Spatial dynamic modeling and urban land use transformation: A simulation approach to assessing the costs of urban sprawl

Brian Deal, Daniel Schunk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Assessing the economic impacts of urban land use transformation has become complex and acrimonious. Although community planners are beginning to comprehend the economic trade-offs inherent in transforming the urban fringe, they find it increasingly difficult to analyze and assess the trade-offs expediently and in ways that can influence local decision making. New and sophisticated spatial modeling techniques are now being applied to urban systems that can be used for assessing the probable spatial outcomes of given communal policies. Applying an economic impact assessment to the probable spatial patterns can provide to planners the tools needed to quickly assess scenarios for policy formation that might ultimately help inform decision makers. This paper focuses on the theoretical underpinnings and the practical application of an economic impact analysis submodel developed within the Land Use Evolution and Impact Assessment Modeling (LEAM) environment. The conceptual framework of LEAM is described, followed by an application of the model to the assessment of the cost of urban sprawl in Kane County, Illinois. The high spatial resolution of the approach allows for discerning the macro-level implications of micro-level behaviors. The results show that spatially explicit dynamic modeling has various conceptual advantages over other approaches to modeling urban dynamics, both from a theoretical and a practical point of view. However, model validation and the assessment of the uncertainty of large-scale spatial dynamic models deserve considerable future attention. The implications of land use change decisions on individual and communal costs are discussed and ways to improve the methodology are outlined.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)79-95
Number of pages17
JournalEcological Economics
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Nov 1 2004


  • Dynamic simulation
  • Spatial modeling
  • Sustainability
  • Urban dynamics
  • Urban economics
  • Urban sprawl

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Economics and Econometrics

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