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IBM Plays SimCity With Portland, Oregon

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the enjoy-your-godzilla-and-wildfires dept.

Government 220

Hugh Pickens writes "Portland, Oregon will be the first city to use IBM's new software called Systems Dynamics for Smarter Cities, containing 3,000 equations which collectively seek to model cities' emergent behavior and help them figure out how policy can affect the lives of their citizens. The program seeks to quantify the cause-and-effect relationships between seemingly uncorrelated urban phenomena. 'What's the connection, for example, between ... obesity rates and carbon emissions?' writes Greg Lindsay. 'To find out, simply round up experts to hash out the linkages, translate them into algorithms, and upload enough historical data to populate the model. Then turn the knobs to see what happens when you nudge the city in one direction.' One of the drivers of the 'Portland Plan' is the city's commitment to a 40 percent decrease in carbon emissions by 2030, which necessitates less driving and more walking and biking. After running the model, planners discovered a positive feedback loop: More walking and biking would lead to lower obesity rates for Portlanders. In turn, a fitter population would find walking and biking a more attractive option. But as the field of urban systems gathers steam, it's important to remember that IBM and its fellow technology companies aren't the first to offer a quantitative toolkit to cities. In the 1970s, RAND built models they thought could predict fire patterns in New York, and then used them to justify closing fire stations in NYC's poorest sections in the name of efficiency, a decision that would ultimately displace 600,000 people as their neighborhoods burned."

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Roadless (4, Interesting)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 3 years ago | (#37042576)

Tear up all the roads. Replace with rail.

Re:Roadless (0)

royallthefourth (1564389) | more than 3 years ago | (#37042680)

Tear up half the road and use it for rail and the remaining half for bikes and pedestrians. Also, allow freight via light rail to eliminate the need for delivery trucks in the city.

Re:Roadless (1)

sco08y (615665) | more than 3 years ago | (#37043022)

Tear up half the road and use it for rail and the remaining half for bikes and pedestrians. Also, allow freight via light rail to eliminate the need for delivery trucks in the city.

How do emergency services operate?

Re:Roadless (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 3 years ago | (#37043056)

Flying trains. Or, you know, cars and stuff. Emergency services have always been allowed to bend the rules.

But - how the hell does he expect stuff to get from the train station to the stores without vans/trucks...?

Re:Roadless (2)

royallthefourth (1564389) | more than 3 years ago | (#37043090)

Forklifts or other small vehicles, of course.

Re:Roadless (1)

luis_a_espinal (1810296) | more than 3 years ago | (#37043276)

Forklifts or other small vehicles, of course.

Awesome idea for the local firefighter's department /facepalm+sarcasm.

Re:Roadless (1)

royallthefourth (1564389) | more than 3 years ago | (#37043338)

A forklift can tow water pumps, tanks, and other equipment without any trouble.

Re:Roadless (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#37044094)

But they save nothing. You still need engines for the massive pumps.

Forklifts, good grief.

Re:Roadless (3, Insightful)

royallthefourth (1564389) | more than 3 years ago | (#37044218)

Naturally a city with such a good infrastructure would also have plentiful fire hydrants. Slashdot posters can't seem to imagine anything but the suburban wastelands they live in.

Re:Roadless (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 3 years ago | (#37043388)

Forklifts are what you use to unload trucks - not to drive 5 miles from the train station to the superstore with 3 crates. Even if you used 12 Tonne rated forklifts it would still be way less efficient (and far more dangerous) than using a truck. That kind of infrastructure is necessary unless we fit every city with an underground rail network for delivery (which would be pretty cool).

Individuals having their own transport is far less essential than well stocked local stores/markets, and public transport being available.

Re:Roadless (1)

delinear (991444) | more than 3 years ago | (#37043594)

Also reserve peak time for pedestrians and cyclists and have delivery traffic outside peak hours - lots of city centres already operate something similar so it's a workable compromise. Ideally long term you'd factor this in to city design and have the frontages of shops pedestrianised and the rear connecting to the road network.

Re:Roadless (4, Informative)

fridaynightsmoke (1589903) | more than 3 years ago | (#37043600)

Forklifts or other small vehicles, of course.

Hell, I'm a forklift dealer; so if all the trucks in the world were replaced with forklifts than I'd be an exceedingly happy man- but your thinking is so fantastically full of shit as to be unbelieveable.

You want to replace diesel trucks designed to run on the roads with other diesel trucks, designed to run for a hundred yards at a time, with a top speed of ~5mph, with big steel forks sticking out of the front; in the name of effeciency? Did you guess that the average forklift weighs about 2x its max payload unladen, and will get ~2-5mpg (carrying ~2.5t max, vs. ~20mpg for a van that would carry the same, or vs. ~10mpg for a truck that would carry 10-25t)? Do you have any understanding of anything, other than dogmatic "road vehicles==BAD"?

Re:Roadless (4, Funny)

nschubach (922175) | more than 3 years ago | (#37044070)

But...forklifts run on batteries powered by magic.

Re:Roadless (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 3 years ago | (#37043636)

But - how the hell does he expect stuff to get from the train station to the stores without vans/trucks...?

Turn the train stations into train station/store complexes.

Since you've built the number of train stations so everyone can get to one, you can also get to the store, which is at the train station, which is where the goods are.

Re:Roadless (1)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | more than 3 years ago | (#37044018)

Since we have already gone that far why not have people live there as well. We could call them Arcologies [wikipedia.org] and consolidate everything into one large structure. Now people can live, work, shop, and play all in one location.

Re:Roadless (1)

nschubach (922175) | more than 3 years ago | (#37044154)

I remember watching a show quite a while back about suburban living centers. They tried setting up housing and shops within walking distance. They setup the community to be self sustaining but people felt more imprisoned, like they were being segregated. I want to say it was Harlem, but I can't a related article or story.

Re:Roadless (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37043660)

While the plan to remove cars completely is farfetched, I think using light rail for freight is a damn good idea. Light rail is more efficient than vans/trucks, it stops every few blocks, trolleys could stop between the designated stations, and the lines generally don't operate at night. This could reduce congestion and wear on the roads while giving cities an additional source of revenue.

Re:Roadless (4, Funny)

iteyoidar (972700) | more than 3 years ago | (#37043068)

Trains. Fire Trains. Trainbulances. If you don't think a Fire Train Truck Train would be totally badass, I don't know what to say

Re:Roadless (1)

nschubach (922175) | more than 3 years ago | (#37044210)

How does one pull over for emergency vehicles if you are on a track?

Re:Roadless (1)

luis_a_espinal (1810296) | more than 3 years ago | (#37043250)

Tear up half the road and use it for rail and the remaining half for bikes and pedestrians. Also, allow freight via light rail to eliminate the need for delivery trucks in the city.

How do emergency services operate?

They don't. People are self-reliant, are one with nature and all that kumaya shit.

Re:Roadless (5, Funny)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#37044002)

How do emergency services operate?

Once every Portlander is biking everywhere, eating all organic foods, and having the health of their aura measured at least once a month--you won't need emergency services. No one will ever get sick, and all will live in a paradise of virtual immortality.

Or, at least, that's what that white guy with dreadlocks in my drum circle told me.

Re:Roadless (1)

jesseck (942036) | more than 3 years ago | (#37043162)

I don't recall SimCity having a "biking and walking" roadway on it. How would Portland Planners draw, and monitor, those changes?

Re:Roadless (1)

alen (225700) | more than 3 years ago | (#37043172)

disney is way ahead of you

check out their chuggington cartoon

Re:Roadless (1)

operagost (62405) | more than 3 years ago | (#37043222)

So you're going to add a special freight terminal to unload all the incoming trucks AND tractor trailers, then deliver TO PEOPLE'S DOORS with an light FREIGHT rail tech that doesn't exist yet? This would be great for job creation, just like broken windows. Oh, and how about the visitors to your fine city? Where will you build the 500 acre park-and-ride lot?

Re:Roadless (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#37044082)

Typical short sighted 'it fits MY view' crap.

OK, freight comes in by rail* Then... what? Do you propose sending rail up to every business? teams of aardvarks then carry the goods to stores? What about freight moving through, but destination elsewhere?
What about people who cant ride bikes? how to they get to their specific destination? who moves the mail? How do yuo deal with the high level of bums, criminals and drug addicts? How do you get tourist to come back when they needs to sit near someone who smells like shit(literally)?
These are just a few of the problems your 'solution' doesn't consider.

Cars aren't nearly as much of the problem as people think anymore; and theya re getting better. The 40% reduction is a stupid number. By bringing in more homeless, we could decrease are emission by 40% per capita; but is that something we would want to do?

The big emitters in the nation need a nation wide plan. hodge podge city attempts seldom go well.
You mention freight. I think we need to load freight in trains, and then have depots along the rails across the nation, and at the depot trucks pick up the freight and move it the remain miles. Properly done, not truck would drive more then 500 miles.

*you clearly have no idea how much freight moves through Portland

Re:Roadless (1)

ifrag (984323) | more than 3 years ago | (#37042802)

Ever try that in SimCity? Unless you have some massive money built up it usually fails. Turns out rail is not all that cheap.

So that leads to the 2nd solution here, raise taxes to balance the budget, resulting in everyone moving away. Carbon problem fixed.

Re:Roadless (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#37042878)

Ever try that in SimCity? Unless you have some massive money built up it usually fails. Turns out rail is not all that cheap.

That's the unrealistic part about simcity. In the real world, rail pays the govt, not the other way around. That being why the rail infrastructure is in such poor shape in this country... If they invested, the govt would tax the tar out of them, which they can't afford.

Heavy traffic reported (1)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 3 years ago | (#37042900)

Original simcity?
Yes, I always found the reduced maintenance cost of roads, outweighed the negative effects of traffic and pollution.
Rail only allowed greater land values, and therefore tax income.

Re:Roadless (1)

Penguinisto (415985) | more than 3 years ago | (#37043016)

Tear up all the roads. Replace with rail.

Heh - they're working on that already [trimet.org] .

(in all seriousness though - the Max is a pretty good deal, *especially* for going downtown).

Re:Roadless (1)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | more than 3 years ago | (#37044174)

Heh - they're working on that already [trimet.org] .

(in all seriousness though - the Max is a pretty good deal, *especially* for going downtown).

And that is the problem. To provide the coverage that roads currently do with the convenience that roads to rail will never work. Here in the Twin Cities we have some rail running from downtown Minneapolis to the Mall of America [wikipedia.org] and one from Big Lake down to Minneapolis [wikipedia.org] . They are also building the Central Corridor [wikipedia.org] line to connect Minneapolis to St. Paul. Now this is all fine and dandy if I actually wanted to go to any of these places but I don't and I don't live close to or work close to them either. Add to that the limited schedules and it falls down pretty quickly. I have no problem with rail when it is done well like in Paris. I don't mind walking a few blocks to and from the stations while I lived there but it was a complete system and it seems no one here really wants a system like that.

Re:Roadless (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37043186)

Tear up all the roads. Replace with rail.

Need to test if such an approach will work for the people/city/environment first; start with one rail.

Re:Roadless (1)

garcia (6573) | more than 3 years ago | (#37043292)

I don't live in Portland but where I do live (MSP) that wouldn't work at all. Why? Because of the way the metro area has developed and how the natural landscape exists, it would be costly and ineffective.

1. Not everyone works downtown and a good many people work in suburbs which ring the entire city. Because we encouraged urban sprawl for so many years it would take twice as many years (due to the economy and long running and currently very high anti-tax sentiment) to make rail happen even to the general area of these suburbs which house so much business.

This isn't to say I am not a fan of rail, I am. In fact I believe it's a much better fit than BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) which they are pushing in my county to "replace rail". All of their clever marketing and expensive and beautiful transit stations are not going to change the fact that our area is not meant for BRT (such as Las Vegas) and will not grow the way they pretend it will because the service is available.

2. Here a significant number of people live on the other side of the Minnesota river. Because the bridge that already spans this river cannot physically support rail they would need to build another bridge to handle the train.

While I don't live in other areas of the metro, I'm guessing there are also significant hurdles there as well. We just recently added commuter rail service but it's not performing well as it is very expensive ($14+/day) compared to a car, and you can drive just as fast while having flexibility of the road system.

---

So while rail instead of road sounds great, it's just not viable in many areas. What we need to do is encourage more growth in city centers through urban revitalization ("reverse white-flight" as it has been called in some circles) and consider ways to push jobs to these centers instead of the suburbian rings so that people are easily shuttled in.

NYC would not be the transit genius it is if it weren't so densely populated. Spread NYC out into an area like TX (such as Houston) and you'll see the same problems existing there as Houston or MSP or anywhere else has.

Re:Roadless (2)

David Greene (463) | more than 3 years ago | (#37044028)

I don't live in Portland but where I do live (MSP) that wouldn't work at all. Why? Because of the way the metro area has developed and how the natural landscape exists, it would be costly and ineffective.

I've worked on Twin Cities transit issues for nearly a decade, so this comes from long experience.

You've got a few bits of information wrong. Rail has in fact worked very well here in MSP. The Hiawatha line is outperforming every predicted metric. Northstar is underperforming for a few reasons. It was only built to Big Lake, so it misses the large ridership pool in St. Cloud. It opened right as the recession started. Commuter rail is for commuters. People were losing jobs so fewer commuters = lower ridership. I also believe commuter rail may not be the best fit here because we haven't sprawled out enough. Most people don't yet drive 30 miles or more to work. LRT/BRT should be able to capture a great majority of commuters. And BTW, Northstar's numbers are rising. But they will probably fall again as we enter a double-dip recession.

You are right about the suburb-suburb need. That's a big hole in the system. Unfortunately, the suburbs kicked out Metro Transit when they decided to go the opt-out route and the opt-outs don't seem interested in providing suburb-to-suburb service. They probably can't figure out who should pay for what. This is why opt-outs are a bad idea. A regional transit system should have one regional transit provider that can design the system most effectively.

An area doesn't need super-high density for rail to work. LRT works very well in Dallas (Dallas!), Salt Lake City and many other medium-sized metro areas that have a similar development history to the Twin Cities.

There is quite a extensive plan [metrocouncil.org] for transitways in the Twin Cities. We have Hiawatha, Central Corridor is under construction. Southwest is not too far behind. Cedar/35-W BRT is under development (haltingly, it seems). Bottineau is well into planning and Gateway is starting up.

Dakota county is getting BRT because that's what your elected officials wanted. Only recently has the county board begun to get a clue about the economic development driver that rail is. Your state legislators are hopeless. Holberg, Gerlach and company are rabidly anti-transit. You guys barely got even BRT in spite of them. The money goes to those who fight for it and so far Hennepin and Anoka counties have been the most vocal and active about wanting it. The entire east metro has dropped the ball on both developing transit ridership and strongly demanding a bigger slice of the pie.

Re:Roadless (1)

bhcompy (1877290) | more than 3 years ago | (#37043330)

And then what? How do you get that pallet of Budweiser from the train to the liquor store on the corner 8 blocks away from the tracks? And then the 30 cases of Bacardi to the Bevmo 6 blocks down a different street? And then the 1 case of King Cobra to 7-11 yet another way? And while your out with your load you get an urgent call to RTB to pick up a load for Staples Center for the game tonight. Unless you're putting rail switching stations at each intersection(unreasonable) and allowing access to private rail cars on the rails, you're not going to have any way to have any type of effective logistical chain setup between distributors and retailers, thus reverting the consumer back to the pony express days.

No Disasters (3, Funny)

mangu (126918) | more than 3 years ago | (#37042580)

Just make sure they disable disasters before they play. An alien monster destroying the power plant wouldn't be nice.

Re:No Disasters (1)

ciderbrew (1860166) | more than 3 years ago | (#37042896)

Disasters / Wars play big part in day to day life for some of the population in a city. I wonder how they've made the reporting of outside disasters quantifiable?
For The Matrix reference, is the program that controls the sun a little Indian girl?

Re:No Disasters (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 3 years ago | (#37044054)

Tell that to Japan!

They would have loved to turn off Disasters last year!

simple consulting? (1, Redundant)

rbrausse (1319883) | more than 3 years ago | (#37042610)

I can't help myself, "By using the software, Portland confirmed its plan to reduce carbon emissions 40 percent by 2030 would on the whole be a positive outcome." is IMO as news worthy as "By tasking a PwC opportunity analysis, Portland confirmed its plan to reduce carbon emissions 40 percent by 2030 would on the whole be a positive outcome."

What makes IBM's modelling so special?

Re:simple consulting? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37042694)

Its model quantifies reasons for it being a positive outcome. Yes, lower carbon emissions = good. But there are a lot of variables that do not get taken into consideration in such a simple statement. The example of this above is the ultimate conclusion that based on the model, people would `want` to bike more, since they are more fit, since they had to bike to reduce carbon emissions.

Re:simple consulting? (2)

somersault (912633) | more than 3 years ago | (#37043182)

It's true that people would want to walk/bike more if they're fit, just to keep them fit and feeling good, and to save money. I enjoy an occasional walk home from work, since it only takes an hour. Most of the time I use the bus though.

BUT. For a large number of people walking and biking will be infeasible simply due to the distances involved, and the extra time taken. This could result in people being more careful about where they live and work, but I think the ideal would be electric vehicles plus people being better educated about nutrition and exercise (which sounds pretty damn boring, but once you experience the benefits for yourself, you will wish you did it all sooner!).

I live in quite a small city though, so it only takes a couple of hours tops to walk anywhere really. Strangely I started feeling like I had more time when I started walking places more often, but I think that was probably a result of 1) being more organised and 2) being less stressed.

Re:simple consulting? (2)

Xemu (50595) | more than 3 years ago | (#37042712)

What makes IBM's modelling so special?

Apparenty they found a computer model that infuses people with a desire to walk and bike:

After running the model, planners discovered a positive feedback loop: More walking and biking would lead to lower obesity rates for Portlanders. In turn, a fitter population would find walking and biking a more attractive option.

I find it very hard to believe that this feedback loop exists in real life to any significant degree. If it really was true, the professional sports athletes would prefer walking and biking over driving their cars, and the sport stars seem to be preferring their luxury sports cars today.

IBM's model must be missing one or more important variables to why people choose cars over walking.

Re:simple consulting? (1)

Penguinisto (415985) | more than 3 years ago | (#37042854)

Apparenty they found a computer model that infuses people with a desire to walk and bike

You haven't been downtown here, have you? Walking and biking is about the only way you're going to get anywhere during a typical weekday... especially after Mssr. Adams decided to go slightly crazy [portlandonline.com] about the bike lanes, which left less room for cars.

...and this was after the Max tracks ate quite a bit of asphalt on their own (though this isn't really as bad, considering that the rail is actually a good deal, and actually useful)

Re:simple consulting? (1)

nitehawk214 (222219) | more than 3 years ago | (#37042938)

Apparenty they found a computer model that infuses people with a desire to walk and bike

You haven't been downtown here, have you? Walking and biking is about the only way you're going to get anywhere during a typical weekday... especially after Mssr. Adams decided to go slightly crazy [portlandonline.com] about the bike lanes, which left less room for cars.

...and this was after the Max tracks ate quite a bit of asphalt on their own (though this isn't really as bad, considering that the rail is actually a good deal, and actually useful)

But if they use modeling to fix traffic woes, then more people will be emboldened to drive, filling the streets back up again.

Re:simple consulting? (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#37042920)

I find it very hard to believe that this feedback loop exists in real life to any significant degree. If it really was true, the professional sports athletes would prefer walking and biking over driving their cars, and the sport stars seem to be preferring their luxury sports cars today.

IBM's model must be missing one or more important variables to why people choose cars over walking.

They're talking about old people. Old people who can't walk, don't. Of course it might take 70 years for changes made today to have an effect on the 80-year olds of the future.

Re:simple consulting? (3, Insightful)

Thugthrasher (935401) | more than 3 years ago | (#37042926)

Apparenty they found a computer model that infuses people with a desire to walk and bike:

After running the model, planners discovered a positive feedback loop: More walking and biking would lead to lower obesity rates for Portlanders. In turn, a fitter population would find walking and biking a more attractive option.

I find it very hard to believe that this feedback loop exists in real life to any significant degree. If it really was true, the professional sports athletes would prefer walking and biking over driving their cars, and the sport stars seem to be preferring their luxury sports cars today.

IBM's model must be missing one or more important variables to why people choose cars over walking.

You're misinterpreting that. It said that a fitter population would find walking and biking a more attractive option. Meaning more attractive than an unfit population would.

It's not that most fit people would choose walking over cars, especially not in all situations. It's that a higher percentage of fit people would choose walking or biking than unfit people would. Which makes perfect sense. If I'm going 3 blocks and I'm in good shape, that's not much of a walk. Especially if it's in decent weather. So I may walk it so that I don't have to deal with getting into my car, parking, etc. But if I'm 350 lbs., then that's a difficult walk, so I'm going to take my car.
If I'm going 10 miles or the weather is bad, then I'm driving no matter how fit I am.

Re:simple consulting? (2)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 3 years ago | (#37042966)

I am sure a lot of us will prefer to bike and walk to work...

But the problem is Work is in the City and Home is in Rural/Suburban areas.
We move to these Rural/Suburban areas because of less crime and in general people just not caring about anyone else property. I use to live in the City I couldn't even keep flowers planted in front of my house, or garbage can lids on my garbage cans, any attempts to make my area of my community a nicer place to live came with people who tried to make sure it went further down to a ghetto. When I moved in it was a nice area, Then it just got worse and worse over the years. Then I moved to the country, Sure I need to drive 20 miles to work but life is much safer and nicer.

I am well aware I am part of the problem of increasing global warming, and by escaping the city I am adding to suburban sprawl, and also the city looses an other person who tried to make their community a little bit nicer. But I have the means for a better life and I chose it.

The choice wasn't pro or against environmental concerns, I am actually looking to get a more fuel efficient cart and my current car is also really good too. Even when I lived in the City I need to Drive to work and back not because the Car was much faster but the car acts as a Tank, as the City wasn't very safe to ride you bike. And 80% of the police force (as stated from a police officer from that city) is corrupt and lazy.

Most cities are not New York City, or LA they are much smaller and don't have the resources that is needed for a good life.

Re:simple consulting? (1)

Intron (870560) | more than 3 years ago | (#37042978)

The Minuteman Bikeway in Massachusetts is heavily used for commuting. If you only allow people to bike on the streets, then fewer people will do it; but if you create a choice then more people will bike. It costs a lot of money to build separate paved bikeways, but still much less than paved roads.

It's the reverse of the RAND study. You can force shrinkage by removing services or you can add people who want bikeways by building them. Studies have shown that property near bikeways sells in half the time and at slightly higher value than the average.

http://www.americantrails.org/resources/adjacent/dellapennasales.html [americantrails.org]

I found 2 ways to succeed in sim city (1)

drolli (522659) | more than 3 years ago | (#37042654)

a) build a slum with nearly zero taxes

b) Build acrologies with enough police stations around

Re:I found 2 ways to succeed in sim city (1)

zget (2395308) | more than 3 years ago | (#37042682)

There isn't acrologies in SimCity.

Re:I found 2 ways to succeed in sim city (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#37042810)

In vernacular usage SC2000, one of the brave exceptions to the law that the sequel is always shit compared to the original, is sufficiently canonical that it may be referred to simply as 'SimCity'. The same is not generally true of the subsequent sequels.

Re:I found 2 ways to succeed in sim city (1)

nitehawk214 (222219) | more than 3 years ago | (#37043002)

In vernacular usage SC2000, one of the brave exceptions to the law that the sequel is always shit compared to the original, is sufficiently canonical that it may be referred to simply as 'SimCity'. The same is not generally true of the subsequent sequels.

Only if you are younger than 25. For people in my age group the Super Nintendo SimCity is our canonical version. I played the very original SimCity on PC after the SNES one, and was left unimpressed.

Re:I found 2 ways to succeed in sim city (1)

nitehawk214 (222219) | more than 3 years ago | (#37043026)

Only if you are younger than 25. For people in my age group the Super Nintendo SimCity is our canonical version. I played the very original SimCity on PC after the SNES one, and was left unimpressed.

Actually make that "only if you are younger than 30 or did not have a SNES", SC2000 was released on PC in 1993. Shit I am getting old.

Re:I found 2 ways to succeed in sim city (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 3 years ago | (#37042852)

The way I did it was alternating a few years with zero tax with a few years at the top 20% bracket. That way I raised money faster than letting taxes at the theoretically optimum 7%.

Re:I found 2 ways to succeed in sim city (1)

delinear (991444) | more than 3 years ago | (#37043860)

In the real world you'd see a lot of migrant workers who move to the city in the 0% years and move out in the 20% years - in the mid to long term that would sap money out of your local economy.

Re:I found 2 ways to succeed in sim city (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37042868)

That would take you to the brink of success.

Re:I found 2 ways to succeed in sim city (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 3 years ago | (#37043000)

I think SIM City tried to be politically neutral So they built in advantages for the two key political ideologies.

Success is key if the government stays out.
Success is key if the government has control.

But being that SIM City is a kids game, It kinda punished a balanced approach to the problem.

Models don't tell you anything you didn't know (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 3 years ago | (#37042718)

Computer models don't tell you anything you didn't already know. If you are really lucky, they will tell you things you didn't kow you knew. The problem with this sort of model is that if one of your starting assumptions is wrong, all of your conclusions from the model will be wrong.

Re:Models don't tell you anything you didn't know (3, Insightful)

goldspider (445116) | more than 3 years ago | (#37042748)

People put so much stake in computer models anymore that when they don't match up with reality, reality is blamed for the error.

Re:Models don't tell you anything you didn't know (4, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#37042794)

While I think that your dismissal of models is a bit excessive(in a sense, all of mathematics doesn't tell you anything you didn't assume in your axioms: it just so happens that there is a lot of interesting stuff that you didn't know you were assuming...); but one should certainly be cautious about them.

Both an accurate model and a shitty model are, in the hands of a suitably skilled consultant's graphic design team, essentially identical in their ability to provide a dense veneer of scientific rationality, 3D-rendered near-future utopias attractively large-format-printed on posters suitable for display at planning meetings, and other charming props to hang on your existing plans and prejudices...

Things can get particularly ugly if there are large fudge factors in your initial dataset: modeling material stresses, or aerodynamics or such is hard because it is easy to be wrong about difficult stuff, and easy for slight mistakes to cascade(at least, though, there are correct answers that you can hopefully find, even if you don't know them just yet); doing societal cost/benefit analysis is hard because there are lots of factors that don't have quantified costs or benefits, so you can shove the model around just by slapping different price tags on unquantified things.

Re:Models don't tell you anything you didn't know (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 3 years ago | (#37042988)

doing societal cost/benefit analysis is hard because there are lots of factors that don't have quantified costs or benefits

Welcome to Economics, it's not in vain it has been called the dismal science.

Re:Models don't tell you anything you didn't know (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37043054)

Note also that with materials science, there is a large number of test cases which you can apply your model to. And it is also (comparatively) trivial to
create physical models [out of wood, etc.] and really *test* your model instead of just cross-correlating with other data.

With cities? Well, not really doable...
But the "Intelligent Systems" people here always tell me that nothing can go wrong, and after a couple million test cases their models have accuracy rates of 80%. And then they wonder why I'm snorting coffee again...

Re:Models don't tell you anything you didn't know (2)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 3 years ago | (#37043104)

I'm sorry if I sounded dismissive. Computer models are very good for developing plans involving things with a lot of complex interactions (like designing airplanes or more fuel efficient cars). The problem is this, if you don't know how to create the design or plan without a computer model, you will not be able to design a computer model that will let you create the design or plan. I can drive a nail through a board to hold that board to another one with a rock, but using a hammer will make it much easier and will likely allow me to hammer the nail in so that it holds the board tighter. But if the nail isn't long enough to go all the through the board and into the one I am trying to attach it to, it doesn't matter if I use a stone or a hammer.

Re:Models don't tell you anything you didn't know (1)

smallfries (601545) | more than 3 years ago | (#37043132)

How can a veneer be dense, and where can I buy one? There is so much that I don't understand about marketing and may need to subcontract out to a specialist.

Re:Models don't tell you anything you didn't know (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#37043606)

Veneers are only required by definition to be thin and decorative, density is simply a function of choice of material...

Re:Models don't tell you anything you didn't know (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37043920)

I suspect their model is missing the part about how even fit people do not necessarily want to bike or walk to work in the near perpetual rain of Portland.

Re:Models!! (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 3 years ago | (#37044148)

Oh dear gawd, listen up everyone, I'm sure I'll get weird moderations for this, but here goes.

This is the successor to Facebook if they do it right!

It combines everyone's favorite Watcher mentality with everyone's favorite 90's game!

Everyone loads themselves in, some people are "helped" etc. You can watch the entire town buzzing merrily along! Click on people! Their phone sends them a hello text! Click on stores! See what they have in stock. Click on the DMV. Check the lines.

The possibilities are both endless and endlessly terrifying! Whee!

Re:Models don't tell you anything you didn't know (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37044214)

Obligatory (related) quote: “all models are wrong, but some models are useful” - George Box

PDX? (1)

Penguinisto (415985) | more than 3 years ago | (#37042756)

You can add pirates to the sim, and it would still look like the real thing (no, seriously [pdxyar.org] , you can). No word on ninjas, though.

It's cool and all that IBM thought to do a sim of us out here in Stumptown, but I mean, we're not exactly going to be one of them thar model cities [katu.com] that will replicate easily to other towns.

I mean, hell, couldn't IBM choose something easier to do, like, oh, Des Moines [desmoinesisnotboring.com] or something?

Now to be fair to the fine folks in Iowa, they do have the Carp Festival [facebook.com] , but seriously? IBM would have a *much* easier time there than here. Just a hint, fellas.

Interesting claim about RAND (3, Informative)

sco08y (615665) | more than 3 years ago | (#37042770)

In the 1970s, RAND built models they thought could predict fire patterns in New York, and then used them to justify closing fire stations in NYC's poorest sections in the name of efficiency, a decision that would ultimately displace 600,000 people as their neighborhoods burned.

So the source is a wikipedia page, which cites this book [google.com] , which is a dead end for now.

Are the authors talking about this study [rand.org] ?

If anyone's got a source that actually backs up the notion that RAND explicitly recommended closing down fire stations in poor areas, or the actual claims that "they're just committing arson anyway", I'm very curious, as that's a pretty wild claim. I've emailed them for comment.

Re:Interesting claim about RAND (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37043912)

Thanks for that link. It has the "six companies were disbanded" statement on page 22. As the report points out, south Bronx, central Brooklyn, Harlem and lower east side had the highest number of fire incidents(Fig 2) and the highest concentration of existing fire companies(Fig 1). It also showed that simply adding fire companies(in the same fire house!) did NOT reduce the workload for existing companies(top of page 7).
  Finally, their computer models were not designed to predict fire patterns. That element existed but only to support creating scenarios to test the real purpose of the model: How to allocate fixed fire-fighting resources. I highly recommend reading the full report.

Am I overly paranoid? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#37042788)

In the 1970s, RAND built models they thought could predict fire patterns in New York, and then used them to justify closing fire stations in NYC's poorest sections in the name of efficiency, a decision that would ultimately displace 600,000 people as their neighborhoods burned."

Now, maybe I'm just being paranoid here, but that sounds too good to be true. Nobody closes fire stations just because software says they can. But people do wrangle a study until it gives the results they like, and then use it as justification for the actions they were going to take anyway.

Re:Am I overly paranoid? (1)

Intron (870560) | more than 3 years ago | (#37043188)

I've seen "studies" where a consultant has just flat-out asked the person who hired him what conclusion he wanted, then wrote a report justifying the conclusion. Hiring a consultant is a common way to get your idea approved in a large company. The RAND study looks like it was used to justify a slum-clearing plan already decided on by the city.

models - a plotician's dream (1)

a2wflc (705508) | more than 3 years ago | (#37042796)

A few tweaks here and there, throw out that historical data (it's obviously flawed), and tweak this historical data (it's flawed but we know how to "fix" it) and I can make the model "prove" whatever you want. Now you can justify your vote with "science".

I doubt Portland will do anything like have the models predict outcome of projects for the next 10 years, then if they show success use it for the following 10 years. Instead they'll start spending now because "science" says it's ok.

Government Waste (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37042814)

I hope they didnt spend much money for a report that says if people walk and ride bike more the obesity rate will go down and subsequently people will enjoy going out to walk/ride bike more. I think anyone who calls themselves a personal trainer could have figured that out for a lot less money.

Re:Government Waste (0)

andrea.sartori (1603543) | more than 3 years ago | (#37043184)

The first part, where "More walking and biking would lead to lower obesity rates for Portlanders", I think only requires a couple working neurons, so I do too sincerely hope they didn't need the model to find out that.
The second part, where less obese people would find walking and biking more appealing, well I sincerely hope they didn't use the model for it either, as they could have as well pulled it straight out of their asses. People from Portland are posting here they find it useful to walk and use bikes, and it desn't look like they are counting "fitness" among the reasons. I don't know in Portland, but where I live, if people could use their cars to go to the bogs they'd just do, irregardless of their obesity or slimness.

Simple solution (1)

RivenAleem (1590553) | more than 3 years ago | (#37042834)

Rename the town "DebtCeilingAA+" to activate the infinite money cheat.

They needed a supercomputer to figure that out? (1)

The Master Control P (655590) | more than 3 years ago | (#37042856)

After running the model, planners discovered a positive feedback loop: More walking and biking would lead to lower obesity rates for Portlanders. In turn, a fitter population would find walking and biking a more attractive option.

Surely they must have discovered something that's both relevant and doesn't cause people to groan at how obvious it is?

Anyway, these kinds of models suffer from a fundamental problem that can never be solved. While a lot of the steady-state behaviors of a city may be amenable to being reduced to evolutionary (in the PDE sense) equations - things like traffic patterns or crime distribution - the driving forces that change and disrupt things on human timescales aren't continuous.

Try all you want to reduce society's evolution to a set of coupled ODEs or PDEs, but you'd never predict the occurence or path of the Civil Rights Movement because it was initiated by one single person's decision. Sure you can have a decent shot at modelling the probability of a civil rights movement occurring in a segregationist society in a given timespan, in the same way weather models tell you the year-averaged expectation values for things like cloud cover, insolation and rainfall... but whether it actually rains on any given day? Whether one little black lady will refuse to give up her seat? Forget it.

When it comes to society, not only are we talking about chaotic systems (like the weather) but now the very events that seed the chaos occur discretely and randomly.

Positive feedback loop 2 (1)

sgt scrub (869860) | more than 3 years ago | (#37042876)

Provide high speed network to the entire city. More people will stay home because they can work and play from home. Then there will be fewer people on the roads, buses, trains, and in the parks and libraries. Slash the budget for those services like you plan to any way.

Re:Positive feedback loop 2 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37044048)

Or better yet, just ban people from leaving their homes. They won't want to leave anyway since they can work and play there. Or even better, just ban people from having children. That will fix everything in a generation. Problem solved!

SimCity:Portlandia (1)

vmxeo (173325) | more than 3 years ago | (#37042880)

The City of Portland, Oregon will be extremely disappointed when they find out that holding down the shift key and typing "fund" doesn't work like it did in SimCity Classic.

CHEAT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37042886)

Remember the hex edit?
At offset 39(hex 27), change: 00 02 42 20 to: 7F 02 FF FF... ...for $2,138,000,000.

"Nudge" (1)

Temkin (112574) | more than 3 years ago | (#37042962)

Does anyone have a problem with governments spending money trying to model ways to "nudge" our personal behavior? I'm all for sound city planning, etc... But this seems to dive headlong in to limiting freedoms. I'm not comfortable with any government getting this up close and personal with me. I already have a wife that nags me about exercise...

Re:"Nudge" (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 3 years ago | (#37043086)

US politicians have been social architecting for generations via the tax code. It's used to create dependents so as to harvest their votes come election time. It's how political parties remain in perpetual power.

Of course, I would recommend the Fair Tax system for the sole purpose of nullifying this political behavior.

RE: RAND Corporation... (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#37042970)

So, about the RAND modelling mentioned in TFS... Is there any evidence that their model failed to produce the desired outcome(as opposed to merely being deeply callous and perhaps a bit tactless, two RAND traits that anybody familiar with their game-theory work during the Cold War should hardly be surprised by...)?

Apparently, the "planned shrinkage" policies were part of a broader 'Urban Renewal'/cost reduction planning strategy by the city of New York. "Stop providing police or fire service to the slums and let the poor bastards burn themselves out so that developers can have a crack at the area" certainly isn't a very pleasant notion, and I can understand why one would want a nice, shiny, 'objective', analysis justifying it in gentle and scientific terms; but it isn't as though those poor country bumpkins at the mayor's office were snookered into the idea by RAND's slick big-city gents...

If anything, that particular scenario is not so much a demonstration of how models can fuck up; but how models can end up being constructed to to provide the desired answer, something at which the more customer-service oriented modelers are very good.(The situation is arguably analogous to the absurd and self-serving 'blame those damn quants for the financial meltdown!' narrative that started circulating after the credit-default-swaps really started going south... Yeah, of course a tightly linked set of casinos where people play with other people's money fell apart because a few CS weenies made some math mistakes...)

Legislators and Councilmen (2)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#37042998)

and help them figure out how policy can affect the lives of their citizens.

You mean that until now, the people who are paid to take decisions for us have absolutely no idea of the potential outcomes of these decisions? That would explain a lot.

Re:Legislators and Councilmen (1)

goldspider (445116) | more than 3 years ago | (#37043168)

"You mean that until now, the people who are paid to take decisions for us have absolutely no idea of the potential outcomes of these decisions?"

That and they don't really care, as long as it gets them re-elected. Intent garners almost as many votes as results, and it's a hell of a lot easier.

Re:Legislators and Councilmen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37043472)

"Intent" garners more votes than results, because the results have a decent chance of occurring so far beyond the end of the term that they don't even come into it. Hence we have "affordable" housing initiatives that fail miserably (and predictably, since the concept is fundamentally flawed) and yet those politicians receive second and third terms.

Problem with this sort of model (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 3 years ago | (#37043126)

A computer model will not tell me whether people are fat because they don't exercise or they don't exercise because they are fat. I can see a base problem with the model in the summary:

More walking and biking would lead to lower obesity rates for Portlanders. In turn, a fitter population would find walking and biking a more attractive option.

Would a fitter population find walking and biking a more attractive option, or would they find it a less unattractive option? These sound like the same thing, but think of it this way. Two scenarios where you are out looking for a sex partner.
Scenario One: You find yourself in a position where you have a choice of one of two partners. It is pretty clear that either one will go home with you. Do you choose the one that is more attractive or the one that is less attractive?
Scenario Two: You find yourself in a position where you have a choice of one of two partners. It is pretty clear that either one will go home with you. Do you choose the one that is less repulsive or the one that is more repulsive?
In Scenario One, you will probably choose the one that is more attractive. In Scenario Two, a large percentage of the population will choose to go home alone.

Tanaland (1)

ZorroXXX (610877) | more than 3 years ago | (#37043138)

All models are wrong - some models are useful.

Overall I think this is a positive way of trying to improve a complex reality. There was an experiment in 1990 of an imaginary town called Tanaland, and most people failed miserably in improving the long term life conditions for its inhabitants. From http://tersesystems.com/2011/06/10/the-logic-of-failure [tersesystems.com] :

The setup was simple. Dorner set up a computer simulation of an African village called Tanaland. This book was written in 1990, and so Sim City was not widely known, but itâ(TM)s the same concept. The players were given dictatorial powers, given the goal to âoeimprove the wellbeing of the peopleâ and had six opportunities over 10 years to review (and possibly change) their policies.

Given the tools the players had at hand, they went to improving what they could. They improved the food supply (using artifical fertilizer) and increased medical care. There were more children and fewer deaths, and lif expectancy was higher. For the first three sessions, everything went well. But unknown to the players, they'd set up an unsustainable situation.

Famine typically broke out in the 88th month. The agarian population dropped dramatically, below what they had been initially. Sheep, goats and cows died off in their herds, and the land was left barren by the end. Given a free hand, most players engineered a wasteland.

Jobs (1)

Chemisor (97276) | more than 3 years ago | (#37043270)

The ability to walk to work requires a job within walking distance, which almost never exists. In this, reality seems to follow the SimCity algorithm of job creation - jobs in another city are always better than the ones in yours. I would usually build a rail connection between them all and whenever you switch cities you'd always see an increase in rail traffic coming into the city you're playing. SimCity then tries to give all those commuters jobs in your city. Since there are none, it looks for jobs in the neighboring areas and routes the rail traffic there. After playing all four adjacent cities it is easy to create a couple of hundred thousand commuters just riding around all four areas in a giant loop. They don't get onto the train in any city, they don't get off the train in any city. They just live on it, riding round and round and round.

Meanwhile, back at IBM... (1)

Nick Mitchell (1011) | more than 3 years ago | (#37043316)

Meanwhile, IBM continues to locate all of its sites exactly as far away from public transportation as possible. The Toronto site, 10 years ago, went so far as to move *further* away from the downtown area.

corrected article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37043332)

In turn, a fitter population would find start heckling the fatties, who in turn would commit suicide or die a lonely death. The surviving fit people are statistically relevant, and deaths do not factor into our scenario.

IBM has done it before - Russia circa 1930 (1)

decora (1710862) | more than 3 years ago | (#37043370)

A planned economy requires massive quantities of mathematics to be performed.

And IBM was there to help. The Soviet Union was one of the biggest customers of IBM equipment, all through the 20s, the 30s, the Holodomor, the purges, etc.

Not everyone is able to walk or bike (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37043714)

So what does this "nudge" involve? There are significant sections of the population without the ability to walk or bike for long distances (think the elderly, many medical conditions, late term pregnancy, young children and so on) who would all now presumably be second class citizens?

Speaking as someone who was fit, active and a regular gym goer right up until a year ago, I would have applauded the plan and scoffed at anyone who criticised it.

But then a year ago I suffered from a neck problem that has left me with ongoing nerve and muscle related symtoms that make it impossible to even stand for long periods of time. It's been tough, and has completely devastated every aspect of my life. I've lost a lot of

Bogus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37043726)

In the words of Click & Clack: BooooOOOOooo-GUS!

I love how proponents of anti-vehicular living conveniently forget that there are a huge number of tasks that can't be performed on a bicycle or on foot. In addition, studies like this fail to point out just how far people are willing to walk or that inclement weather isn't conducive to walking or biking. Ultimately, what these sort of studies point to is that huge masses of people need to live in giant apartment complexes built within a fairly small radius. I'd say 1-2 miles max.

In addition, people are people and people want what they want. Given a choice I'd say most people would want a plot of land and a house versus being packed into an apartment lick cattle. Sure, lots of people live in big cities but what percentage of them actually enjoy it versus wanting to get the hell out but not having the money to be able to do so. And then there are lots of people who believe they are special and are entitled to spacious living and driving around everywhere. They refuse to associate with "the great unwashed". How many elites do you see riding the bus?

Common sense (1)

KnownIssues (1612961) | more than 3 years ago | (#37043916)

It took a computer model capable of modeling 3,000 equations to tell Portland that more walking and biking would reduce obesity? How is this not common sense? Are there people who don't think getting more exercise will reduce obesity? Is this a symptom of our society that we need to wait for a scientist to tell us with mathematical formulas and experimental studies that heat burns things and light makes it possible to see things?

Poor Planning to Blame (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37043946)

The thing is, people like popular social 'zones' with say 60 eateries in one street and a dozen pubs in the same street.

The planners don't like this at all, nor do landlords or developers who want to share and disperse the 'hot zone'. The clumping of like businesses leads to public transport efficiencies.

SimCuty 2000 Competition (1)

gubers33 (1302099) | more than 3 years ago | (#37044014)

They pretty much had this 15 years ago with SimCity 2000, when I was in skill. There was a competition to build the the best city with various variables taking into account. There were very strict rules on what you could build, such as none of the futuristic crap like fusion power plants. After you had your city you have a build a model layout of a section of it. This was at least 15 years ago, and using a child's computer game. Why has it taken so long to develop something that obviously wouldn't have taken that much thought since it pretty much existed?

plug in this...... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37044198)

Over reaching regulations,
Idiotic and criminal commissioners
Perv for a Mayor
No new roads for business expansion
reduce lanes in existing roads
high tax load

And out pops NIRVANA according to Portland liberals butt holes.

Oblig quote (1)

asm2750 (1124425) | more than 3 years ago | (#37044200)

You can't cut back on funding! You will live to regret this!!
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