This is the age of field experiments but too few of these experiments take place in cities. Yes, I know about MTO and I'm glad it increased happiness and reduced stress levels for those in the treatment group but that is only the tip of the iceberg. Yes, energy economists are randomizing incentives to nudge households to change their electricity demand patterns but that isn't an "urban economics" field experiment.
1. I want to see researchers randomizing the cash amount given to people for housing vouchers to see how households tradeoff neighborhood quality for the size of the housing unit.
2. I want to see researchers randomize admissions letters among the waitlist to elite public schools to see how far households are willing to ship their kid on a bus to go to a good school (or whether they move to be closer to the school they have been assigned to).
3. I want to see researchers take random pollution readings and report these pollution levels to households to test whether such information changes self protection investments by at risk families.
4. I want to see public transit systems that have metro card systems run a pricing experiment where they announce a week ahead what the price of public transit will be the next week and then randomize the price that will be charged. This will yield a short run demand curve that can be compared to contingent valuation hypothetical estimates.
Since I don't know of anyone actually running these experiments, I will have to do my own field work. Over the next couple of weeks, I will be in Barcelona, New York City and Boston. For those folks who know something about Barcelona, please email me what excitement there is in this town that a staid 46 year old might enjoy.