Christopher D. Higgins


Assistant Professor
Department of Human Geography
University of Toronto Scarborough

Projects and Openings


I am a quantitative geographer, urban informatician, and planner whose work uses GIS/GIScience to better understand the dynamics of complex urban systems and their link to economic, social, and environmental outcomes. My primary research and teaching interests are in spatio-temporal analyses and modelling, urban geo-informatics, and Smart City planning and development. Application areas to date include:

See my Research Projects and Publications for more information, as well as my Google Scholar, ResearchGate, ORCID, and Twitter profiles.

Recent Work

Accessibility Toolbox for R and ArcGIS

This paper details a new Accessibility Toolbox for R and ArcGIS that includes a Python tool for conducting accessibility analyses and an interactive R Notebook that enables the visualization and customization of impedance functions and parameters. Using this toolbox, researchers and practitioners can simplify their accessibility analysis workflow and make better decisions about the specification and customization of travel impedance for their study context. Paper available in Transport Findings at DOI 10.32866/8416

Spatial trade-offs from Accessibility, Air Pollution, and Congestion

Agglomeration is the foundation of the economic geography of cities. Agglomeration can bring accessibility benefits, but also negative externalities such as increased exposure to harmful emissions, and both of these are impacted by congestion. This research employs real estate transaction data to examine whether spatial trade-offs occur between the benefits and negative impacts of agglomeration in the single-detached property market around two highways in Hamilton, Canada. Results suggest that households value high levels of accessibility in locations that do not experience the corresponding environmental costs from traffic. In contrast, for locations with high access and high exposure, the access benefits of agglomeration are offset by environmental costs. Paper available in Land Use Policy at DOI 10.1016/j.landusepol.2019.03.002.

4D Econometrics in High Density and Topographically-rich Cities

This paper makes several innovations in methods and techniques that respond to the econometric challenges involved in conducting research in high density, topographically-rich cities. It is the first to calculate slope-aware measures of walkable accessibility on a 3D pedestrian network; it proposes a new Spherical Distance Weights method for capturing horizontal and vertical spatial association among observations in 3D space; and combines these weights with measures of temporal distance for a 4D approach that accounts for relations among observations in space and time. Using the example of the West Island Line in Hong Kong, the paper employs a quasi-experimental spatio-temporal study design and finds that property values increased up to 41% after new stations opened. Paper available in Landscape and Urban Planning at DOI 10.1016/j.landurbplan.2018.12.011.

3D Network Toolbox

Using an input pedestrian network and a Digital Elevation/Terrain Model (DEM/DTM), the 3D Network Python Toolbox for ArcGIS Pro and 10.x implements Tobler’s Hiking Function to enable the calculation of slope-aware travel times for walking travel on a 3D network.

Land Value Uplift and TOD in Toronto

Our paper Rapid transit, transit-oriented development, and the contextual sensitivity of land value uplift in Toronto was recently published in Urban Studies. Using real estate transaction data and spatial econometric methods, this paper examines the land value uplift effects associated with accessibility to rapid transit in different transit-oriented development contexts. Paper available at DOI 10.1177/0042098017712680.

The $1.3B Health Impacts of Weekday Traffic

By producing high levels of harmful emissions, traffic congestion has a substantial impact on human health and the economy. Our results showed an impact of 206 (95%: 116; 297) deaths per year from all-cause mortality and 119 (95%: 67; 171) deaths per year from cardiovascular mortality associated with PM2.5 emissions from traffic congestion in the Toronto region. Paper available in Environment International at DOI 10.1016/j.envint.2017.11.025.

Mindset and Mindshare for Electric Vehicles

This study presents a multi-group structural equation modelling exercise to identify differences in the mindset and mindshare of individuals towards electric vehicles (EVs) across seven vehicle body types in Canada. Results indicate that the psychographic orientation and the SED traits of potential adopters of different EV body types are significantly different, with particular standouts in the luxury and pickup truck classes. Paper available in Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice at DOI 10.1016/j.tra.2018.05.011