The Rise (or Return) of Spatial Optimization


The significance of optimization cannot be overstated. It is literally relied upon or responsible for much of what we see and do on a daily basis. This paper explores in particular spatial optimization and its formalization to support geographic analysis, planning, management and understanding. It is highlighted that geographic information systems (GIS) often represent a starting (or ending) point for undertaking spatial optimization through location analytics capabilities. A broad perception in optimization circles is that GIS is merely a database facilitating mapping and suitability analysis, failing to appreciate or recognize that spatial optimization is actually available through basic functions in commercial GIS software. This paper provides an overview of representative models that can be found, highlighting both strengths and weaknesses, including issues of critical evaluation in observed performance and behavior of associated spatial optimization approaches in practice. Bridging awareness is important for many reasons, but in particular, availability of tools and techniques in major commercial software platforms translates into use, often by individuals that likely do not understand the underlying models and methods. Given the continued and growing significance of GIS as a location analytic medium, this is an important and timely topic.


Alan Murray (BS, MA, PhD UC Santa Barbara) is a Professor in the Department of Geography at University of California at Santa Barbara. He previously held academic appointments at Drexel University, Arizona State University and Ohio State University. He is editor of International Regional Science Review, associate editor and/or editorial board member for a range of international journals, including Geographical Analysis, Transactions in GIS, Papers in Regional Science, Computers, Environment and Urban Systems, Socio-Economic Planning Sciences and Annals of the Association of American Geographers. His research and teaching interests include: geographic information science; spatial optimization; health informatics; urban growth and development; land use planning; urban, regional, and natural resource planning and development; and, infrastructure and transportation systems. He is the author of two books and over 230 research articles, book chapters and proceedings papers. He has received a number of awards from the American Association of Geographers, and is the recipient of the Walter Isard Award for Scholarly Achievement from the North American Regional Science Council, among others.


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