Systems Analyst, URA
Reshaping Urban Singapore, With Data
Have you ever wondered why the distance to your nearest Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) station is as far as it is, and what improvements can be made to get to your destination faster? Angelia Lau has.
In fact, thinking of and solving such problems is part of her job as a Systems Analyst at the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s Design & Planning Lab (DPL). Angelia recounts that when she had to analyse how transport nodes were accessible to people by foot, it was “eye-opening” for her to realise how traditional methods of analyses may not always be an accurate representation of the distance and time taken for a pedestrian to reach an MRT station via existing footpaths.
For example, pedestrians here can often reduce walking time to the station by cutting through Housing Development Board (HDB) blocks and carparks, she explains. Therefore with geospatial data, urban planners like herself can more accurately capture the richness of Singapore’s urban landscape and analyse how people are using the transport systems.
“At DPL, we are always looking to improve our datasets so that we can work with a richer set of island-wide information, for example, whether specific pathways are wheelchair accessible, have an incline or elevation and are sheltered or not,” Angelia shares.
“This opens collaboration opportunities with other agencies to improve planning for active mobility and amenities. I’m excited to see what we can do with that!”
Making sense of our complex world
Angelia’s interest in geospatial analytics stemmed from her curiosity in how people behave and interact with each other, and how this interaction influences systems across space and time. She cited a case study she came across while studying for her A-Levels that sparked this interest.
“I read about a reported incident overseas where many children allegedly fell sick or passed away from playing near and falling into a river contaminated with toxic chemical waste from neighbouring factories, some of which may even have been producing everyday goods for the global market,” she elaborates.
It struck me how interconnected the world is. The complex, multidimensional nature of our actions within society drew me into the realm of urban analytics,” she added.
Today, she works on enhancing ePlanner, a geospatial Web application that empowers Singapore’s urban planners with the tools and data needed to better shape our urban environment. Some of the questions it could potentially help answer include whether a resident has a clinic or library within 20 minutes of public transport commute, or if there’s a park within a 10-minute cycle away.
“It is gratifying when we develop tools that allow us to critically assess the present built environment and lived experience, and to look into the future,” Angelia says.
“Being able to see this information spatially and model various scenarios puts me in a role where I can impactfully take action and set direction, and advance URA’s ability to plan and shape Singapore.”