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LimeWire's Mark Gorton Brings Open-Source To Urban Planning

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 5 years ago | from the place-2-place dept.

91

mytrip writes to tell us that Mark Gorton of LimeWire fame is translating his knowledge from moving bits to moving people. Taking profits earned from his software business, Gorton is applying them to projects aimed at making urban transportation safer, faster, and more sustainable. "That's not the only connection between open-source software and Gorton's vision for livable cities. The top-down culture of public planning stands to benefit by employing methods he's lifting from the world of open-source software: crowdsourced development, freely-accessible data libraries, and web forums, as well as actual open-source software with which city planners can map transportation designs to people's needs. Such modeling software and data existed in the past, but it was closed to citizens. Gorton's open-source model would have a positive impact on urban planning by opening up the process to a wider audience, says Thomas K. Wright, executive director of the Regional Plan Association, an organization that deals with urban planning issues in the New York metropolitan area."

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91 comments

Terrorism (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26671277)

Linux: A response to the perceived threat of a capitalistic monopoly.
Terrorism: A response to the perceived threat of a capitalist society.

Linux: Supported by a devout group of fanatics dedicated to the cause.
Terrorism: Supported by a devout group of fanatics dedicated to the cause.

Linux: Seen by the rest of the world as a "fringe" operating system.
Terrorism: Seen by the rest of the world as a "fringe" group.

Linux: Attractive to those looking to destroy Microsoft and the software industry.
Terrorism: Attractive to those looking to destroy the USA and the rest of the infidels.

Linux: Recruits loners and outcasts into its loyal user-base.
Terrorism: Recruits loners and outcasts into its training camps.

Linux: Drew vast amounts of funding from supporters, with only ideological returns.
Terrorism: Drew vast amounts of funding from supporters, with only ideological returns.

Re:Terrorism (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26671635)

This logic is without flaw; I forfeit the argument.

Re:Terrorism (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26673209)

Linux car bombs are pretty tough to do right though due to the lack of drivers.

Re:Terrorism (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26674501)

That's why it's more secure.

Sounds like... (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26671279)

Sounds like a socialist hell hole.

Re:Sounds like... (2, Funny)

jd (1658) | more than 5 years ago | (#26671419)

Better than a capitalist hell hole. Socialist hell holes are more equitable between demons and tortured souls.

Re:Sounds like... (4, Interesting)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 5 years ago | (#26671461)

Urban planning can be good and bad. Certainly Central Park is a win, but highways largely suck when they are run through existing cities. New York's mass transit is a combination of free market and planned routes...

Personally, one of my favorite little projects that demonstrates how a lack of planning is sometimes best is at University of Maryland. They have this center mall. Basically, the kept having to re-sod it because no one would stay on the paths. During a renovation it occurred to them to just pave the deer-paths... it looks crazy but now they don't have the same sod problems.

Re:Sounds like... (1)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 5 years ago | (#26671631)

Is this the park [google.com] you speak of? It looks like they just paved most of the mall leaving room around a few trees, rather than a deer path type thing.

Re:Sounds like... (2, Interesting)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 5 years ago | (#26671813)

Bah, try this link instead [google.com].

Re:Sounds like... (1)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 5 years ago | (#26672313)

My apologies, thanks for the link :) Much more understandable now. I haven't spend much time in Baltimore, so I was just going with what Google found.

Re:Sounds like... (1)

pete-classic (75983) | more than 5 years ago | (#26672421)

Nice. I looked up University of Maryland on Google maps and couldn't figure out what the parent was talking about.

-Peter

Re:Sounds like... (1)

Chibi (232518) | more than 5 years ago | (#26671703)

Urban planning can be good and bad. Certainly Central Park is a win, but highways largely suck when they are run through existing cities.

What is the alternative, though? If you have the highways avoid the major city area, you are just adding more local traffic as people try to get to and from the highway.

You mention the University of Maryland. Are you near DC or Baltimore? The beltways always confused me. Since the highways were never straight (they were big circles around the cities), you couldn't really go directly anywhere. You always had to go around the beltway to get anywhere, which probably increased total distance driven. And it's debatable if there's any traffic benefit, as traffic in the DC area is probably some of the worst in the country.

Re:Sounds like... (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 5 years ago | (#26671901)

What is the alternative, though? If you have the highways avoid the major city area, you are just adding more local traffic as people try to get to and from the highway.

Well, Manhattan hasn't suffered THAT much for lack of any central highways. Personally I think it improves the standard of living and discourages car ownership... both worthy goals.

You mention the University of Maryland. Are you near DC or Baltimore?

I have family and friends there, but no... I visited the U of M when I was looking for colleges in the early 90s, and they were very proud of their newly renovated mall.

For the record, the beltway makes me want to curl up in a ball and die. Boston, Philly, New York... none of them can hold a candle to the crazy ass drivers circling DC. They must offer a degree in pointless swerving and weaving. In 30 minutes of traffic I'll see those aggressive drivers get maybe 30 seconds ahead of me - really amazing.

But they do have highways through town... it's just that 29 going north is not a highway and it becomes a nightmare. But you can come into town on a highway from the south, northeast, or from the west.

Re:Sounds like... (1)

mrsquid0 (1335303) | more than 5 years ago | (#26672061)

The problem with driving in DC is that everybody thinks that the fate of the free world depends on them getting to wherever they are goin, and they drive accordingly. Of all the places that I have lived DC has the scariest drivers. And most of them think that they are better drivers than people in other cities. The crash statistics discredit that idea though.

Removal of People (1)

mfh (56) | more than 5 years ago | (#26671781)

Building a city flow is very different than building data flow.

The number one difference is that cities take pride in their monuments and historical buildings, which tend to become the source of traffic bottlenecks. It would be best if our cities could move with traffic demand, and scale with traffic demand. But currently that is impossible.

Re:Removal of People (2, Insightful)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 5 years ago | (#26671935)

I prefer to discourage car use if possible. The roads need to be big enough to handle taxis, buses, deliveries, emergency crews, trash, etc... personal cars should be last on priority and limited when possible. Of course this means leaving provisions for mass transit, even if they are not actively planned.

Re:Removal of People (3, Interesting)

Ironica (124657) | more than 5 years ago | (#26672739)

Building a city flow is very different than building data flow.

The number one difference is that cities take pride in their monuments and historical buildings, which tend to become the source of traffic bottlenecks. It would be best if our cities could move with traffic demand, and scale with traffic demand. But currently that is impossible.

Actually, the number one difference is that in road traffic, the packets can think, and decide that they're more clever about which route to take than the information available.

For example, for years and years now, there have been live signal systems that are capable of gathering traffic data and making realtime adjustments to signal timing to optimize flow. But they don't do that; instead, they use the traffic data to make changes to the established timing, but keep it basically the same from one day to the next. Why? Because if a person hits the same light at about the same time every day, and *sometimes* it's a short red and *sometimes* it's a long red, their frustration increases, and they're more likely to run the light if it's "taking too long."

Packets will patiently wait their turn, "trusting" the system to do things right. People, not so much.

Re:Sounds like... (3, Insightful)

Ironica (124657) | more than 5 years ago | (#26672109)

Urban planning can be good and bad. Certainly Central Park is a win, but highways largely suck when they are run through existing cities. New York's mass transit is a combination of free market and planned routes...

The reason why highways and cities seem to clash so violently has to do with how the routes were "planned," or actually, that they were not really planned at all.

The US Highway Plan went through three phases. The first time, it was going to be a smaller network of mostly toll roads. With each phase, the number of miles grew, and the tolls lowered, until the 1956 plan had a large network of free roads. Each iteration was an attempt to address objections of Congresscritters.

But the last plan, when it was first introduced, left the major urban areas blank on the proposed map. The Federal highway planners thought, strangely enough, that the urban routes should be planned at the local level, based on local knowledge and needs.

What Congressional representatives saw, though, was a bunch of rural roads and "nothing" for their cities. They didn't want to vote for a plan that left them off the map.

So... the Feds drew in lines in the cities, and the routes were now a matter of Federal law, whether they "worked" or not. :-/

Personally, one of my favorite little projects that demonstrates how a lack of planning is sometimes best is at University of Maryland. They have this center mall. Basically, the kept having to re-sod it because no one would stay on the paths. During a renovation it occurred to them to just pave the deer-paths... it looks crazy but now they don't have the same sod problems.

This illustrates a really general principle of usability, though. Any system or resource has to account for how it will be used. If it doesn't, then it will be misused. This is not just a feature of urban planning, but of computer software, library books, school desks... anything you can name. If you supply a classroom with only right-handed half-desks, and the chairs are movable, then left-handed students will probably pick up their desks and turn them sideways. If you make it require five clicks to log your input correctly, but you can do it "wrong" in only three, it's going to be done wrong over and over again. And so on.

Re:Sounds like... (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 5 years ago | (#26672277)

What Congressional representatives saw, though, was a bunch of rural roads and "nothing" for their cities. They didn't want to vote for a plan that left them off the map.

I don't think that this is universally true, though. For instance, here in NYC Robert Moses had a lot of pull regarding highway placement... to the detriment of entire neighborhoods. Now I'm not one of those that claims that the problems of the Bronx are due to Mr. Moses, but I will claim that most of NYC would be better off without Mr. Moses's handiwork. I'd rather have a waterfront park on the East River than FDR drive, and it's hard to see how the BQE improves Brooklyn.

Re:Sounds like... (1)

supernova_hq (1014429) | more than 5 years ago | (#26672129)

I go to BCIT, and I wish they would do that same. All their paths go around medium-sized grassy areas that just end up being mud-pits during the spring. Glad to see somebody clued in...

Maryland campus (1)

golodh (893453) | more than 5 years ago | (#26683385)

Well ... whilst the examples of footpaths on Maryland campus was a success, it really doesn't prove anything about urban planning.

Here's why: The paths there are not for motor vehicles but for pedestrians. Now pedestrians really don't *need* any paths. To them paths are an optional extra so to speak, because they are free to choose their own route through a 2-D piece of grassland that's otherwise empty. So there are no obstacles that must be avoided and no constraints that must be heeded. In addition, pedestrians very seldom need traffic control, and then only at very high densities and usually in confined areas. They also need no rules of precedence, and no safety features whatsoever. Paths also come at zero cost. So what pedestrians will do is to pick routes that minimize their walking distance and perhaps some other things. Just like the boundaries of soap bubbles the resulting paths are anything but straight.

So ... this case is absolutely loaded with positive factors in the form of lack of constraints, absence of the need for safety considerations, lack of costs for change etc. And yes, in such a situation you can't do better than just let people pick their own routes and pave the tracks they create.

All those who feel that there might be something in doing away with Urban Planning and letting "freedom" reign might do well to realize that urban sprawl which is so prevalent in US cities (and which is a direct result of a lack of urban planning) is what's causing our traffic congestion in the first place.

It does that in three ways. First off, it ensures that population density is so low that you can't run fine-meshed public transport services without incurring a huge loss. Traffic flows are just too thin. So you either have poor service or huge expenses (read subsidies).

Secondly it creates travel distances well in excess of what you can walk, so that it's motorized transport or nothing. Cycling is often not an option due to climate factors factors alone (cold winters, hot summers), and quite without considerations such as safety (no cycle lanes and lots of dangerous traffic (cars)) and security (you're easier to mug on a bicycle than in a car or a bus).

Thirdly it makes for road networks where arteries have to take the load from a huge area that's shot through with secondary roads and then carry that load to the central business district and industrial areas where it's concentrated both in space and in time (because everyone needs to come in at work at the same place and during a fairly narrow time window).

If urban planning sometimes has a bad reputation, perhaps that's because it has to work with cities as they are now (and have developed organically (read: without planning)) and perhaps steer their development just a little bit, politics allowing. You are only very rarely able to design something from scratch. And when you do, the design is usually ok, but soon superseded by development activity in all places where no such activity was foreseen (or where it was planned that new development would be prohibited).

Re:Maryland campus (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 5 years ago | (#26686667)

Well ... whilst the examples of footpaths on Maryland campus was a success, it really doesn't prove anything about urban planning.

I think the lesson to be learned from the U of M footpaths isn't so much "don't plan". I think that what needs to be done is study why people chose those routes. Then, when it comes time to plan something, you can layout the buildings and roads/paths in such a way that you are more correct with the initial setup, since correcting things after the fact is always more expensive.

I think that urban planning is absolutely necessary on some level, but disagree that it's absence is responsible for traffic - at least not entirely. If New York City were designed around the automobile, it would be able to have anywhere near the population density it has now, and the public transit system would loose even MORE money than it does already. My opinion is that automobiles are something to limit during planning, and I support measures such as congestion pricing to discourage their use. I don't think you can get density AND automobiles without doing something really really expensive like huge underground tunnels that hasn't been tried before. And even then, I'm confident that the demand would eventually outstrip the infrastructure.

New York, Chicago, and Philly are all examples of cities having - downtowns at least - which made extensive use of urban planning. In some cases not at the outset, but Chicago for instance had a nice "do over" fire :) I like all three of those cities downtown, and you don't need a car at all if you live downtown.

A counter-example is DC, which while planned had weird constraints that made the planning a bit, well, different. I mean, it was designed to be confusing! :)

Re:Sounds like... (1)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 5 years ago | (#26671479)

Yeah! Fuck society, I never liked people. The more people talk the more my image of 'capitalist' turns into some fat guy in a suit on a pile of money hissing at people and raking at their shins if they come close.

Re:Sounds like... (1)

FiloEleven (602040) | more than 5 years ago | (#26671897)

There are certainly some of those types out there, but their shrill voices make them appear a larger group than they truly are.

The root of capitalism is really nothing more than the belief that I know best how to spend my own money. If I am right then I should reap the benefits, and if I am wrong then I will suffer the consequences. Freedom and personal responsibility. That doesn't make me a greedy asshole, but neither does it prevent assholes from talking the same talk.

Take the A train (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26671337)

If you want to get infected with an infostealer trojan.

Re:Take the A train (2, Informative)

MacColossus (932054) | more than 5 years ago | (#26671417)

Mod Parent up. I work in a college with vast amounts of students running Limewire on their personal machines. Have yet to see one without a virus or trojan. We provide Sophos antivirus for free. We require windows updates before they can join the campus wireless. we have crosstalk between machines on the LAN disabled so they can't automagicly infect each other as they did in the blaster and welchia days. It's all for not and worthless the minute Limewire is loaded. Good magic. At least with most bittorrent they stand a chance of being malware free.

Re:Take the A train (2, Insightful)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#26671551)

Strange how running LimeWire on Linux doesn't cause any of that.

skyscraperpage .... and the like (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26671359)

There's an active forum on skyscraperpage that loves watching urban development projects.

Since there's an OCD community for every field.....perhaps this can be used to draw on their contributive energy.

Taco: A cocksucker (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26671365)

I don't like the "new" slashdot look. Please revert to what it was last year.

Tx!

Urban Planning (1, Funny)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#26671389)

Isn't that term an oxymoron?

Re:Urban Planning (2, Informative)

jd (1658) | more than 5 years ago | (#26671663)

No, the Oxy Moron is the person who hires an urban planner.

Re:Urban Planning (1)

Indiana Joe (715695) | more than 5 years ago | (#26676629)

No, the Oxy Moron is the person who hires an urban planner.

No, the Oxy Moron is someone who does urban planning without hiring a trained urban planner. Most of the bad results you see are the result of letting other considerations (usually short-term financial or political) override livability.

(Disclaimer: I have an undergraduate degree in geography, specializing in urban and regional planning. However, I am not a certified urban planner.)

Awesome (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26671397)

This means the bus will go straight to a coffee place then go to university. It will leave every 3minutes and there will be no other buses. There will be a bus once a week to go to game, computer and comic stores. When the school year ends as I no longer have the need to leave the warmth of my computer there will only be the weekly shopping bus.
 
For some reason I get the idea that having the world controlled by open source coding types isn't perfectly fair. I don't know what that could be about. Oh well. I'm glad they installed outlets in every park bench.

We already have a George (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26671433)

He's an architect.

Grues (0, Offtopic)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 5 years ago | (#26671441)

I have my light on and I have matches but my posts seem to get randomly eaten on /. lately. I'm not sure what to do. Is there some way I can be saved from this?

An interesting approach. (4, Interesting)

jd (1658) | more than 5 years ago | (#26671613)

Although I would quibble with some of the Prince of Wales' suggestions for urban villages, I think they would make for a sound footing for any kind of open source urban plan, even if they're sub-optimal. Sort of like POSIX is flawed as an OS specification, but starting from POSIX or using POSIX as a guide often produces better results (such as Linux) than starting completely from scratch (the way Windows has).

I would also point out that optimizing things for mass transit requires that the area in question actually supports meaningful mass transit. Most States either restrict it to a relatively insignificant area (eg: Portland OR's TriMet) or render what is supplied useless (never, ever take a bus in Norfolk, VA, unless you've got a week's supply of food).

I grew up with British Rail, Greater Manchester Transport and - when they finally appeared - Busy Bee Buses. As much as I had contempt for them - BR once excused their late trains on the wrong type of snow, and a single inspection one year failed over 30% of GMT's buses due to brake failure - the speeds, coverage and level of service would put any American mass transit system to shame.

Would I accept the UK's level of service in the US? It wold be infinitely better, but I wouldn't regard it with any less contempt. You don't have to go far to be infinitely better than zero. It would need to be vastly more reliable and vastly more dependable and have superior coverage.

(When you look at the disused stations and abandoned rail lines in the UK, you can get a better feel for what I consider to be an acceptable level of coverage. It must be possible to dispense with cars for the majority of the needs of the majority of the people, or it's insufficient to fix the root problems and will merely delay the inevitable.)

One question (1)

Jeff Hornby (211519) | more than 5 years ago | (#26671623)

Do you really want to live in a city designed by a bunch of fifteen year olds whose idea of a great city is lifted from World of Warcraft?

Re:One question (1)

Chabo (880571) | more than 5 years ago | (#26671771)

Implement a device that allows people to walk through each other. Problem solved.

Re:One question (4, Funny)

Ironica (124657) | more than 5 years ago | (#26672159)

Do you really want to live in a city designed by a bunch of fifteen year olds whose idea of a great city is lifted from World of Warcraft?

I've always wished the Los Angeles Basin were encircled with a trench full of molten lava.

Re:One question (1)

nschubach (922175) | more than 5 years ago | (#26672437)

We'd just need the fault line to open a bit more. Then you can have all the molten lava you want.

Re:One question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26672749)

Good, Those hours practicing what do to if the floor is made of lava will finally pay off, I can't wait for the people that laughed to come back begging for tips.

Re:One question (1)

mysticalreaper (93971) | more than 5 years ago | (#26674185)

You're right, it's impossible. Let's look at some examples.

Could a 15 year old geeks make a good operating system? They did, and it's one of the best in the world? Huh.

What about an encyclopedia, that's way too complex for a bunch of teenage volunteers to handle. What's that? It's better than anything else, and free as well?

But--but--my knee-jerk, dismissive attitude towards new ideas has always served me well, and I'm only 20!

Web 2.0 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26671633)

Please, stop using the term "crowdsourcing"; it makes you sound like a frothing idiot. This is the second time it's been on the front page today...

Sometimes, sometimes not... (2, Insightful)

rickb928 (945187) | more than 5 years ago | (#26671729)

Increasing the size of a basketball team from 5 to 40 would not make it a better game.

Even increasing the size of the court 5-8 times would not make it a better game.

Of course, increasing the maximum roster from 15 or so to say 40 might have beneficial impact. If you can get the benchwarmers to accept their roles as rarely playing. then you have to ask, what *is* their role?

TFA seems to imply that more people involved in the planning process is better. I doubt it much.

While it sounds all nice and open-source-cozy-and-warm, too many chefs spoil the soup. In the input end, more opinions, points of view, and unique ideas could yield some interesting options and maybe a new and better way. But as the planning process goes on, sooner or later decisions have to be made. The crowd is not necessarily better at making these decisions, nor does it make better decisions. Even the smaller group doesn't necessarily make better decisions when you increase the size of the group.

And opening up the planning process to all comers doesn't even guarantee you get good and talented people involved. You just get more. More is not always better. Knowing when it is and is not is key.

Some things might benefit, but the reality is that injecting an open-source solution into the urban planning process presupposes that urban planning is failing because of lack of involvement. Maybe it's failing because of acceptance. Or lack of adequate funding. Or a flawed vision.

Packing us into cities may be more effecient, but as a lifestyle it is not univerally admired.

Saying we should not be commuting so far to our jobs doesn't change the fact that many of us just don't want to live near where we work. And sometimes our jobs can't be relocated closer to our homes.

Way it is. Duh.

Re:Sometimes, sometimes not... (3, Insightful)

Ironica (124657) | more than 5 years ago | (#26672231)

While it sounds all nice and open-source-cozy-and-warm, too many chefs spoil the soup. In the input end, more opinions, points of view, and unique ideas could yield some interesting options and maybe a new and better way. But as the planning process goes on, sooner or later decisions have to be made. The crowd is not necessarily better at making these decisions, nor does it make better decisions. Even the smaller group doesn't necessarily make better decisions when you increase the size of the group.

And opening up the planning process to all comers doesn't even guarantee you get good and talented people involved. You just get more. More is not always better. Knowing when it is and is not is key.

But the fact is, by *law*, we already do have the planning process open to all comers. The issue is not whether there is an opening for public participation, but for how effective that mechanism can be to engender *true* public participation in the process.

Right now, those with the most resources can use those resources to tie up projects they don't personally like, while those without resources who might benefit from the same project are largely silent. If this software effort can level the playing field so that "all comers" can participate more equitably in the environmental clearance process (where "environmental" includes a variety of socio-demographic factors too, such as historical preservation and quality of life), it would be a great benefit (and maybe, just maybe, the 710 freeway [latimes.com] would finally get finished).

Re:Sometimes, sometimes not... (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#26672457)

Bringing more people in will, in many cases, be useless or counterproductive, tricky engineering problems are often best solved by smallish dedicated teams(or, for larger problems, divided into smaller units that can be solved by smallish dedicated teams). This isn't necessarily inimical to "the crowd" since, despite its name, a lot of "crowd" activity is the work of fairly small numbers of dedicated core people, with large numbers of minor contributors on top(think wikipedia or linux kernel: there are huge numbers of minor contributors, who do discrete bits; but far smaller numbers of serious core people).

The big value, as I see it, of all the fluffy web2.0-mashup-data-gizmo-widget stuff is not in "OMG crowdsourced design" but in transparency. As with anything where numerous, often conflicting, interests are at stake, Urban planning is vulnerable to corruption of various kinds. Greater transparency will make that easier to prevent, detect, reverse, and punish, as needed.

If information is buried in disorganized paper archives that I have to trek down to the city satellite municipal planning board storage office and request document number 145984-44D Annex 5 from an overworked and surly secretary, and pay strangely high copying fees to get, than I have to really care to get involved. In practice, I'll pretty much have to be a professional muckraker, or working for some competing interest, or just one hell of a concerned citizen in order to get anything useful. If the data are made available electronically, in a clean sensible fashion, then it will be much, much, easier for people to make sense of, and make use of, them. Being able to use standard data visualization and mining techniques, without needing an archivist, 3 lawyers, and an OCR team, would be a great boon to transparency.

zoning (2)

k1e0x (1040314) | more than 5 years ago | (#26672025)

Just get rid of the zoning laws so my work doesn't have to be 30 miles away from my house. Traffic problem solved.

Man I hate City Planners..

"Ohh no no no nooo citizen.. *THAT* does not go *THERE*. :snobbish laugh: You see it is only *I* who have been given the divine authority to plan this city, only *I* that has the wisdom to know where you should build your house! You wouldn't want some rabble present trying to build a.. :gasp: pig Farm next to your condo would you. (you interject something about land values and how pig farms would probbly choose cheap land..) YOU DISREGARD citizen such things! For it is *I* your majestic CITY PLANNER who decides these "land values" you speak of!"

Ya know.. When we decide to rid ourselves of 1/3 of our useless population.. these bastards should be first on the ship.

Re:zoning (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26672303)

You could easily remove all zoning ordinances (and do everything zoning ordinances are supposed to) by going to a pure land value tax, coupled with payment for all net societal costs. People sitting on vacant lots would be encouraged to develop them, or to transfer title to someone who would. Those whose activities lower the value of the surrounding land would pay higher taxes to compensate, while those who increase the value of the surrounding land -- say, by putting in a park -- could receive a portion of the increase as a rebate.

That way, people could put a pig farm next to a condo, but the pig farmer would pay for the decrease in land value to the community. The who thing would be self-organizing, without the need for zoning ordinances at all

Re:zoning (2, Insightful)

Ironica (124657) | more than 5 years ago | (#26672633)

You could easily remove all zoning ordinances (and do everything zoning ordinances are supposed to) by going to a pure land value tax, coupled with payment for all net societal costs.

That sounds like a fabulous idea, but I'm wondering how feasible it is to evaluate net societal costs? What about situations where some elements would see a particular development as a gain, while others see it as a loss? Do you just tally up the subjective dollar values each individual places on a particular development? If some judgments are weighted differently, how do you arbitrate that?

For example, if you live in a community that is largely young singles, but with a few families here and there. There's only one elementary school, because there's not that many children. Someone decides to open a 24-hour uh, "club" where people can meet up for uh, "private moments" or somesuch, right next door to the school. They want to serve alcohol at a communal bar, and offer private rooms for hourly rental. Maybe *most* of the community thinks this sounds like a GRAND idea, but the parents of the school kids are not so excited about it. They're in the minority, though. How do you calculate the social cost of this plan?

The who thing would be self-organizing, without the need for zoning ordinances at all

It would be an economic system of regulation rather than a command-and-control system, which I agree is usually more desirable... but it would hardly be "self-organizing." On the contrary, it would require an ENORMOUS amount of data collection and number crunching, with not a little subjective judgment, to create such a system.

Re:zoning (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26673409)

Bah, I'm at work, otherwise I could go into greater detail, but the answer is competitive bidding.

Let's say you have four plots of land -- A, B, C, D -- arranged in a square. A, B, and C are worth $10K a year, and D is undeveloped and $0K a year. A person wants to put a "gentleman's club" on the fourth plot. Each existing resident and the proposed proprietor of D bids an amount for the land value of their plot with and without the gentleman's club being built. Compare the value of A+B+C+D (with D=0) versus A1+B1+C1+D1. Continue bidding until the value converges on the true value, and choose the one that is the most valuable.

This ignores the value of improvements, of course, but it can be resolved in much the same way land is currently condemned to build roads and public buildings, assuming the return on land value taxes is sufficient.

Re:zoning (1)

vantar (1123257) | more than 5 years ago | (#26674061)

No, because at least when I was working with zoning ordinances, one of the important factors was fire risk and and no amount of land value has ever reduced a block's burn time. Making sure certain buildings and businesses can't get close has.

Re:zoning (1)

BorgHunter (685876) | more than 5 years ago | (#26672379)

Ya know.. When we decide to rid ourselves of 1/3 of our useless population.. these bastards should be first on the ship.

You forget. We're the descendants of the useless 1/3.

Re:zoning (1)

Ironica (124657) | more than 5 years ago | (#26672557)

That approach to Urban Planning was rampant in the 1960s and 70s, but has largely gone by the wayside today. Now, planners (and developers) want to see more mixed-use developments that put retail businesses, office space, and homes in communication with each other.

Ironically, it's the citizens who defend the outdated, inefficient approach to zoning; putting your office near your home would (he fears) lower your neighbor's home value, and so he fights it.

Not sure I want Limewire involved in that... (4, Funny)

Cathoderoytube (1088737) | more than 5 years ago | (#26672135)

Given the state of Limewire I'm not sure I'd want them involved in Urban planning.

'And over here we have the hot teenage girl has shaking orgasm memorial park, and across the way is wicked remix plaza, and 700 fake Main streets that give you cancer if you drive on them'

OpenGeo - a tool or a service? (1)

VirtualSquid (311810) | more than 5 years ago | (#26672207)

It's odd that the news in TFA is mainly about OpenGeo, but it doesn't link to http://opengeo.org/ [opengeo.org] The article says "using OpenGeo, an open-source visualization tool for GeoServer data", but OpenGeo's website says it's consulting and support services, not a tool. I suspect the journalist just got confused?

Re:OpenGeo - a tool or a service? (1)

Ironica (124657) | more than 5 years ago | (#26672683)

He's even more confused than that... while Esri makes the most popular commercial GIS software, the very same shapefiles can be used in GRASS, which is an open-source GIS package originally developed by the military and now maintained by the University of Michigan.

I'm actually ahead of the curve for once? (1)

Ironica (124657) | more than 5 years ago | (#26672249)

I had a sidebar on Open Source software in my comp exam for my Urban Planning degree in 2004. My assigned topic was to do a writeup on new technologies available for general-population paratransit implementations.

I think I need to send this link to my advisor...

Are you bloody nuts? (4, Interesting)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 5 years ago | (#26672543)

You want the same people who will be hopping around in their underwear, half-drunk, screaming at a television screen this sunday to be involved in how our roads are designed, our bus schedules, rail lines, and more? Allow me to interject some reality here -- there's a reason the public sector only allows people with the word "Engineer" in the job title to work on these projects. They cost millions, sometimes tens of millions of dollars, they effect millions of people, and a screw-up can cost lives or be a logistical nightmare for decades to come. Just think about your morning commute now, and then realize that this situation was created by some of the brightest and most educated minds we have in society today. These people model these problems on supercomputers, applying sophisticated algorithms and methodology that takes months, sometimes years, of slaving at a desk every day, 9 to 5, to effect a merely "acceptable" solution.

Of course, try telling this to the average driver and you're likely to get a string of obscenities and an "I could do better attitude." With all respect, no sir you cannot. Not anymore than how most of the population thinks they'd be a better president, or a better quarter back, or much of anything else. There are some classes of problems that cannot be solved by simply throwing more people at it. A thousand people working on a problem isn't necessarily likely to come up with a better solution than a hundred, or even ten people, working on the same problem. It's about suitable labor, which is a quality issue, not a quantity one.

You people should know better than to suggest this. I do not want Joe Average doing urban development, especially when he has enough trouble just getting through rush hour traffic without going postal on someone. And so we come to the part of the discussion where rationality ends and zealotry begins. There are some things that open source methodology will be suboptimal for. Specifically, things that require extreme specialization and/or have exacting standards generally won't have a healthy community of open source developers. There's only so many people in the world with the time, resources, and dedication to perform a given task, and open source development requires a certain critical mass to be reached to succeed.

Plot a supply and demand curve and if you find those people come at a very high cost any open source development will be labored and frustrated. All open source does is severely cut the labor cost. It does NOT solve the problem of lack of suitable labor resources. This is why open source excels at general purpose systems and applications. Open source is (as a rule) quite flexible. Which is also exactly why it's ill-suited for highly specialized systems with exacting standards -- there are few labor resources in the market to support it. Ergo, those resources are at a premium. Open Source as a broad concept takes under- or un-utilized labor and creates goods and services from it. You won't find much open source development from resources that are being heavily utilized. Or, in plain-english -- college students, the unemployed, part-time workers, etc. That is your labor capital for open source. Not the engineer making $150k a year designing fire-control systems under contract for the military. Chances are, the more established and well-paid you are in the field, the less likely you are to be investing in open source projects.

So there you have it. Before you hit reply, I just want to remind you that these are general statements, so before you present your edge case in some half-hearted attempt to prove the entire argument wrong, please consider the bigger picture.

Re:Are you bloody nuts? (1)

Ironica (124657) | more than 5 years ago | (#26673031)

You want the same people who will be hopping around in their underwear, half-drunk, screaming at a television screen this sunday to be involved in how our roads are designed, our bus schedules, rail lines, and more? Allow me to interject some reality here -- there's a reason the public sector only allows people with the word "Engineer" in the job title to work on these projects.

Yes, because now that Mozilla is open-source, NASCAR dads are committing changes to the project without oversight.

But seriously... first of all, while all Transportation Engineering is done by engineers, and a lot of Transportation Planning is also, there's also planners (like me) who came through MA programs. I'm not going to be doing the calculations to determine the asphalt crowning to meet up with the manhole cover (though I did actually take Transportation Engineering, and learned how those calculations are done, even though it wasn't required for my program), but I can develop a gravity model that postulates the impact of a new development on the surrounding traffic load, and suggest mitigations that will help the community absorb the new traffic without undue negative impact.

Joe the Plumber can't do that, of course... but maybe he can give me valuable information. And maybe the right software could make it easier for *him* to do some pre-analysis of his own, and put that information into a format that makes it more useful and more likely to have an impact on the final project.

Re:Are you bloody nuts? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26676673)

Though I have some doubts about this, it does seem likely that the people who will get involved will not be a direct cross-section of the population, but a somewhat more intelligent group who want to do this, and likely somewhat informed about transportation because otherwise why would they be interested?

One advantage over the engineers is that it may be able to overcome the political-correctness problem. Too many urban planners think public transportation is some sort of charity for poor people, rather than a solution to urban overcrowding. The public might point out that it is more important to run lines where people want to go, rather than somehow run lines to every poor neighborhood in the city. A popular public transit system would actually help the poor far more, anyway.

Re:Are you bloody nuts? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26677791)

You assume that your philosopher-kings have as their goal optimizing the collective good. In my experience, all this "study" is often used as a political bludgeon to keep other, better ideas out of the mainstream. Without the blessing of the modelling process - which the is NOT open to the public currently - better ideas never get a full & fair public vetting. Are they better or not? We'll never know because the transportation and planning gatekeepers won't do the math, and won't allow others to do the math either.

Re:Are you bloody nuts? (1)

Gregory Arenius (1105327) | more than 5 years ago | (#26678957)

"Just think about your morning commute now, and then realize that this situation was created by some of the brightest and most educated minds we have in society today. These people model these problems on supercomputers, applying sophisticated algorithms and methodology that takes months, sometimes years, of slaving at a desk every day, 9 to 5, to effect a merely "acceptable" solution."

I think you're vastly overestimating the efficiency and objectivity of the modern American planning process. There may in fact be engineers that can apply those types of algorithms and obtain these types of solutions but they have so little to do with the actual planning process as to be completely irrelevant. The planning process is all politics. It is also, at this point in time, completely opaque. The models that the planners use aren't published so they're able to have them produce whichever results are convenient.

Say there are two areas in which a bypass could be built; a rich neighborhood for an efficient bypass and a poor neighborhood where a much less efficient bypass could be built. Presently the politicians will tell the planners that there is no way in which the more efficient one will be built so make sure your models say how the one through the poorer neighborhood is best. They can do this safely because the models aren't public.

The problem is actually even worse than this because the engineering agencies doing the planning are also the ones that stand benefit if the numbers look good. Its in their interest to push for the biggest and most expensive projects possible even if they aren't in the best interest of the public.

The benefits of the initiative the article talks about are not allowing a bunch of "people who will be hopping around in their underwear, half-drunk" to engineer our bridges its about introducing transparency into our political process. Without access to the models we can't call bullshit. With them we can.

Cheers,
Greg

I work for TOPP (2, Informative)

dmayle (200765) | more than 5 years ago | (#26672551)

Wow, pretty cool to be on Slashdot (I work for The Open Planning Project).

With regards to open source, we try to tackle the problem from all sides. We try to create free and open standards for data, we lobby for said standards in government usage of data, and we try to supply the best of breed open source software that uses that data.

For the most part, the various governments aren't competing with each other for software, so open source makes tons of sense. In addition, the software support business model works very well for governments, because they want to keep this going, and most proprietary shops get bored with supporting a single large customer.

With regards to urban planning, our original plan was just to open up the urban planning data and see where that got us, but we've actually been spending a lot of time looking at other cities that have already have better urban planning. Amsterdam, Paris, Bogota. Jan Gehl (one of the great moving forces behind better urban planning) basically said that since you can never satisfy all desire for cars (which make up a minority of the population anyway) it's better to scale back just a tiny bit the attention spent on cars and instead concentrate on the people. Since cars take up so much space, scaling back on cars just a small amount opens up huge possibilities for people.

And also, working for TOPP is great! We do cool things, work on open source, support great causes, and the parties are kick-ass too!

"You can never satisfy....cars" (1)

dcobbler (553566) | more than 5 years ago | (#26672911)

I think that's the key statement. And you have to look at it systematically, not emotionally. It's very hard to do. But try this:

A car is just a tool for moving people around. There are several other tools that can also move people around. The car-tool is very useful for thinly-spread populations that have lots of space to give over to the car's use and who have lots of individual resources to support their individual car.

But, as soon as they need to move into a space that is reasonably congested with other people, and with other things (buildings, trees, baby carriages, what-have-you) their car is no longer an optimal tool and, in fact, requires a disproportionate amount of space and systematic resources (traffic management, police, ambulances, and so on).

So, yeah. We have to get over the idea that someone who can drive their car up to the edges of the city, must therefore be able to drive their car *into* the city. Once we do that, lots of opportunities to better get them to where they want to go (along with everybody else) are available to us.

Re:"You can never satisfy....cars" (1)

Ironica (124657) | more than 5 years ago | (#26673253)

I think that's the key statement. And you have to look at it systematically, not emotionally. It's very hard to do.

Bah, not *that* hard. The concept of latent demand has been empirically verified many times over. On average, when you add capacity to a congested roadway, it takes about four months for traffic levels to regain or even surpass where they were before the capacity increase.

The problem is, personal vehicle transportation costs are largely up-front costs, with very little cost per use. Once you've bought a car and paid for insurance, the very low price of gas (no, I'm not joking; even at $5/gallon it's cheaper than most of the industrialized world) isn't enough to allocate vehicle miles very efficiently. And gas consumption scales hardly at all with peak usage; you don't pay more per gallon if you drive at 8 a.m. instead of 8 p.m. (the decrease in gas mileage from sitting in traffic is not usually large enough to impact on decision-making). The only transportation cost that scales with congestion is the time cost of sitting in traffic. Consequently, you can bet that for everyone on the road during rush hour, there's someone who adjusted their schedule so they could stay off the road... but would, if the capacity was there, like to be out there too.

Re:"You can never satisfy....cars" (1)

thogard (43403) | more than 5 years ago | (#26677883)

A car is much more than just a transport tool. It can be a mobile office as well as providing isolation, control, projects images of power and others. After all guys still buy cars that appear fast to impress girls. A modern cubical (and its associated hallways) is smaller than the space need by parking space (and its associated lanes)

Re:I work for TOPP (1)

AlXtreme (223728) | more than 5 years ago | (#26673731)

[...] we've actually been spending a lot of time looking at other cities that have already have better urban planning. Amsterdam, Paris [...]

You, sir, have obviously never lived or worked anywhere near Amsterdam.

I don't know the expert opinion on Amsterdam urban planning, but tell the average man on the street that their city has been planned properly and they'll laugh in your face. The only means of transportation here that doesn't suck is cycling, roads and public transportation in the city are either overfull or in a state of disrepair.

Give me London's or NY's planners over Amsterdam's planners anyday. Paris is very nice though.

The public by most measures is stupid. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26672721)

Most people are stupid. I would wager more than 65% of the population has an IQ of less than 100. Trying to get people who know nothing about the issues to make suggestions is just going to be a nightmare. Believe it or not there is a science to this and a long history of empirical learning that someone really needs to understand to make real planning and design judgments.

I'm a highway designer and I go to public meetings all the time and you wouldn't believe what some people suggest. There was one guy one time that was convinced that all exit ramps from Freeways should be on the left. He thought this because he's an idiot that doesn't understand the issues. The problem is idiotic ideas presented by a person that can work a crowd can become popular, even if they are stupid, again because individuals don't understand all the issues. And like the conspiracy theorists you can't convince them that their idea is stupid because they've invested themselves in it. This is one of the reasons people complain that government doesn't listen to their suggestions when planning and designing, in general we don't listen to stupid ideas. Because of this the intelligent people that make good suggestions often are surprised that their idea is implemented.

The stupid suggestions the city will have to sort through to find any idea that's worth anything will be tremendous. I'd wager that 1 out of every 100 suggestions might warrant further investigation. It could turn in to a full time employee just to sort out the garbage so people don't complain that the city isn't listening to them.

Re:The public by most measures is stupid. (1)

Ironica (124657) | more than 5 years ago | (#26673179)

Most people are stupid. I would wager more than 65% of the population has an IQ of less than 100.

Hmmm... I'd venture to suggest that one definition of "stupid" is failing to do some very basic research on an assertion. By definition (and constant recalibration of tests to keep it this way), 100 is the median IQ score, with half the population falling above it and half below (which is the definition of "median", but I wasn't counting on you to look that up yourself, either).

Trying to get people who know nothing about the issues to make suggestions is just going to be a nightmare. Believe it or not there is a science to this and a long history of empirical learning that someone really needs to understand to make real planning and design judgments.

I'm a highway designer and I go to public meetings all the time and you wouldn't believe what some people suggest. There was one guy one time that was convinced that all exit ramps from Freeways should be on the left. He thought this because he's an idiot that doesn't understand the issues. The problem is idiotic ideas presented by a person that can work a crowd can become popular, even if they are stupid, again because individuals don't understand all the issues.

So why is the solution to keep the issues obfuscated from the general public? If some good, easy-to-use, reasonably accurate simulation tools were available to the general public, so your guy at your public meeting could *see* what happens when you move the exits to the left (and maybe he'd also get a ballpark on how much that would COST), he wouldn't even suggest it.

I'm not disagreeing that the general public has a really strong inclination to think they know exactly how to solve transportation issues, and that their ideas can sound completely idiotic to someone with some training in the field... but just because someone's never heard of latent demand or doesn't know the difference between a horizontal and a vertical curve doesn't mean that they can't *possibly* have valid input into the process.

And, as you know, they DO have input into the process, by law. But it's often of very poor quality. A project like this could improve the quality of that input, increasing the signal to noise ratio for those of us who have to implement plans that, let's face it, are supposed to work for "those people."

Re:The public by most measures is stupid. (1)

neuromanc3r (1119631) | more than 5 years ago | (#26673255)

I would wager more than 65% of the population has an IQ of less than 100.

The median IQ is 100. By definition. So you'd definitely lose that wager.

Re:The public by most measures is stupid. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26673591)

The median, as measured when the test is admnistered to (presumably educated) people in the Western world. The world average and median are lower in the same test, due to significant geographic variation in the results, even between different western countries.

Coast to work--literally (1)

brettz9 (969574) | more than 5 years ago | (#26674991)

I've always wanted to see roller coasters take you to work... Like "Loop the Loop" for Chicagoans... Could raise funds that could be injected into developing the rest of the transportation system, and would sure beat every commute I've ever been in...

Little to no substance substance ... (1)

golodh (893453) | more than 5 years ago | (#26676031)

Unfortunately the article provides little to no substance to help people do urban planning, because it does nothing to support transport planning. All it does is hype a server that allows you to overlay your own data on a map. Well ... the Open Source package GRASS GIS (see http://grass.itc.it/ [grass.itc.it]) already does that, and a host of other useful things besides.

That's because the software developers mentioned don't start by looking at what's needed to support a planning process (which is a GIS system like GRASS GIS that can do calculations and ways of getting location-specific data into it quickly, do calculations on the resulting dataset, and then keep track of various scenarios and display the results), but what they'd like to develop and what they know how to develop. Which just so happens to be some kind of web-based song-and-dance display software. The good old "I've got a hammer" syndrome, with this particular hammer being the Web.

Web display software is useful for when you have something to display on the web, usable when you want to allow private citizens to scribble their views on a map, but utterly useless when you want to know what kind of impact a proposed measure has on say, the traffic situation, accessibility, safety, noise and light, drainage, soil load, micro climate aspects like wind-flow, etc. etc.

Now communications is often useful, but would-be city planners may find that communication serves best when actually you have something useful to say in the first place. And this sort of software doesn't help with that.

If only they had seen their way clear to link a Grass GIS database to a web display in a two-way fashion, that might have been worthwhile because it would have provided synergy. Unfortunately, what they did does not provide synergy. Instead it partly reinvents the wheel (geographic layers) in a halfhearted and incompatible-with-existing-software fashion and it hogs the limelight. As a consequence I don't really see what this web display is good for.

Re:Little to no substance substance ... (1)

thogard (43403) | more than 5 years ago | (#26677945)

Grass doesn't do web well since it was it predates the web. When I quit working on it in 1987 it was still mostly FORTRAN but at that time lots of the C interface code was written by me. If you don't like what I did, feel free to rewrite it.

Re:Little to no substance substance ... (1)

golodh (893453) | more than 5 years ago | (#26680093)

I don't mind that Grass "doesn't do Web well". In fact I don't see the Web part as all that important. It's hip and nice to have, but not something I'd invest a huge amount of time in since it's of little use to me.

That Grass "doesn't do Web well" could have been the focus of a project that can call Grass library functions to extract an image from a Grass database, provide windows onto it, display those windows, capture user input and store web-based scribbles in e.g. a new layer in a Grass database. That would have been useful for making data and model results accessible to a large public and capturing feedback.

Only, what we see now is Grass and an application that is not easily compatible with Grass, "does Web well", and little else.

No want to live in McCubical (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26681185)

I am sick of people who envision people being happy living in tightly-packed little boxes. I hate urbanized areas without front and back yards on the houses. Do you want to know why people use drugs? Do you want to know why people kill one another? Do you want to know why city people are always so stressed out? IT'S BECAUSE THERE ARE SO MANY OF US THAT WE CAN NO LONGER LIVE SANE LIVES IN OPEN SPACES WITH CLEAN AIR!!! I live in the country, I lived in the city. Cities should never have been allowed to grow as big as they have. People need space, food, clean water, and clean air. Those who want to make living areas more efficient" envision packing as many humans in as little space as possible. If you want to see a practical model of what they have in mind for you, go visit a kennel! The worst part is that they will expect you TO PAY TO LIVE LIKE KENNELED ANIMALS!!!!!!

Wage-slave in a box, just like everyone else...

-The Mgt

LimeBits another Mark Gorton open source site (1)

VastMoose (1466275) | more than 5 years ago | (#26682007)

Mark Gorton seems to be getting into another open source project too, LimeBits [limebits.com]. It says it's in alpha, but it's some sort of javascript website sharing exchange. It links to limelabs.com, a Gorton operation.
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