The Urban Gauge: Measuring the Public Interest

The development process has a regional context, but specific proposals are often buffeted by very local concerns. The School of Architecture at Northeastern University developed the Urban Gauge, a flexible, web-based software tool designed to inform and engage multiple stakeholders in urban planning decision-making processes, in real time. The idea starts with transportation planning, and will be refined and field-tested with community groups and advocacy organizations. The ultimate goal is an integrated planning tool capable of cross-referencing planning inputs and outcomes for a range of stakeholder concerns: transportation with energy use, housing cost, job growth, urban form, and access to services. The hope is that the Urban Gauge, with a dashboard allowing users to score projects against local and regional criteria at the same time, can greatly increase the transparency of the public approvals process, dramatically reducing the time necessary to evaluate projects. George Thrush is director of the School of Architecture at Northeastern University, which has a focus on design solutions for Boston’s “post-industrial landscape” of former transportation infrastructure and other difficult sites.