Posts Tagged ‘urban’

The Variety of American Grids (Greater Greater Washington)

Friday, June 4th, 2010

[Editor's note: Geeky urban geography with map diagrams! See related post discussing cultural background for US grids and the example block sizes in the Washington DC metro.]

Republished from Greater Greater Washington.
By Daniel Nairn   •   May 31, 2010 9:54 am

I wanted a nerdy planning-related poster for my wall (other than the periodic table of city planning), so I made one this week. I scoured Google Earth and measured that quintessentially American grid in about a hundred downtowns around the country.

Of course, there are variations in block proportions within downtowns, but I tried to pick cities that had more uniformity than average to come up with a single prototype. (Washington, DC has very little uniformity.)


Click for the poster-quality version (large PDF).

Exploring these grid proportions messed with my preconceptions. I assumed the more western and newer cities would have larger grids than the more eastern and older cities, but no obvious pattern is discernible to me. Mobile, AL, settled by French colonists in the early 18th century, Tulsa, OK, a 19th century farming town, and Anchorage, AK, a 20th century frontier town, all share the same 300′ x 300′ internal block (street widths vary a little). What compelled the early settlers of these towns to choose, say, 220′ over 440′ lengths? I can’t say I have any idea right now.

Manhattan is also a curious story. According to Witold Rybczynski, the expanding nation unequivocally chose the 1811 Commissioner’s Grid of New York City over L’Enfant’s baroque-influenced plan for Washington, DC as the model for new towns. While this is surely true, it begs the question: why are New York’s long and skinny blocks not found anywhere else in the country? You would think at least one group of western settlers would seek to emulate their home town of New York more exactly.

I’m leaving aside the interesting value questions around block size. Ever since Jacobs, conventional wisdom has held that smaller blocks are preferable for walkability, but urban designer Fannis Grammenos challenges the grid somewhat in a Planetizen post.

Migration in China: Invisible and heavy shackles (Economist)

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

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[Editor's note: Powerful charting compares official stats to reality for the agricultural "ecosystem refugees" who find themselves in the city. Related: US Census releases data on geographic mobility for 2008.]

Republished from the Economist.

Until China breaks down the barriers between town and countryside, it cannot unleash the buying power of its people—or keep its economy booming.

ON THE hilly streets of Chongqing, men with thick bamboo poles loiter for customers who will pay them to carry loads. The “stick men”, as they are called, hang the items from either end of the poles and heave them up over their shoulders. In a city where the Communist Party chief, Bo Xilai, likes to sing old revolutionary songs, these workers should be hymned as heroes. Yet few of them are even classed as citizens of the city where they live.

Most of the stick men were born in the countryside around Chongqing. (The name covers both the urban centre that served as China’s capital in the second world war, and a hinterland, the size of Scotland, which the city administers.) Since 1953, shortly after the Communists came to power, Chinese citizens have been divided into two strata, urban and rural, not according to where they live but on a hereditary basis. The stick men may have spent all their working lives on the streets of Chongqing, but their household registration papers call them “agricultural”.

The registration system (hukou, in Chinese) was originally intended to stop rural migrants flowing into the cities. Stick men were among the targets. In the early days of Communist rule in Chongqing the authorities rounded up thousands of “vagrants” and sent them to camps (vagrants, said Mao Zedong, “lack constructive qualities”). There they endured forced labour before being packed back to their villages.

201019fbc434Rapid industrial growth over the past three decades has required tearing down migration barriers to exploit the countryside’s huge labour surplus. Hukou, however, still counts for a lot, from access to education, health care and housing to compensation payouts. To be classified as a peasant often means being treated as a second-class citizen. Officials in recent years have frequently talked about “reforming” the system. They have made it easier to acquire urban citizenship, in smaller cities at least. But since late last year the official rhetoric has become more urgent. Policymakers have begun to worry that the country’s massive stimulus spending in response to the global financial crisis could run out of steam. Hukou reform, they believe, could boost rural-urban migration and with it the consumer spending China needs.

In early March 11 Chinese newspapers (it would have been 13, had not two bottled out) defied party strictures and teamed together to publish an extraordinary joint editorial. It called on China’s parliament, the National People’s Congress (NPC), which was then about to hold its annual meeting, to urge the government to scrap the hukou system as soon as possible. “We hope”, it said, “that a bad policy we have suffered for decades will end with our generation, and allow the next generation to truly enjoy the sacred rights of freedom, democracy and equality bestowed by the constitution.” Not since the Tiananmen uprising in 1989 had so many newspapers simultaneously cast aside the restraints imposed by the Communist Party’s mighty Propaganda Department, which micromanages China’s media output.

Continue reading at the Economist . . .

Preview of Natural Earth version 1.2 populated places

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

Version 1.1 brought Natural Earth up to ~7,000 populated places (purple hollow circle icons with labels). Version 1.2 will increase that by 25 times to about 175,000 populated places. It will be available as a supplement to the 1.1 version selection. What does this get you? A 1:1 million scale map of cities around the world and a 1:250,000 scale map of the United States and other select countries. There’s still basic selection work to be accomplished (Santiago Chile has duplicate points now, as does London) and scale ranks need refining (boosting blue 10 million, 5 million and 2 million selections from the 1:1 million black dots on these preview maps).

Because the world’s geo infrastructure sucks, not all the new features will have population counts in the 1.2 version. But most should have areal extent bounds and nesting to indicate if the town is part of a larger metro area. At the 1:250,000 scale (gmaps zoom 11), we start to see actual incorporated towns and unincorporated suburbs, but at the 1:1m scale we’re still dealing primarily in metropolitan and micropolitan features (urban areas that host multiple “cities”).

The names of the feature will also need work, but that will occur after the 1.2 release (India, China, and Central Asia mostly). The version 1.1 locations will be shifted over to use the more accurate geoNames lngLats for about 6,000 features (note Oakland below). Locations were fine at 1:10,000,000 scale but don’t always hold up on zoom in. A later update will incorporate an additional 100,000 places to flesh out the 1:1m scale and maybe a few extra for closer in. Combine these populated places with roads and they start looking like atlas plates :)

More preview images after the jump.

sfbayarea

haiti

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More preview maps after the jump.

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The MODIS 500-m map of global land cover and urban extent (UW-Madison)

Friday, February 26th, 2010

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[Editor's note: With over half of humanity now living in an urban environment, this exciting new remote sensing dataset can help planners better estimate global urban sprawl. I hope to use this as a foundation to refine  Natural Earth's urban polygons and mash them up against GeoNames.org features. Thanks Annemarrie!]

Republished from UW-Madison.
Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment, University of Wisconsin-Madison

The MODIS 500-m global map of urban extent was produced by Annemarie Schneider at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in partnership with Mark Friedl at Boston University and the MODIS Land Group. The goal of this project was generate a current, consistent, and seamless circa 2001-2002 map of urban, built-up and settled areas for the Earth’s land surface. This work builds on previous mapping efforts using Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) data at 1-km spatial resolution (Schneider et al., 2003; 2005), which was included as part of the MODIS Collection 4 (C4) Global Land Cover Product (Friedl et al., 2002). Here we addressed weaknesses in the first map as well as several limitations of contemporary global urban maps by developing a methodology that relies solely on newly released Collection 5 (C5) MODIS 500-m resolution data. Specifically, a supervised decision tree classification algorithm was used to map urban areas using region-specific parameters (see Schneider et al., 2009; 2010 for full details on methodology).

The intended audience for the MODIS 500-m map of urban extent is primarily the academic research community working at regional to global scales on questions related to the geophysical environment; please keep this in mind as you put the data to use.

More about the data »
Download the data »
Note: Email registration required

b. Land cover classes

In the global land cover map, the classes are defined according to the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP) 17-class scheme shown in Table 1.

No.

Class name

Description

1

Evergreen Needleleaf Forest

Lands dominated by woody vegetation with a percent cover > 60% and height exceeding 2 meters.  Almost all trees remain green all year. Canopy is never without green foliage.

2

Evergreen Broadleaf Forest

Lands dominated by woody vegetation with a percent cover > 60% and height exceeding 2 meters.  Almost all trees remain green year round. Canopy is never without green foliage.

3

Deciduous Needleleaf Forest

Lands dominated by woody vegetation with a percent cover > 60% and height exceeding 2 meters. Trees shed their leaves during the dry season; e.g. Siberian Larix.

4

Deciduous Broadleaf Forest

Lands dominated by woody vegetation with a percent cover > 60% and height exceeding 2 meters. Consists of broadleaf trees with an annual cycle of leaf-on and leaf-off periods.

5

Mixed Forests

Lands dominated by woody vegetation with a percent cover > 60% and height exceeding 2 meters. Consists of mixtures of either broadleaf or needleleaf trees and in which neither component exceeds 60% of landscape.

6

Closed Shrublands

Lands with woody vegetation with a height less than 2 meters. The total percent cover, including the herbaceous understory, exceeds 60%. The shrub foliage can be either evergreen or deciduous.

7

Open Shrublands

Lands with woody vegetation with a height less than 2 meters, and sparse herbaceous understory. Total percent cover is less than 60%. The shrub foliage can be either evergreen or deciduous.

8

Woody Savannas

Lands with and herbaceous understory, typically graminoids, and with tree and shrub cover between 30-60%. The tree and shrub cover height exceeds 2 meters.

9

Savannas

Lands with an herbaceous understory, typically graminoids, and with tree and shrub cover between 10-30%. The tree and shrub cover height exceeds 2 meters.

10

Grasslands

Lands with herbaceous types of cover, typically graminoids. Tree and shrub cover is less than 10%.

11

Permanent Wetlands

Lands with a permanent mosaic of water and herbaceous or woody vegetation. The vegetation can be present in either salt, brackish, or fresh water. Only wetlands covering extensive areas (i.e., more than 500 km2) will be mapped (e.g., Sud, Okavanga, Everglades).

12

Croplands

Lands where crops comprise > 60% of the total land cover.

13

Urban Areas

See (a) above.

14

Cropland – Natural Vegetation Mosaic

Lands with mosaics of crops and other land cover types in which no component comprises more than 60% of the landscape.

15

Snow and Ice

Lands under snow/ice cover for most of the year.

16

Barren or Sparsely Vegetated

Lands with exposed soil, sand or rocks and has less than 10% vegetated cover during any time of the year.

17

Water Bodies

Oceans, seas, lakes, reservoirs, and rivers. Can be either fresh or salt water bodies.  Coded as 0 in the MODIS-based maps.

50 States and 50 Metros (fake is the new real)

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

[Editor's note: Fascinating look at the cultural geography of the United States sorted by large cities and subtracted from the 50 states. For instance, considered as metros, New York city, Los Angeles, and Chicago are larger in population than the non-metropolitan portions of Texas, California, North Carolina, Florida, and Pa. The author has another good post on subway systems around the world all scaled to the same size. Thanks Jo!]

Republished from fake is the new real.
By Neil Freeman, artist and urban planner.

The fifty largest metro areas (in blue), disaggregated from their states (in orange). Each has been scaled and sorted according to population. The metro areas are US-Census defined CBSAs and MSAs.

Small sampling below. Click on image for all 100 shapes.

50states50metros

Water Measured From the Sky: Satellites Track Land’s Consumption (Wash Post)

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

Republished from The Washington Post.

In Idaho, scientists are using remote imaging to study evapotranspiration, the loss of water to the atmosphere by evaporation from soil and water, and by transpiration from plants.

Water management is serious business in the American West, where precipitation is scarce, irrigated agriculture is a major industry, new housing subdivisions spread across arid landscapes and water rights are allocated in a complicated seniority system.

Related story from The Washington Post »

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All Streets (Ben Fry)

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

[Editor's note: This map under counts roads in National Forests in the west but still shows the US has more than enough roads to maintain. Dense (with roads) metro urban clusters readily stand out. Thanks Michael!]

Republished from Ben Fry’s site.

All of the streets in the lower 48 United States: an image of 26 million individual road segments. No other features (such as outlines or geographic features) have been added to this image, however they emerge as roads avoid mountains, and sparse areas convey low population. This began as an example I created for a student in the fall of 2006, and I just recently got a chance to document it properly. More technical details can be found here and additional updates here.
View more at Ben Fry’s site . . .

Taking the Train: The Most Used Subway Systems in the US and Around the World (Good Magazine)

Thursday, March 5th, 2009

[Editor's note: This chart needs a per capita analysis and comparable accounting of subway milages but is super fun any how. Click image above for larger view, or follow link below. Happy birthday Katie Rose!]

Republished from Good magazine.
Orig pub date: Feb. 17, 2009.

Even though subways are a fuel-efficent way to move people around congested urban areas, Americans make poor use of them, probably because they are poorly funded and often don’t travel where we want to go. Right now, of the five most-used subway systems in the country, only New York City’s attracts as many riders as the five largest foreign subway systems.

A collaboration between GOOD and Robert A. Di Ieso, Jr.

View the original graphic | blog post.

Lump Together and Like It (Economist)

Friday, November 14th, 2008

[Editor's note: Returning from traveling in China, cities, growth, and urban geography are on my mind. Enjoy this article from the Economist about a rapidly urbanizing world populous, and how that is not necessarily a bad thing for poverty and wealth.]

Reprinted from The Economist print edition. Nov 6th 2008.

The problems—and benefits—of urbanisation on a vast scale

IN JANUARY this year a vast number of would-be travellers were stranded at railway stations and on roads in China, after an unusually heavy snowfall blanketed the south of the country just before the country’s new-year festivities. What amazed the world (in addition to the unusual sight of a prime minister apologising for his government’s slowness) was the unprecedented scale of the disruption: an estimated 200m people were on the move.

Governments in many poor countries react with a shudder to this sort of news item—and indeed to any news that seems to expose the fragility of newly urbanised economies. Most of those frustrated Chinese travellers were migrant workers going from cities to their families in the countryside or vice versa. Movement on such a scale seems inevitable, given the sort of urbanisation China and others have experienced: over the past 30 years, the world’s urban population has risen from 1.6 billion to 3.3 billion, and over the next 30 years cities in the developing world are set to grow by an extra 2 billion. But many governments have become doubtful of their ability to cope with urbanisation on such an enormous scale; some have concluded that they ought to slow the process down in order to minimise social upheaval. This view owes as much to anti-urban bias as it does to sober analysis.

In 2005, more than half the poor countries surveyed by the UN Population Division said they wanted to reduce internal migration to rein in urban growth. The food crisis of the past 18 months has sharpened worries about how to feed the teeming slums. This week the UN’s secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, warned the biennial World Urban Forum meeting in Nanjing that 2 billion could be living in slums in the year 2030 and that “urban areas consume most of the world’s energy and are generating the bulk of our waste.”

Such fears of urban over-concentration are reflected in the policies of many different countries. Saudi Arabia is spending billions on new super-cities to ease the growth of Jeddah and Riyadh. Egypt is building 20 new cities to divert people away from Cairo. It plans 45 more. And attempts by poor countries to alter the course of urbanisation have a long pedigree in the rich world. In the 1950s and 1960s, Britain and France built lots of new towns to counter-balance their capitals’ dominance.

Yet new research published by the World Bank in its annual flagship World Development Report* suggests that pessimism over the future of huge cities is wildly overdone. The bank argues that third-world cities grow so big and so fast precisely because they generate vast economic advantages, and that these gains may be increasing. Slowing urbanisation down, or pushing it towards places not linked with world markets, is costly and futile, the bank says. At a time of contagion and bail-outs, the research also reaffirms the unfashionable view that the basic facts of geography—where people live and work, how they get around—matter as much as financial and fiscal policies. (The award of this year’s Nobel prize for economics to Paul Krugman of Princeton University for his work on the location of economic activity was another reflection of that view.)

The bank’s research yields lots of new insights. It argues, for example, that the share of humanity that lives in cities is slightly lower than most people think. The bank drew up a fresh index to get around the knotty problem of defining “urban”; this new measure puts the world’s city-dwelling population at about 47% in 2000. In fact—as Indermit Gill, who oversaw the report, acknowledges—it is impossible to pinpoint the proportion: the urban slice of humanity may be anywhere between 45% and 55%, depending on how you count. The report’s main point is that, whatever their exact dimensions, the Gotham Cities of the poor world should not be written off as a disaster simply on grounds that they are too big, too chaotic, too polluted and too unequal.

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Vote! Map of Newspaper Endorsements in the 2008 US Presidential Election (InfoChimps)

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

[Editor's note: This interactive map and blog post from InfoChimps shows how most newspapers across the US have endorsed Obama for president over McCain. The accompanying blog post discusses how notions of "red" and "blue" states has problems and might better be conceptualized as urban & rural.

Republished from InfoChimps where they have full table listing of each newspaper, their endorcement, and circulation stats. Thanks Lynda!]

View interactive version at InfoChimps!

Screenshots: map – big · med · sm | bar graph

See also: our «Red/Blue split vs. Rural/Urban split» graph

Apart from the unsurprising evidence that (choose one: [[Obama is the overwhelming choice]] -OR- [[there is overwhelming liberal media bias]]), I’m struck by the mismatch between papers’ endorsements and their “Red State” vs “Blue State” alignment.

  • I think the amount of red in the blue states is a market effect. If you’re the Boston Herald, there’s no percentage in agreeing with the Boston Globe; similarly The Daily News vs New York Post, SF Examiner vs SF Chronicle &c. (One reason the Tribune endorsement, even accounting for hometown bias, is so striking.) I don’t mean that one or the other alignment is wrong, or chosen cynically — simply that in a market supporting multiple papers, readers and journalists are efficiently sorted into two separate camps.
  • The amount of blue in the red states highlights how foolishly incomplete the “Red State/Blue State” model is for anything but electoral college returns. The largest part of the Red/Blue split is Rural/Urban. Consider the electoral cartogram for the last election. Almost every city is blue, even in the south and mountain, while almost all rural areal is red, even in California and Massachusetts. The urban exceptions on the cartogram — chiefly Dallas, Houston and Boise — stand noticeably alone on the endorsement map as having red unpaired with blue. (in this election even the Houston Chronicle is endorsing Obama, but they are quite traditionally Republican.)

This seems to speak of why so many on the right feel there’s a MSM bias. Roughly 50% of the country lives in a top-50 metro area (metros of over a million people: like Salt Lake City or Raleigh, NC and on up), 50% live outside (in rural areas, or in cities like Fresno, CA and Allentown/Bethlehem, PA or smaller). But our major newspapers are located almost exclusively in urban areas.

Thus, surprisingly, the major right-leaning papers are located in parts of the country we consider highly leftish: the largest urban areas are both «the most liberal» and «the most likely to support a sizeable conservative target audience».