Atanas sent me a link to this article on Wired about the Open Planning Project. I think the Open Planning Project is a great group and GeoServer is a cool application, however I think Wired missed the point. They quote Thomas Wright, the head of RPA: “99 percent of planning in the United States is volunteer citizens on Tuesday nights in a high school gym.” This simply is not the case, and it is unfortunate.
Planning should be a stakeholder-driven process. Charrettes and workshops should be conducted for every local “big issue” and Vision Statements and Plans should be formulated for every town. Be it an incorporated municipality or a locality within a township – every “place” should have a vision. In New Jersey, we’re not at that point yet and we need to make a considerable, coordinated effort to see visioning performed in towns with some regularity.
I think the need for “Open-Source Planning” is real. It is attainable with the technology we now have. The Internet helps democratize the planning process by allowing for greater access to information. The Internet is another avenue for gathering public opinion and performing outreach. Unprecedented public involvement is now possible through the Internet. Despite the gains we’ve made through technology, we cannot rely on software alone to make the planning process more open. We need people (and governing bodies and bureacracies) to embrace openness. Only then will we have “open-source planning.”
I realize Wired is going to focus primarily on the technology, however there are considerable efforts being made now in the planning & GIS circles to make these planning efforts more open. These efforts are people-driven, not software-driven. You can put up as many interactive maps as you like, if there aren’t concerned citizens in a town, no one’s going to see them.