Planning the future of cities

Molly Wood Aug 15, 2011
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Planning the future of cities

Molly Wood Aug 15, 2011
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Let’s say you were planning the future of a city. You might take a look at what’s happening in schools or where transportation might be headed. You might try to project the future of traffic patterns or where a good place for a park might be.

A new software program from IBM called System Dynamics for Smarter Cities tries to combine all those factors and get a picture for how one area will affect another. It’s a complex series of algorithms informed by the data fed into it by a city planning office.

Naveen Lamba of IBM helped develop the system and says, “If you make a change to fare policy for transit or take away student subsidies in the transit system, that might make a financial impact for transit, but it might have a negative effect on students who need to drive. So that will cause more congestion and you’ll need more police on the roads. So (the program) creates linkage between various domains in a city. And in this case, we created 12 domains: transportation, public safety, environment, health care, etc. So any policy, major decision in any one of these domains, you see the positive or negative benefits within that domain, but also more importantly, how do other domains get affected?”

The system has been piloted in Portland, Ore., for the past year. Joe Zehnder is chief planner at the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability in Portland. He says it comes at a good time: “Most cities are facing constrained budgets. You’re trying to look at getting the most out of budget you have. If we can align those investments to accomplish more than one objective, you’re able to leverage your own resources better.”

He says he’s already seen some positive results. “In the past, we might have talked about having a walkable place as just better and more livable. If you break it down, a more walkable neighborhood from the model showed us that it can have an impact on improving human health and it can increase the utilization of bicycles and other transportation, and can reduce carbon emissions, reducing how much people drive and increasing transit use.”

Also on today’s program, YouTube has a new Johnny Carson channel. It’s a great place to relive some of Johnny’s finest moments in the time before Jay Leno.

As a nonprofit news organization, our future depends on listeners like you who believe in the power of public service journalism.

Your investment in Marketplace helps us remain paywall-free and ensures everyone has access to trustworthy, unbiased news and information, regardless of their ability to pay.

Donate today — in any amount — to become a Marketplace Investor. Now more than ever, your commitment makes a difference.