Map lovers and data geeks are in for a real treat thanks to a new online tool called Urban Observatory (h/t Atlantic Cities). The interactive website allows users to compare things like population density, the amount of open space, and commercial land use on navigable maps of 16 different cities. Created by geospatial firm Esri, film company Radical Media, and TED mastermind Richard Saul Wurman, the site aims to be "a live museum with a data pulse" that provides urbanization information in a comparative form?something that didn't previously exist in one easy-to-use system. We chose to compare the three American cities that currently participate: New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. Above, you see maps charting each metropolis's public open space.
Data sets are divided into five categories. "Work" has maps for commercial and industrial uses; "Movement" shows traffic flow, roadspeed, and airports; "People" charts housing and population density as well as age distribution; "Public" which currently only shows open space, but the website lists public transit, public services, and others as map data, so perhaps they will be added; and "Systems," which shows things like wind speed, climate, topography, and new development (unfortunately, and somewhat surprisingly, this was not available for NYC). Not all maps are shown on the same scale and not all data sets are available for every city, but it's still a very useful and interesting tool.