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Centre for Urban and
Community Studies
University of Toronto
455 Spadina Ave.
Suite 400
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
M5S 2G8

(416) 978-2072
(416) 978-7162


Cities Lab

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Urban Growth, Urban Structure, Neighbourhood Change

What is happening to our cities? Is congestion getting worse? Can sprawl be stopped? Can cities and neighbourhoods be made more livable and sustainable? Are the neighbourhoods of cities becoming more diverse or more segregated? With globalization, which cities are best able to compete and to grow? In terms of policies and prescriptions, what has been tried in various cities? Which policies have worked? Where? Why? How?

To answers such questions, we need models (theories) and data to validate them. However, data for just one city tell us little. We need similar data for many comparable cities to better recognize the differences that make one city more successful than others. In this sense, think of each city as a living social laboratory in which experiments in policy are constantly being undertaken. The purpose of the Cities Lab is to decipher causes and consequences in these experiments.

Until recently, such data were either not available or not manageable with given computing technologies. The most detailed data, for instance, has long been the Census. In Canada and the U.S., user summary tabulations have been available at the local level (Block Groups in the U.S., Enumeration Areas in Canada) for a couple of decades now. However, the Block Group file for the 1990 U.S. census exceeds 30 Gigabytes, which has prevented its widespread use until now. Further, there have been no attempts to integrate local area data for Canada and the United States (let alone Mexico), even though it is useful to compare large cities in Canada with their counterparts elsewhere in North America.

The purpose of the Cities Lab initiative is to assemble large amounts of comparable data on the many metropolitan regions and smaller urban places across North America and to use these data to evaluate theories and models that purport to explain urban growth and changes in urban structure. In the first phase, census data at the local level will be assembled for Canada, the U.S., and Mexico covering recent decades. All of these data will be geo-referenced to permit digital map analysis of urban spatial structure and neighbourhood change. Software will be written to permit flexible querying of these databases. The databases are to be accompanied by street network databases and a variety of digital remote sense imagery databases.

At the heart of the Cities Lab will be Unix-based servers dedicated to the assembly, editing, manipulation, display, and analysis of the database. These servers will make it possible for scholars from around the globe to have simultaneous access to the database, models, and other analytical tools.

Development of the Cities Lab has been supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the Data Library of the UofT, the Centre for Urban and Community Studies, and the Division of Social Sciences, UofT at Scarborough.

The co-ordinator of the Cities Lab is John R. Miron, Professor of Geography, UofT at Scarborough and Research Associate, Centre for Urban and Community Studies.

For further information:

John Miron
Tel 416-978-6251 or 416-287-7311
Fax 416-978-7162 or 416-287-7283

Childcare Research

Cities Lab

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