Integrating network distances into an activity based cellular automata land-use model – Semi-automated calibration and application to Flanders, Belgium

Tomas Crols

Research output: ThesisPhD Thesis


A strong population growth, extended transportation networks
and a lack of structured spatial planning have all caused
strong urban sprawl in a large number of regions worldwide.
Until recently, 6 ha of open space were transformed per day
into non-natural land uses in Flanders, Belgium. Mapping and
modelling of these land-use changes may support the
government in tackling the problems related to urban sprawl
and in controlling the urban sprawl phenomenon.
Cellular automata (CA) models allow to explicitly handle
spatial interactions between different land-use categories.
Recently, a more straightforward, activity-based CA model
(ACA model) for urban dynamics was proposed, which directly
models spatial changes in the values of different ‘activities’
(population and employment in several economic sectors). The
complex spatial structure and the strong mixing of functions of
Flanders can be better represented by this model than by a
regular land-use change model.
The main goal of this research was to further enhance this ACA
model and apply it to simulate the impact of alternative policy
scenarios on the spatial development of a region, with
Flanders as the key application. Several model improvements
were accomplished: firstly, the model was extended with the
option to calculate long distances along a transportation
network using a variable grid approach. Next, changes were
proposed to the model equations that determine the activity
densities in the model.
To calibrate the model, input maps for the past were
computed by combining maps of the present with data
available from remote sensing. The resulting time series of
population maps provides a good insight into the evolution of
population in Flanders and Brussels after 1986. Next, a semiautomated
methodology was developed to calibrate the
model. Finally, different scenarios of future land use in
Flanders until 2050 were examined. The white paper of the
Spatial Policy Plan for Flanders proposes to limit future land
take to places with good public transport accessibility and
proximity to services. The effects of this land-take neutral
scenario were compared with a business-as-usual scenario.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Vrije Universiteit Brussel
  • Canters, Frank, Supervisor
Award date1 Sep 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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