Monday, December 22, 2014

Fieldwork in Rio + Urban Picture

I've been a little absent lately stuck in traffic for many hours doing some exploratory fieldwork in Rio de Janeiro. One day, it took me 4,5 hours to travel 29 km by car. This is 3 times as estimated by Google Maps without traffic. Google's estimate for for the same journey using public transport is 2h41m without traffic. 

The problem is: 'no traffic' is not a reasonable assumption great urban areas like Rio. Under such congested contexts, GTFS data is hardly accurate and that's when real-time data (e.g. GPS) becomes necessary for more reliable analysis.

Rio has the worst traffic conditions in Brazil and many other problems, and yet it is impossible not to love this city.

[image credit: ? ]

ps. Dear readers, I miss you too.

Soundtrack:


Thursday, December 11, 2014

A debate with D.Harvey and Ed.Glaeser

The team at Caos Planejado (a very good Brazilian blog focused on urban economics) points out to a recent event where David Harvey and Edward Glaeser discussed the 'Economics of the Creative Economy'.

It is certainly not every day that we have this kind of debate. David Harvey is one of the most influential critical geographers with a great academic history and his writings have shaped a lot of the Marxist readings on cities. On the other corner of the ring Edward Glaeser is among the greatest urban economists nowadays and has a brilliant list of publications on a variety of issues related to urban development.


Despite ideological divergences, both are highly qualified scholars. They are also extremely polite, to a point that their disagreements always come in a gentle  sometimes even subtle way. I confess I was expecting some more blood.

My two highlights. Harvey and Glaser disagree on two particular questions that caught my attention: the connection between affordability issues and the idea of successful cities (29'-37'), and their different (normative) understandings of how property should be organized (1:04'-1:08'). Their disagreement on these two topics reflect markedly different positions in political philosophy more generally. More deeply, it shows rather different understandings of what justice means, and what should be the role of governments and markets in the pursuit for justice. 

I will stop here before you fall asleep with this post. Hope you enjoy the video.

ps. Glaser's body language reaction at 1:05' is hilarious.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

How much space do we dedicate to cars?

Chris Bruntlett points out to this great drawing by Karl Jilg depicting 'the sad state of walking in our cities'. It's a nice way to illustrate how much public space is dedicated to cars in our cities and its health risk implications.

[image credit: Karl Jilg/Swedish Road Administration]


It is a well known and old stylized fact that cars occupy a disproportional amount of road space. Artistic expressions a aside and despite the effort of a few good researchers, no one really knows how much road space we actually dedicate to cars compared to other transport modes. This is not a trivial question to answer. There are many variables involved (including vehicle occupancy rates, vehicle speeds, the amount of road and parking spaces, fleet composition, etc), these variables change drastically across different parts of the city and different times of the day and such data is hardly available.

In the 'time of big data' with very profound and rapid changes in data collection, there are huge opportunities to advance this research agenda using computational modelling and I've been really tempted to work on this topic during my PhD. Would someone like join me? ;)

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Rise and Fall of Manhattan’s Density (updated)

Alexander McQuilkin has written a very nice piece on the rise and fall of Manhattan’s density over the past 200 years. It's certainly worth a read.
"Between 1800 and 1910, density in urban Manhattan tripled from 200 to 600 people per hectare. Neighborhoods like Chinatown, the Lower East Side, and the East Village were significantly denser than the average, approaching 1,600 people per hectare." [This is about 4 times the population density of these neighborhoods as observed today !]
This is an interesting and not so new  map showing the 'de-densification of Manhattan', by Shlomo Angel and Patrick Lamson-Hall.

[image credit: Shlomo Angel and Patrick Lamson-Hall]


Updated: If you liked this post, you might like this interactive tool called Urban Layers that tracks Manhattan's rise, block by block, since 1765.

[image credit: @morphocode]


Sunday, December 7, 2014

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Urban Picture

Cesar A. Hidalgo has pointed me to this picture showing an amazing contrast in the urban fabric of a city in Venezuela (I think this is Caracas but I'm not quite sure).