Discussions on affordable housing in the United States frequently feel like stories about Greek fire or Roman concrete: ancient technology lost to time. Homelessness and affordability only surfaced as major issues in the mid-twentieth century. What solutions existed prior to that? How did it change? How do we get back? Do we want to go back?

Building the Current System

Generally, cities have been grown organically through a series of steps:

  1. Pioneers would establish some sort of encampment at a location believed to have some strategic advantage (trading port, lumber camp, military post, etc.). …


If you spend enough time roaming around the urban planning internets, you’ll probably find a few articles about how SUVs and pickup trucks are getting taller and more square in order to feed the macho American ego, and that this is leading to higher pedestrian deaths. A couple of good examples can be found here and here. I’m not going to argue with that narrative or that problematic truck owners don’t exist. …


In Part I, I took you through the data gathering and compilation required to rank Census tracts by the four features identified by Jane Jacobs as the foundation of a great neighborhood:

  • Density
  • A mix of uses
  • A mix of building ages, types and conditions
  • A street network of short, connected blocks

Now that we have our data, we’re going to test it against some other metrics of urban quality of life and see if it is a strong predictor. I am going to test the Jane Jacobs Index and it’s component pieces against the following data:

  • Crime statistics from…

An analysis of urban design based on Death and Life of Great American Cities using Pandas, OpenStreetMap, and the US Census

In Death and Life of Great American Cities, the great Jane Jacobs lays out four essential characteristics of a great neighborhood:

  • Density
  • A mix of uses
  • A mix of building ages, types and conditions
  • A street network of short, connected blocks

Of course, she goes into much greater detail on all of these, but I’m not going to get into all the eyes-on-the-street level stuff. Instead, I’m going to find neighborhoods with the right “bones” to build great urbanism onto. The caveat to this, as with most geospatial planning tools, is that it is not to be blindly trusted. …

Brian Parker

Urban planner and data nerd. Feel free to hire me: https://brianparkerresume.herokuapp.com/

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