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UrbanVision Documentation

Please NOTE: UrbanVision was initially developed as a prototype application for the San Francisco Bay Area in 2011. A new implementation that is engineered from the ground up is being prepared for release in early 2013, by Synthicity LLC.


UrbanVision a software system for visualizing alternative land use and transportation scenarios at scales ranging from the nine-county Bay Area metropolitan region to the individual neighborhoods within it. It builds on the land use and transportation models being developed and used by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG). UrbanVision supports the Regional Transportation Planning process and the Sustainable Communities Strategies process by providing highly interactive visualization capabilities, and enabling stakeholders in the participating cities to examine the details of the alternative strategies within their communities. The program is intended for direct use by the MTC, ABAG, Bay Area local governments, and other stakeholders to support public engagement in the Sustainable Communities Strategies planning process.

The UrbanVision Visualization Workspace

When you first launch UrbanVision, you will be in the Visualization workspace. This is indicated in a drop-down menu in the bottom right hand corner of the screen. You should also expect to see an overview map of the region as shown in Figure 6, which is the bay area in our case. In this section, we will discuss how to navigate through the region, and how to enable and disable layers.

Figure 6: UrbanVision overview map

Navigating in UrbanVision

Generally, you will start navigating by selecting a bookmark. A bookmark is a fixed view of a location. To view the available bookmarks, click on the bookmarks button in the upper left-hand corner. Expect the bookmarks window to appear along the right-hand side of the screen as shown in Figure 7.

Figure 7: Activating the bookmark menu

Double click on the "San Francisco Downtown" bookmark and expect to see a view of downtown San Francisco as shown in Figure 8. This three-dimensional perspective view is called a "bird's eye" view. A number of techniques can be used to navigate the scene. Specifically:

  • pan left and right by holding the left mouse button and moving the mouse left and right.
  • pan in and out by holding the left mouse button and moving the mouse up and down.
  • rotate left and right by holding the right mouse button and moving the mouse left and right.
  • zoom in and out by holding the right mouse button and moving the mouse up and down.
Figure 8: View from San Francisco Downtown bookmark

At any time, you can double click the bookmark again to return to the view where you started.

In addition to the bird's eye view, you can see the typical map or "top down" view by clicking the top-down button in the upper left of the screen as shown in Figure 9. Navigating this view is similar to the bird's eye view. Specifically:

  • pan left, right, up, and down by holding the left mouse button and moving the mouse
  • zoom in and out by holding the right mouse button and moving the mouse up and down or left and right.
Figure 9: Top-down view of San Francisco Downtown

Finally, the "street level" view in Figure 10 shows the scene how a pedestrian or motorist might view it. To navigate this view:

  • rotate right or left by holding the right mouse button and moving it right or left
  • move forward or backward by holding the left mouse button and moving it up or down
Figure 10: Street-level view

Layers in UrbanVision

Visual elements such as buildings, animated cars, and pedestrians in UrbanVIsion are stored in "layers." Each layer can be enabled or disabled depending on which details are relevant for your presentation. This is achieved through the "Layers" menu, which can be enabled by toggling the layers button in the upper left of the screen as shown in FIgure 11. Note how this opens a legend window in the upper right hand corner.

Figure 11: Activating the layers menu

In the legend window, individual layers can be enabled and disabled by toggling the checkboxes. For example, Figure 12 shows the San Francisco Downtown bookmark with terrain and vegetation disabled. Note how this eliminates the contour of the land and all of the trees.

Figure 12: San Francisco Downtown with terrain and vegetation disabled

Editing parcel and building information

Parcel and Building data can be edited via the "Parcel & Building Dialog". Clicking on any parcel while holding the Ctrl key opens up this editor.

Let's take a look at the available attributes:

  • Parcel id. This field is non-editable, and it shows the identification number of the parcel.
  • Building type id. Allows changing the building type for this parcel.
  • Stories. Number of stories for the building on this parcel.
  • Building sqft. Total area of the building.
  • Tree. 1 if trees are allowed in this parcel.
  • Editable. 1 if this parcel can be modified by scenario allocation algorithm.
  • Landmark fields. Used to define landmark buildings, represented by external OBJ files. The offset is the location in the parcel.
  • Zoning/Overlay/Jurisdiction. Zoning information for the parcel, non-editable.

Figure 13: Parcel & Building Editor

To make modifications, just click on the different fields and input the modified data. Then, click "Save".

There is an additional button in the dialog called "Delete Building". This button removes any building present in the parcel (only in non-base scenario).

Editing non-base scenario data

In case the user is working in a non-base scenario, there are some differences in the behavior of the dialog:

  • When modifications are saved, they are saved for the current scenario. The base scenario data is left untouched.
  • When a building is deleted, it is only removed from the specific scenario. Base scenario buildings cannot be removed.

The UrbanVision Zoning Editor Workspace

UrbanVision zoning data can be viewed and edited in the Zoning Editor workspace. Additionally, scenario tagging is supported, and then the user can specifiy different zoning data for each scenario. A given parcel has two attributes for each particular scenario:

  • Zoning. Represents the assigned zoning for this parcel.
  • Overlay. Represents an additional "layer" of zoning restrictions for particular areas.
The main operations of this workspace are done via the zoning editor toolbar:

Figure 15: Zoning editor toolbar

Here is a short description of the available tools:

  • The first icon (an arrow) enters the "parcel selection" mode. This will be useful to edit zoning data.
  • The second icon is another way of selecting data: by block.
  • Then, there is a group of three icons, that has to do with additional dialogs used for visualizing zoning data. The first one shows a table with identification numbers for the parcels and their zoning. The second is the zonings manager, the place where the user can view and edit the available zonings, geographically categorized. Finally, the last button is similar to the second button, but for overlays.

Viewing Zoning Data

For viewing zoning data, first of all open up UrbanVision and load the preferred bookmark. Then, change to "Zoning Editor" workspace, using the workspace selection tool in the lower-right corner of the UrbanVision main window (Figure 15).

Figure 15: Workspace selection tool

When UrbanVision finishes loading the Zoning data and updating the display, you should see a similar screen to Figure 15.

Figure 16: Viewing zoning data

What you are seeing is a top-view of the loaded bookmark's parcel data, showing in different colors the assigned zoning. The coloring algorithm is very simple for now, but it shows the basic zoning types:

  • Residential is shown in yellow.
  • Commercial is colored red.
  • Industrial zoning is purple.
  • Mixed uses and other zonings are colored light gray.

Other ways of viewing zoning data

Additionally, UrbanVision provides two other ways to visualize Zoning data:

  • It is possible to see a list of parcels and its assigned zoning and overlay using the third button of the zoning toolbar (Figure 17).

Figure 17: Parcel / Zoning list

  • Finally, it is possible to see the Zoning for a particular parcel using the Parcel & Building Attributes dialog (clicking the parcel while holding Ctrl key, Figure 18).

Figure 18: Parcel & Building Attributes dialog

Comparing Scenarios

Up to this point, all the information shown corresponds to the Base Scenario and Year. It is also possible to see the zoning that has been assigned to other scenarios, which may be different. This is done using the Scenario selection tool, in the upper toolbar of the UrbanVision main window (Figure 18).

Figure 19: Choosing scenario

Additionally, it is possible open a new viewport in UrbanVision to compare scenarios. Camera position will be synchronized across windows. This is done using the "Second View" button in the main toolbar (Figure 20).

Figure 20: Second view button

After opening the new viewport, the user can choose different scenarios (and change the preferred year) for any of them.

Figure 21: Zoning comparison

Editing Zoning Data

In this section, we will describe how to modify zoning, both for base and other scenarios.

Selecting parcels

UrbanVision's zoning editor provides two different modes for selection.

The parcel selection mode is activated using the first icon in the toolbar, and allows the user to select individual parcels clicking on them. If the user clicks on an already selected parcel, it will be de-selected.

Figure 22: Parcel Selection

The block selection mode is actived using the next button. The behavior is very similar to the parcel selection mode, but it selects whole blocks.

Figure 23: Block Selection

Assigning zoning to parcels

Let's modify the zoning to the selected parcels. This operation is done using the Zoning dialog, that can be opened with the toolbar button:

Figure 24: Zoning dialog

This window contains two panels. The one in the left shows regions, counties and districts; the right-one shows the list of zonings with its attributes. To visualize zonings, the user has to first choose a particular district, and then the zonings for that district are loaded. It is important to note that the list contents depends on the current scenario (selected in the scenario selection tool, on the main toolbar).

To assign a zoning to a parcel, two selections has to be done:

  • First, one or more parcels has to be selected, ether by parcel or by block.
  • Second, one zoning has to be selected. Please note that the zoning district has to be same than the parcel district. If not, the application will show an error message.
Having that, the "Assign zoning" button has to be clicked, and the new relation in stored in the database.

Editing zoning data

Besides changing zoning assignment, the zoning editor also allows to create or delete zonings, and modify its attributes.

First of all, let's take a look to the available attributes:

  • Zoning name.
  • Minimum/Maximum FAR. FAR stands for floor area ratio.
  • Coverage. A percentage that represents the maximum allowed coverage parcel area.
  • Minimum/Maximum DU/A. DU/A are the dwelling units per acre.
  • Maximum Height.
  • Minimum/Maximum Front/Side/Rear setbacks.
  • Allowed building types. Allows to choose the allowed building types for the zoning in a separate dialog (Figure 25).
  • Parking requirements. Allows to choose the parking requirements for each allowed building type (Figure 26).

Figure 25: Building types.

Figure 26: Parking requirements.

To create a new zoning, click on the "Add Zoning" button in the top-right corner of the Zoning dialog. A new row will be added with default values. Another way to create a new zoning is to use the "Duplicate Zoning" button. In this case, the new row will have a copy of the attributes of the original (selected row).

The remove a zoning, just select it and then click on the "Delete Zoning" button.

Finally, double clicking on any attribute allows to modify it.

Figure 27: Zoning Add/Duplicate/Delete buttons.

Editing scenario specific zoning data

When editing scenario specific data (i.e. when a different scenario is chosen in the scenario selection tool), it is important to note some differences from the base scenario editing behavior:

  • When a zoning is created, it is specific to the chosen scenario.
  • When a zoning is duplicated, it will be also created for the particular scenario as a copy.
  • When a zoning is modified and it was created in the base scenario, a new copy will be created for the chosen scenario, with the modifications (leaving the original zoning untouched).
  • A zoning will only be allowed to be removed when it is specific to the scenario. It is not possible to remove base scenario zonings when a different scenario is selected.

The UrbanVision Indicators Workspace

  • Launch UrbanVision
  • Switch to the Indicators workspace and navigate to a bookmark
  • Select Top Down view
  • From Accessibility menu, choose Compute Access Variables
  • NOTE: I can't seem to get past this point. The "Variable Table" and "Variable Name" drop down menus are empty.
Topic revision: r15 - 10 Feb 2013 - 00:41:45 - BrianCavagnolo
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