Greg Lindsay's Blog

March 18, 2017  |  permalink

The Winter Speaking Circuit

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(Photo credit: Thomas Garza Photography.)

This year is shaping up to be my busiest yet in terms of speaking, moderating, and making public appearances, and this winter has been no exception. It’s been a whirlwind three months — and that’s on top of the birth of our second son, Whitaker Dow Lindsay, on New Year’s Day! As the calendar turns to spring, here’s a quick recap of my sleepless winter:

The year began with a day trip to Los Angeles to judge AECOM’s Urban SOS awards, organized in conjunction with the Van Alen Institute and Rockfeller Foundation. This year’s competition, titled “Fair Share,” required multidisciplinary student teams to submit proposals for “sharing economy” services that actually involved, you know, sharing. The winning submission from Washington University, “First Class Meal,” proposed repurposing underutilized United States Post Offices for local food storage and distribution. They received a cash prize of $7,500 and $25,000 worth of in-kind contributions from AECOM to realize their plan.

From there it was off to Abu Dhabi to speak at the World Future Energy Summit (pictured below), where I framed the challenges and opportunities in terms of what might be called George Gilder’s Second Law: “In every era, the winning companies are those that waste what is abundant in order to save what is scarce.” What does that mean for mobility in an era of autonomous electric vehicles wasting both abundant solar electrons and unpriced roads? How will they conserve the most valuable resource of all — our time?

One theme of the winter has been the unintended consequences of the Internet of Things. At the launch festival for BMW MINI’s new Brooklyn workshop, A/D/O — where I’m the Urbanist-in-Residence at its in-house startup accelerator, URBAN-X — I interviewed MIT roboticist Kate Darling on robots and empathy, and tortured her pet dinosaur on stage (pictured below). A few weeks later, Changeist’s Susan Cox-Smith hosted a private workshop and public event at A/D/O exploring the ramifications of the IoT (Internet of Trump). And the week after that, I was in Chicago, warning of the perils of Big Data and the IoT at the IC Bus Innovation Summit — because really, what can go wrong with an Internet-connected school bus?

The remainder of my talks — for the commercial real estate investment group Accesso Partners, the independent commercial broker associations CORFAC and CORE Network, and the annual luncheon of Downtown Dallas Inc. — focused on how cities are moving away from single-use suburban malls and office parks toward shared workspaces, renewed public spaces, and a new mobility paradigm to support them. It’s a theme that will resonate a lot this spring in upcoming talks and workshops in New York and Oslo on autonomous vehicles. More soon.

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March 18, 2017  |  permalink

Announcing LA CoMotion

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Building off my work for the New Cities Foundation last year — specifically my report “Now Arriving: A Connected Mobility Roadmap for Public Transport” — I’m pleased to join the foundation’s inaugural new mobility festival, LA CoMotion, as its director of strategy.

Scheduled to take place November 15-19, 2017 in the Arts District of Los Angeles, LA CoMotion is arguably the first of its kind in the United States, a five-day event focused as much on how we live, work, and play — not to mention walk, bike, and ride — as it is on vehicles and technology. Global VIPs and Angelenos alike will be invited to create the future together in the streets of Downtown LA in conjunction with our partners, including LADOT, Gensler, Piaggio Fast Forward, Project for Public Spaces, UITP and many more to come.

My job, I’m excited to say, is to curate the collaboration among our sponsors and partners to create an event that doesn’t devolve into a World’s Fair-like spectacle of a future perpetually just over the horizon, but contains the germ of a new future for Los Angeles and cities around the globe. I hope you’ll help us — please visit the site to request an invitation, or join us as a partner.

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March 17, 2017  |  permalink

BMW MINI’s Urbanist-in-Residence

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Anyone who follows me on LinkedIn knows I have a fondness for collecting titles, but my latest may be my favorite: the Fast Company Urbanist-in-Residence at URBAN-X. It requires some explaining.

URBAN-X is a startup accelerator for nascent companies with an urban bent, whether that has to do with mobility, real estate, pollution, trash, or wayfinding for the blind. The accelerator is a joint venture between SOSV — the world’s largest accelerator program with hundreds of graduating startups per year, like scratch-and-win lottery tickets — and BWM MINI, which houses the program in its Brooklyn combination restaurant/co-working/makerspace, A/D/O. Why MINI? Because BMW executives realized the Mini Cooper’s brand equity is greater than the car — hence the effort to transform it into a lifestyle brand comprised of MINI Living, MINI Fashion, and more. (Presumably, we can one day expect to live in a global MINI-branded co-living chain equipped with cars from ReachNow, BMW’s American car-sharing program.

My role is the result of a deal between Fast Company and URBAN-X to advise the startups-in-residence on the peculiarities of cities and file dispatches on their progress. (Pre-seed round startups, I’ve learned, are a lot like toddlers — they constantly grasp at the nearest, shiniest thing.) In the meantime, TechRepublic has a nice round-up of the eight startups in the current cohort, three of which have “sense” in their name.

I’ve also agree to host or participate in several events at A/D/O this spring, including the kickoff festival in Janaury, last month’s “The Internet of Very Bad, No-Good Things,” and next month’s event with The Kingdom of Happiness author Aimee Groth on April 3rd.

Next up is “Where The Robot Meets The Road” on March 30:

Where The Robot Meets The Road
The rise of Uber and advent of autonomous vehicles herald a new era in urban mobility while threatening to disrupt public transport infrastructure. How can cities reconcile these competing models while preserving the public interest?

The format of this event will be a participatory panel discussion led by our Urbanist-in-Residence Greg Lindsay, in conversation with:

• Zack Wasserman, Head of Global Business Development at Via On-Demand Transit.
• Corinne Kisner, Director of Policy and Special Projects at NACTO.
• Varun Adibhatla, Founder of ARGO and Adjunct Instructor at NYU’s CUSP.

This event is our kickoff event of our monthly URBAN-X Dialogue Series. During these events we will hold off-the-record, participatory conversations to discuss critical questions around the impact of urban technologies in our lives. We believe that dialogue is a fundamental element for understanding the complexity of our diverse personal universes, and the starting point of better solutions for a brighter urban life.

And yes, there will be beer. Please register here; I hope to see you there.

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March 16, 2017  |  permalink

Neoliberalism Explained on Open Source Radio

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This week, I received an unusual but irresistible request: appear on WBUR Boston’s podcast Open Source to help host Christoper Lydon unpack the word “neoliberalism” alongside CUNY’s Corey Robin, “Labor of Love” author Moira Weigel, and queer activist Yasmin Nair. Neoliberalism has been the world’s modus operandi since 1979, and might best be described as “markets in everything” — all the world’s a transaction, or should be. Lydon asked me to hold forth on the global supply chains, the aerotropolis, Uber, and cities, and I did so with my usual torrential speed. You can read WBUR’s description of the program here:

In recent weeks, our comments section has been filled with request to define a term we use constantly on this show: neoliberalism. For people who like buzzwords parsed and spelled out, this hour’s for you.

There are countless avenues that neoliberalism can lead us through: from the dismal science of efficiency and austerity to the dismal politics in Washington on both sides of the aisle. In our neighborhoods, neoliberalism may mean the defunding of our public schools as well as the deregulation of our public services. It’s driving impulse may be the ruthless privatization of everything in existence: from parking meters to prisons. It’s affective influence can transform our personal relationships, both intimate and platonic; gamifying our everyday relationships and turning the dating pool into a competitive market. Through the co-option of feminist and anti-racist struggle, it can disguise class enemies as “woke” allies. Through the commercialization of our artistic works and the corruption of our scientific research, it can convert our greatest human achievements into metrics on a spreadsheet.

So, instead of pursuing a single definition in this show, we’ve enlisted an all-star cast of public thinkers to discuss where they see neoliberalism creeping into their daily life and work.

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March 10, 2017  |  permalink

The Death and Life of American Cities in the Age of Uber

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In 2015, the New Cities Foundation approached me about a research fellowship studying urban mobility. I told them I was interested, but only if I could unequivocally take a stand against Uber and its implicit campaign to monopolize first taxis and then public transport. Without batting an eye, they said yes.

My final report, published last fall, made the case that Uber and its fellow transportation network companies would fatally undermine public transport by siphoning the most affluent (and therefore politically influential) riders away from subways and buses into the backseats of late-model sedans. Declining ridership would force transit agencies to first cut budgets and then quality, creating a downward spiral of customers fleeing to private services — which in certain cases already cost less than transit in cities such as New York, Boston, and Washington due to massive subsidies. (Uber posted a $3 billion loss last year.) The result would be a collapse in public transport and epic traffic congestion, as a multitude of individually rational decisions produced a collective meltdown.

Needless to say, this wasn’t a popular opinion at the time, when I expanded upon my theory at length in a podcast with London Reconnection’s Nicole Badstuber and Transit Center’s Zak Accuardi.

I doubled down in January with an op-ed in The Guardian arguing Uber’s multi-billion-dollar burn rate indicated it needed to achieve a near-total monopoly before the subsidies ran out. Shortly thereafter, Uber’s annus horriblis began, starting with the #deleteuber campaign and then widening into public allegations of internal sexual harassment, aggressively deceiving regulators, stealing Google’s autonomous vehicle research, and engendering enough ill will to lose more than 200,000 customers (and counting).

Then the other shoe (or the other other shoe) dropped this week with a report published by former New York City Department of Transportation deputy chief Bruce Schaller arguing Uber and Lyft, et al. have tripled in size in New York in the last eighteen months, producing demonstrable gridlock. Meanwhile, bus ridership has plunged by 25% since 2009, and subway ridership fell last year for the first time this century. “It’s hit a point where people are choosing to travel by ride-hailing because the subways have become intolerable,” the Regional plan Association’s president Tom Wright told The New York Times.

Perhaps the most remarkable quote from that story comes from a member of the Manhattan Institute, a self-described “free market think tank” :

Nicole Gelinas, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, said ride-hailing apps were able to lure riders with artificially low prices because they were subsidized by an influx of cash by investors. The apps have made it easier for people to travel by the “most inefficient mode of transportation possible,” she said.

When you’ve lost the libertarians, Uber, it’s game over.

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March 08, 2017  |  permalink

A Future History of New York: After The Flood

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I’m thrilled to join my Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream teammate Rafi Segal and the amazing architects Susannah Drake, Sarah Williams, and Brent Ryan in imagining the next hundred years of New York’s and New Jersey’s climate change-ravaged coastlines on behalf of the Regional Plan Association.

The RPA, in conjunction with the Rockefeller Foundation, has commissioned an ideas competition ahead of the Fourth Regional Plan — the once-in-a-generation long-term vision for the tri-state area. Our team was chosen by an all-star jury including former HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan and Foreclosed curator Barry Bergdoll to grapple with the insurmountable challenges of sea-level rise. From the RPA’s press release:

Rafi Segal A+ U and Susannah Drake have collaborated on several design competitions and taught together at Harvard’s GSD and at the Cooper Union School of Architecture. Together with Sarah Williams, Brent Ryan and Greg Lindsay, will work to design and address key ecological infrastructure challenges and threats posed by climate change to the region’s coastal areas. Their interest in dispersed urbanism and emerging forms of collective housing, along with urban ecological infrastructures, climate change and mobile technologies will allow them to address the pressing challenges of the Bight corridor. A series of future scenarios, from new strategies on managed retreat for vulnerable coastal areas to novel restoration strategies must be developed to manage the continued loss of fragile marsh lands. There is an opportunity to recast and restructure this corridor as an impactful ecological, infrastructural, and community asset, enhancing the region’s ecology and resiliency.

We have until June to propose strategies and tell our stories — wish us luck.

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March 08, 2017  |  permalink

The DFW Aerotropolis

While in Dallas Monday to speak at the annual luncheon of Downtown Dallas, Inc. (more on that later), the morning hosts of Fox 4 News invited me on to discuss the mammoth airport at the heart of the Metroplex, and how I square the circle of the DFW Aerotropolis and the resurgence of downtown Dallas. Short version: the best cities are locally close and globally connected. Watch the clip above for more.

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March 01, 2017  |  permalink

UTIP’s Public Transport Trends 2017

image Last summer, the International Association of Public Transport (UITP) invited me to Brussels to help draft its bi-annual Public Transport Trends report with regards to connected mobility. Detailing the challenges and opportunities posed by ride-hailing, “mobility-as-a-service,” and autonomous vehicles, I forcefully argued against Uber and in favor of public transport bodies launching their own services, or at least partnering closely to extend coverage. (For this, Uber’s participant representative me as a luddite.) The executive summary is available here.

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February 08, 2017  |  permalink

The Internet of Very Bad, No Good Things

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The Internet of Very Bad, No Good Things
FEBRUARY 13th, 2017
WORKSHOP: 1pm-5pm (invite-only)
PANEL: 6-8pm (open to public)
A/D/O: 29 Norman Ave., Brooklyn NY

Featuring:
Susan Cox-Smith, Principal, Changeist
Greg Lindsay, journalist

What do an army of Russian Twitter trolls, a hotel ransoming BitCoins to keycard-hijacking hackers, and a social media CEO pondering a run for the presidency in 2020 have in common? They all sit in the speculative sliver of a Venn diagram comprised of the Internet of Things, “surveillance capitalism” as practiced by the stacks, and governments unafraid to flex their muscles as far as “the cyber” is concerned.

Reflecting the A/D/O Design Academy’s theme of “Utopia vs. Dystopia,” this special event is divided into two parts. The afternoon is an invitation-only workshop led by Changeist principal Susan Cox-Smith, using the Thingclash framework for considering cross-impacts and implications of colliding technologies, systems, cultures and values around the Internet of Things. The evening is a public discussion moderated by journalist Greg Lindsay of the group’s darker scenarios, and the steps researchers, designers, technologists, strategists, policy makers and citizens can take to think more clearly, comprehensively and long-term about how we create a brighter future for all.

[Updated March 3, 2017: Susan Cox-Smith has recapped the event over at Medium:

Watching our participants work through the layers of various Thingclash workshops over the last year, we wanted to add some new levels of thinking for this iteration. In anticipation of this, we decided it might be time to introduce some (extra) chaos into their deliberations. Acknowledging the uncharted circumstances playing out in political settings around the world, we introduced “The State” card, as a final round of play. Delivered in a brown envelope, each team was advised that The State was dissatisfied in some way with their scenarios, and they were asked to fulfill an additional request, or describe how they might negotiate with this unknown external entity.

This new wrinkle led participants to imagine ways to shift or change their Things in new, and increasingly interesting ways. Among other things, the teams better recognized the implications of collecting and sharing user data without permissions, impacts on privacy, and the necessity of clear opt-in, or opt-out processes. Improving a Thing’s usefulness for People and Places was no longer just about UX, or fancier bells and whistles.

In the final round, the teams created fictional stories based on the critical realizations they had made about their scenarios, to share with the other participants. These stories were then presented at the public panel discussion later that evening, and this generated both interesting questions, and lively discussion, about how the IoT has so quickly become deeply embedded into our lives—despite huge gaps in security and accessibility, not to mention the common expectation that users must adapt their behaviors, so designers and developers can ignore the Thingclashes they sometimes create.

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February 03, 2017  |  permalink

Airports: The New Public Square?

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Never in my wildest dreams while writing Aerotropolis did I imagine airports would become the locus of political protests — especially sustained, passionate demonstrations and occupations that are arguably the strictest test of whether a place is truly “public” or urban. And yet, here we are. The protests ignited by President Trump’s January 27 executive order banning arrivals from seven majority-Muslim nations — an order I vehemently disagree with as well — improbably rallied around the international airports where visitors and legal permanent residents were being illegally detained. Amazing scenes have played out at New York’s JFK, LAX, Washington Dulles, Boston Logan, Denver International and elsewhere as citizens rush to defend our right to free movement and arguably cosmopolitanism itself.

I was honored to be quoted by several journalists writing about the unlikelihood of airports as protest sites. The Los Angeles Times’ architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne quoted my doubts that protests could be sustained (and I hope he proves me wrong):

At overtaxed airports like LAX, those spaces are bottlenecks on the best of days. It was precisely that quality, as vessels of public space easily stoppered, that demonstrators exploited.

But that exploitation cuts both ways. Greg Lindsay — senior fellow at the New Cities Foundation and co-author with John D. Kasarda of the book “Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next” — points out that the in-betweenness of the airport landscape is not simply architectural. It’s also legal.

“The protests illustrated how effectively various authorities could throttle various choke points to deny access,” he told me in an email. “New York Governor Andrew Cuomo had to order the Port Authority Police to re-open the AirTrain to JFK after they had closed it to limit the arrival of protesters via the subway.”

Who knows? Maybe the airport protests will fade as new White House decisions generate fresh controversies. And crackdowns on dissent, as Lindsay notes, may be far easier to execute at an airport than in the middle of a city.

But something tells me that any smart activist who looks closely at the airport protests will see something of a blueprint.

And Curbed’s Alissa Walker quoted my wonder at how even the unloveliest spaces at JFK suddenly became fully urbanized by protestors’ energy:

At LAX, the Tom Bradley International Terminal had recently been refurbished to add more restaurants and shops specifically to accommodate people who were there to welcome arriving passengers. Last weekend, the renovation provided a bright, welcoming environment with food, seating, and restrooms—much like an actual public plaza.

“It was amazing to see,” said Lindsay after attending JFK’s protests. “These pathways that are almost never used, they became temporarily urbanized in a way that they never had been before. You could start to see JFK operate as a real urban space.”

By Monday morning, after a stay on the order had been issued by a federal court, and some detainees had been released, the large-scale demonstrations were over. But many airports remain filled with protesters, pop-up law offices, and family members awaiting news on traveling relatives. The hashtag #OccupyAirports has also cropped up, signifying that this one-weekend stand could potentially evolve into a movement more like Occupy Wall Street, which took over U.S. public spaces for months.

Whose airports? OUR AIRPORTS.

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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

Blog

March 18, 2017

The Winter Speaking Circuit

March 18, 2017

Announcing LA CoMotion

March 17, 2017

BMW MINI’s Urbanist-in-Residence

March 16, 2017

Neoliberalism Explained on Open Source Radio

» More blog posts

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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

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

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Cities on the Move

Medium  |  November 2014

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Sin City vs. SimCity

Harvard Business Review  |  October 2014

Workspaces That Move People

Inc.  |  April 2014

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Atlantic Cities  |  March 2014

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

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Next American City  |  August 2013

IBM’s Department of Education

The New York Times  |  April 2013

Engineering Serendipity

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