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Dr. Paul M. Torrens, Center for Urban Science + Progress, New York University

Building mega-models for megacities

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Project overview

Megacities are urban behemoths: urban systems with populations exceeding 10 million inhabitants. Understanding how and why megacities form in diverse locations, at varying times, and how they develop over diverse time-scales are important goals for science across disciplines and interests. In the last thirty years, the number of megacities in the world has increased from three to twenty. The United States, for example, hosts three megacities: New York, Los Angeles, and the burgeoning Chicago megacity. The geography of this mega-urbanization is uneven. Most megacities in the developed world are projected to reach a level of stasis in their growth, growing at slower rates as their populations saturate their urban environment and the role that they play in their constituent national systems—and globally—cements, at least for the time being. Meanwhile, megacities in the developing world are forecast to accelerate in their growth: Lagos megacity is projected to expand by 48%, adding 5.2 million people (to 16.1 million total) between 2005 and 2015, Dhaka is estimated to grow by 35% (+4.4 million, to 16.8 million total), Karachi by 31% (+3.6 million, to 15.2 million total), Jakarta by 27% (+3.6 million, to 16.8 million total), and Kolkata by 19% (+2.7 million, to 17 million total) over the same time period.

As megacities grow and consolidate with massive tangible footprints and huge populations, so also will their influence on the world’s physical, natural, social, and technical systems expand and intensify. The pace of their emergence, development, and growth has, to a certain extent, outpaced our ability—as scientists—to keep track of their driving mechanics. Appreciating and understanding the future evolution of megacities is critical in explaining the futures of the world’s demography, economic markets, climate variability, innovation, and in postulating about many other factors. Exploring these issues is largely intractable without the use of computer models. Yet, the traditional cadre of simulation methodology that we have at our disposal is largely inadequate for examining the complexity of megacities in any serious fashion and serves to limit the range of questions that scientists can pose in simulation. Mega-models are not commonly developed for megacities, although their potential usefulness as planning and decision support systems, and as synthetic laboratories for trying-out ideas, hypothesizing about possible urban futures, and testing what-if scenarios has, perhaps, never been greater.

In this project, we are exploring options for composing mega-models to facilitate exploration of megacities in synthetic computational environments. These options range from meta-models, loosely coupled from diverse individual simulation components, perhaps across disciplinary confines, to massively interactive and mega-scale models of megacity dynamics, built from the bottom-up.

The world's megacities (you will need the Adobe Flash Player plug-in for your browser to view this movie)
Eye candy

American megacities

LA megacity
Chicago megacity
Northeastern megacity
Related groups
Center on Megacities, University of Southern California
Center for Urban Simulation and Policy Analysis, University of Washington
Environmental Spatial Analysis Lab, University of Michigan
Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, University College London
Center for Sustainable Cities, University of Southern California




GIS movement tracks

Big data movement analytics


climate indicators spatial analysis

Land indicators of climate

geosimulation high performance computing

High-performance computing and networking for geosimulation

earthquake model agent based GIS

Earthquake models

CA ice sheet model

Ice-sheet modeling

kinect control of GIS and robots
Robot motion control

simulating disasters ABM GIS
Human behavior in critical scenarios

crowd model riot model simulation wired

Modeling riots

physics engine GIS

Dynamic physics for built infrastructure

moving agents through space and time

Moving agents through space and time

validating agent based models

Validating agent-based models

machine learning GIS

Machine-learning behavioral geography

high performance computing urban simulation emergence

Accelerating agent-based models

megacity models

Megacity futures

immersive modeling

Immersive modeling

space-time GIS

Space-time GIS and analysis

measuring sprawl

A toolkit for measuring sprawl

space-time GIS

Modeling time, space, and behavior

simulating crowd behavior

Simulating crowd behavior

wi-fi geography

Wi-Fi geography

Simulating sprawl

Simulating sprawl