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July 08, 2019  |  permalink

Moscow Urban Forum 2019, or: What I did on my urbanist summer vacation


Inappropriately enough, I landed in Russia on the 4th of July for this year’s installment of the Moscow Urban Forum — an annual exercise in (deservedly) touting the city’s efforts to remake itself as a highly livable world capital rather than a continuous traffic jam. Held in the Diller Scofidio + Renfro-designed Zaryadye Park (a.k.a. the High Line-on-the-Moskva), the forum brought together a smattering of Western experts with local thought leaders to discuss pressing urban issues, with the entire second day devoted to mobility.

I was fortunate enough to be invited to three sessions in my role as incoming director of applied research at the NewCities Foundation. In the first, on technology and law, I cited the Mobility Data Specification and Open Mobility Foundation as examples of cities’ burgeoning efforts to regulate code with code, through drafting their own standards for data reporting and collection. I also raises my concerns that dynamic congestion pricing could open a Pandora’s Box of increasingly opaque dynamic pricing on just about everything — streets, curbs, sidewalks, you name it. (I raised similar fears in my interview with Ghost Road author Anthony Townsend on this week’s CoMotion podcast.)

In my next session, on “disruptive mobility,” I was asked to respond to presentations by Kapsch’s Alexander Lewald, Superpedestrian’s Assaf Biderman, the Wuppertal Institute’s Oliver Lah, and Delimobil’s Mukhit Seidakhmetov. Seizing on Lewald’s discussion of “mobility demand management,” I pointed out that nearly all of the recent innovation in mobility has been around supply; the new frontier is in massaging demand. I originally made this point in 2016 report on new mobility for NewCities; more recently, David Zipper made a similar point in his story about public transit agencies embracing loyalty programs. But that’s just the beginning; combining MaaS programs with real-time incentives could be the key to making these systems self-sustaining.

Finally, I joined MIT’s Kent Larson and former Barcelona chief architect Vicente Guallart on the main stage to discuss the future of streets. Following Larson’s 35,000-ft. view of cities and Guallart’s own tour de force presentation, I made my more modest case for harnessing data-driven placemaking to transform streets from thoroughfares into pieces of the public realm. Highlighting my recent work in Paris, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Abu Dhabi, I made the case for how we might quickly, cheaply, and iteratively reclaim our streets.

From there, it was off to Strelka for dancing. (That’s a story for another time.) But stay tuned for forthcoming CoMotion podcasts with Larson and Biderman. Until then, enjoy your own urbanist summer vacations.

(Update: MUF has posted video of my main stage talk on the street of the future. In an odd formatting choice, the organizers combined all 10+ hours of footage into a single stream. So please skip ahead to 7:18:00 to see me take the stage.)

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Greg Lindsay is a journalist, urbanist, futurist, and speaker. He is the director of applied research at NewCities and director of strategy at its mobility offshoot CoMotion.  He is also a partner at FutureMap, a geo-strategic advisory firm based in Singapore, a non-resident senior fellow of The Atlantic Council’s Foresight, Strategy, and Risks Initiative, and co-author of Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next.

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