Journal article

In an era of smart cities, planning support systems (PSS) offer the potential to harness the power of urban big data and support land-use and transport planning. PSS encapsulate data-driven modelling approaches for envisioning alternative future cities scenarios. They are widely available but have limited adoption in the planning profession (Russo, Lanzilotti, Costabile, & Pettit, 2017). Research has identified issues preventing their mainstream adoption to be, among others, the gap between PSS supply and demand (Geertman, 2016), their difficulty of use, a need for greater understanding of PSS capabilities and a lack of awareness of their applications (Russo et al., 2017; Vonk, Geertman, & Schot, 2005). To address this, a review of five PSS is conducted in the context of four vignettes applied in Australia and applicable internationally. A critical review has been undertaken, demonstrating how these PSS provide an evidence basis to understand, model and manage growing cities. The results suggest that PSS can assist in undertaking key tasks associated with the planning process. In addition to supporting planning and decision making, PSS can potentially enable better co-ordination between city, state and federal planning and infrastructure agencies, thus promoting a multi-scaled approach that improves local and national data sharing, modelling, reporting and scenario planning. The research demonstrates that PSS can assist in navigating the complexities of rapid multi-faceted urban growth to achieve better-informed planning outcomes. The paper concludes by outlining ways PSS address limitations of the past and can begin to address anticipated future challenges.


  • Big data and rapid analytics provide the fuel for data-driven planning of cities.
  • Planning support systems (PSS) are a growing part of the smart city movement.
  • PSS can be applied at various scales for a range of urban challenges.
  • PSS address the variety, visualisation and value of big data.
  • Upskilling the next generation of planners will assist in PSS adoption.

Keywords: Big data; Smart cities; Planning support systems; Digital planning tools; Spatial decision support systems; Land-use transport integration

Publication Details