July 20, 2017  |  permalink

NewCities Summit 2017: Songdo Redux

In June, I paid a visit to the instant city of New Songdo for a the first time in nearly decade as part of the annual NewCities Summit, my sixth(!). If you couldn’t make it, videos of each session have just been posted, of which I moderated a pair this year.

The first (above) focused on “Global Connectivity and the Success of Cities,” starring AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes (whose Berluti sneaker game was strong), ENGIE’s Olivier Biancarelli, Aéroports de Paris, and Kandahar mayor Roshaan Wolusmal. As you might expect, our conversation focused on infrastructure. From the session description: “Second, third and fourth-tiered cities will absorb most of the new urban population, and will therefore hold a great role in their national economies. How can we increase their connectivity to other levels of economy? What challenges do these cities face in accessing global markets? What is the impact of greater connectivity on a city’s planning, infrastructure, economy, and attractivity?”

The second (below), told “the Story of Songdo,” with Gale International’s Tom Murcott, Arup’s Ashok Raiji, KPF’s Elie Gamburg, and former Cisco chief globalization officer Wim Elfrink. Between recapping the project and efforts to subsequent efforts to create cities from scratch that are faster, better, cheaper, perhaps the most notable admission was Elfrink’s candid admission that Cisco’s attempt to build a hardwired smart city had failed — it had been overtaken by the same technologies it had hoped to exploit.

 

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July 17, 2017  |  permalink

Seedstars, Ananda Urban Tech, and “Cities as a Service”

Last month, I was invited to Bangkok by Seedstars and Thailand’s Ananda Development to speak about “Cities-as-a-Service,” host a panel with my friends and colleagues Ayesha Khanna (ADDO AI), Anthony Vanky (MIT Senseable Cities), and Yaron Schwarcz (Tridom), and host a workshop envisioning potential future of urban tech.

A brief video excerpt from my talk is above. Thanks again to both Seedstars and Ananda for hosting me!

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July 14, 2017  |  permalink

“Columbus Park” and Redesigning Manhattan for Autonomous Vehicles.

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Back in May, I was invited to join dozens of architects, mobility experts, public officials, startups, and others for a autonomous and connected vehicle design sprint organized by the engineering firm BuroHappold.  Our team was tasked with redesigning Manhattan’s Columbus Circle — my teammate Derrick Choi explains our plan below.

Derrick Choi (Populous), Greg Lindsay (Fast Company), Mike Seyle (BuroHappold), Nicola Thomson (100 Resilient Cities), Patrick Smith (NYC Department of Transportation)

Write-up by Derrick Choi

What is your team’s idea?

Columbus Circle is an icon that can never be truly occupied. Traffic roundabout, NYC landmark, and post card icon – right adjacent to Central
Park, but never a part of it. In the dawn of connected and autonomous vehicular networks, the time to reimagine the Circle is now. Imagine finally being able to occupy Columbus Circle AND enhance traffic flow? Our concept seeks to do just that by physically integrating Columbus Circle with Central Park to enhance the pedestrian experience, improve the flow of transit, and introduce a new proving grounds for CAVs and delivery vehicles south of Columbus Circle along Broadway.

There are some fundamental planning assumptions behind the concept:

1. Re-routing traffic flow will enhance traffic while improving open space.

2. The improvements seek to balance – to the extent practicable – the interests and operational requirements of pedestrians, bicyclists, public transit, personal vehicles, CAVs as well as public-private development opportunities.

3. Public policy shall be innovation-friendly and will encourage testing extant infrastructure to adapt to new technologies and solutions.

4. Connected and autonomous vehicle networks will be an integral component of the City’s transportation system.

5. Public private partnerships are encouraged to advance innovative infrastructure and urban ideas.

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We offer a multi-phase approach to stitching Columbus Circle into Central Park. The multi-stage strategy gives the City the flexibility to test concepts with little risk:

PHASE 1 – Absorb the Roundabout

• Shut off quadrant facing Central Park with retractable bollards and paint the street; creating a contiguous public space extension; stitching Columbus Circle to Central Park.

• Re-route traffic flow in a north-south configuration: Broadway (north of 58th) to Central Park South provides a south flow while Broadway (south of 58th) to Central Park West provides a north flow. NOTE: South-bound traffic flow is diverted to Central Park South.

• Broadway South of 58th Street will be cut off of traffic on a regular basis as a test corridor for CAV technologies – especially for off-hour test runs of delivery robots originating from the Columbus Circle Whole Foods – running down all the way to Union Square.

PHASE 2 – Absorb the Streets

• Shut off all of Central Park South and the entire roundabout from Broadway to the start of Central Park West from vehicular traffic; effectively repurposing about HALF of the Columbus Circle roundabout into public open space.

• Re-route traffic flow permanently in the following manner:

• South flow: Broadway to 8th Avenue

• North flow: 8th Avenue to Central Park West

• East / West flow: turn at 57th and 8th Avenue

• Dedicated South Broadway route (south of 57th Street) for CAV and pedestrian-centric activities.

While the Circle goes away – almost half of it becomes absorbed by Central Park – the operational and quality of life improvements are considerable. At the new Columbus Park, traffic improves, Broadway and Central Park South becomes dedicated for open public space and a new north-south axis for traffic is provided.

Why is this a good idea for your city?

Columbus Circle’s riddle is solved once and for all when traffic improves and the quality of public life can be improved at the site. We believe there are 4 primary benefits worth thinking about:

1. Introduction of dynamic new public spaces – Central Park South becomes a dedicated pedestrian-only public corridor and Columbus Circle becomes a truly public space with no traffic disruption.

2. Commitment to a new dedicated Broadway technology corridor from the Circle to Union Square – providing a new test bed for CAVs while
recommitting to the public realm.

3. Significant traffic and environmental enhancements – re-alignment of the North-South flows will eliminate congestion, idling, and overall air quality for the immediate area.

4. Encouragement of strong public-private collaboration – from delivery robots from Whole Foods to new private sector sponsorships of new public corridors, new opportunities to reclaim the streets will deliver incredible dividends for the City.

What would need to happen to implement your team’s idea?

No idea can be implemented in a vacuum. The successful implementation of the Columbus Circle concept will weigh heavily on the ability of the City to be able to test these ideas in such a heavily trafficked location that must last the test of both pedestrians as well as vehicles.

There will likely be a combination of aggressive, phased testing and recalibration of the test corridors as well as strong policies advocating for innovation and public-private partnerships. Implementation will require a two-fold collaboration between public agencies who must test the corridors and implement the policies and the private sector players who need to understand the needs of their stakeholders.

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June 30, 2017  |  permalink

Politico: What’s the Greatest Risk Cities Face? Traffic.

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(Originally published by Politico Magazine as part of its July/August 2017 Cities issue. Proud to be included alongside Columbia’s Saskia Sassen, Charlotte mayor Pat McCrory, Brookings’ Bruce Katz, former Memphis mayor A.C. Wharton, Retrofitting Suburbia authors June Williamson and Ellen Dunhanm-Jones, and many more. You can read the entire thing here.)

Since the financial crisis, America’s largest metros have been reliable job and people magnets, breathing new life into exurban sprawl with new residents who “drive until they qualify” for an affordable mortgage on a home outside a city. But these suburbanites and exurbanites are left exposed to the high costs of commuting in terms of both time and money, as well as to the devastating effects of another potential oil shock like the 2008 price spike that precipitated the crisis. At the same time, gentrification has transformed America’s densest, most walkable and transit-rich neighborhoods into some of the country’s most expensive, thereby expelling their former inhabitants to the suburban fringe. This has turned out to be a trap: Nearly half of affordable-housing residents spend more than 15 percent of their incomes on transportation. Public transit alone is of little help, as researchers at Brookings have found that a typical resident is able to reach only 30 percent of a city’s available jobs in less than 90 minutes using transit. In turn, long, expensive commutes depress growth and punish their most vulnerable residents.

The proposed solutions to these problems tend to veer quickly toward the fantastical—cars that fly or drive themselves, or one of Elon Musk’s new tunnels. Others tout Uber as a fix that will render buses obsolete. The truth is that Uber and its competitors have only added to congestion in cities such as New York and San Francisco, and autonomous vehicles could make the problem worse in the form of driverless traffic jams. Meanwhile, New subway systems from New York to Washington groan under the strain of new riders and deferred maintenance.

An alternative solution would be to combine public transit with these new technologies on the same app or platform, using the convenience of car-sharing, bike-sharing and ride-hailing to increase ridership and promote alternatives to car ownership. “Mobility-as-a-service” programs combining various modes have been successfully tested in Europe, but haven’t yet made it to the United States. Coupling better transit service with on-demand rides for last-mile and last-minute solutions could prove incredibly appealing to commuters, and combining it with smarter regulations for parking, zoning and congestion could make them even more so. While President Donald Trump continues to tout a public-private $1 trillion infrastructure package that is actively hostile to rail projects, Los Angeles residents, for instance, voted overwhelmingly in November to tax themselves $100 billion over 30 years for transportation projects, including five new rail lines. Cities such as Seattle and Atlanta have followed suit with similar measures, with the former promising to invest in what it calls “new mobility.” Cities thrive by comfortably compressing large number of people together in space and time. We need to invest intelligently in methods both old and new to ensure they can keep growing.

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June 26, 2017  |  permalink

URBAN-X: Can These Startups Change the Way We Live in Cities?

(I’m currently the Urbanist-in-Residence for URBAN-X, the startup accelerator backed by Urban US and BMW MINI. Fast Company asked me to host this video starring three of the teams in the accelerator’s second cohort: WearWorks; Contextere; and UpCycles. Enjoy!)

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June 10, 2017  |  permalink

Intel and the “Passenger Economy”

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Last week. Intel published a report on what it’s calling the “Passenger Economy” — the $7 trillion created by 2050 once the time, money, energy, and attention devoted to driving is channeled elsewhere in a world of autonomous vehicles. Working with Intel and the research firm Strategy Analytics, I was asked to imagine how this new economy larger than the UK’s and Germany’s combined today will begin to appear, and how it will reshape where and how we live, work and play. Ranging from “mobility-as-a-service” to aerial drone delivery to self-driving homes (as AVs mate with RVs), the autonomous future will transform cities — hopefully for the better.

The launch of the report (featuring my quotes) has been covered by WiredThe TelegraphThe Detroit News, CNBC, CNET, and Venture Beat, among many others. There’s also been significant international coverage in Singapore, Hong Kong, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and Australia, to name just a few. Going forward, I’ll be writing and speaking about the report at Intel events in New York, Detroit, Washington and beyond. Stay tuned!

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June 10, 2017  |  permalink

The Spring Speaking Season

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I’m writing this somewhere above the Arctic Circle bound for home after speaking and moderating at my fifth New Cities Summit in Songdo, marking the official start to the summer speaking season.

It’s been a busy spring, however, headlined by delivering the opening keynote at the Global Coworking Unconference (GCUC), where everyone-who’s-everyone in the vanguard of shared workspaces and the future of work assembles to debate the future. Once again, I made the case that the line between the office and the city, and between work and play, is blurring beyond all recognition. “Coworking is eating the world,” I announced, meaning workspaces have escaped the office and are popping up everywhere — in restaurants, retails, luxury homes, etc.

Attendees loved it, and discussed it at length in recaps of the event. The previous day, I’d hosted my third WorkTech NYC, interviewing Googleplex architect Clive Wilkinson among others. Work and the city was also the focus of my talks and panels at CoreNet’s Eastern Regional Symposium and the Canadian commercial real estate firm Triovest.

But mobility remained the theme of most talks, ranging from keynotes at PostNord in Oslo and SNCF in Toulouse, to panels at DLD New York, URBAN-X, and Smart Cities New York, along with an invite-only workshop for the Bloomberg Aspen Initiative on Autonomous Vehicles to imagine future uses for AVs. And that’s not counting an invitation to 10 Downing Street.

Looking ahead to summer, my next stop after Seoul is Montreal for the Metropolis World Congress, followed later this month by talks for SNCF in Marseille and the Ananda Group in Bangkok. And the fall schedule is beginning to take shape with prospective talks in Moscow, Mexico City, Silicon Valley, Denver, and beyond.

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June 07, 2017  |  permalink

Visiting No. 10.

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As Britain goes to the polls, I realized I forgot to mention I paid a visit to 10 Downing Street in April. I was invited by the Prime Minister’s deputy transport advisor and the Treasury’s transport policy team, who were graciously hosted me in a wood-paneled conference with more history than the entire West Wing. While I won’t divulge the details of what was a private meeting, I will say they’d read my report for the New Cities Foundation last fall arguing for greater powers for public transport in a world of connected mobility. No matter what happens in Thursday’s elections, I at least hope Britain’s government will make better choices about transport, cities, and equity than their U.S. counterparts.

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June 07, 2017  |  permalink

Travel + Leisure: Will we all live in airports one day?

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(I’m back in Songdo for the first time in years for the New Cities Summit, and by sheer coincidence, Travel + Leisure asked me to contribute a short piece on the city and the aerotropolis in general to accompany the photographs of Giulio di Sturco.)

A decade ago, visitors to the man-made South Korean island-city of Songdo, 40 miles outside Seoul, could stand on the site of a development projected to grow to the size of downtown Boston and find seashells still sticking out of ground that, until recently, had been underwater.

Just two years later, in 2009, Songdo’s American developers cut the ribbon on the $35-billion city, home to a Jack Nicklaus golf course and what was at the time South Korea’s tallest tower. Songdo’s defining feature, arguably, was less conspicuous: a 7.4-mile bridge connecting it with Incheon International Airport.

Songdo is an “aerotropolis,” a city built around an airport, specifically conceived to harness a transport hub’s global connections. Such places are designed to serve a class of 21st-century nomads who live to go everywhere. Typically, the aerotropolis is an amalgam of made-to-order offices, sleek convention centers, international chain hotels, malls teeming with global brands, sometimes even a theme park.

Aerotropolis is a faux-Greek term coined in China 25 years ago, and as an urban model it has achieved its fullest flowering in Asia. First came Hong Kong — where new towns and a Disneyland were built next to the $20 billion island airport — followed by Shanghai, Singapore, and Dubai, which will host Expo 2020 in an airport city larger than San Francisco.

Over the last five years, Italian photographer Giulio di Sturco, who shot the images on this page, has traveled throughout Asia documenting the aerotropolis phenomenon. “I’m pretty sure this is the new direction the world is taking,” he said. “These cities are in effect the cities of the future, so for me it is a way to see into the future right now.”

But will the aerotropolis ever be loved? If a prime reason for travel is to experience the distinctive terroir, culture, and history of a place, what’s the appeal of a city that is by definition transitory, designed to evoke nowhere?

Perhaps it is the chance to witness the real-time evolution of a place liberated from the past, living in the moment, and looking only toward the future — a future that looms into view like the planes above Songdo, dropping through the clouds on their final approach.

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June 06, 2017  |  permalink

URBAN-X: Putting the Humanity Back Into Technology

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(I’m currently the Urbanist-in-Residence at URBAN-X, the urban startup accelerator run by BMW MINI in conjunction with the venture capital firm Urban Us. This originally ran at Fast Company’s branded content arm FastCo.Works on May 31, 2017.)

Fourteen weeks after converging on Brooklyn, the eight startups of URBAN-X–a venture accelerator founded by MINI–had reached the moment of truth: Demo Day. Taking the stage in a Ghostbusters-style jumpsuit, Upcycles cofounder Daniel Wendlek channeled the accelerator’s spirit in a jeremiad against delivery drones.

“You know what? F%*&$ robots!” he said to wild applause. “Cities struggle as it is to provide space for one of our most vital resources–human beings.” His company’s alternative: an electric-assisted tricycle capable of 500-pound deliveries at a cost of only $.002 per mile.

And so it went for 40 minutes, a stream of pitches advocating for what Micah Kotch, URBAN-X managing director, had described in his introduction as “human-first design.” Whether it was Wendlek railing against robots, Contextere CEO Gabe Batstone promising to empower blue-collar workers through data (“I want to create Iron Man, not Skynet!”), or WearWorks CEO Keith Kirkland vowing that a blind runner would complete the New York City marathon using the company’s touch-sensitive Wayband, putting people at the center of urban tech was the theme of the evening.

While half the cohort celebrated people power, the other half underscored how urban tech is the right alternative when urban policies fail. Early on, O2-O2 CEO Dan Bowden highlighted the urgent use case for his company’s brand of air-filtration facewear by observing that 22 million residents of greater Beijing were at that moment trapped indoors by a sandstorm seven times smoggier than the average punishing day in the city.

RevMax’s Jonathan Weekley demonstrated how his company’s on-demand fleet-management software could boost the average utilization of taxis and ride-hailing vehicles from 50% to 74%–an absolute necessity when unchecked ride-hailing has added 600 million vehicle miles to New York City streets.

“We need to be thinking about what is going to change and benefit individual lives,” URBAN-X program director Miriam Roure said. “When technologies are implemented at an urban scale, we need to understand the socio-economic impact–direct and indirect–they could have. We don’t see disruption as necessarily positive.”

As Shawn Broderick, managing director of venture fund SOSV, noted earlier in the evening, “The big picture here is that cities are becoming more vital to everyone’s life choices. This is a megatrend that won’t stop in the next 5 or 10 or 20 years–this will last an entire century.”

For the hundreds of city residents crowded into the URBAN-X workshop and spilling out into the hall, it might have appeared the startup founders onstage had always known exactly what they were doing. But for those who were present at the beginning–the experts-in-residence, guest mentors, and especially the program directors–the progress was particularly sweet. Fourteen weeks ago, they had products and projects and prototypes in search of a business model. Tonight, they had the foundations of a viable, scalable company on their hands.

What else did each team receive in exchange for a small equity share in their startup, and where would they go from here? For one thing, graduation had appreciably increased their chances for funding. As many as one-third of all startups receiving Series A funding are veterans of accelerators, as investors look to gatekeepers such as Y Combinator and others who instill a rigor in founding teams and provide them the right connections for future growth. For another, they could tout their affiliation with one of the world’s leading brands: MINI.

As the founders of each team rushed to prepare their booths for hundreds of visitors and rehearsed their pitches one last time, a few shared their thoughts on what they learned. For Sencity cofounders Steven Bai and Ivan Chen, who moved to New York from Sydney, the program offered both personal introductions and technical validation. “Here in America,” said Bai, “we’re talking to municipalities” about their interactive trash can, the TetraBin. “As foreigners, why should they have conversations with us? Thanks to the program, there’s a basic layer of trust.”

Other teams learned important lessons about their potential customers and themselves. Upcycles cofounders Wendlek and Nick Wong entered the program unsure about whether they were bike manufacturers or a delivery service, for which they already had customers. They’re the former, they decided. “In the next few months, we’ll build five trikes for a pilot,” said Wong, “and figure out our manufacturing process so we can build 50 by the end of the year.”

Contextere’s Batstone didn’t need help from URBAN-X in learning how to build a startup, having run software companies for 15 years. But embedding in an urban tech accelerator did teach him that the company’s software, originally designed for military and energy customers, also has a powerful role to play in maintaining urban infrastructure, such as the electric grid. “We came here as an experiment, as someone not in the process of raising money,” Batstone said. “We knew that surrounding ourselves with a bunch of fledgling entrepreneurs would give us some of their energy–being around people who have that spark is worth it.”

For the rookies, the opposite proved true. Envairo’s Gabe Peschiera entered the program alone. He graduated with a team, potential customers, and several pilot projects to demonstrate the efficacy of his smart building software.

“The value of the program is not one thing, it’s everything,” he said. “Figuring out how to engage potential advisers. Learning how VCs think. How to use AngelList for recruiting. How to have conversations about equity with potential cofounders. And all with companies that share my values. They’re not just going to build tech to make advertising more clickable–they’re building stuff in the world they want to share. All of us are trying to solve real problems with real solutions.”

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About Greg Lindsay

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Greg Lindsay is a journalist, urbanist, futurist, and speaker. He is a senior fellow of the New Cities Foundation — where he leads the Connected Mobility Initiative  — and the director of strategy for LACoMotion, a new mobility festival coming to the Arts District of Los Angeles in November 2017.

He is also 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, a contributing writer for Fast Company and co-author of Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next.

» More about Greg Lindsay

Articles by Greg Lindsay

Medium  |  May 1, 2017

The Engine Room

Fast Company  |  January 19, 2017

The Collaboration Software That’s Rejuvenating The Young Global Leaders Of Davos

The Guardian  |  January 13, 2017

What If Uber Kills Public Transport Instead of Cars

Backchannel  |  January 4, 2017

The Office of the Future Is…an Office

New Cities Foundation  |  October 2016

Now Arriving: A Connected Mobility Roadmap for Public Transport

Inc.  |  October 2016

Why Every Business Should Start in a Co-Working Space

Popular Mechanics  |  May 11, 2016

Can the World’s Worst Traffic Problem Be Solved?

The New Republic  |  January/February 2016

Hacking The City

Fast Company  |  September 22, 2015

We Spent Two Weeks Wearing Employee Trackers: Here’s What We Learned

Fast Company  |  September 21, 2015

HR Meets Data: How Your Boss Will Monitor You To Create The Quantified Workplace

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

» See all articles

Blog

July 20, 2017

NewCities Summit 2017: Songdo Redux

July 17, 2017

Seedstars, Ananda Urban Tech, and “Cities as a Service”

July 14, 2017

“Columbus Park” and Redesigning Manhattan for Autonomous Vehicles.

June 30, 2017

Politico: What’s the Greatest Risk Cities Face? Traffic.

» More blog posts