Our Urban Dynamic Model reimagined for COVID-19

At Steer, our Urban and Regional Dynamic Models (UDM and RDM) are large-scale systems models of how people, employers, transport and land use interact over wide areas and long periods of time. Their primary use is to demonstrate how investment in transport changes, and is changed by where people live, where new development occurs and where employers are located.

The model’s roots go back a long way. We were using an experimental version of it in the early 2000s, and in 2007 the model won the Scottish Transport Awards prize for Technology and Innovation. Over the past decade, we have used the UDM and RDM models to help answer complex questions for many clients. For example, they have helped to design the investment package and build the business case for the West Yorkshire Plus Transport Investment Fund, modelled the transport implications for large-scale development proposals and been used to appraise the impacts of transformational investment in transport and the economy across six cities in the North of England.

Recently, we completed a project funded by Innovate UK to develop a version of our Urban Dynamic Model to simulate the effects of COVID-19 on travel in towns and cities. The model uses the framework of scenarios we developed earlier this year to help us think about how COVID-19 may affect the economy, people’s activity and transport demand in the future.

The COVID version of the UDM simulates a medium-sized town under a lockdown and what can happen as lockdown is lifted. Users can see how conditions in the town change over time up to three years and can experiment with making decisions about transport and other policies to try to improve the situation.

The model shows that measures to increase safe public transport carrying capacity can help, but only if similar measures are taken in offices and workplaces. Once a vaccine is available conditions improve significantly, but if, as seems likely, working from home continues to play a role there will be a long-term change in the use of offices and a reduction in travel volumes across all modes. Both of these effects can help recovery by reducing rents and congestion.

To try the model, go to https://COVID19UDM.steergroup.com
(For best results, use Chrome, Firefox, Edge or Safari).


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