Community Participation in Planning: Using GIS and Public Input to Envision Urban Change in ‘Real Time’

Community participation in planning is politically charged and often leaves citizens wondering about the relevance of their input in the decision making process. As part of a Massachusetts program designed to promote community planning in the areas of housing, open space, economic development and transport, we developed and piloted a GIS-based decision tool that enables interested groups, private and public alike, to visualize in real time the implications of their planning decisions at a variety of community scales. Our paper presents the tool and the findings of our preliminary efforts to employ the tool.