July 06, 2015  |  permalink

Can Cities Really Save the World?

I was busy at last month’s New Cities Summit in Jakarta. In addition to my keynote, I was also invited to join a panel titled “Can Cities Really Save the World?” As the token journalist on the panel, I was inclined to say no. I was joined by Ahamed J. M. Muzammil, Mayor of Colombo; the State Bank of India’s Siddhartha Sengupta, and Patrick Regardh, head of strategic marketing for Ericsson. We were ably moderated by Nick Clark, the environment editor for Al Jazeera English (“Not Al Jazeera America,” he was quick to correct me.) The entire session is above.

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June 26, 2015  |  permalink

Seizing the Urban Moment

The New Cities Foundation has posted the video of my opening keynote, “The Urban Moment,” from this year’s New Cities Summit in Jakarta. Click on the video above for a fifteen-minutes overview of mega-urbanization, mobility, and the right to the city.

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June 23, 2015  |  permalink

reSITE & the New Cities Summit, in pictures

image(Photo credit: reSITE)

After seven weeks of travel to Miami, Orlando, Chicago, Dubai, Seattle, Istanbul, Jakarta, Tokyo and Prague, my spring tour is over. Below are a few photos taken at the annual reSITE conference in Prague (where I gave a brief talk on “engineering serendipity”) along with a few additional images from the New Cities Summit in Jakarta, where I was honored to deliver the opening lecture. If you need me, I’ll be locked in my office writing through September, at least.

image(Photo credit: reSITE)

image(Photo credit: reSITE)

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June 18, 2015  |  permalink

Microsoft Research: Engineering Serendipity


On May 19, Microsoft Research’s Justin Cranshaw kindly invited me to present on my obsession du jour, “engineering serendipity.” Click through for the complete talk, which unfortunately is too large and wide to present here.

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June 16, 2015  |  permalink

The New Cities Foundation’s Connected Mobility Initiative


I’m delighted to announce I’ve joined the New Cities Foundation as a (non-resident) senior fellow for 2015-2016 to lead its new Connected Mobility Initiative. This year-long research project will continue the line of inquiry that began with consulting on New York University’s “Reprogramming Mobility” research, as well as my own report for the University of Toronto’s Global Solution Networks initiative. From the foundation’s site:

Urban mobility is evolving rapidly as one million people move to cities every week. Change is also being driven by other factors such as technological innovations, increased constraints on energy use, deep changes in the structure of urban economies, shifting lifestyles and new ideas about urban design.

We launched the Connected Mobility Initiative with support from the Toyota Mobility Foundation to address the critical need for metropolises worldwide to find viable mobility solutions of the future.

The Initiative will produce an in-depth report outlining early examples of public sector-led innovation around connected transportation, with the aim of distilling lessons for the public sector officials, technology vendors, and citizens necessary to bring these visions to fruition in different cities worldwide.

We have appointed mobility expert Greg Lindsay as New Cities Foundation’s Senior Fellow to lead the Initiative from 2015-16. Greg Lindsay is a journalist, urbanist, futurist, and speaker. He is co-author of Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next and a visiting scholar at New York University’s Rudin Center for Transportation Policy & Management.

Over the next 12 months, Greg will share his insights into the future of urban mobility at the New Cities Foundation’s global events including the New Cities Summit and Cities on the Move.

The Initiative was launched in June 2015 and the report will be published in the summer of 2016.

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June 16, 2015  |  permalink

Mankind from Space [supercut]

My friends at Speakers Spotlight have created this four-minute supercut stitching together my appearances studded throughout the documentary Mankind from Space, which aired on Discovery Canada and National Geographic International in May, and is coming to PBS later this year. Click on the video above for my portentous ruminations on cities, air routes, and globalization… you know, the usual.

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June 16, 2015  |  permalink

The Public Life Reader


The folks at Next City have published The Public Life Reader, a free e-book collecting six months of essays about designing public space for maximum personal interactions. I’m honored that my report on how mobile dating apps are changing their users’ perceptions of the city was included in the mix. Please download and read the entire thing.

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May 21, 2015  |  permalink

Next City: The “Urbanologists” of URBZ


(Originally published at Next City on May 17, 2015.)

If the critics are any indication, MoMA’s architecture exhibition, “Uneven Growth: Tactical Urbanisms for Expanding Megacities,” won’t be missed when it closes next week on May 25.

New York’s Justin Davidson panned the show in November before it even opened , followed by Tactical Urbanism co-author Mike Lydon’s two-part critique disputing its entire premise, including the title. The final insult arrived in March when Harvard’s Neil Brenner demolished the show’s assumptions on MoMA’s own website. But if you need a reason to see “Uneven Growth” before it’s gone, perhaps the best is becoming better acquainted with the work of Brenner’s favorite team, the Mumbai-based “urbanologists” of URBZ.

Practically speaking, URBZ is a research, design, and activist group led by Matias Echanove and Rahul Srivastava, who have spent the last six years working in Dharavi, the world’s most infamous slum. They refuse to call it that, however, and so do its residents. The pair titled their 2014 e-book “The Slum Outside” as a nod to this disavowal — the Dharavi they know is a middle-class neighborhood. “The slum” is always outside, somewhere else.

The slum, of course, is the hottest button in urbanism. Beneath the cliché that half the world’s population lives in cities — and that urban populations will double by 2050 — is the fact that only bottom-up informal settlements, or slums, can absorb several billion new residents in the timeframe. The debate is whether these places are engines of hope and upward mobility (i.e. the prosperity gospel of Stewart Brand , Ed Glaeser , and, to a lesser extent, Robert Neuwirth) or places where relentless entrepreneurialism belies the hopelessness of ever escaping (a point made in various polemics by Mike Davis, George Packer, and Daniel Brook).

» Continue reading...

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May 05, 2015  |  permalink

Mankind From Space on Discovery Canada

On Sunday, May 3, Discovery Canada aired the premiere of “Mankind from Space,” a two-hour documentary on the man-made networks binding humanity into a global civilization. The short clip above includes me holding forth on transportation. More to come.

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April 30, 2015  |  permalink

FedEx Access: Smartphones, Smarter Transit

(“Access,” a magazine published by FedEx Corporation to advance its interests in increasing connectivity and trade, recently interviewed me about the future of connected transportation.)

Greg Lindsay gets around, and he wants us all to get around better than we do. An urbanist and widely published journalist who’s a leading voice in next-generation, digitally driven mobility, Lindsay can point to a recent explosion of new companies and new ideas that are challenging our conceptions of human transport: sharing-economy models (Uber, Lyft, Car2Go, etc.), transit-connecting apps, autonomous and semi-autonomous cars, and global sustainable transport projects such as the World Resources Institute’s EMBARQ initiative. Lindsay is co-director of the World Policy Institute’s Emergent Cities Project and a visiting scholar at New York University’s Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management. We asked him about the ways the digital transformation of transportation can boost human productivity and connectivity.


Uber and Lyft have already proven you can build a globally scalable system, at least when it comes to cars. But the real transformation will come from integrating all or nearly all modes of transportation, including trains, buses and bicycles. No one has built such a system yet, but there are some interesting hints of what it might look like.

One hint is the advent of apps like RideScout and Citymapper, which use open transit data to offer users a choice of which mode to take. How do I get from A to B, you might ask? Well, here’s how long it would take to drive, versus bike to the nearest train stop, versus taking a taxi, and so on. Once you have that, the next step is to build an app that can offer a single fare across any of those nodes and guarantee the schedules mesh.

An early example of this is Shift, in Las Vegas. It’s a monthly membership service combining car-sharing and bike-sharing within a single app, assigning vehicles as necessary depending on where you want to go. Another hint is Helsinki’s Kutsuplus, which is an on-demand bus service that plots its routes depending on where today’s passengers want to go. The city has an even more ambitious plan to create a citywide system by 2025 that seamlessly meshes public transit, private transit and bike-sharing.


They’d be profound. Cities’ job and housing markets are largely shaped by transportation. I live in Queens, New York, and my neighborhood has any number of informal workarounds — such as taxis that double as quasi-legal jitneys each morning — to make up for a lack of formal transit options.

But what if public transportation were free? That’s what Tallinn, Estonia, has done. It was originally done to reduce traffic congestion, but the early data suggests the biggest beneficiaries are the poorest and most marginalized residents, who also happen to suffer from the least accessibility. Free transit means better connections to potential employment — and hopefully better integration with society.


The first challenge is updating and coordinating outdated transit information systems. The second is the political battle over whether transportation is a public or private good. Uber would rather fight cities trying to regulate rather than working with them to create value. The other challenge is delivering these new services equitably. We can build incredible services, but if we can’t make them affordable or accessible, we’re only hurting the ones who need them most.


That’s the $64 billion question, and that’s also why I’m especially interested in the accessibility argument. We’re seeing poorer families and immigrants landing in suburban communities where there is little transit and little or no push to build more. The only way to increase transportation access there — besides just putting more cars on the road — is to create digitally connected transit via options such as minibus services, Uber or something else.

We don’t have a consensus in this country on building more transit infrastructure to solve congestion. So we’ll turn to our smartphones and our bandwidth, which is the one area we all can agree is worthy of investment.

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About Greg Lindsay

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Greg Lindsay is a journalist, urbanist, futurist, and speaker. He is a contributing writer for Fast Company, author of the forthcoming book Engineering Serendipity, and co-author of Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next. He is also a senior fellow of the New Cities Foundation — where he leads the Connected Mobility Initiative — a non-resident senior fellow of The Atlantic Council’s Strategic Foresight Initiative, a visiting scholar at New York University’s Rudin Center for Transportation Policy & Management, and a senior fellow of the World Policy Institute.

» More about Greg Lindsay

Articles by Greg Lindsay

Inc.  |  March 2015

Which Contacts Should You Keep in Touch With? Let This Software Tell You

Inc.  |  March 2015

5 Global Cities of the Future

Global Solution Networks  |  December 2014

Cities on the Move

Medium  |  November 2014

Engineering Serendipity

New York University  |  October 2014

Sin City vs. SimCity

Harvard Business Review  |  October 2014

Workspaces That Move People

Inc.  |  April 2014

The Network Effect

Atlantic Cities  |  March 2014

How Las Vegas (Of All Places) May Be About to Reinvent Car Ownership

Wired (UK)  |  October 2013

How to Build a Serendipity Engine

Next American City  |  August 2013

IBM’s Department of Education

The New York Times  |  April 2013

Engineering Serendipity

Fast Company  |  March 2013

Swedish Modern Comes To Town

Fast Company  |  March 2013

Working Beyond the Cube

Fast Company  |  December 2012/January 2013

Imagine Air Travel Without Hassle: Surf Air Can

WSJ  |  November 2012

Jeanne Gang

Fast Company  |  June 2012

That’s So Fly

Next American City  |  May 2012

Chartered Territory

The New York Times  |  Feburary 2012

Designing a Fix for Housing

Departures  |  October 2011

Instant Cities

Travel + Leisure  |  October 2011

The Future of Travel

» See all articles


July 06, 2015

Can Cities Really Save the World?

June 26, 2015

Seizing the Urban Moment

June 23, 2015

reSITE & the New Cities Summit, in pictures

June 18, 2015

Microsoft Research: Engineering Serendipity

» More blog posts