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OpenStreetCab: Exploiting Taxi Mobility Patterns in New York City to Reduce Commuter Costs

March 29, 2015 Comments off

OpenStreetCab: Exploiting Taxi Mobility Patterns in New York City to Reduce Commuter Costs
Source: arXiv.org

The rise of Uber as the global alternative taxi operator has attracted a lot of interest recently. Aside from the media headlines which discuss the new phenomenon, e.g. on how it has disrupted the traditional transportation industry, policy makers, economists, citizens and scientists have engaged in a discussion that is centred around the means to integrate the new generation of the sharing economy services in urban ecosystems. In this work, we aim to shed new light on the discussion, by taking advantage of a publicly available longitudinal dataset that describes the mobility of yellow taxis in New York City. In addition to movement, this data contains information on the fares paid by the taxi customers for each trip. As a result we are given the opportunity to provide a first head to head comparison between the iconic yellow taxi and its modern competitor, Uber, in one of the world’s largest metropolitan centres. We identify situations when Uber X, the cheapest version of the Uber taxi service, tends to be more expensive than yellow taxis for the same journey. We also demonstrate how Uber’s economic model effectively takes advantage of well known patterns in human movement. Finally, we take our analysis a step further by proposing a new mobile application that compares taxi prices in the city to facilitate traveller’s taxi choices, hoping to ultimately to lead to a reduction of commuter costs. Our study provides a case on how big datasets that become public can improve urban services for consumers by offering the opportunity for transparency in economic sectors that lack up to date regulations.

The growing distance between people and jobs in metropolitan America

March 26, 2015 Comments off

The growing distance between people and jobs in metropolitan America
Source: Brookings Institution

Proximity to employment can influence a range of economic and social outcomes, from local fiscal health to the employment prospects of residents, particularly low-income and minority workers. An analysis of private-sector employment and demographic data at the census tract level reveals that:

Between 2000 and 2012, the number of jobs within the typical commute distance for residents in a major metro area fell by 7 percent.

As employment suburbanized, the number of jobs near both the typical city and suburban resident fell.

As poor and minority residents shifted toward suburbs in the 2000s, their proximity to jobs fell more than for non-poor and white residents.

Residents of high-poverty and majority-minority neighborhoods experienced particularly pronounced declines in job proximity.

Solar panels reduce both global warming and urban heat island

March 24, 2015 Comments off

Solar panels reduce both global warming and urban heat island
Source: Frontiers in Environmental Science

The production of solar energy in cities is clearly a way to diminish our dependency to fossil fuels, and is a good way to mitigate global warming by lowering the emission of greenhouse gases. However, what are the impacts of solar panels locally? To evaluate their influence on urban weather, it is necessary to parameterize their effects within the surface schemes that are coupled to atmospheric models. The present paper presents a way to implement solar panels in the Town Energy Balance scheme, taking account of the energy production (for thermal and photovoltaic panels), the impact on the building below and feedback toward the urban micro-climate through radiative and convective fluxes. A scenario of large but realistic deployment of solar panels on the Paris metropolitan area is then simulated. It is shown that solar panels, by shading the roofs, slightly increases the need for domestic heating (3%). In summer, however, the solar panels reduce the energy needed for air-conditioning (by 12%) and also the Urban Heat Island (UHI): 0.2 K by day and up to 0.3 K at night. These impacts are larger than those found in previous works, because of the use of thermal panels (that are more efficient than photovoltaic panels) and the geographical position of Paris, which is relatively far from the sea. This means that it is not influenced by sea breezes, and hence that its UHI is stronger than for a coastal city of the same size. But this also means that local adaptation strategies aiming to decrease the UHI will have more potent effects. In summary, the deployment of solar panels is good both globally, to produce renewable energy (and hence to limit the warming of the climate) and locally, to decrease the UHI, especially in summer, when it can constitute a health threat.

Comparing LGBT Rankings by Metro Area: 1990-2014

March 24, 2015 Comments off

Comparing LGBT Rankings by Metro Area: 1990-2014
Source: Williams Institute (UCLA School of Law)

For two decades, San Francisco, Austin and Seattle residents have been among the most likely in the country to report that they are part of a same-sex couple or are LGBT. But growing social acceptance of LGBT people, even in conservative Utah, may explain why Salt Lake City now ranks among metro areas with the highest proportion of residents who identify as LGBT.

This report analyzes data from a Gallup ranking of the 50 most populous U.S. metropolitan areas based on their percentage of residents who identified as LGBT in surveys conducted from 2012 to 2014 and 1990 Census data to rank the same metro areas by the number of same-sex couples per 1,000 households.

San Francisco, Austin and Seattle came in the top five on both rankings. Salt Lake City ranked 39th for its proportion of same-sex couples in 1990, and now ranks 7th in the proportion of LGBT adults today.

FCC Finds U.S. Broadband Deployment Not Keeping Pace

March 23, 2015 Comments off

FCC Finds U.S. Broadband Deployment Not Keeping Pace
Source: Federal Communications Commission

Broadband deployment in the United States – especially in rural areas – is failing to keep pace with today’s advanced, high-quality voice, data, graphics and video offerings, according to the 2015 Broadband Progress Report adopted today by the Federal Communications Commission. Reflecting advances in technology, market offerings by broadband providers and consumer demand, the FCC updated its broadband benchmark speeds to 25 megabits per second (Mbps) for downloads and 3 Mbps for uploads. The 4 Mbps/1 Mbps standard set in 2010 is dated and inadequate for evaluating whether advanced broadband is being deployed to all Americans in a timely way, the FCC found. Using this updated service benchmark, the 2015 report finds that 55 million Americans – 17 percent of the population – lack access to advanced broadband. Moreover, a significant digital divide remains between urban and rural America: Over half of all rural Americans lack access to 25 Mbps/3 Mbps service.

The divide is still greater on Tribal lands and in U.S. territories, where nearly 2/3 of residents lack access to today’s speeds. And 35 percent of schools across the nation still lack access to fiber networks capable of delivering the advanced broadband required to support today’s digital-learning tools. While significant progress in broadband deployment has been made, due in part to the Commission’s action to support broadband through its Universal Service programs, these advances are not occurring broadly enough or quickly enough, the report finds. The report concludes that more work needs to be done by the private and public sectors to expand robust broadband to all Americans in a timely way, and the accompanying Notice of Inquiry seeks comment on what additional steps the FCC can take to accelerate broadband deployment.

UK — A century of cities: urban economic change since 1911

March 17, 2015 Comments off

A century of cities: urban economic change since 1911
Source: Centre for Cities

Over the last 100 years all cities have been buffeted by the winds of economic change. Globalisation and technological change have meant that cities have had to adapt – both to continue to provide jobs and contribute to national economic growth. As more traditional industries have declined, the challenge for cities has been to encourage jobs growth in new areas of the economy.

Much of the work by Centre for Cities shows the varying performance of cities in the UK. But while this is seen across a range of economic indicators, there is less collective understanding as to how this variation came about and for how long it has persisted.

Using historical data on cities, this paper shows that some cities have been more successful than others at rising to this challenge. It looks at over 100 years of change in the urban areas of England and Wales, comparing cities in 1911 to their overall size and industrial make-up today. It also offers three principles that should guide policy that attempts to support city growth over the next 100 years.

A Profile of Immigrants in Houston, the Nation’s Most Diverse Metropolitan Area

March 12, 2015 Comments off

A Profile of Immigrants in Houston, the Nation’s Most Diverse Metropolitan Area
Source: Migration Policy Institute

Houston is the most diverse, rapidly growing major U.S. metropolitan area, and immigration has contributed greatly to its growth and diversity. In 2013 the Houston metro area was home to 6.3 million people, of whom 1.4 million were foreign born—an increase of nearly 60 percent from 2000, which is nearly twice the national growth rate. Its immigrant population ranked fifth largest among U.S. metropolitan areas and third in the numbers of Mexican, Vietnamese, and Honduran immigrants. By the time of the 2010 Census, Houston’s population did not have a majority racial or ethnic group: non-Hispanic whites represented 40 percent of the total population, Latinos 36 percent, Blacks 17 percent, and Asians 6 percent.

This report provides an overview of the demographic and socioeconomic characteristics of Houston’s immigrants, along with their naturalization rates, legal status, and potential eligibility for immigration benefits such as citizenship or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The report finds that Houston’s strong labor market and growing economy provide a solid foundation for the integration of immigrants and their children. At the same time, Houston has a relatively low-wage economy, and the low incomes of Houston’s immigrants—particularly Latinos—may present barriers to their integration and access to legal assistance, health care, and other needed services.

Using data from the American Community Survey (ACS), the authors tabulate numbers of immigrants potentially in need of community-based immigration assistance. The report finds that an estimated 350,000 legal permanent residents, most of them from Mexico and Central America, are eligible for naturalization but have not yet applied. In addition, nearly half of the metro area’s 400,000 unauthorized immigrants are potentially eligible for either DACA or the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program.

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