Defining Urban Liveability – From static indices to dynamical perceptions

Liveability is a concept and factor being used by urban planners and designers to better understand how people perceive the places they live and work in and how it affects their life choices.

This concept of liveability is a key ingredient for the decision support simulation that SMART Infrastructure Facility is currently building for Transport for NSW.

This commissioned research project called, “Shaping the Sydney of Tomorrow”, has been developed to aid transport and land use planners to understand the interactions between future transport needs, population increases and land use changes, and the effects these will have on the populations perception of ‘liveability’.

A key feature of the SMART model, unlike many other traffic-oriented models, is to simulate community feedback to proposed infrastructure developments so that adjustments can be made to improve outcomes. The model is meant to inform ‘what if?’ scenarios concerned with various transport and land use planning options.

As the concept of liveability is not well defined amongst scholars and practitioners, it seemed essential for SMART to gather the opinions of relevant experts in order to enhance the development of our ‘perceived liveability’ model.

The model is being constructed to simulate the evolution of subjective responses to environmental conditions. For example – reliability of transport, local safety and access to services, based on demographic characteristics such as age, sex, family status, work status and place of residence.

In February SMART’s Professor of Infrastructure Systems Peter Campbell, Professor of Simulation and Modelling Pascal Perez and Chief Operating Officer Tania Brown held a series of meetings in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth with government, academic and industry leaders to discuss how the concept of ‘liveability’ is being used in the design and management of land use planning.

Amongst the many experts who contributed to the success of these meetings, SMART is particularly indebted to former Deputy Prime Minister Brian Howe AO, Mr Rod Hook, CEO of the South Australian Department of Transport, Energy & Infrastructure and to Professor Graeme Hugo, ARC Australian Professorial Fellow, University of Adelaide.

Overall, there was considerable interest in SMART’s ‘perceived liveability’ model and general agreement that it was bringing a new and useful dimension to infrastructure planning and management.

A significant amount of information was gathered from the meetings and discussions. Themes of interest included the necessity to better differentiate SMART’s innovative model from more traditional, static and normative views on liveability (eg. existing liveability indices).

In addition there is a requirement to better define the scope of application of the SMART model to avoid misinterpretation of its outputs.

All of these factors will be incorporated into a revised version of the discussion paper ‘Defining Urban Liveability – From static indices to dynamical perceptions’.

Importantly, these meetings have fostered new relationships between SMART and other research parties in order to further refine and expand the ‘perceived liveability’ model. Consequently, SMART is following up invitations and suggestions to gain access to new data that can be used to improve the modelling algorithms and to strengthen its statistical inference.

SMART would like to acknowledge and thank the following experts who contributed to our series of meetings:

  • Prof Jordan Louviere Dr David Stolper Mr Tim Raymond
  • Mr Giovanni Cirillo Mr John Richardson Mr Philip Graus
  • Mr Bob Meyer Mr Rod Hook Mr Tim Horton
  • Mr David Gray Ass Prof Geoff Woolcock Prof Laurie Buys
  • Mr Richard Katter Mr Tim Connelly Mr Jeff Lassen
  • Prof Brian Howe A.O. Mrs Yvonne von Hartel Mr Rod Hook
  • Mr Tim Horton Mr Mark Williams Mr Sandy Rix
  • Prof Graeme Hugo Prof Dora Marinova Mrs Vanessa Rauland
  • Mr Col Beattie Mrs Alex Rhodes Mr Stuart McKnight
  • Mrs Naomi Kavanagh Prof Sonja Lyneham