Already a major technology trend, 2012 promises to be a watershed for "big data." A shorthand term for the proliferation of large datasets, big data also refers to the expansion of analytic techniques for teasing meaning from the vast archives of information produced by the digital world. The New York Times' Steve Lohr declared we have entered the "age of big data" in a recent article that compared it with another revolutionary research tool -- the microscope. Blog Post
Feb 27, 2012   By Robert Goodspeed
Historically, data sources for urban planning have remained relatively stable. Planners relied on a collection of well-known government-produced datasets to do their work, including statistics and geographic layers from federal, state and local sources. Produced by regulatory processes or occasional surveys, the strengths and limitations of these sources are well known to planners and many citizens. However all this is beginning to change. Not only has the U.S. Blog Post
Sep 1, 2011   By Robert Goodspeed
Urban planning is an inherently knowledge-intensive activity. Even the most prosaic zoning change or development proposal can generate reams of memos, transcripts, minutes and notes. Planners routinely manage statistical and geographic data for research and analysis. In fact, this material proves so voluminous there is even a book on how planners can collect, manage, and share information effectively. A comment I heard recently reminded me how often these systems can go awry. Blog Post
Feb 14, 2011   By Robert Goodspeed
Earlier this week I read a report about creating a geographic data system for a community group in Lawrence, Massachusetts. The document contained detailed technical documentation for how to use iPAQ handheld computers to collect geocoded data. Since the data was collected and managed in geographic information system (GIS) software, it required pages of technical instructions. This case seemed a prime example of how GIS tools missed the mark for planners who need to work with geographic data, but in a different way than technical analysts. Blog Post
Apr 2, 2010   By Robert Goodspeed
During his dramatic presentation last April, President Barack Obama laid out a bold vision for high speed rail in America. Wielding a stylish red, white, and blue map (below) he presented the proposed corridors for new high speed trains. Blog Post
Nov 13, 2009   By Robert Goodspeed
City data catalogs are fast moving from the exception to the norm for large U.S. cities. Washington, DC's Data Catalog, spearheaded by former CTO Vivek Kundra, was an early leader. The site combines hundreds of static government-created datasets from across DC government with administrative feeds like the city's 311 system. Their site emphasizes providing data in multiple formats, including where possible formats that don't require proprietary software. Blog Post
Oct 19, 2009   By Robert Goodspeed
What's better than Twitter in the city? An iPhone. With a connection to the Internet, built-in camera, location-awareness, 3-access accelerometer and colorful display, the Apple iPhone has become much more than a mobile phone: it's a sophisticated mobile computing platform. Blog Post
Sep 7, 2009   By Robert Goodspeed
One of the interesting parts of my position at the Boston Metropolitan Area Planning Council over the past year has been working with U.S. Census Bureau surveys and data. Since last September, this work has included preparations to ensure the region is prepared for the 2010 Census.Mandated by the U.S. Constitution to determine political representation, every planner knows the U.S. Census has become the single most important data source for studying American cities. The U.S. Census Bureau produces dozens of surveys, the Census held once every ten years is by far the most important. Blog Post
Jul 20, 2009   By Robert Goodspeed
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that in 2007, over 9.8 million American households had no auto available at home. Although those car free households make up only 8.7% of the U.S., the split by housing ownership is striking: only 3.3% of owner occupied homes do without at least one vehicle, where fully 19.9% of renters have no cars parked in the proverbial driveway. For some, not owning a vehicle is not a matter of choice -- just the reality of limited resources. Blog Post
Jun 25, 2009   By Robert Goodspeed
The conference bags handed out to the attendees of the 2007 National Planning conference in Philadelphia had four words printed on one side: value, choice, engagement, community. The words echo the long mission statement of the American Planning Association, evidence of what I described last year as the pragmatic position of the profession that refrains from making a larger argument about the form of the city. Blog Post
Jun 10, 2009   By Robert Goodspeed