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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
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:
Tel 416-978-6251 or 416-287-7311
Fax 416-978-7162 or 416-287-7283