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This article is based on the assumption that more spatially efficient investment choices in both economic and basic infrastructure spending can make a significant impact on the equity, efficiency and sustainability of human settlements. Emerging from work conducted as part of a Department of Science and Technology (DST)- funded Integrated Planning and Development Modelling (IPDM) project, the article argues that decisions about infrastructure investment in South African metropolitan areas ought to be grounded in robust and rigorous analysis and scenario evaluation. More evidence, and better evidence, an understanding of spatial trends and the underlying forces that shape them, are needed to support planning and infrastructure investment. Urban simulation platforms offer valuable tools in this regard. Findings of simulation work in three metropolitan areas (eThekwini, Nelson Mandela Bay and Johannesburg) are presented to demonstrate this, and some implications for spatial policy, planning and infrastructure investment are highlighted.