In cities, as in life, the only constant is change. The renewed popularity of city-centres, proliferation of smart, efficiency-driven, systems and rise of automation offer a range of exciting opportunities, but also major pitfalls for the cities we call home. What will the new year bring? We asked some IBIers for their predictions for 2017:
2017 will be a year where cities will continue to evaluate, measure and plan for their own health – to compete in a global environment. Investments in infrastructure help people in cities move, result in better place-making, better real estate values, better communities and initiate more competition in a global market. Cities all want to rank as being the smartest, the most innovative and the safest – in order to make that happen, they need to invest in smart, innovative and safe public realm – the touchpoint that defines the character and the profile of these cities. The public realm is the glue that brings together transit, private development and defines the health of those communities.
By Trevor McIntyre, Regional Director, International Operations
Increasing respect for and integration with natural systems is becoming a common theme in sustainability literature. Envision, an infrastructure certification system created by the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure, dedicates a category of credits to the natural world, asking how developments will preserve nearby ecosystems and regenerate damaged ones. Going a step further, biomimicry is a philosophy and methodology that questions technology at all scales. Janine Benyus notes that, “The truth is, natural organisms have managed to do everything we want to do without guzzling fossil fuels, polluting the planet or mortgaging the future.” Looking to nature as a model, measure, and mentor, biomimicry practitioners take lessons from the natural world, applying them to human technology and design.
In 2017, the Bioimimicry Global Design Challenge is tackling the issue of climate change. Building on the success of previous years, this competition receives international contributions and is sure to generate innovative solutions to address an issue that affects us all. By recognizing the benefits nature provides, and applying its strategies to our technologies, buildings, and communities, we will realize sustainability at ever greater scales.
By Kira Hunt, Landscape Architectural Technologist
From design-driven to data-driven planning. Just as Airbnb and Uber turned the hotel and taxi industries on its head, the trend to digitize | disrupt | democratize (to use three of the six Ds of Tech Disruption) will also reach the heart of public policymaking: the urban planning arena. The implementation of specific planning initiatives, such as Transit Oriented Development (TOD), will increasingly become data-driven, rather than design-driven, where policymakers may find themselves constantly catching up to developers. In the case of TOD, the cataloguing of corridor-wide but lot-specific development opportunities (digitization) will allow developers to make strategic decisions bypassing traditional players such as realtors or policymakers (disruption) resulting in easily accessible, widely shareable and intuitively understandable tools for investing in places near transit (democratization). The still-not-answered question is if this last quality – democratization – will require the public sector spearheading the trend by leveraging the large quantities of information they possess or could also be attainable by private sector entrepreneurship, using increasingly accessible open public data.
By Gary Andrishak, Director, TOD Planning
A growing focus on healthier and safer environments. Population growth will continue to concentrate in urban areas as the professional, service and sales sectors expand in cities. In turn, our urban regions will increasingly be made up of people of all backgrounds and activity within the urban domain will intensify. This means more people, more vehicles and the continued proliferation of technologies.
To create healthier and safer communities, governments, the private sector and citizens will need to play their part to ensure all of these elements interact in a coordinated way – to keep us safe now and lead longer, healthier lives. These developments will be accompanied by “teething problems”, like distracted driving due in part to mobile technology; however challenges like this inspire the actions to solve them. 2017 will be an important year to explore how this can be achieved.
By Andrea Lendak, Associate, Transportation Planning Group
2017 – the year that cities takes on more of a lead role in key areas of public policy. Particularly in the United States, but also in some European countries, cities will flex their muscles and enact policies that run counter to those of the national government. This will be a grassroots response to what is likely to be a year where the policies of major world powers swing significantly towards a focus on self-serving economic development, to the detriment of environmental protection and progressive social policies. Whilst this shift may reflect popular opinion, it does not represent the views of urban dwellers. The result will be a series of initiatives from both city governments and progressive corporations, as cities flexing their economic clout to exert greater influence on these strategic societal directions. Divestments that we saw in 2016 by major IT companies from states with anti-LGBT policies is likely to be the tip of the iceberg.
By David Kamnitzer, Director, Systems
Smart Cities become Civic Tech Cities: Moving from planning for residents to planning with them. The civic tech movement can not only make public services more efficient and cost-effective, but also enable a new kind of participation by those affected by public policy and development. The rise of open data, open government, new ways of working and new kinds of social technologies means that the public can actively work with governments, designers, planners, architects and engineers in the formulation of public policy and the design of their community spaces. Civic tech is going global. Beyond hot spots in Chicago and Toronto, national organizations have formed in the US and UK, as well as across Africa and even in Iran.
I predict that in 2017 we will see exponential growth in the civic tech programs sponsored by governments, the further rise of grass roots civic tech movements around the globe, and increasing investments in civic tech startups. Long-term, these movements will re-shape the relationship between governments, civic organizations and residents – from one of producer to consumer, to one of partnership and co-creation – all of which will make for better experiences in our cities and with our governments.
By Charles Finley, Global Director, Marketing and Communications
Integration of fare, mapping, routing and other mobility data. As mobility users are becoming increasingly multimodal, transportation data is gradually becoming more openly accessible and new mobility options are turning mainstream, the functional integration of ‘transportation silos’ is just a matter of time. In 2016 we have seen the first signs for this trend: Transit agencies partnering with private transportation network companies to serve low ridership routes, federal grants to explore first-last mile and mobility-on-demand options, and the rise of multimodal trip planning apps.
This trend is driven by the needs of consumers, the push of private sector mobility providers and the realization of the public sector that the future of transportation is in an integrated ‘mobility ecosystem’ – a process that will only be strengthened by the advent of driverless cars.
By Oliver Hartleben, IBI TH!NK Coordinator
Efforts at bursting the filter bubble – in real life – will intensify. Percolating for the past decade, the fears and threats of the filter bubble were laid bare in 2016. Viewed primarily as an online phenomenon, the filter bubble effect has also manifested itself in our cities through the rise of privately-owned public spaces (POPS) and commercially-oriented outdoor spaces. Zooming out, this trend has been reinforced by the rapid influx of wealth to city centres and rise of suburban poverty. This is problematic for innovation and understanding of others. In turn, this isn’t good for democracy. In 2017, recognizing these threats, we will see greater efforts from a range of actors – local governments, foundations and private firms – to support serendipitous mixing through programmed events, pop-up spaces and unsanctioned gatherings. As indication of the prolonged back-and-forth we can expect, new spaces that reinforce the filter bubble will also emerge however. Like a thriving public space, this exchange of ideas will be lively, messy and a little chaotic.
By Mitchell Reardon, IBI TH!NK Co-Leader and TH!NK by IBI Curator