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MIT's open-sourced urban design tool will help build smarter cities

If we're going to build smarter cities in a rapidly urbanizing world, we need to quickly understand the urban environment before we start building, not after. A new free tool from MIT is making that easier.
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Written by Tyler Falk, Contributing Editor on

If we're going to build smarter cities in a rapidly urbanizing world, we need to quickly understand the urban environment before we start building, not after.

City Form Research Group at MIT is making that easier with the only free tool available to help urban planners understand spatial patterns in cities and how those patterns affect the people who live there.

The Urban Network Analysis tool measures "reach, gravity, betweenness, closeness, and straightness" of cities.

“The Reach measure, for instance, can be used to estimate how many destinations of a particular type — buildings, residents, jobs, transit stations etc. — can be reached within a given walking radius from each building along the actual circulation routes in the area,” said Michael Mekonnen, a course six sophomore who worked on the project. “The Betweenness measure, on the other hand, can be used to quantify the number of potential passersby at each building.”

Basically, the tool can help show how many amenities and services are within a certain walking distance; how busy a certain corridor is with street or foot traffic; or how close people are to jobs.

The impact of this tool might help our cities grow in ways that make our jobs, shops, and other urban places closer to people. We can make our cities with less sprawl and more compact development in places that make sense for the city.

The map above shows the "reach" to jobs in Cambridge and Somerville, Mass. The red areas are closer to jobs and green is further from jobs. With this data quickly and easily available, city planners can make better decisions about where to put new transit lines or bike lanes.

When we can see how growth in our cities affects the whole urban environment we can build smarter cities.

Download the toolbox here. And if you try it out let us know tell us about it in the comments below.

Photo: MIT

[h/t Fast Company]

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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