InterJournal Complex Systems, 565
Status: Accepted
Manuscript Number: [565]
Submission Date: 20531
Revised On: 20603
Self-Organizing Geography
Author(s): Gary Nelson and Peter Allen

Subject(s): CX.08, CX.43

Category: Article


Self-Organizing Geography: by Gary G. Nelson and Peter M. Allen. In the 1970's, the U.S. Department of Transportation, inspired by Ilya Prigogine [1980], sponsored work on self-organizing models of cities and regions. These nonequilibrium, evolutionary, models integrated land use and transport for long-range planning and have been adopted by some countries for regional and environmental planning. However, the work was never adopted by the intended market in the U.S.: The Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) that maintain regional models for 20-year long range plans as required for federal-aid transport project programming [Weiner, 1992]. The interest in integrating transport and land use models-in short, true models of human geography-has never gone away and efforts continue to revamp the conventional (non-integrated, deterministic, quasi-equilibrium) models used by almost all of the nearly 400 MPOs. But the divergence between theory and practice was clear from the beginning, in the debate between planners and highway engineers that resulted in the 1962 Highway Act that created the MPOs. It is often said that the highway program, now the federal-aid surface transport program, got the country out of the mud at the beginning of the 20th century, and into the muddle of congestion, pollution and sprawl by the middle of the last century. In lieu of real regional planning jurisdictions, the demands on MPOs to meet multiple regional goals have increased, but they have neither the models nor the process to deal with geographical complexity. The approach of this paper is to observe that a notion of scaled objects exists in the MPO process, but that these objects are mis-allocated from both a political and technical-capability perspective.

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