There’s an App for That: Mobile Applications for Urban Planning

There’s an App for That: Mobile Applications for Urban Planning

Jennifer Evans-Cowley (The Ohio State University, USA)
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 9
DOI: 10.4018/ijepr.2012040105


The number of worldwide mobile device users is increasing rapidly, as are the number of applications to serve these devices. Urban planners have the opportunity to use an array of mobile applications to increase productivity, share information, and engage with the public. This article explores a number of mobile applications that can add value to the work that urban planners undertake. It also considers the types of applications that could be developed to assist planners in their efforts to understand cities and engage with the public.
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Mobile Applications For Urban Planning

As urban planners, why should we care about mobile phone applications? Apps can increase productivity and allow one to engage with one’s your work outside of the office. For example, an app could give access to rezoning application information. It is also a way for planners to interact with others in their community. For example, a project management website subscription service called Basecamp allows users to access their projects from an iPhone app. By paying a monthly subscription fee, planners can manage multiple projects with lots of different people in different organizations involved. The benefit is that project team members can inexpensively have access via their mobile devices to everything going on in a project. There are many productivity applications that work in a similar way, with a one-time app fee and then an associated monthly service fee for additional services.

Productivity of the planner is just one aspect of applications that can be used in planning. Apps can also be used to enhance the productivity and efficiency of commuters. In a study of the Translink Transit Authority in South East Queensland, Australia found that commuters’ experience can be improved through real-time passenger information that uses a mobile application (Foth & Schroeter, 2010). For example, a bus rider on Portland’s Trimet developed an app that offers a bus tracker that displays arrival times and includes a nighttime visibility flasher that a user can hold up so bus drivers can see them at night. Now Trimet has a whole suite of mobile apps, including a wayfinding system for the visually impaired (Trimet, 2011). Similarly, the Central Ohio Transit Authority’s app BusTracker tells users the nearest bus stops to their current locations as well as upcoming arrival information (Central Ohio Transit Authority, 2011). On cold days it is great to be able to stay inside and get in that extra five minutes of work.

While transit apps are widespread, there are lots of other types of information that can be shared. Maybe you want to catch up on your favorite magazine on your smartphone while riding the bus. The State of Louisiana made this possible with Louisiana EQ. The State contracted with Aysling Digital Media Solution to develop an app version of its quarterly magazine in which readers can keep current with the latest in economic development (Louisiana Economic Development, 2011). Another example of information sharing is CFA FireReady, created by the Victoria Fire Authority in Australia in partnership with Collaboraforge (CFA, 2011). This application shows emergency warnings and locations of incidents of brushfires. It also provides brushfire advice.

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