Exclusives

Blog post
5 days ago

Swings in weather-related fortunes will continue to push to unprecedented extremes, in California, in Texas, in Boston, in Long Island, in Louisiana, and everywhere else.

James Brasuell
Feature
August 25, 2005, 12am PDT

Cities aren't in decline. The way population change is "measured" by the Census Bureau leaves much to be desired, writes Carol Coletta in this week's Op-Ed.

Carol Coletta
Blog post
August 9, 2005, 3pm PDT
Seriously supergood article on the history and technology of traffic here, at Cabinet magazine. How it works, what the terminology means, and how it's (not) controlled. Don't hate me for quoting so much, but it's a really wonderful piece:

In 1930, Philadelphia put the "master controller" (both a device and a person) of its flexible-progressive signal system in the basement of its City Hall; and the groundbreaking Automated Traffic Surveillance and Control (ATSAC) center, created for traffic management during the 1984 Olympics, operates four floors below City Hall in Los Angeles.

Once envied for its vast, efficient freeway system, Los Angeles eventually became the smoggy symbol of destructive automobile dependence and gridlock. Both images, however, are outdated. With one of the earliest and now most extensive traffic management systems, L.A. has become paradigmatic for "intelligent" urban traffic control worldwide. The Los Angeles district of the California Department of Transportation (CALTRANS) operates a traffic management center (TMC) in a fortified building, blocks away from the ATSAC center. ATSAC & CALTRANS combine with the Los Angeles County Public Works TMC to handle traffic flow throughout the region.

Examining Los Angeles further as a case study in both traffic and traffic management, we find a feedback loop between the environment and the system: the environment can be described as the collective movement of vehicles across the urban grid; the system is the infrastructure designed to measure, monitor, and control the environment. More specifically, the system in Los Angeles has two primary realms: the physical and the virtual.

In the physical realm, over 50,000 buried loop detectors, the insulated wire loops that passively detect subtle magnetic field changes from vehicles, combine with over 700 weatherproofed video cameras, some of which are remotely controlled to pan and zoom, to monitor and control traffic flow. Loops automatically trigger software in switching boxes linked to intersection signals but also send data to TMCs that allow traffic engineers to monitor flow patterns and adjust timings remotely. A simple click of a mouse button can start or stop the flow of movement on the grid.

[snips]

When traffic incidents occur, the system acknowledges and responds in various ways depending on the technological level of the area's infrastructure. In the case of most freeways or major intersections in the city itself, cameras are the first observers, recording the collision or obstruction and the immediate effect on the surrounding flow. An extreme incident is known as a Sig-Alert and is defined by the California Highway Patrol as "any unplanned event that causes the closing of one lane of traffic for 30 minutes or more, as opposed to a planned event like road construction, which is planned separately," and is named after Loyd C. "Sig" Sigmon. Mr. Sigmon developed a customized radio receiver and tape recorder that would detect a particular tone and record the bulletin, providing radio announcers with an analogue database of recent traffic incidents. This relieved dispatch from answering phone calls from the press. The first use of this device was in 1955 when doctors and nurses were requested to respond to a train derailment outside the Los Angeles Union Station. A traffic jam was the unintended result. It's oddly appropriate that Mr. Sigmon was to pass away only days before President Reaganís postmortem journey from a Santa Monica funeral home to Simi Valley, north of Los Angeles, shutting down miles of the busiest stretch of freeway in the country (the 405), causing multiple Sig-Alerts in surrounding areas.
Blog post
August 9, 2005, 10am PDT
Our newborn twins, Rowan and Grant, reading the latest Planetizen news before setting off on a busy day.


Twins reading Planetizen

Chris Steins
Blog post
August 8, 2005, 3pm PDT
So if both Microsoft and ESRI are concerned about the Google's move into mapping with the impressive Google Earth, then perhaps a Microsoft-ESRI combination would be the way to fight back. Wow. That's a big rumor.
Chris Steins
Blog post
August 5, 2005, 10am PDT
First -- I just loved Ken's post on GeoTagging. What a great collection of links he's included in his post. We've got a couple projects at UI that could potentially use this type of interface/solution.

I just got my weekly Nemertes Impact Analysis (Nemertes specializes in quantifying the business impact of technology) and this one focuses on the growth of Enterprise use of Open Source tools.
Chris Steins
Blog post
August 4, 2005, 8am PDT
Interesting idea under development at the University of Cambridge.

"Printed maps can be designed and printed to show fine detail and yet remain easy to take in at a glance. They are also simple to use in group discussions. However, a new map needs to be printed whenever information changes. Computer-based maps on a screen can change dynamically to represent a changing situation, but are not as easy to use. Dr Tom Drummond, Dr Gerhard Reitmayr, and Ethan Eade are combining the benefits of printed maps with the benefits of computer based dynamic maps, creating a dynamic high resolution map by augmenting printed maps with digital graphical information.
Scott Page
Blog post
July 29, 2005, 11am PDT
The "trace", as some designers and planners refer to them, are marketed and annotated tours that cover specific topics including waterfronts, historic districts and parks. Traditionally, they've been undertaken through marketing efforts and physical improvements such as signs, markers and designated trails. Until recently, they have been developed top-down with funding and the identification of historic markers and sites by specific organizations. Ken Snyder's excellent post
Scott Page
Blog post
July 29, 2005, 11am PDT
In his 1992 novel, Snow Crash, writer Neal Stephenson imagined the ultimate user interface to access geographic information:


"There is something new: a globe about the size of grapefruit, a perfectly detailed rendition of Planet Earth, hanging in space at arm's length in front of his eyes... It's a piece of CIC software called, simply, Earth. It is the user interface that the CIC uses to keep track of every bit of spatial information that it owns -- all the maps, weather data, architectural plans, and satellite surveillance stuff." [More excerpts ]
Abhijeet Chavan
Feature
July 26, 2005, 12am PDT

Ric Stephens has compiled a list of some of the wackiest -- yet at times quite realistic -- urban planning words, in a vocabulary he has dubbed 'Plannerese.' This week's Planetizen Op-Ed i

Ric Stephens
Blog post
July 22, 2005, 12pm PDT
I haven't clicked through all the links yet on this fantastic post on research in urban climate from Roland Piquepaille's technology blog. I plan to. As usual, it's a tremendously good aggregation of the state of research in a field. Meteorologists and urban planners, with the help of Earth-sensing satellites, are starting to get a sense of how even small features of cities -- individual skyscrapers -- have an effect on global weather patterns and pollution.
Feature
July 19, 2005, 12am PDT

Many criticize the idea of charging money for the use of roads, which are widely considered a public good.

Oded Roth
Blog post
July 8, 2005, 11am PDT
From this month's issue of Wired, I give you this roundup of interesting uses for Google's wicked cool mapping application. Salient bits:

It's Google's world, we just live in it. In the few months since its release, the search engine's latest info-appliance - satellite photos searchable by address - has spawned dozens of inspired spinoffs. Here's a look at some of the ways the hive mind is bending maps.google.com
Blog post
July 8, 2005, 10am PDT
Where have I been? I have no idea.

Take this with a grain of salt, for what it's worth, etc., but the consultancy Jupiter Research now says that municipal WiFi programs ain't worth the money. Excerpt from the release:

"Because the benefits of municipal wireless networks are inherently difficult to measure, and because it is too early to look at outcomes, examining breakeven thresholds provides the best reference point for decision-makers," stated Jay Horwitz, Senior Analyst at JupiterResearch. The report estimates that the average cost of building and maintaining a municipal wireless network is $150,000 per square mile over five years. According to the report, roughly 50% of current initiatives will fail to breakeven even if the benefit of the initiative is assumed to be $25 per user per month.
Feature
July 5, 2005, 12am PDT

The recent ruling by the Supreme Court to uphold the use of eminent domain was seen as an endorsement of professional planning.

Samuel R. Staley
Blog post
July 1, 2005, 2pm PDT



My colleague, Chris Haller, has done some great research on online mapping tools/techniques that can be used for community planning and community building.  Here's some stuff he discovered on GeoTagging. 


Since Google started its mapping service, based on xml and an API open to everyone, a lot of non-affiliated web applications have been emerging that bring GIS and online mapping closer to “Joe Internetuser”.

Ken Snyder
Blog post
June 23, 2005, 10am PDT
Just an added note on personal rapid transit. Some years ago, Bruno Latour wrote "Aramis" which documents the French government's attempt to create a PRT system for Paris (later killed by the government itself). Written as a cross between a socialogical study and a mystery novel, its worth a look for those interested in the subject.
Scott Page
Blog post
June 23, 2005, 10am PDT
Cities21 proposal for PRT at Microsoft CampusSo Steve Raney, directory of the nonprofit transit advocacy group Cities 21, emailed me a pre-packaged blog entry, including images and a proposed blog title, about a proposal his organization is circulating for a personal rapid transit (PRT) system on the Microsoft campus in Redmond, WA. The visualization on the site were, in fact, fascinating, and a great introduction to how well PRT can work as a transit alternative.
Chris Steins
Blog post
June 23, 2005, 8am PDT
In Adam's spirit of "tweaking" fellow bloggers, (Hi All) I'd like to emphasize Adam's last point - "Is it still a utility if no one utilizes it?"

For all of the talk about municipal wireless, particularly in my hometown of Philadelphia, I've always been concerned about the ultimate use of the investment despite the fact I agree that anti-municipal broadband laws are detrimental to the flexibility of any City to serve their population. I'm reminded of an interview posted on Muniwireless
Scott Page
Blog post
June 21, 2005, 5pm PDT
Mostly I'm posting this just to maliciously tweak my fellow blogger Charles Kaylor. Hi, Charles!

It seems that not everybody wants free WiFi downtown. At least, not everybody in Orlando, Florida, which according to the Orlando Sentinel is cranking down the valve on the urban teat. Or something.

Sunday marked the last day of a pilot program that allowed those in certain downtown "hot spots" to access the Internet free of charge. The test program was initially supposed to last six months, but the city kept it going 17 months.

City officials said the service worked well -- as many as 200 people using laptop or hand-held computers could log on at once to check e-mail or surf the Web from a wireless zone bordered by Orange Avenue, Eola Drive, and South and Robinson streets.

The problem: Few people were interested.

Despite daydreams of working and browsing the Internet while lounging on a bench at Lake Eola Park, only about 27 people a day, on average, accessed the free service. City officials said they couldn't continue to justify the $1,800-a-month expense.
Feature
June 21, 2005, 12am PDT

Without policy reform to increase the use of revenue-generating programs like congestion pricing, the new federal Highway Bill is bound to hurt America's highways, in part due to a fa

Ryan Prince