April 20, 2018  |  permalink

The Flood Comes to Venice

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I’m delighted to announce that “Bight: Coastal Urbanism” — a re-imagining of New York and New Jersey coastlines after 50 years and several feet of sea-level rise — will be exhibited this spring at the 16th International Architecture Exhibition, also known as the Venice Architecture Biennale. Along with my teammates Rafi Segal, Susannah Drake, Sarah Williams, Brent Ryan, and Benjamin Albrecht, our work will be featured by the GAA Foundation and European Cultural Centre as part of the former’s “Time, Space, Existence” exhibit at the Palazzo Mora.

If you make your way to Venice this summer, I hope you’ll check it out.

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April 13, 2018  |  permalink

Brooklyn, Down Under, and Everywhere In Between

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As New York finally thaws after a brutal winter — if you can call four Nor’easters in March “winter” — here’s a quick recap of my speaking schedule this year to date.

• I started the year in Orlando at the International Builders Show, speaking on behalf of the National Association of Home Builders. I was back in town a few weeks later to speak to the Urban Land Institute’s Central Florida chapter. In between, I hosted a workshop and public presentation on future uses of autonomous vehicles at URBAN-X in Brooklyn. Speaking of AVs, I spoke in San Antonio to the members of the American Traffic Safety Services Association — the highway workers who are arguably the most at risk from self-crashing cars. I ended the month moderating a panel on electric mobility at BMW iVentures’ inaugural Urban Mobility Forum in New York before hopping a transcontinental flight to Los Angeles for Woods Bagot’s “LA 3.0.”

• March was mostly about mobility. Dodging yet another Nor’easter, I spoke in Boston to the senior leadership of the design and engineering firm VHB before driving home after all planes and trains were canceled to catch an early morning flight to Chicago, where I moderated a session on mobility-as-a-service at the Shared Use Mobility Conference. But that was just a warm-up for the following week’s flight to Auckland to deliver the opening keynote at ITS New Zealand’s T-Tech Transport Innovation Conference.” If that wasn’t enough, on the way home, I laid over in Victoria, British Columbia to offer the Canadian Home Builders Association a whirlwind tour of the next twenty-five years. (They seemed less enthused about 3D-printed houses made from cultured meat.)

I hit the road again next week for CIBC’s 23rd Annual Real Estate Conference in Toronto, followed by Procurious’ Big Idea Summit in London before a May homestand in New York with NAIOP, CoreNet, MSCI, and MoMA. (Then the real fun begins, with trips to Riga, Prague, and Venice in early summer.)

Needless to say, please get in touch if you’d like me to make a stop somewhere in between!

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March 31, 2018  |  permalink

The Guardian: Private companies want to replace public transport. Should we let them?

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The Guardian’s Mark Wilding asks, “private companies want to replace public transport. Should we let them?” To his credit, the answer is no, or at least “it depends.” Sampling Citymapper’s new ride-sharing service in London, and Helsinki’s Whim — the leader in mobility-as-a-service — Wilding finds the latter more appealing and public officials more willing to give it a try.

He was also kind enough to grant me the requisite Uber-is-coming-to-kill-you-all quote:

It might be working. When Transport for London recently announced that its passenger numbers have fallen, many pointed the finger at Uber. There is little evidence to prove that connection, but when researchers surveyed the residents of seven US cities in 2016, they found a 6% reduction in use of public buses and a 3% reduction in use of light rail after ride-hailing services were introduced. “Current evidence suggests that ride-hailing is pulling more people away from public transit in cities, rather than adding riders,” they said. Greg Lindsay of the NewCities Foundation encapsulates the thinking: “My fear is that Uber is going to lead to a cycle of cataclysmic disinvestment. They will try to siphon off the most profitable customers and leave public transport a rump service.”

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March 25, 2018  |  permalink

reSITE 2018: ACCOMMODATE

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reSITE 2018 has an official title — “ACCOMMODATE” — and a roster of speakers that’s firming up quickly, including the architects Jeanne Gang, Sou Fujimoto, Michel Rojking, and Reinier de Graaf, the choreographer Elizabeth Streb, Amsterdam’s “night mayor,” Mirk Milan, and LSE Cities director Richard Burdett. Watch this space as the program develops, and please join us in Prague on June 14-15!

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March 22, 2018  |  permalink

New Zealand’s T-Tech Conference & Tech Podcast

I was in Auckland this week as a guest of ITS New Zealand and as the keynote speaker of the T-Tech conference exploring the future of mobility. (To one’s surprise, the Kiwis are away ahead of us.) While I was there, the NZ Tech Podcast host Paul Spain invited me to join him in the studio along with Syndex Exchange’s Mike Jenkins to discuss the conference, Zephyr Airworks’ autonomous electric air taxi, Apple Parental controls, Nest taking on Amazon, and the cold reality of an autonomous Uber killing a pedestrian. It was a great capstone to the trip.

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March 06, 2018  |  permalink

‘Cities-as-a-Service” at the International Builders Show

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Back in January, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) invited me to speak at their mammoth annual convention in Orlando, the International Builders Show. As part of their IBS Live education track, I gave a talk titled “Cities-as-a-Service: What Does the On-Demand Economy Mean for Housing?” Running the gamut from dead malls to AVs to co-working and tactical urbanism, I made the case for why the old suburban formula of homes-for-living, office parks-for-working, and malls-for-shopping no longer works anymore. Although the talk is on Vimeo, I’ve password-protected it. Please drop me a line if you’d like to see it.

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February 19, 2018  |  permalink

Wired UK: “Could Uber run the London bus network? It’s complicated”

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Wired UK’s Nicole Kobie skeptically considers whether Uber is sincere in its desire to move beyond cars into public transport. “I want to run the bus systems for a city,” says new-ish CEO Dara Khosrowshahi. “I want you to be able to take an Uber and get into the subway… and get out and have an Uber waiting for you.”

Needless to say, I take a dim view of this kind of talk, and Kobie was kind enough to ask me for my thoughts:

Those without transport will welcome anyone who offers them a bus, regardless of whether it’s run by government, a tech firm or a community project, but Uber and its rivals may well prove an existential threat to public transport, says Greg Lindsay, Senior Fellow for mobility at the NewCities think tank. “Uber and other TNCs [transportation network companies] — the others are no more virtuous — have always been about disrupting public transport, about privatising the pieces of public transport that they found profitable and leaving the rest to wither,” he says.

There’s more.

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February 09, 2018  |  permalink

URBAN-X Demo Day

Last night in Brooklyn, URBAN-X hosted its third Demo Day, featuring pitches from nine startups in areas ranging from car-sharing and autonomous vehicle sensors (which you might expect for BMW MINI) to surveillance balloons and sensor-studded constructions cranes (which you might not). An entire livestream of the event is archived above, featuring pre-game commentary by myself, Urban.Us managing partner Shaun Abramson, and URBAN-X program director Miriam Roure, followed by an opening keynote by Zipcar founder Robin Chase. Tune in.

Update: In advance of Demo Day, the URBAN-X team also asked me to guest edit what they delightfully referred to as a “‘zine” spotlighting a few of the teams. A few snaps from its pages are appended below:

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February 07, 2018  |  permalink

Walking in the Street of the Future

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Curbed’s Alissa Walker has published an epic history of the rise and fall — and rise again — of walking in America, making the case that sidewalks are too little, too late for our walking needs. I’m honored to be included in the piece as the speculative futurist wondering how new mobility might reclaim streets for people instead of cars:

Instead of a one-size-fits-all equation of lane widths calculated to move cars quickly, with pedestrians pushed off to the side, the definition of a city street will change based on what people need, neighborhood by neighborhood, says Greg Lindsay, director of strategy for the urban mobility festival LACoMotion.

“Streets will become this panoply of different uses,” he says. “What happens when AV sensors get cheap enough that you can put them on tricycles or quadricycles and make the ultimate first-mile/last-mile solution? Maybe you have electric autonomous bicycles that allow seniors to move around the neighborhood. Maybe you’ll hang out in the street of the future.”

Read the entire thing.

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January 29, 2018  |  permalink

“We’re still waiting for a smart city; it hasn’t been created yet.”

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Thailand’s Property Report profiled me on the subject of smart cities in Asia. To their credit, they don’t attempt to whitewash the inherent flaws in so-called smart cities and give more than a fair hearing to my own ideas of what a smart city should be. I’ve republished the piece below.

Humankind will make the great crossing from the countryside to urban centres in coming decades. Many will consider themselves lucky to make the move to a so-called smart city.

The notion of living in smart cities has jumped from the drawing board to reality over the last few years. Urban planners are excited about the prospect of urbanites becoming more interconnected than they already are, living in communities packed with sensors and set aside as test labs for the Internet of Everything while digitisation streamlines the very way they lead lives.

Smart cities trigger complex discussions fraught with a myriad of issues ranging from infrastructure to inclusivity. No one could pin down what exactly a smart city is, partly because the concept is so open to interpretation — and because it essentially does not exist yet.

The need for one hangs in the air. As metropolises bloat with over-populace, spewing carbon into the atmosphere and suffering from vestigial inefficiencies of the last century, urban planners and technocrats have agreed that redefining the very fabric of a city is of the essence.

“You need a smart city because, ultimately, there are ways we can enhance the fundamental nature of the city,” said Greg Lindsay of the New Cities Foundation. “We can use technology to make cities better versions of themselves if it’s all about connecting people and systems that were otherwise unconnected, and yet giving people the agency to change them and to use them.”

As leader of the nonprofit’s Connected Mobility Initiative, Lindsay has borne witness to the rise and fall of smart city initiatives around the world. In his 2011 book Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next, Lindsay studied the critical intersections between smart infrastructure and smart cities.

“It was really about air travel. It was what really invented the modern world,” he argued. “It allowed people to act on a global scale within the span of a day or two. Sooner or later, it seemed inevitable that, as with all transportation technology, people would build cities around it.”

Early on, the city of Songdo in South Korea testified to the transformative effects an airport could have on adjacent areas. Built on a 600-hectare reclaimed land parcel outside Seoul, Songdo thrived on its direct link, by way of a seven-mile bridge, to Incheon International Airport, in the same way outlying islands in Hong Kong benefited from the USD20-billion transfer of its old airport in the 2000s.

Lindsay has followed the plight of Songdo in its ultimately disappointing bid to become the world’s first smart city. “The general perception of Songdo after an incredible hype cycle has now descended down into this trough of disillusionment,” he said.

Songdo has failed to measure up to the titanic expectations of being “first.” The USD-40 billion project has made a comfortable home for as many as 100,000, but the figure represents less than half of its capacity, and many of the heralded smarts have yet to pass.

“I don’t think there’s anywhere we could actually point to and say, ‘This is what a smart city is,’” Lindsay said. “We’re still waiting for the best example. It hasn’t been created yet.”

Still, it is likely that a real smart city will burst forth in Asia first, on the rock-solid foundation of an existing, evolving city. Singapore, in Lindsay’s opinion, seems to be leading the way, raising the bar when it comes to giving citizens opportunities to engage directly with government. As does Dubai: housing authorities in the emirate made headlines late last year when they announced lavish investments in blockchain technology, cryptocurrency payments, and drone technology.

While all these advancements tickle futurists, the ‘holy grail’ of smart cities would be to be able to distribute planning decisions to each and every citizen, Lindsay explained. This then raises the question as to whether smart cities can ever be inclusive by their very nature. Critics of the movement lament that smart cities only benefit certain segments of the body politic; somebody somewhere is always left behind in the race toward becoming Smart.

“You can’t run a fully participatory digital democracy because you can’t assume that everyone has a smartphone,” Lindsay said. “It’s very easy to be incredibly innovative if you’re willing to write off portions of the population.”

The fundamentals of smartening an existing city sooner or later require investing in leading-edge technology, an act anathema to poorer economies. Smart technology, in many ways, is designed to dovetail easily with societies that have reached higher rungs of advancement and connectivity.

Before applying smart tech at the grassroots level, an urban planner must engage first with the social context of a city and understand issues endemic to it. Alongside governments, property developers must be aware of their mandate to leverage technology and refine experiences for people in their localities.

“It’s just a question of how do you layer value and add new uses on top of the already great places we’re developing,” said Lindsay.

Smart cities may have that rarefied feel with thorny barriers to entry but in 2016, the world gained a glimpse of the infinite possibilities the majority could have in a smart city. Pokemon Go, a gaming app which conflates the popular ’90s cartoon characters with the ultra-modern trappings of augmented reality, exploded across mobile screens worldwide. It gave people a simulacrum of connectivity that cuts across multiple tiers of the economic situation.

“For a brief, blinding moment it was the most successful smart city app ever developed,” Lindsay said. “It was taking groups of strangers, of all backgrounds and ethnicities, on city street corners and making them stop and take selfies together. It was a flash in the pan, but it really points to what we can do from the concept of games and how these kinds of things to really unlock the value of cities.”

So what will cities of the future look like? They will not spring out of nowhere like Songdo for certain, he suggested. “The cities that we have and that we know and love are the result of decades, centuries, thousands of years of many, many hands building and rebuilding spaces that people love at a visceral level.

“And there is nothing that a single developer or technology can do in a single cycle that can really replicate that.”

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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 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, and co-author of Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next.

» More about Greg Lindsay

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

Blog

October 30, 2018

MAS Summit: Why Autonomous Vehicles Won’t Save Us

September 24, 2018

Why Companies Are Creating Their Own Coworking Spaces

September 18, 2018

Alstom’s “Orchestrating Future Mobility”

August 06, 2018

The CoMotion Podcast Series

» More blog posts