Urban Analysis in the Digital Age

We built this city on… the Urban Network Analysis Tool.

Over the next 50 years, 2.5 billion more humans will arrive on our planet. Ensuring we all have a place to live, let alone thrive, is no small task. The City Form Lab at MIT  launched a tool that transforms our ability to improve the lives of city dwellers. 

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The Urban Network Analysis Tool empowers city planners by organizing enormous amounts of data too vast and complex for human calculation. Built to function “on top” of geographic information system (GIS) platforms, the sophisticated statistics allow planners to optimize city living for all residents, regardless of age, economic status, or style of dwelling.

To address questions, like where a new business should best be located, or, what kind of traffic upgrades are required in a specific area, humans used to rely on sets of data collected through multiple platforms and analyzed with minimal digital help. Now, the UNA tool displays instant interactive map-overlays with functions such as:

Reach — which characterizes the number of destinations reachable from any location within a given radius
Closeness — which adds up travel costs from one destination to another
Betweenness — which estimates how “in between” a location is from one destination to another
Redundancy/way-finding — which ensures traffic flows logically and seamlessly through busy streets at all times of day

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The real-life implications this tool provides far outstrip that of previous city planning technology.  Planners will be able to connect communities with jobs, and businesses with consumers. They will maximize transit while minimizing transportation hazards, and challenges. They will know, right away, what kind of growth is not only possible, but optimal within certain spaces. With UNA, planners will learn about how people live within different spheres of amenities and resources, like never before. In the words of MIT, this tool marks a critical step in understanding “how we shape our cities, and how they, in turn, shape us.”

To learn more about the Urban Network Analysis Tool, visit City Form Lab

Published
May 25th, 2017
Updated: September 18th, 2017


The generation of sophisticated statistics allows planners to optimize city living for all residents.


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