Greg Lindsay's Blog

July 16, 2018  |  permalink

CityLab Insights: The State of Play in Connected Mobility

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The Atlantic’s CityLab has published my 21-page white paper “The State of Play: Connected Mobility + U.S. Cities” as the first installment of its new CityLab Insights series. Intended as a short primer for public officials, it aims to quickly cover everything you need to know about Electric vehicles, AVs, mobility-as-a-service, e-bikes and scooters, deliverybots, and what to do about all of them. Registration is required, so please click through on the link above and download my report!

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July 16, 2018  |  permalink

Summer Camp for Urbanists

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It’s summer, which means it’s time for camp. While my eldest child is off to Maine for swimming and archery, I spent last month at urbanist camp, i.e. the early summer conference season. Here’s a quick recap of what I’ve been up to:

• Last month, I spent a week swinging through central(ish) Europe, starting in Berlin. After speaking to the Canadian/Dutch/German real estate investment trust Dream Global, they gamefully invited me along on a city-wide scavenger hunt in a 1962 Trabant. (That’s my teammate Oliver and I pictured with the car in front of the Reichstag above.)

From there, it was on to Prague for reSITE 2018: ACCOMMODATE (more on that here), where in addition to acting as this year’s guest curator, I also MC-ed and moderated. After that, it was onto Venice for the weekend to tour the Biennale d’Architettura and also my own exhibit in the Palazzo Mora. (More on that here.) What I learned: walking 10-15 miles a day and mainlining the current state of architecture is not technically “relaxing.”

• At the beginning of the month, I was in Riga for MadCity, which — now that reSITE is all grown up — has claimed the mantle of my favorite quirky cities conference. Besides giving a brief talk on the dangers of pricing everything (video here) there was champagne and oysters at 11 AM, disco, a hackathon — my team won, through no fault of my own — and al fresco drinking after 10 PM sunsets. Everything you want from adult camp.

• Earlier this spring, I paid a brief visit to Albuquerque to speak at a luncheon hosted by the local chapter of ULI at the suggestion of my friend and biggest supporter Todd Clarke. That offered an excuse to drive up to Santa Fe to check out Meow Wolf and unwind at Ten Thousand Waves before enduring a four-hour redeye home. (You know you’re traveling too much when your flights feel too short.)

• I started the season with an unprecedented home stand of talks for NAIOP, CoreNet, Smart Cities NYC, MSCI, the Urban Design Forum, WorkTech, and the MoMA Design — seven consecutive local events in two weeks! — all on some variation of “cities-as-a-service,” and how technology and mobility are reshaping our cities.

That’s all until September, but if you’d like to change that, by all means please drop me a line!

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(L-R top: Sou Fujimoto; Elizabeth Streb; Elin Strand Ruin; Jeanne Gang; Martinn Barry; Radka Ondrackova. Bottom: Laura Flanders; Dara Huang; Michel Rojkind; Solene Wolff; Christine Nieves.)

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(L-R: Solene Wolff; Liam Young)

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(My winning hackathon team at MadCity.)

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July 04, 2018  |  permalink

reSITE 2018: ACCOMMODATE Recap

Last month in Prague, I guest curated and co-hosted the seventh annual edition of reSITE, where the theme this year was housing. A one-minute highlights video is posted above, along with a quick-and-dirty recap of the conference and a few photos are posted below. You can also listen to a special edition of Monocle Radio’s “The Urbanist,” starring Jeanne Gang, Sou Fujimoto, Elizabeth Streb, and Dara Huang.

I’ll only add that the list of speakers also included original (albeit less famous) voices like Christine Nieves and Luis Rodriguez Sanchez of the Puerto Rico-based post-hurricane recovery group Apoyo Mutuo Mariana, Rahul Srivastava and Matias Echanove of the Mumbai-based research collective URBZ; the novelist and journalist Tim Maughan; the architect and filmmaker Liam Young, and many more.

It was exhausting, exhilarating, and humbling all at once — a supposedly fun thing I would definitely do again.

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The 7th annual flagship event reSITE 2018 ACCOMMODATE asked the question of how and where we want to live — and how we will afford it. Nearly 1200 visitors registered for the global forum held on June 14—15, 2018 in Prague, where a global lineup of speakers explored the future of cities and housing. Architects Jeanne Gang, Sou Fujimoto, Michel Rojkind, Reinier de Graaf offered new visions for living together in public space; WeWork, MINI, and Design Haus Liberty presented bold plans for co-living, and dozens of architects, mayors, planners, and investors debated how to solve the global housing crisis.

LSE Cities director Ricky Burdett’s opening keynote framed the challenge succinctly: “Inequality is baked into the design of cities.” What we need, he said, is “convergence — living in the areas where everyone has the same opportunities, not opportunities based on postal code.”

Speakers’ lineup (among others):
Sou Fujimoto, Founder of Sou Fujimoto Architects, JP
Michel Rojkind, Founder of Rojkind Arquitectos, MX
Jeanne Gang. Studio Gang, US
Oke Hauser, Creative Director, Mini Living, DE
Dara Huang, Founder of Design House Liberty, UK
Erion Veliaj, Mayor of Tirana, AL
Darrick Borowski, Creative Director of WeWork and WeLive, US
Anita Roth, Airbnb’s Head of Policy Research, US
Ricky Burdett, Director, LSE Cities, UK
Reinier de Graaf, OMA/AMO, NL
Dan Hill, Arup, UK
Marcus Fairs, founder of Dezeen, UK
Carlota Rebelo, Monocle’s producer and reporter, UK
Rob Bole, General Manager of Citylab, US

For the first time, reSITE hosted lively and popular discussions on its intimate Live Mic Stage. Sou Fujimoto, Jeanne Gang, Ricky Burdett, Dara Huang, Michel Rojkind, and other speakers shared “what I’ve learned” with visitors asking about what happens behind the scenes of their work.

reSITE also hosted the premiere of the drone documentary Elevation. The directorial debut by Dezeen founder Marcus Fairs is an eye-opening odyssey into the future of living and urban design once drones will become as ubiquitous as the Internet. Fairs noted in his commentary that “architects should collaborate with software engineers just as they do with structural engineers.”

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July 04, 2018  |  permalink

The Property Voice: The Big Picture & Future of PropTech with Greg Lindsay

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(The Property Voice, a UK-based podcast series devoted to real estate, interviewed me this spring. I’m unable to embed the audio here, but you can click through to listen on their site, or download an MP3 version. A short recap is below.)

***

Hello, and welcome to another episode of The Property Voice podcast. My name is Richard Brown and as always, it’s a pleasure to have you join me on the show again today.

I am joined on today’s show by Greg Lindsay, who is a journalist, urbanist, futurist, and speaker based out of New York. This week we let the reigns off a bit and venture into discussing the big picture, future housing trends and smart cities within the overall context of PropTech. If you want to know where the money is heading for the future as Greg puts it, then this one is for you! Greg is a very smart and interesting speaker, you will want to hear what he has to say…as much as what he doesn’t say…

The future of housing and how we live…here are some key themes, trends and takeaways from our discussion.

Megatrends can help to drive the future of property & PropTech – the shift to urbanisation, population growth, new mobility, energy-efficiency drives, health needs and technological advancement all featured as having an influence on our future property and housing needs.

Smart Homes & Smart Cities need to be more than just tech toys – Greg made the point several times that smart homes need to be more than an Alexa-enabled facility to be truly useful, such as being a part of micro-power hubs and connected to sustainable transport hubs. He also talked about the dark side of smart homes…

Community living will make a comeback – in pre-industrial times society tended to gather into small communities, which shifted towards individualism and the rise of the family as a community model over the past hundred and fifty years or so. The need to live more closely together and care for the elderly could give rise to greater community-based housing, be that through co-living buildings, inter-generational homes or more user-friendly homes for the elderly in the future therefore.

Technology can help us to connect better in a ‘real-time, real-place way’ – as Greg said, we have a surveillance society not a connected society right now. So, imagine how the technology behind apps like Tinder or Four Square could help to deliver relevant information about the people around us to help enable a sense of community living and camardaery.

Housing delivered as a branded, on-demand, consumer-oriented service offering will increase – several times, Greg made this point of the consumer demanding greater services delivered via different economic, sharing or crowd-based models throughout our discussion. Hospitality delivered by clever brands using new platforms sounds quite different to a landlord renting to a tenant they found on Gumtree doesn’t it?

The economics of real estate will also change – unaffordability, welfare funding and the demand for pay-as-you-use services will give rise to new models of funding and payment of property usage. Crowdfunding, Blockchain, big business or philanthropic-backed micro-communities and the charge by the unit approaches offered by Airbnb and WeWork are all examples of this emerging trend, starting within the commercial sector. In short, we might expect to see homes or properties become more of ‘membership asset model’.

In summary… mobility, liveability and collectively: some large players are now selling off suburban portfolios and instead focusing on the dense urban areas as ‘that’s where the money is’. As I always like to say…follow the money, then finding ways to densify cities seems to be where the money is headed.

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June 28, 2018  |  permalink

The APA’s “People Behind the Plans” Podcast

(The APA asked me to appear on their podcast series back in March, despite the fact I’m not, you know, a planner. A good time was had by all regardless. The podcast is embedded above; their description is reproduced below.)

People Behind the Plans is a podcast series from the American Planning Association that explores the business of planning for the built environment. Hosted by Courtney Kashima, AICP, planner and small business owner of Muse Community + Design in Chicago, this podcast series features conversations between planners on work, life, ideas, and problem-solving in a variety of communities.

Courtney welcomes to the podcast Greg Lindsay, who visited Chicago in March for the 2018 National Shared Mobility Summit, and the two grapple with how developments in technology are radically changing cities and affecting the work planners do across the country. As a journalist, urbanist, futurist, and speaker, Greg thinks constantly about cities, and he argues that we’ve chosen to make living in the dense urban core a luxury good. Greg is also a senior fellow at NewCities and the director of strategy of its offshoot LA CoMotion — an annual urban mobility festival in the Arts District of Los Angeles — as well as the coauthor of the book Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next, which Courtney and Greg discuss. The phenomenon of co-working and co-living spaces, tactical urbanism, and the equity implications of certain technologies also make their way into this dynamic conversation.

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June 18, 2018  |  permalink

Visting the Flood in Venice

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I was in Venice this weekend to belatedly tour the Venice Architecture Biennale (best pavilions: the Netherlands, Korea, and Ireland) and to visit my own small contribution with “Bight: Coastal Urbanism”, which is installed at the Palazzo Mora as part of the European Cultural Centre’s ““Time, Space, Existence” exhibition. Cheers to my teammates Rafi Segal, Susannah Drake, Sarah Williams, Brent Ryan, and Benjamin Albrecht!

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June 06, 2018  |  permalink

Smart Cities New York 2018 “Auto” Pilot: Driving Change

Smart Cities New York has posted the video from my session last month on autonomous vehicles, starring Ali Chaudhry (Deputy Secretary for Transportation to Governor Andrew M. Cuomo); Gretchen Effgen (Vice President of Partnerships and Team Business, nuTonomy Inc.); David Mindell (CEO and Founder, Humatics Corporation), and Wessel van der Pol (Sales Engineer, 2getthere). Please click above to watch the entire thing.

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June 03, 2018  |  permalink

MadCity Riga & Cities-as-a-Service

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I was in Riga (Latvia) last week for the second edition of MadCity, my favorite scrappy European cities conference now that reSITE is all grown up (more on that next week). Given the theme “Money and the City,” I decided to riff on an idea that I’ve been turning over in my mind for a while — and will bring up at URBAN-X’s “Where the Robots Meet the Road: Pay to Pave” on June 4 — which is the temptation to take a good idea in a relatively analog world, congestion pricing, and apply it too far in an autonomous one. I can’t seem to embed the video, but click through on the image above to watch.

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June 01, 2018  |  permalink

The National League of Cities’ Autonomous Vehicles: Future Scenarios

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Last summer, I was invited by Anthony Townsend and Bryan Boyer, on behalf of the Bloomberg Aspen Initiative on Cities and Autonomous Vehicles, to flesh out six scenarios for autonomous vehicles, and how we would get there from here, so to speak. The final results have just been published by the National League of Cities, and I highly encourage you to click through for the brilliant ideas and gorgeous accompanying illustrations. The introduction is reproduced below:

The unstoppable forces of automation and artificial intelligence are changing the way we move through, work in, and design cities.

Autonomous vehicles (AVs) are already on our streets, with pilots taking place in cities nationwide. Before long, we can expect to see thousands of autonomous vehicles on roadways, autonomous buses and transit vehicles providing rides, and autonomous conveyors shuttling back and forth on sidewalks making deliveries.

The full story, however has not yet been written. While we will inevitably see rapid expansion of autonomous transportation in commercial trucks, driverless buses, trains, shuttles, and more—transportation systems as a whole will also be revolutionized. Yet this change comes at a time when our shared networks – vital arteries for commerce and interaction - are already clogged.

So while technology has the potential to address the challenges facing these platforms for commerce and human interaction, effective government will be critical in pushing innovation forward. That future is already starting to unfold, but cities can prepare themselves to play a more informed, active role in shaping it.

This is why at the National League of Cities we have developed—and continue to work on—a series of research reports and analyses to help city leaders prepare for these shifts.

Explore the links below to see four possible futures that describe what AVs could mean for cities. The scenarios, developed by the Bloomberg Aspen Initiative on Cities and Autonomous Vehicles, and reported by journalist Greg Lindsay, are part and parcel of NLC’s larger initiative to provide city leaders with the tools that they need to build our cities of the future.

For cities that want to get up to speed quickly on key facts, emerging trends, and urban policy issues raised by the arrival of autonomous vehicles and found out more about how cities are taking a hands-on approach to learning, Bloomberg Philanthropies has published a primer and a global atlas of city-led AV pilots covering more than 100 city-led AV pilots worldwide.

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May 22, 2018  |  permalink

Where the Robot Meets the Road, CityLab Edition

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(CityLab has published my writeup of January’s “Where the Robot Meets the Road: Autonomous Everything” event at URBAN-X in Brooklyn. Please find the full recap published below.)

New York City 2025. Autonomous stuff is here, and it’s stranger than anyone imagined. In the wake of Hurricane Hermine, the MTA rebooted with AV buses and real-time routing. On the fringes of Queens, self-driving “dollar vans” aid immigrants in evading deportation. The New York Public Library has deployed autonomous libraries to replace shuttered branches, while a startup billing itself as Uber-for-garbage is using bots for peer-to-peer trash-picking. Looming over all is Amazon, which has mounted cameras across its entire delivery fleet, offering a drone’s-eye-view labeled “presence-as-a-service.” As mayor of a cash-strapped metropolis, you may choose only one of these schemes to support — so, which will it be?

This was the question posed to more than a hundred attendees at “Where the Robot Meets the Road: Autonomous Everything,” the second in a series of events exploring the potential impacts of autonomous vehicles. Hosted by URBAN-X — the Brooklyn-based urban tech accelerator built by MINI and Urban Us— guests perhaps expecting startup pitches were instead asked to vote with their wallets (or in this case, tokens) for the best new public good. The five competing proposals had been developed earlier that day by several dozen designers, policy experts, urbanists, technologists, and city and state officials (“the dudes in suits” as one put it), in an effort to think concretely about what an autonomous world should look like, rather than what automakers and technology giants would like it to be.

Design for the unintended consequences

Led by designer Bryan Boyer, who originally created the workshop along with futurist Anthony Townsend for the Bloomberg Aspen Initiative on Cities and Autonomous Vehicles, participants were tasked with turning autonomous vehicle (AV) hype inside-out. Forget glossy corporate brochures and consultants’ 2x2 matrices, they were told. Rather than letting private services run roughshod over cities (again), how could they use automation to solve existing challenges unique to the city? From healthcare to employment, education, and aging, participants were asked to imagine what equity might look like in an age where AVs proliferate.

Some public officials already see AVs as a lever with which to enact rules and regulations that have been stymied by political inertia, including road pricing, reduced parking, and redesigned streets. AVs may or may not make traffic congestion worse, “but they do create an opportunity to imagine a different status quo,” Boyer said, “and some cities will act on that immediately.”

The ones that have tend to be in Sunbelt states such as Arizona, Florida, and California where sprawl is the prevailing pattern. That pattern undoubtedly played a role in the death of Elaine Herzberg in Tempe, AZ on March 18 after she was struck by an autonomous vehicle while crossing a street. Arizona has the highest rate of pedestrian deaths in the nation, which experts attribute to its exceptionally wide streets — the same “wide open roads” Gov. Doug Ducey touted when welcoming autonomous vehicles to the state. One reason Herzberg died, argues Alissa Walker, is because “the state prioritizes cars over the lives of pedestrians.” Herzberg’s tragic death underscored the goal of the workshop. Only by taking the wheel early can policymakers steer AVs in human-centric and locally-appropriate directions.

Simultaneously, “autonomous vehicles” is a misnomer, Boyer argued. Autonomy will take the form of robots first, and they’re already here — as deliverybots, pet pack mules, or self-driving suitcases. “Your first robot probably won’t be a car,” he said. And while one robot may be cute, what happens when they become a swarm? San Francisco has already banned robots from most sidewalks for this very reason. Thinking about autonomy as a technology or standalone service won’t help predict unintended consequences.

“Autonomous” isn’t a technology or service, it’s a system

With that warning ringing in their ears, teams self-assembled and set to work drafting solutions tailored to specific provocations. Prompted to sketch the contours of autonomous ‘movers’, one team combined self-service AVs with a white-glove version of the cloud-for-your-stuff startup MakeSpace. Other early ideas included autonomous health clinics, farmer’s markets, stereos, and even prisons — but only during periods of low ride-sharing demand, of course.

It gradually became apparent to participants that the central assumption of autonomy — moving people more swiftly and cheaply from A to B — was incorrect, or at least incomplete. Assuming cities remain hard-pressed to deliver public services and that marginalized communities will be the first to lose them, the future of autonomous health isn’t a self-driving ambulance but the clinic in lieu of a hospital. “Is there a new urban edge/core dynamic to be had?” asked Richard Tyson, then the principal strategy director for intelligent systems at Frog. And if so, will AVs be the method for doing more with much, much less?

As the workshop entered its final hour, Boyer asked five teams to choose a single idea and develop their sketches into systems. How would their scenarios collide with other aspects of the city as they scaled? The dollar van team, led by the Regional Plan Association’s Mandu Sen and Arup’s Francesca Birks, began by asking how autonomy might make a difference in the working-class immigrant suburbs of Long Island. A point-to-point AV shuttle offers more than just the ability to make do without a car, they argued. Using secure open source software, activist and legal aid groups could provide safety and anonymity to undocumented migrants during their commutes.

Meanwhile, the autonomous bus team grappled with the implications of a transit system that never traces the same route twice. A hyper-optimized fleet that never loses money isn’t necessarily a just one, argued Code for Maine’s Nick Kaufman. How would communities accustomed to lobbying for better service refute an algorithm insisting it could never be profitable? Only by publishing the underlying data would cities and their citizens be able to understand these conflicts, and hopefully resolve them.

That evening, as audience members listened to representatives of each team make the case for why they — as stand-ins for the Mayor of New York — should select their proposal, urban anthropologist Katrina Johnston-Zimmerman was chosen to give the bus pitch last. Not only would they travel smarter routes, she argued, but the buses would also become the autonomous arm for city services, helping the city prepare for and evacuate residents ahead of disasters. “This is more than solo bubbles moving around our streets,” she said. “This is about people moving together and taking charge of their streets and their city.” Her team won in a landslide.

“We shouldn’t be thinking about what’s possible with the technology we have,” she said afterward. “We should be thinking about serving people and using autonomy to give an extra nudge to what we know works.”

This conversation isn’t happening in Silicon Valley or Detroit, or wherever else the only people around the table are VCs, engineers, and robotics Ph.Ds. Taming the autonomous vehicle demands a human-centric approach to their design — and not only the vehicle, but how the service works and for whom. This, in turn, requires bringing many more stakeholders to bear on the challenge — from policy experts to ordinary citizens — to ensure what works is given a nudge rather than disrupted and broken worse than before. That’s one reason why MINI and URBAN-X hosted this workshop and conversation in Brooklyn as part of ‘Robot Meets the Road’: an ongoing series exploring the future of autonomous cities — and how to use those robots to make them more efficient, livable, and equitable.

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Greg Lindsay is a journalist, urbanist, futurist, and speaker. He is a senior fellow at NewCities and the director of strategy of its offshoot LA CoMotion — an annual urban mobility festival in the Arts District of Los Angeles. He is also a non-resident senior fellow of The Atlantic Council’s Foresight, Strategy, and Risks 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

July 16, 2018

CityLab Insights: The State of Play in Connected Mobility

July 16, 2018

Summer Camp for Urbanists

July 04, 2018

reSITE 2018: ACCOMMODATE Recap

July 04, 2018

The Property Voice: The Big Picture & Future of PropTech with Greg Lindsay

» More blog posts

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