Mobile & Sensible Moscow


Mobile & Sensible Moscow is a response to a dramatic shift in urban economy and urban way of life across the globe that created tremendous demand for quantifiable and non-quantifiable real time data, its processing, analytics and delivery:

  • Free time becomes key urban development driver: growing share of cash rich and time rich citizens produces fluid mobility patterns, affects traffic issues and impacts public space use
  • Flexible and less predictable use of urban space creates demand for flexible public /working and living spaces, adaptable architecture, second hand construction
  • Location-dependent businesses while being more and more disoriented in the new “fluid” urban space look for real time data analytics capable of helping them to realize their retail strategies
  •  The rise of “vernacular” urban communities and a contradiction between urban “hardware” and people’s and businesses’ “soft” practices launch participatory planning mechanisms and require new communication platforms between municipal governments and citizens
  • Sharing constrained urban resources leads to collaborative consumption mechanisms that can only be delivered through collaboration platforms available for all parties of the shared urban economy
  • Rapid transformation of emerging cities produces social inequality, conflicts and spatial segregation that require real time monitoring, adequate up-to-date information and quick reaction
  • Crisis of classic long-term planning highlights the need for real time trend analysis

Urban Data Platform (UDP) is the key Urban Data solution – an online analytical platform that aggregates, processes, analyses and visualizes large urban data sets related to real time information on urban mobility and traffic congestion, police and security, energy consumption, pollution levels, citizens’ opinions and requests etc.

UDP prototype was built in 2013 as a part of a larger research “Archaeology of the Periphery” commissioned by Moscow Urban Forum (MUF).
UDP prototype is the first complex urban analysis system completely based on big/”spontaneous” data and combining quantifiable and non-quantifiable (“semantic”) urban data.
In the project for Moscow Urban Forum two key data sources were used:

  •  Geospatial “mobile” data – cell phone network loads (from a leading Russian mobile services provider MegaFon);
  • “Semantic” data – what people say about the city in social media (Twitter, Vkontakte, Foursquare).

Project results were published as an analytical report in a book “Archaeology of the Periphery” and were exhibited at the 3rd Moscow Urban Forum in Moscow Manege.
The research findings challenge the image of “invisible” Moscow based on everyday experience. Some of the findings are listed below.

 Key findings

1. Urban mobility


Moscow: staying put

Commuters are the obvious minority in Moscow urban area. Every morning more than 2/3 of Moscow residents would stay at home or in the immediate vicinity. Rush to the center?

Radial flows of commuters between dormitory districts and the center provide only a quarter of all the morning moves in the agglomeration; both, centripetal and centrifugal moves inclusive, as well as forced transit through the center (“excessive indirect routes”). A large part of population moves between transport rings, doesn’t cross them and doesn’t really rush to the center. The commute from the dormitory districts to the center only represents around 10% of all the flows within the agglomeration – and these are 10% of mobile citizens (1/3) that correspond to 1/30 of total population of Moscow urban area.

Chord shortages, longer excessive mileage About 1/5 (12.6% from Moscow and 6.3% from the Moscow Region) of all morning
commute in Moscow urban area is related to excessive mileage “earned” on indirect routes – when the population of the dormitory areas (or suburbs) go to the city center just for connection to a different transportation line (service). The high share (up to 20%) of excessive indirect routes in Greater Moscow shows that its transport infrastructure doesn’t meet the needs of the population and that chord routes are in deficit.
“Fake urbanization”
The commuting patterns of Muscovites on the periphery resemble “flea jumps”. While in the Moscow Region populated areas are fully developed urban communities, dormitory districts in Moscow are just “departure” and “destination” points that hardly ever form their own “hinterlands”. The development of direct chord connections would possibly end the disease of the Moscow periphery, “fake urbanization”, and would create centers of crystallization of mature urban space in the dormitory districts.

2. Semantic streams regarding the city (center vs. periphery, positive vs. negative references)

Center and periphery as two opposite poles & “semantic gap” The borders of Moscow’s center are perceived very conservatively (the area inside Boulevard Ring), but the periphery for Muscovites isn’t everywhere outside “mental center”. The real periphery appear to be two narrow stripes along Moscow Circle Road in the South and North of Moscow.
The space between central and peripheral “perception extremes” appears as a semantic gap — “no identity” belt of dormitory districts mostly ignored by social media. This is clear indication of so-called “fake urbanization” that doesn’t create real urban environment, senses and images.
Consistency (anxiety) and randomness (praise) of Moscow spatial semantic structure Negative emotions of Muscovites have a stable geography and cover limited amount of localities. Positive definitions are, on the contrary, spread in space randomly and usually are not attached to any certain placenames in the city, changing their geography quite often.
Moreover negative sentiments normally prevail. There are two times as many negative characteristics in the citizens’ messages as positive.
Crossing and understanding the city Positive references to the center mainly deal with the level of satisfaction by services, and
the negative opinions of the periphery are connected with the low quality of the environment.
There are not so many interesting objects and services beyond the Third Transport Ring, and the total amount of periphery mentions is twice less than the number of references to the center.
Moreover Muscovites just may not know the peripheral areas of the city very well. As Kevin Lynch, the creator of “mental maps” said, “district” perception of the territory points out to the poor understanding of the organization of the city, which is worse in this case, than knowledge of the city space, based on navigation, landmarks/nodes, paths and edges.

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