Study Examines the Benefits of Online Reviews to Planning Research

Online reviews aren't representative of overall neighborhood populations, but they can reveal data that otherwise might go unnoticed during research phases of planning processes.

March 13, 2019, 6:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Public Meeting

David Jackmanson / Flickr

Charlotte Hsu shares new research that makes the case for allowing space for online reviews in planning processes.

Every day, people share a dizzying amount of information about local communities online. They talk about whether their neighbors are friendly, how well the buses run, what kinds of restaurants are in an area, and much, much more.

A new study by University at Buffalo researcher Yingjie Hu shows how we can sort through this vast trove of digital data to improve cities and people's quality of life.

The study, published by the Annals of the American Association of Geographers, posts on the site Niche.com to search for insights about public opinion.

"The goal was to efficiently sort through thousands of opinions to learn about people's perceptions of their communities," explains Hsu. "The study combined spatial analysis, machine learning and natural language processing techniques to identify features of neighborhoods that people talked about online, and what reviewers' general feelings were about those attributes."

So, can online reviews help planners spot insights into public opinion they might otherwise miss? According to researchers, data harvesting can complement traditional methods of public engagement and research.

Monday, March 11, 2019 in PhysOrg

Indian Trail, North Carolina

Four ‘Low-Hanging Fruit’ Zoning Reforms

An excerpt from the latest book on zoning argues for four approaches to reform that can immediately improve land use regulation in the United States.

June 26, 2022 - M. Nolan Gray

Car Traffic

San Francisco Just Ended Single-Family Zoning

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to Tuesday to eliminate single-family zoning, but pro-development advocates say additional changes are needed to unleash a wave of construction.

June 29, 2022 - San Francisco Chronicle

A Gold Line AnsaldoBreda P2550 train enters Mission Station in South Pasadena on February 25, 2012.

Land Banking to Prevent Transit-Oriented Displacement in Los Angeles

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) will implement a new land banking program to mitigate gentrification and displacement around future transit lines.

June 28, 2022 - Los Angeles Daily News

View looking down on construction of multiple buildings in San Francisco's Transbay Transit Center District

San Francisco to Reconsider Inclusionary Zoning as Development Slows to a Crawl

Critics of inclusionary zoning frequently point to San Francisco as an example of what not to do. A sluggish year of development has some local politicians ready to reconsider the city’s program.

July 4 - San Francisco Chronicle

110-10 Interchange

California Senate Committee Kills Freeway Expansion Bill

The proposed legislation would have prohibited new construction in historically underserved areas that often bear the burnt of the negative impacts of freeways.

July 4 - Streetsblog California

Person standing under sign that says "Moab Made" in downtown Moab, Utah.

Initiative Brings Capacity Building to Booming Rural Towns

A research and capacity building initiative based at Utah State University seeks to help fast-growing tourist meccas in the West plan for smart growth.

July 4 - High Country News

New Updates on The Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

International Real Estate Strategies and Deal Negotiation

Harvard Graduate School of Design Executive Education

Affordable Housing: Principles for Changing Domestic and Global Markets

Harvard Graduate School of Design Executive Education

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Hand Drawing Master Plans

This course aims to provide an introduction into Urban Design Sketching focused on how to hand draw master plans using a mix of colored markers.