Megacities: Reducing the risk in huge populaces

29 July 2019

Megacities: Reducing the risk in huge populaces  Image
Back in 2017, the World Economic Forum outlined the issue of cities with rapidly-expanding populations. With just over half of the world’s population calling cities their home as it is, the fact that this number is set to rise to two-thirds of the population by 2030 should ring alarm bells. Urban planning is vital to ensure these densely populated areas are safe in the event of potentially devastating issues such as natural disasters.

Normal day-to-day living needs to be balanced with these measures though. Consider this: in 2016, there were 512 cities around the world with at least 1 million citizens. Currently, one in five of us live in these cities. On top of this, it is expected that by 2030, an additional 150 cities will break the one million mark. These don’t even account for the biggest cities. Dubbed ‘megacities’, the 31 super-sized cities recorded in 2014 as having more than 10 million people living within them will rise to 41 by 2030. The density of these cities means that a small problem can quickly ripple through so many people and become a huge issue. Traffic flow can be managed, roads can have laws applied to them, but managing human beings is a whole different ball game. This is where computerised crowd simulation helps, as it allows experts to gauge the most likely way people will choose to enter, move around, and leave a given building. This technology can be extended to predict the flow of people within entire districts, helping with designing and planning city layouts more efficiently.

By addressing gaps in knowledge during design processes, this technology has been finely tuned to the needs of dense populations. One such project that brought crowd simulation programme MassMotion into effect was the redevelopment of the New York Fulton Centre interchange. With six subway lines already in place that had been designed without much futureproofing, the use of crowd simulation software proved vital for its successful redevelopment. From here, the programme has flourished under academic guidance and use, and can now be applied to a variety of planning stages, such as for city planning.

Development points for urban planning include:

  • Streamlined model building, thanks to the ability to import entire BIM objects into the software.
  • Virtual pedestrians with pre-programmable agendas.
  • Independent virtual pedestrians within the software that will react to situations as they develop.

Wherever there’s a crowd, there’s a risk — this includes crowded cities on a huge scale. With the ability to model huge volumes of people in a scenario, the use of crowd simulation will be vital in city planning for the coming years.


Amy Hodgetts is a content writer on behalf of Oasys, a leading developer of structure analysis software.  Ms Hodgetts is a graduate from the University of Glasgow, with an undergraduate MA (Hons) in English Language.

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