THe Blog

September 14, 2015

Urban "fingerprints" to help with planning?

Image courtesy: CityLab via Urban Age, LSE Cities



This CityLab article says "Each city’s unique layout pattern has an effect on its successes and failures.":


"...The maps were created by researchers at the center’s Urban Age program, who have been studying how the layout of rapidly urbanizing cities can affect their livability... Within a city, layouts can differ greatly from neighborhood to neighborhood. In Rio de Janeiro, the difference in neighborhood density is largely a result of wealth distribution and formal versus informal settlements...


The most valuable visual information that these maps convey is the density of a particular area. Planned right, a dense city can be a positive environment for productivity. Griffiths explains that the clustering effect creates 'agglomeration economies.' 'If you cluster a whole lot of people close to each other, with skills that aren’t necessarily the same,' he says, 'you get opportunities for new creations.'


But with dense cities comes challenges that can make them unsustainable, he adds: 'You’ve got to put in decent public transport so that you can move people around the city, otherwise you get pollution and congestion.'"


The ‘Urban Expansion Observatory’ (UXO), which IDFC Institute helped set up with NYU Stern Urbanization Project at Pillai College, takes a similar approach to understand and plan for the growth of cities using satellite data.The lab studies the quality of urban expansion from 1990-2010, in a global sample of 200 cities. Parameters being recorded include the share of land in streets, share of land in different types of housing developments, and average plot dimensions in land subdivisions


The Executive Director of UN Habitat has asked that the results from UXO form the centerpiece of the debate at UN Habitat III (2016), a conference held once in 20 years to set the global urban agenda.


This study also builds from extensive empirical research on urban expansion undertaken by Prof Solly Angel of NYU. Angel found that, between 1800 and 2000, urban area per person grew at an average annual rate of 1.5 percent in a representative sample of 30 global cities. For example, while the population of Paris, France grew 20-fold between 1800 and 2000, the city’s built up area grew 200-fold. Only by embracing urban expansion as inevitable, says Angel, can cities plan ahead for it.


In 2011, India had more than 400 cities and metropolitan areas with populations of 100,000 or more. One-fifth of these cities, housing one-quarter of India's urban population, are rapidly-growing cities, now growing at more than 3 percent per annum. These cities can be expected to more than triple their populations by 2045 and, if personal incomes grow as expected, they can be expected to more than quadruple their built-up areas. 

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