Michael Fichman


Cities, Data, Arts, Music, Community

Researcher & City Planning Consultant
University of Pennsylvania Weitzman School of Design
Acting Program Director
UPenn Masters of Urban Spatial Analytics
Data Scientist
Center for Safe Mobility

View the Project on GitHub mafichman/portfolio

I’m a data-savvy city planner and educator working in a range of fields, including nighttime economies, arts and culture, smart cities, transportation, parks and open space, and more.

Practice Areas

About Me

Nighttime Arts and Culture - Planning and Advocacy

Global Nighttime Recovery Plan
“The Nightlife Rescue Plan That Could Save Your City’s Scene” - City Lab

I’m an editor and author of The Global Nighttime Recovery Plan - a collaborative, practical guide for cities that are trying to determine the best way to design and execute a safe and feasible strategy to reopen and reactivate their creative and night-time economies. The guide is a joint effort that involves activists, practitioners, academics and industry representatives from all over the world

Partners on this project include Vibe Lab, PennPraxis, Fraunhofer Institute and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. It has been translated into several languages, including Spanish, Japanese and German, and has been a catalyst for local and national planning initiatives in Asia, South America, Africa, Europe and North America.

Creative Footprint - NYC / Tokyo / Berlin / Stockholm

Client - Vibe Lab
The Creative Footprint (CFP) is a sociocultural initiative that maps and indexes creative space to measure the impact of nightlife and cultural activity on cities.

I developed a geo-spatial methodology to get deep insights about how creative spaces are related to economic and demographic indicators and how they are affected by land use policies and transportation networks.


24HrPHL is a resource and community engagement group in Philadelphia’s nightlife arts and culture community. I was a founding member of this group in 2017. We have created programs and resources including sexual harrassment identification and de-escalation training for venues, survey research and policy engagement, venue opening guides, harm reduction toolkits, directories of COVID-related resources, and more.

Philadelphia City Council Arts and Culture Task Force

As a member of the ACTF (and chair of it’s nightlife commitee) I drafted recommendations to City Council including calls for licensing reform for creative spaces, harm reduction subsidies for events industries, workers supports, and the creation of a Nighttime Economy Office within the city’s Department of Commerce. The Nighttime Economy Office was budgeted for FY2022 with the support of Council, the Mayor and the City Controller. Our task force was also responsible for the appropriation and disbursement of $1M of grants to independent artists in the City.

Voices of Creatives

I served as the director of research for Voices of Creatives, a project designed to understand the effects of COVID-19 on the creative industries in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Senegal, South Africa and Kenya. This project, undertaken by the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (German: Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit; “GIZ”), was conducted by VibeLab and PennPraxis and with support from the Goethe-Institut.

Our methodology combined focus groups, surveys, spatial maps and economic research - and created a set of priorities for GIZ and other agencies to promote business development and economic recovery in fashion, design, and music industries across and within each country.

Urban Planning Data Analytics and Software Design

Center for Safe Mobility Eye Tracking

I am the lead Data Scientist on the Center for Safe Mobility’s research team. The research group is deploying a wearable sensor technology called Tobii to understand how the built environment affects walkers, cyclists, and more. I’ve built custom software in R to analyze the sensor data—which measures dozens of bio-metric indicators in 10 millisecond increments—and relate user stress in response to the features of the built environment. Our work has been published and widely publicized as a new approach to building safer transportation infrastructure.

Communication Neuroscience Lab - Geoscanning Research Group

I provide geospatial data analysis, software development, and urban planning expertise to a research group examining the relationship between environmental risk factors, observed behavior, and brain activity. Using a wide variety of data sources, including tobacco retailer data, census information, GPS data and CT scans, this project integrates medical, behavioral and public health data using a geographic lens.

Urban Planning Program Evaluation

Parks and Open Space

Reimagining The Civic Commons (2016-17)

PennPraxis worked with the Fairmount Park Conservancy (FPC) in conjunction with the Philadelphia pilot of the Reimagining the Civic Commons initiative, funded by the Knight Foundation, William Penn Foundation, and JPB Foundation. The initiative united partners from five key civic assets in Philadelphia—Bartram’s Mile, Discovery Center, The Viaduct Rail Park, Lovett Library and Park, and Centennial Commons—that were undergoing phased redesigns beginning in the summer of 2016. PennPraxis assisted in the design and implementation of data collection and baseline monitoring to document the impacts of the initial phases of implementation. PennPraxis deployed a team to collect this information using site observation, intercept surveys, and user counts to create bases of data to measure future impacts.

OvalPHL / The Oval Program Evaluation (2017-18)

PennPraxis developed software for documenting site usage and mapping spatial data for a variety of sites and questions. In 2017 and 2018, PORT Architecture + Urbanism designed temporary pop-up public space installations at Eakins Oval, and hired PennPraxis to collect data on visitors for the Fairmount Park Conservancy.


An Evaluation of Pittsburgh’s Dynamically Priced Curb Parking Pilot (2016)

An econometric analysis of one of the first dynamic, demand-based curb parking programs in the US. Uses custom occupancy estimations algorithms to create elasticity estimations and estimates price effects using regression discontinuity quasi-experimental models.

Open Streets Program Evaluation (2016)

Assisted in the design and implementation of an in person survey campaign to measure use and demographics associated with Philadelphia’s first “Open Streets” event. Client: Philly Free Streets

Historic Preservation

Sacred Places, Civic Spaces (2019)

Conducted a survey-based evaluation process for the Infill Philadelphia: Sacred Places / Civic Spaces project, a partnership between the Community Design Collaborative and Partners for Sacred Places, with North 4th LLC as project managers. The two-year project seeks to re-envision underutilized, purpose-built religious properties in Philadelphia as community hubs, adding the design and development community’s voice to a growing dialogue about the intersection between historic sacred places and communities.


Leonard Davis Institute & Housing Initiative at Penn (2019)

Created a spatial data analysis design and software suite for a research group examining the relationship between housing interventions and public health. Our work led to the publication of a paper, publicized in the Wall Street Journal and New York Times, which shows a causal link between the disbursement of Philadelphia’s Basic Systems Repair Program services (small home repair grants and case management) and a reduction in violent crime on blocks receiving interventions.

Policy Research

Civic Infrastructure - Economic Inclusion (2018)

White paper on economic inclusion strategies in public capital investment programs. Written as part of a multi-year research project with PennPraxis funded by The William Penn Foundation.

Glassboro NJ Growth Management Plan

Ongoing PennPraxis planning process to create a long-term strategy for growth for this rapidly changing University town. —


I have taught many classes over the years at University of Pennsylvania’s Weitzman School of Design, where I was the Interim Director of the Master of Urban Spatial Analytics Graduate program in 2021 and 2022. Courses I have taught include -


Awards, Honors, Organizational Memberships


VibeLab. (2022). The Creative Footprint Project - Stockholm.

Vibe Lab. (2020 - 2021) Global Nighttime Recovery Plan, Chapters 1-7. (White Paper Series)
I am lead editor of Chapters 3, 4 and lead author of Chapter 7

Ryerson, M. S., Long, C. S., Fichman, M., Davidson, J. H., Scudder, K. N., Kim, M., Katti, R., Poon, G., & Harris, M. D. (2021). Evaluating cyclist biometrics to develop urban transportation safety metrics. Accident; analysis and prevention, 159, 106287. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aap.2021.106287

Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). (2021). “Voices of Creatives: Scenarios for the New Normal in the Creative Industries of Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East after Covid-19.”
I was director of research and an author on this institutional publication

Mattan, B. D., Cooper, N., Scholz, C., Fichman, M., Paul, A., Andrews, M. E., Johnson, D., Carreras-Tartak, J., Cakar, M., Hao, S., Beard, E., Barnett, I., Strasser, A., Kirchner, T., & Falk, E. B. (2021, April). Impact of mood on smoking through cravings in disadvantaged neighborhoods. Annual meeting of the Midwestern Psychological Association, 2021.

Fichman, Michael, Manning, R., Burton, E., and Park, K. (2021). City of Philadelphia Nighttime Economy Office: Proposal 2021.

Fichman, Michael. (2020, May 14) Opinion: Philadelphia should become a 24-hour city to survive the pandemic.. Philadelphia Inquirer.

VibeLab. (2020). The Creative Footprint Project - Tokyo.

Fichman, Michael A (2018). Civic Infrastructure 2018, Appendix: Economic Inclusion. DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.29450.98243.

VibeLab. (2018). The Creative Footprint Project - New York City.

Steif, K. Mallach, A. Fichman, M. Kassel, S. (2016). Predicting gentrification using longitudinal census data. Urban Spatial. (White Paper)

Fichman, M. (2016). An Evaluation of Pittsburgh’s Dynamically‐Priced Curb Parking Pilot. DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.16274.25289

Fichman, M and M.A Fichman. (2012) From Darwin to the Diamond: How Baseball and Billy Beane Arrived at Moneyball. Available at SSRN 2112109.



Get in touch with me at mfichman at gmail dot com or mfichman at design dot upenn dot edu.