Improving Urban Mobility by Understanding its Complexity

What makes mobility complex is that it is full of interactions. Interactions between pedestrians, between cars, between buses, between trains, between vehicles and infrastructure. In any mobility system, each component cannot be studied in isolation, as its future is partly but strongly determined by its interactions with other components and its environment. These interactions make it difficult to separate the components of a complex system. Traditional scientific and engineering methods rely on separability, and thus we need to use novel approaches. If we cannot study components individually, we need to model at the same time two levels of abstraction: the component level and the system level. We must understand how interactions between components give rise to system properties, and also how system properties constrain and promote behaviors and states of the components. Computer simulations have been the ideal tool for this, to the point that they have been compared with microscopes or telescopes which allow us to explore the microworld and the macroworld. Computer simulations allow us to explore the complex world.


Posted in Complexity, Urban mobility | Tagged ,

Self-organizing urban transportation systems

Urban transportation is a complex phenomenon. Since many agents are constantly interacting in parallel, it is difficult to predict the future state of a transportation system. Because of this, optimization techniques tend to give obsolete solutions, as the problem changes before it can be optimized. An alternative lies in seeking adaptive solutions. This adaptation can be achieved with self-organization. In a self-organizing transportation system, the elements of the system follow local rules to achieve a global solution. Like this, when the problem changes the system can adapt by itself to the new configuration.

In this chapter, I will review recent, current, and future work on self-organizing transportation systems. Self-organizing traffic lights have proven to improve traffic flow considerably over traditional methods. In public transportation systems, simple rules are being explored to prevent the \equal headway instability” phenomenon. The methods we have used can be also applied to other urban transportation systems and their generality is discussed.


Posted in Cities, Self-organization, Self-organized systems, Transport, Urban | Tagged , , , ,

Adaptive Cities: A Cybernetic Perspective on Urban System

Cities are changing constantly. All urban systems face different conditions from day to day. Even when averaged regularities can be found, urban systems will be more client if they can adapt to changes at the same speeds at which these occur. Technology can assist humans in achieving this adaptation. Inspired by cybernetics, we propose a description of cities as adaptive systems. We identify three main components: information, algorithms, and agents, which we illustrate with current and future examples. The implications of adaptive cities are manifold, with direct impacts on mobility, sustainability, resilience, governance, and society. Still, the potential of adaptive cities will not depend so much on technology as on how we use it.


Posted in Cities, Urban system | Tagged ,

The Creative City: A Toolkit for Urban Innovators

The Creative City describes a new method of strategic urban planning and examines how people can think, plan and act creatively in the city. It explores how we can make our cities more liveable and vital by harnessing people’s imagination and talent. It does not provide definite answers, but seeks to open out an ‘ideas bank’ of possibilities from which innovations will emerge. Most of us sense that where we live could be a better place. Many of us know of places that show how cities can be made more human and more productive. Yet cities balance on a cusp – decision-makers can repeat past policies in a climate of slow decline, or they can seek to reinvent their city as a vibrant hub of creativity, potential and improving quality of life. Undoubtably, for the most part, old approaches do not work. We cannot solve 21st-century problems with 19th-century mindsets: the dynamics of cities and the world urban system have changed too dramatically.


Posted in Cities, Creativity | Tagged ,

Thinking Cities in the Networked Society

The documentary ‘Thinking Cities’ deals with one of the most dramatic societal trends happening today: urbanization. The world population is expected to soar to more than 9 billion people by 2050, with roughly 70 percent living in cities. At the same time, Information Communications Technology (ICT) is extending its reach.

These parallel trends are intersecting at a time in which the world faces serious economic, environmental, and social challenges in achieving a more sustainable development. Thinking Cities explores the challenges and opportunities of urbanization in the Networked Society.


Read also: Networked Urbanism: Social Capital in the City

Posted in Cities, Networked society | Tagged ,

How to Bootstrap an Informal Local Economy

Today’s Resilient Community letter is from Marcus Wynne. He’s been on the road, looking at fiercely independent, rural communities across the US, to divine what makes them tick. In this dispatch, he digs into how an informal local economy gets started. It’s important to understand how these economies work. Why?There’s been an explosion in the use of community time banks, local currencies, and barter networks all across the US and EU. In some cases, like depression ravaged Spain and Greece, informal local economies are starting to displace the global financial economy. So, this dispatch is well worth the read. Hope you find it as useful as I did.


Posted in Community, Resilient community | Tagged ,

Having Less, Giving More: The Influence of Social Class on Prosocial Behavior

Lower social class (or socioeconomic status) is associated with fewer resources, greater exposure to threat, and a reduced sense of personal control. Given these life circumstances, one might  expect lower-class individuals to engage in less prosocial behavior, prioritizing self-interest over the welfare of others. We hypothesized, by contrast, that lower-class individuals orient to the welfare of others as a means to adapt to their more hostile environments, and that this orientation gives rise to greater prosocial behavior. Across four studies, lower-class individuals proved to be more generous (Study 1), charitable (Study 2), trusting (Study 3), and helpful (Study 4) compared to their upper-class counterparts. Mediator and moderator data showed that lower-class individuals acted in more prosocial fashion due to a greater commitment to egalitarian values and feelings of compassion. Implications for social class, prosocial behavior, and economic inequality are discussed.


Posted in compassion, generosity, prosocial behavior, social class, socioeconomic status | Tagged , , , ,

Ethnic Diversity and Social Trust: The Role of Exposure in the Micro-Context

In this paper, we argue that residential exposure to ethnic diversity reduces social trust. Previous within-country analyses of the relationship between contextual ethnic diversity and trust have been conducted at higher levels of aggregation, concealing substantial variation in actual exposure to ethnic diversity. In contrast, we analyze how the ethnic diversity of the immediate micro-context – where interethnic exposure is inevitable – affects trust. We do this using Danish survey data linked with register-based data, which enables us to obtain precise measures of the ethnic diversity of each individual’s residential surroundings. We focus on contextual diversity within a radius of 80 meters of a given individual but compare the effect in the micro-context to the impact of diversity in more aggregate contexts. The results show that ethnic diversity in the micro-context affects trust negatively, while the effect vanishes in larger contextual units. This supports the idea that interethnic exposure underlies the relationship.


Posted in ethnic diversity, Social trust | Tagged ,

People in more racially diverse neighborhoods are more prosocial.

Five studies tested the hypothesis that people living in more diverse neighborhoods would have more inclusive identities, and would thus be more prosocial. Study 1 found that people residing in more racially diverse metropolitan areas were more likely to tweet prosocial concepts in their everyday lives. Study 2 found that following the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, people in more racially diverse neighborhoods were more likely to spontaneously offer help to individuals stranded by the bombings. Study 3 found that people living in more ethnically diverse countries were more likely to report having helped a stranger in the past month. Providing evidence of the underlying mechanism, Study 4 found that people living in more racially diverse neighborhoods were more likely to identify with all of humanity, which explained their greater likelihood of having helped a stranger in the past month. Finally, providing causal evidence for the relationship between neighborhood diversity and prosociality, Study 5 found that people asked to imagine that they were living in a more racially diverse neighborhood were more willing to help others in need, and this effect was mediated by a broader identity. The studies identify a novel mechanism through which exposure to diversity can influence people, and document a novel consequence of this mechanism.


Posted in Diversity, Neighborhoods, Race | Tagged , ,

Socio-Technical Systems for Connecting Social Knowledge and the Governance of Urban Action

This paper seeks to expand our focus to understand how communities can assemble and manage knowledge to support more rational decisions regarding government services and actions in the community environment. We focus on the knowledge transfer interface between communities and urban councils, with a view to extending theoretical understanding of such transfers, and the socio-technical knowledge support systems interfacing between action groups and councils.


Posted in Social knowledge, Socio-technical systems | Tagged ,