in a scenario using adjustment tags.