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Thread: Smart city trends

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    Smart city trends

    Hi everybody,

    I am a research assistant at the Vienna University of Business and Economics and we are currently doing a very interesting research project on smart city trends. Our aim is to find and develop innovative solutions that will be able to solve several upcoming problems in urban areas (e.g. traffic congestion, air pollution, safety concerns especially for cyclists and pedestrians, inefficiency of public transport systems etc.).

    What are your experiences with the current development of cities? And can you think of any feasible and sustainable solutions to solve these problems in the future? It would be great to hear some interesting ideas!

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    Cyburbian The District's avatar
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    the discussion of smart cities here in the US continues to evolve (take a look at this conference at columbia planned for this fall).

    more importantly, i think it's important to note that breakthroughs in innovation are typically preceded by breakthroughs in measurement. as such, i think the measurement and quantification of these complex problems still require further effort before substantial innovation can be achieved. therefore, i'd suggest focusing (at least somewhat) on measurement

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    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ThomasP View post

    I am a research assistant at the Vienna University of Business and Economics and we are currently doing a very interesting research project on smart city trends...

    [1]What are your experiences with the current development of cities?

    [2]And can you think of any feasible and sustainable solutions to solve these problems in the future?
    [1] There is a severe scale mismatch in the permitting/assessment of development and the mitigation of impacts/externalities. But humans are poor at assessing scalar impacts and effects anyway, so not sure how to address that. Also here in the states we have poor transportation network connectivity and this needs to change.

    [2] The sustainable solution to solve many of our problems is to reduce the birth rate so we have a sustainable population. Until then, all you can do is leave good patterns for the future and hope they have small footprints. When you mark 'ecological overshoot' days earlier and earlier in the year every year, moving the deck chairs around doesn't address the problem.

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    Quote Originally posted by The District View post
    the discussion of smart cities here in the US continues to evolve (take a look at this conference at columbia planned for this fall).

    more importantly, i think it's important to note that breakthroughs in innovation are typically preceded by breakthroughs in measurement. as such, i think the measurement and quantification of these complex problems still require further effort before substantial innovation can be achieved. therefore, i'd suggest focusing (at least somewhat) on measurement
    I understand what you mean and I definitely think that you are right, but still that leaves plenty of options. What needs to be measured? I think you also have to consider social developments which affect the mobility trend as well. We also try to consider the needs of inhabitants in megacities, which might be totally different than the solutions found due to measurement.

    Any further ideas on this thought? You could also explain in more depth what you deem most important in terms of measurement.

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    Quote Originally posted by ColoGI View post
    [1] There is a severe scale mismatch in the permitting/assessment of development and the mitigation of impacts/externalities. But humans are poor at assessing scalar impacts and effects anyway, so not sure how to address that. Also here in the states we have poor transportation network connectivity and this needs to change.

    [2] The sustainable solution to solve many of our problems is to reduce the birth rate so we have a sustainable population. Until then, all you can do is leave good patterns for the future and hope they have small footprints. When you mark 'ecological overshoot' days earlier and earlier in the year every year, moving the deck chairs around doesn't address the problem.
    You are right the assessment of any development is really tough considering all the effects that influence this development. Concerning the poor transportation network: extending public transport costs huge amounts of money, which is why they cannot be easily justified. That is also why car dependency is increasing in many cities as there are no real alternatives.

    The problem of increasing urbanisation (if it is a problem in the first place) can be solved in several ways but I think the reduction of the birth rate is not really feasible in Western cities. There must be a solution without limiting the freedom of the inhabitants, shouldn't there?

    The main need people have is mobility, the car is just the most flexible option. So the question is: what might replace the car in the future? Go back to bicycles, invent something futuristic? What do you think?

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    Bicycles with small assisting motors are becoming more popular, as are utilitarian cargo bikes such as the Extracycle kit, Surly Big Dummy, various forms of bakfiets, and so on. Sun recently released a cargo bike to compete in the cargo bikes market, and got it down near the $1000 price point for a completed bike. Personally, I expect a large revival of interest in bikes might happen if Pacific Cycles were to build a cargo bike and showcase it in box stores.

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    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    The challenge as I see it in the States has less to do with the many great ideas/solutions that are out there and which could have a tremendous impact on all of these issues and more to do with political process/will and the power the private markets have over instituting such changes in regulation. Construction and real estate being such a large part of our economy and used as a key economic indicator, almost any proposal that suggests higher building costs (smaller in-fill projects cost more per unit that lareg tract housing, increasing green standards increase per foot costs which are generally passed on to the buyer, etc.) will run up against stiff resistance with homebuilders associations lobbying heavily for minimal changes and relaxed regulations - especially now when these concessions are couched as a way to stimulate jobs.

    In my city, we passed a "Smart Growth" legislative package some years ago. The intention was to incentivize building within the existing city limits through imposition of graduated impact fees the closer you are to the edge, and other tax incentives and fee waivers for building closer in as well as incorporating more "green" components (which can mean building performance as well as integration with public tranist). We have also done some code revision under this amendment to ensure activated street/building interfaces, improve connectivity for bikes and pedestrians, and a number of other issues. There has been a push to accomplish this through adoption of a modified Form-Based zone code, though they have run into local neigyhborhood resistance and at present its a bit of a piecemeal adoption of hybrid form-based approaches at amore lcoal level through what we cann Sector Development Plans (plans for areas within the city - they subscribe to the Master Plan but have additional particulars unique to each area).

    In reality, though, this Smart Growth bill was pretty watered down by the time it went for a vote because of the various industry concessions and political wrangling I mentioned. There is still plenty of building on the edge of my city - low cost tract housing developments - that add a lot to the City's financial obligations. Schools, fire and police servbice, road maintenance, stormwater, additional infrastructure, etc. all need to be paid for, often before these areas are completed and occupied. Its a big challenge and its hard to stay out in front of them.

    I work for an affordable housing developer and these fringe low cost (and low quality) housing is our main competition, especially with the housing market being as weak as it is. What people often fail to consider (or turn a blind eye to) is the cost in time and fuel living out on the fringe. But I think until we carry the true (or closer to true) cost of fuel here, people will still make these kinds of choices.
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    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by wahday View post
    In reality, though, this Smart Growth bill was pretty watered down by the time it went for a vote because of the various industry concessions and political wrangling I mentioned. There is still plenty of building on the edge of my city - low cost tract housing developments - that add a lot to the City's financial obligations. Schools, fire and police servbice, road maintenance, stormwater, additional infrastructure, etc. all need to be paid for, often before these areas are completed and occupied. Its a big challenge and its hard to stay out in front of them.

    I work for an affordable housing developer and these fringe low cost (and low quality) housing is our main competition, especially with the housing market being as weak as it is. What people often fail to consider (or turn a blind eye to) is the cost in time and fuel living out on the fringe. But I think until we carry the true (or closer to true) cost of fuel here, people will still make these kinds of choices.
    Excellent point wrt political watering-down. Denver's "Form-Based Code" is an excellent example of that. In my view only when gas is 10.00/gal will we have concerted SmartGrowth developments. Until then, it is important to do onesy-twosie developments to hopefully get closer to getting it right when the time comes.
    -------
    Give a man a gun, and he can rob a bank. Give a man a bank, and he can rob the world.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian
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    I think the Greater Toronto Area has some great “Smart Growth” legislation, due to Province getting heavily involved. These wouldn’t have happened at a local level due to the competition between municipalities. There are three major elements:
    1. The Greenbelt Plan, which protects a ring of natural and agricultural land around the GTA effectively limiting sprawl.
    2. Places to Grow (and the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshow), which sets hard targets for employment and population growth which the municipalities are required to achieve (or at least plan to achieve).
    3. The Big Move (Regional Transportation Plan), which outlines what transportation infrastructure will be necessary to implement the growth predicted in the Growth Plan.

    The biggest stumbling block right now is the Province has set up the growth targets and knows what transportation infrastructure is required to achieve that growth, but they are balking at paying for it. Some municipalities are actually considering moving ahead with their multi-million dollar transportation projects (e.g. LRT, BRT) on their own because they see the crisis that will happen if something doesn’t happen very soon.

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