Urban research: The laws of the city – a deludge of data makes cities laboratories

The Economist, Jun 23rd 2012

… Better technology has turned cities into fountains of data that confirm known regularities and reveal striking new patterns. This could transform how cities are regarded, built and managed. Attempts to contain urban sprawl, long the prevailing paradigm of urban planning, for instance, could fall out of favour.  … This has triggered new research. For instance Geoffrey West and Luis Bettencourt, both of the Santa Fe Institute, found that cities scale much like organisms. Just as an elephant is, roughly speaking, a larger but more energy-efficient version of a gorilla, big cities are thrifty versions of small ones. For a metropolis twice the size of another, the length of electric cables, number of gas stations and other bits of infrastructure decrease by about 15% per inhabitant. But beasts do not enjoy the cities’ rising returns to scale. Income, patents, savings and other signs of wealth rise by around 15% when a city’s size doubles. In short, urbanites consume less but produce more. …

For full text of the article, visit Urban research: The laws of the city | The Economist.

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