Recent urban growth in the UK has further emphasised the role of cities in influencing economic prosperity, quality of life and sustainability. If we are to meet 21st century social and economic challenges then we need to plan and run our cities better. Data analysis can play a useful role in this task by helping understand current patterns and trends, and identifying successful cities for sharing best practice.
LuminoCity3D.org is a mapping platform designed to explore the performance and dynamics of cities in Great Britain. The site brings together a wide range of key city indicators, including population, growth, housing, travel behaviour, employment, business location and energy use. These indicators are mapped using a new 3D grid-based approach that allows consistent comparisons between urban areas to be made, and relationships between urban form and city performance to be identified (technical details are provided here). Press coverage of LuminoCity3D has included Londonist, Wired.co.uk, Independent Online and Guardian Cities.
Taking for example employment density change in northern English cities as shown below. Current growth is mainly in ‘knowledge-economy’ services that generally favour being clustered together in city centres, generally reinforcing a select few larger centres rather than many smaller centres. There is clear growth in Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool city centres, particularly Manchester which displays the biggest increase in employment density of any location in GB. But around these success stories there is a much more mixed picture of growth and decline for many other centres that are finding it more difficult to compete for firms and jobs.
Interactive City Statistics
City statistics are available to make more precise comparisons between urban areas. Statistics can be viewed on LuminoCity3D.org by moving your mouse pointer over a city of interest, or by hovering/clicking on the GB Overview Chart at the bottom left of the screen. The graphs and statistics change depending on the map indicator selected, so that the LuminoCity maps and statistics are interactively integrated.
The example below shows public transport travel, a key sustainability indicator that also has important economic and equity implications. Greater London is by far the public transport centre of the UK with nearly 50% of commuting by public transport. Without the investment and historic advantages of London, city-regions like Manchester and Birmingham do not even manage 20% PT commuting. But we can see that it is not essential to be as gigantic as London to achieve more sustainable travel. Edinburgh, with a compact form and extensive publicly owned bus network, achieves 36% PT commuting.
The map indicators on LuminoCity3D.org are split into five themes- Population, Transport, Housing, Society and Economy- which are selected from the Indicators Selection box to the top right. Population covers resident and employment density; Transport looks at journey-to-work, accessibility and air-pollution; Housing covers house prices, types, tenure and household size; Society looks at various inequality measures; and finally Economy covers the distribution of growth industries such as ICT, creative industries and hi-tech manufacturing.
Site design and cartography © Duncan A. Smith 2014.
Source data Crown © Office for National Statistics, National Records of Scotland, DEFRA, Land Registry, DfT and Ordnance Survey 2014.
All the datasets used are government open data. Websites such as LuminoCity would not be possible without recent open data initiatives and the release of considerable government data into the public domain. Links to the specific datasets used in each map are provided to the bottom right of the page under “Source Data”.