Urban Network Analysis: tracking and planning urban environments

With the current wave of urban growth and over half of the world’s population living in cities, careful urban planning becomes increasingly important, but is still often overlooked. Well-designed cities generally offer numerous advantages of scale and proximity. In this regard, the continuing trend of urbanisation creates a lot of possibilities that can be exploited to improve access to jobs, health care and education, stimulate social activities and enhance the overall quality of life.

Our data driven society enables us to apply advanced analysis techniques on large sets of data such as public transportation and traffic information, real estate transactions, purchases in stores, locations of work environments and public buildings, and much more. Spatial network analysis software packages that process this data now allow urban planners, architects and spatial analysts to form a better view of the characteristics and needs of specific urban areas.

One of these software packages is the free and open-source Urban Network Analysis Toolbox for ArcGIS, developed by the City Form Lab at SUTD and MIT. Urban Network Analysis is a form of spatial analysis on urban street networks similar to social network analysis. Human interactions in a particular urban area can be described using 3 basic elements; ‘links’ or paths along which travel can occur, ‘nodes’ or intersections where two paths cross, and buildings, where most human activities take place. These 3 elements are used to describe the spatial relationships between people, places and institutions.

The toolbox includes five types of graph analysis measures on spatial networks: ‘Reach’, ‘Gravity’, ‘Betweenness’, ‘Closeness’ and ‘Straightness’. The ‘Reach’ measure, for instance, estimates how many destinations of a particular type (e.g. buildings, jobs, etc.) can be reached within a given radius from a building and for a particular mode of travel. The ‘Betweenness’ measure quantifies the number of potential passersby at each building. The combination of these metrics introduces a powerful new methodology for tracking and planning the evolution of cities.

The UNA toolbox can be downloaded at: http://cityform.mit.edu/projects/urban-network-analysis.html

Reposted from Ocleo.com, the environmental industry news- & jobsite.


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