Felix Salmon

When we can’t see the world for our phones

December 5, 2012

Mobile devices are wonderful things, just as cars are. But both can cost lives, as Robert Kolker explains in a great NY Mag article:

How not to rank US cities

November 29, 2012

More than half the world now lives in cities, and nearly all the growth and value creation in the world comes from what Richard Florida calls “megaregions” centered on large conurbations. So it’s really useful to see which cities are doing well, and which are not.

Why London is doomed to remain a financial capital

November 12, 2012

It’s amazing how much coverage a thinly-sourced press release can elicit:


If you look at the PDF with the numbers in it, there’s no indication at all of where the numbers being cited come from, or what exactly they’re measuring. The idea, here, is that we’re trying to measure “jobs in the wholesale financial service sector”, which will include some but not most lawyers and accountants, if that helps.

Should gas prices be soaring?

November 1, 2012

Traffic is flowing in New York again this morning, for four reasons. First is the ban on private cars entering the island if they’re carrying fewer than three people. Second is the subways, which have started working again, in a limited manner. Third is a noticeable increase in bicyclists, even between yesterday and today: I have real hope that Sandy might persuade a whole swath of new people that bike commuting is incredibly fast and easy. And then there’s a much more mundane fourth reason: people are running out of gas.

How resilient is New York City?

October 31, 2012

What a difference a day makes: yesterday, the streets of hurricane-devastated New York were largely empty; today, the electrified parts of the city are in a massive state of gridlock. It’s just as well the threatened Obama visit isn’t happening: traffic in Manhattan and most of Brooklyn is bad enough without it.

The problems with measuring traffic congestion

October 17, 2012

Back in July, I gave a cautious welcome to TomTom’s congestion indices. The amount of congestion in any given city at any given time does have a certain randomness to it, but more data, and more public data, is always a good thing.

How to protect New York from disaster

September 11, 2012

Today, September 11, is a day that all New Yorkers become hyper-aware of tail risk — of some monstrous and tragic disaster appearing out of nowhere to devastate our city. And so it’s interesting that the NYT has decided to splash across its front page today Mireya Navarro’s article about the risk of natural disaster — flooding — in New York.

Chart of the day, party neighborhood edition

September 6, 2012


This chart comes from Uber data geek (that is, a data geek who works for Uber) Bradley Voytek. You might recognize it from a blog post of Voytek’s from back in June, headlined “Building the Perfect Uber Party City”.

Traffic congestion datapoints of the day

July 10, 2012

TomTom has released its first congestion indices today, comparing 31 cities in Europe and 26 cities in the US and Canada. (They call that North America, which is a bit disappointing, because I’d dearly love to see how Mexico City compares to other North American cities, and it’s not on the list.) The rankings are interesting, but even more interesting, to me, are the way that the rankings have changed over the past year.