What Urban and Regional Planners Do
Urban and regional planners often travel to development sites.
Urban and regional planners develop plans and programs for the use of land. Their plans help create communities, accommodate population growth, and revitalize physical facilities in towns, cities, counties, and metropolitan areas.
Urban and regional planners typically do the following:
- Meet with public officials, developers, and the public regarding development plans and land use
- Gather and analyze economic and environmental studies, censuses, and market research data
- Conduct field investigations to analyze factors affecting land use
- Review site plans submitted by developers
- Assess the feasibility of proposals and identify needed changes
- Recommend whether proposals should be approved or denied
- Present projects to communities, planning officials, and planning commissions
- Stay current on zoning or building codes, environmental regulations, and other legal issues
Urban and regional planners identify community needs and develop short- and long-term plans to create, grow, and revitalize communities and areas. For example, planners examine plans for proposed facilities, such as schools, to ensure that these facilities will meet the needs of a changing population.
As an area grows or changes otherwise, planners help communities manage the related economic, social, and environmental issues, such as planning a new park, sheltering the homeless, and making the region more attractive to businesses.
Some planners work on broad, community-wide plans; others focus on specific issues. Ultimately, planners advocate the best use of a community’s land and resources for residential, commercial, educational, and recreational purposes.
When beginning a project, planners work with public officials, community members, and other groups to identify community issues and goals. Using research, data analysis, and collaboration with interest groups, planners formulate strategies to address issues and to meet goals.
They also may help carry out community plans, oversee projects, and organize the work of the groups involved. Projects may range from a policy recommendation for a specific initiative to a long-term, comprehensive area plan.
Planners use a variety of tools and technology in their work, including geographic information systems (GIS) that analyze and manipulate data. GIS is used to integrate data with electronic maps. For example, planners use GIS to overlay a land map with population density indicators. They also use statistical software, visualization and presentation programs, financial spreadsheets, and other database and software programs.
The following are examples of types of urban and regional planners:
Land use and code enforcement planners are concerned with the way land is used and whether development plans comply with codes, which are the standards and laws of a jurisdiction. These planners work to carry out effective planning and zoning policies and ordinances. For example, a planner may develop a policy to encourage development in an underutilized location and to discourage development in an environmentally sensitive area.
Transportation planners develop transportation plans and programs for an area. They identify transportation needs and issues, assess the impact of services or systems, and anticipate and address future transportation patterns. For example, as growth outside the city creates more jobs, the need for public transportation to get workers to those jobs increases. Transportation planners develop and model possible solutions and explain the possibilities to planning boards and the public.
Environmental and natural resources planners attempt to mitigate the harmful effects of development on the environment. They may focus on conserving resources, preventing destruction of ecosystems, or cleaning polluted areas.
Economic development planners focus on the economic activities of an area. They may work to expand or diversify commercial activity, attract businesses, create jobs, or build housing.
Urban design planners strive to make building architecture and public spaces look and function in accordance with an area’s development and design goals. They combine planning with aspects of architecture and landscape architecture. Urban design planners focus on issues such as city layout, street design, and building and landscape patterns.