December 13, 2016  |  permalink

The Experimental City: Serendipity in the City

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(Gabriella Gómez-Mont, director of Mexico City’s Laboratory for the City, asked me to elaborate on the idea of cities-as-serendipity-engines ahead of the World Summit of Local and Regional Leaders in Bogota in October. Interview by Zoe Mendelson.)

What is “serendipity” in the context of cities?

The original definition described “discoveries, by accidents and sagacity,” of things we are not in search of. Today, everyone remembers the happy accidents and forgets the sagacity, i.e. the latent knowhow and expertise necessary to capitalize on these accidents. Cities are serendipity machines in two ways. One is through the juxtaposition of so many people, elements, and sensations — their tumult naturally increases the chances of a happy accident. The second is social — you are more likely to discover an unsought connection at the fringes of your network, through a friend of a friend or a familiar stranger. There’s a reason young people flock to cities — for serendipitous encounters in life and love!

Why do cities need serendipity?

A decade ago, the physicists Luis Bettencourt and Geoffrey West discovered an unusual property of cities — they seem to get better as they get bigger. You can measure “better” in any number of ways, including higher wages and productivity. To explain why this happens, Bettencourt (who wrote his doctoral thesis on the Big Bang) argues that cities are neither machines nor natural ecosystems, but stars — “social reactors” compressing dense social networks together in space and time until they fuse at the edges, producing new ideas and relationships instead of light and heat. This meshes well with Jane Jacobs and most economists about why cities exist and why they perform so well. And I would argue the mechanism is serendipity.

Are there certain things cities do that block serendipity?

Anything preventing diverse groups of people and ideas from mixing — racism, intolerance, segregation, concentrated poverty, crime, and so on. How we use and traverse the city matters too: a lack of public and private spaces in which people can meet, converse, and linger; investing in cars and freeways that isolate drivers and then trap them in congestion, and urban districts that lack both texture and a variety of uses. It’s difficult to experience serendipity when there is no one to see, nothing to do, and your very presence is unwanted, if not outright criminalized. For example, the Department of Justice’s scathing report on the Baltimore Police Department highlighted instance after instance of “zero tolerance” policing amounting to clearing the streets of all bystanders. Less egregious (although more insidious) are practices such as spatially discriminatory retail redlining, which starves neighborhoods of places that are neither home nor work for serendipitous encounters with neighbors form ad hoc communities.

How can cities engineer serendipity?

Through encouraging unplanned uses and encounters in public and private space. For example, why are streets given over entirely to cars? Why aren’t we trying to maximize the number of people and activities who can use them? Whether it’s banning cars from city centers, building better blocks through testing different uses, or transforming parking spaces into “parklets,” there are any number of ways to increase their potential for serendipity. In a similar vein, why do we fill the cores of our cities with skyscrapers that are never more than half full at any given moment? We need to blur the line between the office and the street, just as Londoners once did the same by doing business in its pubs, coffeehouses, and “gentlemen’s clubs. In practice, that means propelling work out of the hermetically-sealed office into shared workspaces and other semi-public places, and it also means bringing a variety of new uses into skyscrapers — just as Hong Kong and Singapore have done with great success. We also need fundamental re-investment in public transport to maximize the number of people who can be brought to experience these places.  Cities can engineer serendipity through the diversity of their people, the heterogeneity of their places, and the intensity of their uses.

The Las Vegas Downtown Project tried to engineer serendipity. What did they get right and what did they get wrong?

The Las Vegas Downtown Project consciously tried to engineer what its backers call “casual collisions.” But they did several things wrong. First, they gentrified the areas, displacing long-term residents, small business, and people of color to attract young, mostly white people with an interest or background in technology. Then, they began acquiring or controlling land in order to carefully curate the mix of businesses and uses they wanted to see downtown — which increased property values, but discouraged a real neighborhood from forming. What do you expect when literally one man hand-picks the bars, the restaurants, the co-working spaces, and even the grocery store? Where are the surprises in that? Finally, the layout of downtown Vegas worked against them — long, empty streets with destinations few and far between. It’s not a failure, but after having committed $350 million to the project, it’s not a success, either. They had the right ideas, but botched the execution.

Who or what projects are getting it right?

My favorite example is Renew Newcastle, which started in a depressed downtown city in Australia. Instead of buying properties or deciding what the area needed, its creator — an arts festival organizer named Marcus Westbury — borrowed spaces temporarily and invited residents to use them. The project acted quickly and cheaply to use vacant storefronts as intensely as possible, without prescribing how people should use them. The result is a revitalized downtown for a hundredth of the price of the Downtown Project. Instead of remaking itself for an itinerant “creative class” as dozens, if not hundreds of cities have done, Westbury sought to catalyze Newcastle’s latent energy and talent by creating places where people could pursue their passions in public, thus generating a host of new activity around them. There wasn’t a plan or a desired outcome — the project unfolded organically.

This is what I mean by “engineering serendipity.” Cities don’t need to attract outside talent or capital or coffee bars — they need to do a better job of unlocking the buried potential of their places and through them, their people. Platforms like Renew handle the engineering. That particular project isn’t a panacea, but it is the lightest, cheapest, most successful model I’ve seen to date.

We like to roll our eyes at the ideas of the Modern City. What will urbanists be rolling their eyes about two generations from now?

That we ever spent so much time staring at Facebook and Twitter. Social networks will still be with us — in fact, they’ll matter more than ever — but the success of Pokemon Go points toward a future in which our social networks are overlaid and enhanced by the city. A game encouraging us to go outside and meet our neighbors and strangers is a good start.

Posted by Greg Lindsay  |  Categories:  |  Comments


December 07, 2016  |  permalink

AECOM and the Future of Cities

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In October, I was honored to be the opening keynote guest speaker at AECOM’s annual Global Leadership Conference in Beverly Hills. AECOM is one of the world’s largest engineering and construction firms, with $18 billion in annual revenus and nearly 100,000 employees. It built 1 World Trade Center, designs Olympic Games, and runs America’s national laboratories, among its far-flung activities.

The conference brought together 500+ principals from around the world to learn how to make the company greater than the sum of its many parts. My job was to survey the landscape of a fully urbanized 21st Century, explaining why the challenges posed by climate change, energy, cyber-attacks, and governance would require ever-greater levels of collaboration and cross-pollination. (Hat tip to Keller Easterling’s “The Action is the Form” for the quote pictured above.)

Video of my talk isn’t publicly available online, but I’d be happy to share it privately. Please contact me for details.

Posted by Greg Lindsay  |  Categories:  |  Comments


December 02, 2016  |  permalink

Reading the “City of Trump”

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Futurists like to talk about “inflection points” when the range of futures suddenly shifts. Some are instantly obsolete, while others lurch from improbable to possible, and possible to frightening plausible. This year has been full of them — most notably Brexit and Trump — which for urbanists like myself has meant the end of the presumed “triumph of the city,” and the beginning of open economic and socio-political war with their own hinterlands.

What will cities look like in the Age of Trump? my Fast Company colleague Mark Wilson asked. I didn’t hold back:

Urbanist journalist Greg Lindsay imagines a darker scenario in which all public transit is handed over to private corporations. Imagine Uber running trains with surge pricing on your way to work each morning. Individual neighborhoods might be tolled on entry, effectively cutting off parts of the city to people without the means to pay. Consider having to pay $2.50 every time you go shopping in Tribeca or commute to your job in SoHo—perhaps through an RFID-powered deduction system that tolls users seamlessly across the city.

Such changes would put painful financial pressure even for middle-class city residents, and create deeper schisms within cities that are already socially and economically segregated. (In a very real panic of evaporating federal funding, the Chicago Transit Authority is currently trying to rush through a $2.1 billion grant before Inauguration Day.) “It’s hard for me to come up with deals that are win-win-win,” says Lindsay. “I personally can’t find an example where the will of the people has been done by [private investors].”

There’s also a more practical problem with privatization—which tends to work better for big, monetizable projects, and worse for smaller, necessary ones. Just look at a recent example from Chicago. In 2008, the city had an eager buyer to privatize its parking meters, which involved one lump-sum payment in exchange for 75 years of private rights. The deal immediately led to price hikes that required so many quarters that meters soon overflowed, unusable, and citizens were ticketed as a result. But when Mayor Emanuel floated the idea of a public-private infrastructure trust, in which investors would replace critical infrastructure components, it foundered.

“It failed because no one wanted to replace the boilers in schools; they wanted to buy Midway Airport,” says Lindsay of the pitfalls of privatization. “The size of the deals are out of whack . . . and it creates the incentive to give away the game to get all the money you can.”

While Fast Company grapples with the implications of a Trump presidency (and I’d encourage you to read the entire series), Curbed’s Alissa Walker and her colleagues have assembled a list of “101 books about where and how we live.” As they explained:

This isn’t necessarily the same-old list of famous urbanism books, although plenty of them are represented here. These are books about making cities, but also books about how cities have made us, whether it’s our own hometown or somewhere on the other side of the planet. These are books that examine how cities change, and sometimes end up alienating the people who built them. There are plenty of brand-new books on this list because they reflect what people are thinking about today, which, in light of current events, may be very different from what they were thinking about just two weeks ago.

I was pleased and honored to see Aerotropolis make the list (in addition to another recent list of the “best books about living in the city”) and also to be asked to contribute a choice of my own. I selected Joan Didion’s Where I Was From, which mixes the autobiographical with incisive reporting — the qualities in her work that inspired me to become a journalist in the first place. I was especially moved by her section on Lakewood, California and the “Spur Posse” — the teenage sexual predators who were an early manifestation of the white working class dysfunction described in books like J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy. My explanation:

“The most trenchant passages for me concern Lakewood, California—the massive prefabricated suburb nicknamed the “Levittown of the West”—and how the mostly white, mostly working-class community gradually becomes unglued by the closure of the local aerospace factories in the early 1990s. ‘What does it cost to create and maintain an artificial ownership class,’ Didion asks rhetorically. ‘Who pays? Who benefits? What happens when that class stops being useful? What does it mean to drop back below the line? What does it cost to hang on above it, how do you behave, what do you say, what are the pitons you drive into the granite?’”

Posted by Greg Lindsay  |  Categories:  |  Comments


December 01, 2016  |  permalink

Speaking & Events

I speak frequently about the future of cities, work, mobility, and occasionally the future of the future itself. Past engagements and events include the 14th Venice Architecture Biennale, the Aspen Ideas Festival, the Clinton Global Initiative, and Urban Age. I speak frequently to companies (McKinsey, Microsoft, KPMG, Deloitte, Intel, Ericsson, AECOM, Cushman & Wakefield, BMW MINI, Fiat Chrysler), organizations (the OECD, U.S. State Department, U.K. Treasury, New Cities Foundation, Canada Council for the Arts), member associations (CoreNet, Urban Land Institute, Federation Internationale de l’Automobile) and universities (Harvard Business School, the MIT Media Lab, Columbia, Princeton, the Royal College of Art, the London School of Economics).

Below is the current list of past and future appearances, always bound to change. If you’re interested in helping to arrange a speaking appearance, please send me an email. A complete list of speaking topics can be found at Speakers Spotlight.

November 15-19, 2017. Los Angeles, CA.
LACoMotion.

October 17, 2017. Albany, NY.
NY Public Transit Association.

September 28, 2017. Chicago, IL.
Procurious.

September 26, 2017. New York, NY.
RealInsight Emerging Trends Summit.

September 25, 2017. Washington, DC.
Intel.

September 19, 2017. Victoria, BC.
Platform: A Retreat for Design Visionaries.

September 18, 2017. Denver, CO.
RE/MAX Commercial Symposium.

August 23, 2017. Albuquerque, NM.
Sandia National Laboratories.

August 22, 2017. Colorado Springs, CO.
Deloitte.

August 17, 2017. San Francisco, CA.
Ford City of Tomorrow.

August 16, 2017. San Francisco, CA.
Intel.

July 20, 2017. Los Angeles, CA.
Central City Association.

July 13, 2017. Milford, CT.
CCIM Connecticut.

June 29, 2017. Bangkok, Thailand.
Ananda Urban Tech.

June 22, 2017. Montreal, QC.
Metropolis.

June 12, 2017. New York, NY.
MadCity NYC.

June 8-9, 2017. Incheon, Republic of Korea.
New Cities Summit.

June 5, 2017. New York, NY.
CoreNet.

June 1, 2017. Montreal, QC.
Triovest.

May 13, 2017. Brooklyn, NY.
A/D/O: Common Sense.

May 12, 2017. New York, NY.
DLD Future of Cities.

May 5, 2017. New York, NY.
Global Coworking Unconference (GCUC).

May 4, 2017. New York, NY.
WorkTech NYC 2017.

May 3, 2017. Brooklyn, NY.
Smart Cities NYC.

April 19, 2017. Toulouse, France.
SNCF.

April 5, 2017. New York, NY.
Bloomberg Aspen Initiative on Cities and Autonomous Vehicles.

April 3, 2017. Brooklyn, NY.
A/D/O. “Manufacturing Happiness.”

March 30, 2017. Brooklyn, NY.
URBAN-X: “Where the Robot Meets the Road.”

March 29, 2017. Oslo, Norway.
PostNord.

March 7, 2017. Fort Lauderdale, FL.
CORE Network.

March 6, 2017. Dallas, TX.
Downtown Dallas, Inc.

February 24, 2017. San Diego, CA.
CORFAC.

February 22, 2017. Chicago, IL.
IC Bus Next Stop Innovation Summit.

February 17, 2017. Hollywood, FL.
Accesso Partners.

February 13, 2017. Brooklyn, NY.
“The Internet of Very Bad, No Good Things.”

January 27, 2017. Brooklyn, NY.
A/D/O Launch Festival.

January 17, 2017. Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
World Future Energy Summit.

January 10, 2017. Los Angeles, CA.
AECOM Urban SOS: Fair Share.

December 13, 2016. New Orleans, LA.
National Association of Home Builders.

November 22, 2016. Bordeaux, France.
SNCF.

November 15, 2016. Dallas, TX.
USAA.

November 4, 2016. Tokyo, Japan.
Cities on the Move.

November 1, 2016. New York, NY.
TransitCenter.

October 26, 2016. Cambridge, MA.
MIT.

October 20-21, 2016. Tokyo, Japan.
World Economic Forum Young Global Leaders Summit.

October 18, 2016. Los Angeles, CA.
AECOM.

October 14, 2016. Miami Beach, FL.
Harvard Business School.

October 12, 2016. San Antonio, TX.
University of Texas-San Antonio.

September 27, 2016. Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
Deloitte.

September 21-22, 2016. Ann Arbor, MI.
SmithGroup JJR.

September 20, 2016. London, United Kingdom.
Cushman & Wakefield.

September 19, 2016. Atlanta, GA.
CORE Network.

September 16, 2016. Holland, MI.
Haworth.

September 15, 2016. Irvine, CA.
Urban Land Institute.

July 13, 2016. Boston, MA.
NCREIF.

June 21-22, 2016. Montreal, QC.
New Cities Summit.

June 17, 2016. New York, NY.
Columbia GSAPP Durst Conference 2016.

June 15, 2016. New York, NY.
Urban Design Forum: New Ideas for Urban Freight.

June 10, 2016. Brussels, Belgium.
UITP.

June 7, 2016. Trenton, NJ.
PlanSmart NJ Summit.

May 26, 2016. New York, NY.
Urban Salon.

May 26, 2016. New York, NY.
WorkTech 2016.

May 18-20, 2016. Leipzig, Germany.
International Transport Forum 2016.

May 11, 2016. Providence, RI.
Providence Committee on Foreign Relations.

May 10, 2016. Indian Wells, CA.
California Travel Summit.

April 28, 2016. San Francisco, CA.
Cornerstone Real Estate Advisers.

April 26, 2016. Strasbourg, France.
The Automobile Forum.

April 12, 2016. New York, NY.
Fordham University.

April 4, 2016. San Antonio, TX.
Trapeze User Conference.

March 31, 2016. Washington D.C..
Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security.

March 24, 2016. New York, NY.
Messe Frankfurt.

March 23, 2016. New York, NY.
Columbia University GSAPP.

March 7, 2016. Newport Beach, CA.
American Automotive and Leasing Association.

March 4, 2016. Manila, the Philippines.
Asian Institute of Management.

March 2, 2016. Manila, the Philippines.
Urban Land Institute Philippines.

February 11, 2016. London, United Kingdom.
Transport for London.

February 10, 2016. London, United Kingdom.
New London Architecture.

February 9, 2016. London, United Kingdom.
Royal College of Art.

January 22, 2016. New York, NY.
Interbrand.

December 8-9, 2015. King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia.
Cityquest.

November 21-22, 2015. Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Expo 2020.

November 18, 2015. Pasadena, CA.
California Transit Association.

November 17, 2015. New York, NY.
NAIOP.

November 12-13, 2015. Cambridge, MA.
Disrupting Mobility.

November 10, 2015. Zurich, Switzerland.
The Circle.

November 9, 2015. Paris, France.
New World Forum.

October 27-28, 2015. Eden Prairie, MN.
Optum.

October 22, 2015. New York, NY.
Municipal Art Society Summit.

October 20-21, 2015. Singapore.
Abraaj Annual Forum.

October 14, 2015. London, United Kingdom.
Cities on the Move.

October 7, 2015. New York, NY.
Center for Architecture.

September 30, 2015. York Regional Municipality, ON.
York Regional Council.

September 28, 2015. Playa del Carmen, Mexico.
ILTM Americas.

September 22, 2015. San Antonio, TX.
Texas Travel Industry Association.

September 16, 2015. London, United Kingdom.
Federation Internationale de l’Automobile.

September 14, 2015. Nashville, TN.
Automotive Fleet & Leasing Association.

September 4, 2015. Los Angeles, CA.
Gensler.

June 18-19, 2015. Prague, Czech Republic.
reSITE.

June 9-11, 2015. Jakarta, Indonesia.
New Cities Summit.

June 2, 2015. New York, NY.
The Happiness Industry: Book Discussion with Will Davies, Greg Lindsay, and Melissa Aronczyk.

May 28, 2015. Bursa, Turkey.
Bursa Innovation and Design Summit.

May 20, 2015. Seattle, WA.
NAIOP.

May 19, 2015. Redmond, WA.
Microsoft Research.

May 15, 2015. Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Emaar.

May 6, 2015. Orlando, FL.
University of Central Florida Real Estate Conference.

May 5, 2015. Miami, FL.
eMerge Americas.

March 12, 2015. Cambridge, MA.
MIT & Iceland Naturally.

February 20, 2015. Washington, DC.
U. S. Department of State.

February 20, 2015. Washington, DC.
Global Solution Networks.

February 19, 2015. Fort Worth, TX.
Fort Worth Lecture Society.

February 12, 2015. Orlando, FL.
Association of Energy Services Professionals.

January 30, 2015. San Francisco, CA.
Gehl Studio.

January 27, 2015. Berkeley, CA.
University of California.

December 11, 2014. Minneapolis, MN.
Made in Minnesota: Celebrating university innovators.

December 9, 2014. New York, NY.
Influx and Exodus: Two Conversations on Urban Density.

December 3, 2014. New York, NY.
Re-Programming Mobility: What Do Smart Phones and Self-Driving Cars Mean for Future Cities?

December 2, 2014. Cambridge, MA.
Harvard Graduate School of Design.

November 24, 2014. New York, NY.
Frog Design.

November 19-21, 2014. Santa Fe, NM.
“Acting Locally, Understanding Globally.” Santa Fe Institute.

November 12, 2014. New York, NY.
Urban Salon: NYC Transportation in 2030.

November 11, 2014. London, United Kingdom.
Grimshaw Architects.

November 11, 2014. London, United Kingdom.
Archiboo.

November 10, 2014. London, United Kingdom.
Airport Operators Association.

October 23, 2014. New York, NY.
Jane Jacobs Forum.

October 22, 2014. Brooklyn, NY.
Makeshift Society.

October 10, 2014. Ottawa, ON.
Canada Council for the Arts.

October 9, 2014. Baltimore, MD.
Element Vehicle Management Services.

September 28-30, 2014. Los Angeles, CA.
CityLab.

September 22-23, 2014. Toronto, ON.
KPMG.

September 16, 2014. Detroit, MI.
Techonomy Detroit.

July 28, 2014. Los Angeles, CA.
Global Business Travel Association.

July 14, 2014. New York, NY.
Center for Architecture.

June 27-30, 2014. Aspen, CO.
Aspen Ideas Festival.

June 23-25, 2014. Denver, CO.
Clinton Global Initiative America.

June 20, 2014. Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions.

June 19, 2014. Dallas, TX.
The Purpose City.

June 18, 2014. Mississauga, ON.
Element Fleet Management.

June 17, 2014. Dallas, TX.
New Cities Summit.

June 16, 2014. Dallas, TX.
Ericsson & UN Habitat.

June 10, 2014. Chicago, IL.
NeoCon.

June 4, 2014. Venice, Italy.
STREAM Lectures at the Venice Architecture Biennale.

June 2, 2014. Montreal, QC.
Canadian Automobile Association.

May 21, 2014. New York, NY.
Internet Week New York.

May 20, 2014. Seattle, WA.
NBBJ.

May 20, 2014. Seattle, WA.
CoreNet.

May 16, 2014. Angeles City, Philippines.
Clark Aviation Conference 2014.

May 13, 2014. Manila, Philippines.
The American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines.

May 8, 2014. Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Worktech14.

April 25, 2014. Chicago, IL.
American Society of Landscape Architects.

April 22, 2014. New York, NY.
The New York Times’ Cities for Tomorrow

April 11, 2014. New York, NY.
Mobilities in Cities: From Visible to Invisible.

April 9, 2014. Toronto, ON.
Smart Cities Canada.

April 1, 2014. New York, NY.
Extrastatecraft: A Salon with Keller Easterling.

March 22, 2014. New Orleans, LA.
Sun Life Financial.

March 10, 2014. New York, NY.
Youth Think Tank: The Next Big Ideas from the Next Generation,” 92nd St. Y.

March 6, 2014. Mountain View, CA.
Cities on the Move.

February 27, 2014. New York, NY.
Smart Law for Smart Cities.

February 14, 2013. Los Angeles, CA.
UCLA A+UD.

January 30, 2014. New York, NY.
When Computers Take Over The City,” World Policy Institute.

January 16, 2014. Garden City, NY.
Build a Better Burb: ParkingPLUS Design Challenge.

January 14, 2014. Calgary, AB.
City of Calgary.

December 10, 2013. Washington, DC.
Atlantic Council 2013 Strategic Foresight Forum.

November 25-26, 2013. King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia.
Cityquest.

November 20, 2013. London, United Kingdom.
WorkTech13 London.

November 18-19, 2013. Miami, FL.
NEST Forum.

November 3, 2013. Baltimore, MD.
Boyd Group International Aviation Forecast Summit.

November 1, 2013. New York, NY.
Building the Digital City.

October 22, 2013. Las Vegas, NV.
CoreNet Global Summit.

October 12, 2013. New York, NY.
NYU Drones & Aerial Robotics Conference.

October 3, 2013. Buenos Aires, Argentina.
WorkTech13 Buenos Aires.

September 27, 2013. Reno, NV.
Design Matters 2013.

September 26, 2013. Sydney, Australia.
CoreNet Sydney Symposium.

September 23, 2013. Niagara Falls, ON.
CERC.

September 19, 2013. Atlanta, GA.
Global Workspace Association.

September 17, 2013. Bolingbrook, IL.
Will County Center for Economic Development.

August 20, 2013. New York, NY.
Tech Tuesdays at the Seaport: Five Ideas To Change The City.

July 18, 2013. New York, NY.
World Policy Institute Political Salon.

July 11, 2013. New York, NY.
IIDA Facilities Forum.

June 28, 2013. Los Angeles, CA.
Extreme IDEAS: Runway.

June 21, 2013. Prague, Czech Republic.
reSITE 2013.

June 20, 2013. Istanbul, Turkey.
Urban Land Institute.

June 19, 2013. London, United Kingdom.
Urban Land Institute Europe Trends Conference.

June 18, 2013. Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
Urban Land Institute.

June 11, 2013. Los Angeles, CA.
UCLA cityLab

June 4-5, 2013. Sao Paulo, Brazil.
New Cities Summit

May 22, 2013. Los Angeles, CA.
Extreme IDEAS: Architecture at the Intersection.

May 16, 2013. New York, NY.
WorkTech13 New York.

May 15, 2013. Atlanta, GA.
Brownfields 2013.

May 13, 2013. New York, NY.
“Which Cities Will Survive the 21st Century?” New America Foundation.

May 7, 2013. Rapid City, SD.
Rapid City Chamber of Commerce.

May 2, 2013. New York, NY.
World Policy Institute: Around the Table.

April 22-23, 2013. New York, NY.
Assocation of Corporate Travel Executives.

April 17-19, 2013. Tempe, AZ.
“Urbanization, Sustainability, Resilience, and Prosperity” Workshop, Arizona State University.

April 1, 2013. New York, NY.
New York University.

March 20, 2013. Ontario, CA.
State of the City 2013.

March 11, 2013. Boston, MA.
Chrysler.

February 21, 2013. Angeles City, Philippines.
Clark Aviation Conference.

February 20, 2013. Manila, Philippines.
The American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines.

December 6, 2012. London, United Kingdom.
London School of Economics: Urban Age.

November 20, 2012. Princeton, NJ.
Princeton University School of Architecture.

November 15, 2012. Barcelona, Spain.
Smart City Expo World Congress 2012.

November 7, 2012. Menlo Park, CA.
The Institute for the Future 2012 Technology Horizons Conference.

November 1, 2012. Boston, MA.
The Boston Society of Architects.

October 13, 2012. Brooklyn, NY.
TEDxDumbo.

October 12, 2012. New York, NY.
Columbia University: The Global Street.

September 25, 2012. New York, NY.
Columbia University GSAPP.

September 19, 2012. Moncton, NB.
The 2012 Air Cargo Logistics Symposium.

September 2, 2012. Salzburg, Austria.
Cassidian.

July 26, 2012. Los Angeles, CA.
CoreNet Los Angeles.

June 4, 2012. New York, NY.
Cornell University.

May 21, 2012. Haifa, Israel.
Intel Labs Future of Work 2012 Summit

May 16, 2012. Louisville, KY
Kentucky CCIM

May 15, 2012. Kansas City, MO.
CREW

May 11, 2012. New York, NY.
Fordham University Smart City Symposium. Open to all. RSVP required.

May 3, 2012. New York, NY.
World Policy Institute 50th Anniversary and Celebration.

May 1, 2012. Seattle, WA.
Commercial Brokers Association.

April 27, 2012. New York, NY.
New York University.

April 23, 2012. New York, NY.
World Policy Institute & Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs. “The Future of the City.” 6:30 PM.

April 19, 2012. New York, NY.
Studio-X X-Cities 4, featuring Living PlanIT and Songdo IBD. Free and open to all.

April 18, 2012. St. Petersburg, FL.
American Real Estate Society.

April 10, 2012. New York, NY.
Studio-X X-Cities 3, featuring IBM’s Guru Banavar. Free and open to all.

April 5, 2012. Hillsboro, OR.
Intel Labs 2012 Trendspotting Summit.

March 29, 2012. Albuquerque, NM.
Albuquerque Downtown Action Team.

March 28, 2012. Albuquerque, NM.
Bookworks. Discussion and signing. Free and open to the public.

March 20, 2012. New York, NY.
Studio-X X-Cities 2. Free and open to all.

March 14, 2012. New York, NY.
School of the Visual Arts.

March 12, 2012. Muscat, Oman.
The Sindbad Lecture.

March 11, 2012. Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Middle East Facilities Management Association.

March 9, 2012. Providence, RI.
Brown University Urban Affairs conference.

February 21, 2012. New York, NY.
Studio-X X-Cities series. Free and open to all.

February 15, 2012. Washington, DC.
Research In Motion.

February 14, 2012. New York, NY.
Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream. Exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art.

January 24, 2012. Seattle, WA.
Teague.

November 14, 2011. New York, NY.
World Policy Institute Political Salon.

November 10, 2011. New York, NY.
L2 Innovation Forum.

November 7, 2011. Montreal, QC.
The Association of Corporate Travel Executives.

October 31-November 1, 2011. London, United Kingdom.
The Airport Operators Association.

October 20, 2011. New York, NY.
Asia Society New York. Registration required. Open to all.

October 14, 2011. Phoenix, AZ.
CCIM Live.

October 13, 2011. Ottawa, ON.
Ontario Professional Planners Institute.

October 5, 2011. New York, NY
Columbia University, Committee for Global Thought.

October 4, 2011. Destin, FL.
Gulf Power Economic Symposium.

September 27, Washington D.C.
The National Building Museum. 6:30 PM. Reading and discussion. Admission required; open to all.

September 20, 2011. New York, NY
Columbia University, Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation.

September 18, 2011. Brooklyn, NY
Brooklyn Book Festival. 4 PM at Brooklyn Historical Society Library. Free and open to all.

September 17, 2011. Queens, NY.
“Foreclosed” Open Studios. 12-6 PM at MoMA PS1. Open to the public.

September 15, 2011. Champaign, IL.
TEDxUIllinois. Free; visit the site to request an invitation.

September 3-4, 2011. Decatur, GA.
The AJC Decatur Book Festival. Open to the public.

August 29-30, 2011. Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Medical Travel Meeting Brazil.

June 29-30, 2011. Chicago, IL
The Clinton Global Initiative: CGI America.

June 18, 2011. Queens, NY.
“Foreclosed” workshop presentations. 2 PM at MoMA PS1. Open to the public.

June 7, 2011. New York, NY.
The New York Public Library. 6:30 PM. Discussion and signing. Free and open to all.

June 6, 2011. Washington D.C.
Intelligent Cities Forum.

May 23, 2011. Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
DIFC Economics Workshop.

May 11, 2011. Denver, CO.
Metro Denver Aviation Coalition.

May 10, 2011. Denver, CO.
Tattered Cover Book Store. 7 PM. Reading and discussion. Free and open to all.

May 7, 2011. New York, NY.
Pecha Kucha #11, “The Dimensions of a New City.” 11:29 PM at the Old School Gym, 268 Mulberry Street.

May 7, 2011. Queens, NY.
“Foreclosed” preliminary presentations. 2 PM at MoMA PS1. Open to the public.

May 2, 2011. Chicago, IL.
CoreNet Global Summit.

April 28, 2011. New York, NY.
The Frequent Traveler Awards.

April 20, 2011. New York, NY.
Talking Books with the Architectural League of New York. McNally Jackson Bookstore, 7 PM. Free and open to all.

April 14, 2011. Brooklyn, NY.
The Futurist and Kite Flying Society of Galapagos Art Space. 7 PM. Registration required. Open to all.

April 13, 2011. Memphis, TN.
FedEx Corporation.

April 12-13, 2011. Memphis, TN.
Airport Cities 2011.

April 11, 2011. Memphis, TN.
Davis-Kidd Booksellers. 6 PM. Free and open to all.

April 8, 2011. New York, NY.
PSFK New York.

April 5, 2011. Los Angeles, CA.
Architecture and Design Museum.

April 4, 2011. San Francisco, CA.
World Affairs Council of Northern California.

April 1, 2011. Berkeley, CA.
University of California Architecture Research Colloquium.

March 31, 2011. Portland, OR.
Powell’s City of Books.

March 30, 2011. Seattle, WA.
Town Hall Seattle.

March 29, 2011. Irving, TX.
The World Affairs Council of Dallas/Fort Worth and The Greater Irving-Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce.

March 24, 2011. Kankakee, IL.
The Kankakee Public Library.

March 23, 2011. Chicago, IL.
The Book Cellar.

March 22, 2011. Chicago, IL.
The Chicago Council of Global Affairs.

March 21, 2011. Cambridge, MA.
Harvard Bookstore.

March 20, 2011. New York NY.
The Left Forum.

March 16, 2011. Atlanta, GA.
Atlantic Station.

March 11, 2011. Louisville, KY.
Greater Louisville Inc.

February 23-24, 2011. San Francisco, CA.
Global Green Cities of the 21st Century.

October 18, 2010. Shanghai, China.
2010 China Innovation Forum.

October 1, 2010. New York, NY.
“Cities and Eco-Crises,” Columbia University.

August 25-28, 2010. Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Medical Travel Meeting Brazil.

August 2, 2010. San Carlos, CA.
Singularity University.

June 9-10, 2010. Las Vegas, NV.
Realcomm 2010.

April 21-23, 2010. Beijing, China.
Airport Cities 2010.

April 1, 2010. Champaign, IL.
TEDxUIllinois.

September 15, 2009. Atlanta, GA.
TEDxAtlanta.

April 28-29, 2009. Taipei, Taiwan.
International Aerotropolis Conference.

Posted by Greg Lindsay  |  Categories: Events  |  Comments


October 31, 2016  |  permalink

The 2016 Fall Speaking Season

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One of my speaking agents refers to fall as the “silly season” — the brief window between the summer and winter holidays when work has everyone’s undivided attention. Which means it’s the season I seemingly spend all of my time on the road. This week, I’m off to Tokyo to host the New Cities Foundation’s third annual Cities on the Move, which is themed to my new report, “Now Arriving: A Connected Mobility Roadmap for Public Transport.” Here’s both a recap and a preview of my silly season this year:

The future of work, innovation, and the office. The season kicked off with a visit to Haworth, the Holland, Michigan-based office furniture manufacturer currently engaged in a 200+ person trial of sociometric badges and sensors (a subject I know a little bit about.) Later in September, I co-headlined future-of-work conferences for the brokers at Cushman & Wakefield UK (video snippet at bottom) and the architects of Detroit-based SmithGroup JJR — the oldest continuously operating architecture firm in America. I also offered my thoughts on the future of cities and innovation to 500+ worldwide Deloitte partners in Amsterdam, and an architecture class at MIT — the latter were far more dubious than the former. And the photo above is from my first trip to Tokyo this year, for the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leader Summit, where I explored how a uniquely powerful combination of data, social network analysis, and human touch have led to a blossoming of new projects and collaborations by attendees.

The future of urban mobility and transportation. November’s theme is transportation, with a talk at TransitCenter about “Private Mobility, Public Interest” preceding my trip to Tokyo. Later this month, I’ll speak at the annual client conference of USAA RealCo, along with a dinner presentation in Bordeaux, France to the leadership of the national rail giant, SNCF. And mobility will also be the topic of my talk at the World Future Energy Summit early next year in Abu Dhabi.

The future of cities, mobility, housing, work…and whatever else I can think of. Given that cities are systems of systems, it’s hard to talk about the future of multi-family housing, for instance, without touching upon all of the social, technological, economics and other factors shaping cities. Which makes me a popular choice for commercial real estate groups looking to mix it up a little. In addition to talks at the Urban Land Institute’s Orange County/Inland Empire chapter and the brokers of CORE Network in September and the National Association of Home Builders in December, I delivered the keynote at the University of Texas at San Antonio College of Business Embrey Real Estate Finance and Development program’s Founder’s Council Luncheon in October.

The future of AECOM. AECOM is arguably the most important architecture, engineering, and construction firm you’ve never heard of. Would you like to host an Olympics? They can deliver it for you wholesale. Would you like a new airport to go along with that? It’s one of their specialties. AECOM designs cities-from-scratch, built 1 World Trade Center, runs national laboratories — you name it, they do it. Which is it why it was such an honor to follow the CEO as the opening guest keynote of the company’s global leadership conference in Beverly Hills in October. My role was to discuss the wicked problems and global challenges the world is facing, and how AECOM can only meet them if it collaborates across its many far-flung divisions to find solutions.

The future of…the future? My favorite talk of the fall was introducing 80+ alumni of Harvard Business School’s Owner/President Management program to the practice of “applied foresight” (i.e. futurism). After briefly introducing them to the topic, the entrepreneurs broke into teams inside the theater of the Faena Miami Beach to create and test their own future scenarios, including outlining products and services they might offer circa 2030 or so. Not bad for a Friday morning’s work!

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October 30, 2016  |  permalink

Now Arriving: A Connected Mobility Roadmap for Public Transport

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I’m pleased to announce the publication of Now Arriving: A Connected Mobility Roadmap for Public Transport,” a report published by the New Cities Foundation with support from the Toyota Mobility Foundation. In a nutshell, it explores what mass transit and other forms of public transportation must do in the face of imminent disruption by private mobility services such as Uber, Didi, Lyft, and Grab et al., along with the imminent arrival of autonomous vehicles and how they might be best deployed. Spoiler alert: public officials can’t simply curl into a fetal ball or ban them outright or earmark taxpayer dollars for subsidized Uber rides in lieu of building their own system. They must take maximum advantage of both these new technologies and their authority to operate, regulate, and manage transportation systems to offer an alternative that’s more comprehensive and appealing than any one mode or service. No small task, I know.

The report focuses on four cities — Washington D.C., London, São Paulo, and Manila — each of which represents a facet of the opportunity and crisis facing public transport. Washington is currently in the throes of the “Metropocalypse,” making the city the inadvertent testbed for alternate forms of connected mobility. Transport for London may just be the world’s best transport authority, but even it was not prepared for how effortlessly Uber subverted congestion pricing to jam its streets once again. São Paulo is gridlocked at every level, leading a small band of transport engineers, startups, and students to search for ways to find slack in the system. And Manila faces permanent gridlock as residents ditch riding smoke-belching “jeepneys” for cars. But what if the future of public transport is algorithmically-guided, electric, (autonomous?) jeepneys?

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The final section of the report is devoted to practical recommendations ranging from drafting “mobility-as-a-service” and autonomous vehicle roadmaps to rethinking zoning and abolishing parking minimums to incentivizing commuters to wait fifteen minutes to lessen the strain on the system. The entire report represents more than a year of research and more than hundred interviews with public officials, private mobility services, experts, and commuters themselves. It also represents the culmination of nearly three years of writing about the future of urban mobility, including but not limited to:

• New York University’s 2014 report “Sin City vs. Sim City.”

• That essay also spawned a March 2014 report for The Atlantic’s CityLab on SHIFT — a hyper-ambitious mobility-as-a-service startup that shut down in 2015 shortly after concluding beta-testing.

• Anthony Townsend — the author of Reprogramming Mobility — and I wrote an op-ed for Quartz arguing we should focus on autonomous buses rather than cars. They offer a quicker, cheaper, easier, and more effective solution to America’s transport woes than the inherent complexity of trying to automate every vehicle on the road.

• Near the end of 2014, I wrote a report for the University of Toronto’s Global Solution Networks initiative on such innovative public-private partnerships as Digital Matatus, EMBARQ, SMART, and G-Auto — a dry-run of sorts for “Now Arriving.”

• More recently, I spun out my Manila research into a lengthy feature for Popular Mechanics on jeepneys asking “Can the World’s Worst Traffic Problem Be Solved?”, followed by an op-ed in the Nikkei Asian Review asking whether the “to download the full report; I’ll leave you with the few first paragraphs below:

“Cities are always created around whatever the state-of-the-art transportation device is at the time,” Joel Garreau wrote twenty-five years ago in Edge City. At the New Cities Foundation, we are intensely interested in the forces shaping the development of new and old cities alike, whether social, economic, environmental, or technological. The aim of the Connected Mobility Initiative is to explore the triple convergence of “mobility” — physical, digital, and socio-economic — and to propose strategies and steps toward more broadly sharing the benefits of this transformation while ameliorating its potentially corrosive effects on public institutions. In the 1980s and early 1990s, it was the then-cutting edge combination of the personal computer and automobile that spawned the suburban edge cities of Garreau’s title. Today, the state-of-the-art in transportation is the smartphone.

It’s not just that smartphones are ubiquitous, with annual sales approaching 1.5 billion handsets, compared to a total of 1.2 billion motor vehicles on the roads. They’re qualitatively different, doubling as a sensor and pocket supercomputer as well as the focal point of a vast data collection and analysis apparatus churning in the cloud. They’re also the locus of 21st century infrastructure spending, as America’s mobile carriers have collectively invested more than $500 billion upgrading the country’s cellular communications grid — roughly the modern cost of the Interstate Highway System. The smartphone’s ability to choreograph transport has supplanted the importance of any one mode, even the automobile. It will remake the city as surely as previous revolutions did.

The most important questions now are “How?” and “For whom?” The advent of mass-produced Model T Fords a century ago had both spatial and political consequences for cities. Jitneys were banned, streetcars demolished, and mass transit became the public’s domain to eliminate competition with burgeoning automakers. Federal funds were marshaled to build freeways and finance suburbia. Meanwhile, systematic disinvestment hollowed out cities, requiring decades to repair and recover. Nearly thirty years passed between the judgment famously (though falsely) attributed to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher that, “a man who, beyond the age of 26, finds himself on a bus can count himself as a failure,” and Bogota Mayor Enrique Penalosa’s more recent assertion that “an advanced city is not one where even the poor use cars, but rather one where even the rich use public transport.”

How will we speak of connected mobility thirty years from now? As an enhancement of Penalosa’s city, or as the moment public transport willingly began to dismantle itself in the face of smartphone-led disruption? It is critical for policymakers to understand that new technologies and services such as Uber, Waze, and autonomous vehicles are not neutral. They embody values and business models that, left unchecked, may run counter to the goals of creating livable and equitable cities — whether intentionally or unintentionally. It’s imperative for transit agencies, public officials and their partners to understand the implications of this shift and to reposition themselves as the stewards of a broader, more flexible networked transportation system.

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October 28, 2016  |  permalink

Urban Land Institute: Future Connectivity and Real Estate

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(Last month, I spoke to the Urban Land Institute’s Orange Couty/Inland Empire’s Multi-Housing Initiative Council about the various forces reshaping the housing market. U.S. Army Captain, graudate student, and intern(!) Samuel Nickles — pictured, far left — wrote a brief recap of my talk, which I am republishing below:)

Greg Lindsay, journalist and futurist, presented “What does Future Connectivity Mean to the Real Estate Industry” at the ULI Multi-Housing Initiative Council’s Annual program on September 15th in Newport Beach. During his presentation, he described the current landscape used for transportation, networks, and urban space management as a “heterogeneity with un-urbanized land areas”. He offered futuristic insights into the evolving constructs of urbanization drawing from other globalizing cities throughout the world. In doing so, developers can best target commercialized dead spaces or “stranded assets” in order to re-vitalize across all lines of interconnectivity. He addressed the following polymorphic areas in which countermeasures could be considered:

Take the Highway, they say. It’s faster, they say.

Dense cities cannot support the population growth with the size growth; this inevitably causes a supply and demand shortage.  This same dichotomy holds true with means of transportation and time. While Google is in its early stages of the “G-road” model of traveling autonomously on the interstate, urban planners are exploring multi-energy efficient ways of commuting to the multi-housing industry. Energy efficient transportation, such as bike paths and ride sharing applications, are at the fore front of innovation. However, bridging the gap between development and innovation could creatively provide emerging networks for economic development.  Collaborating with small businesses offers the potential for a more shared economy by incentivizing consumers (ride sharing vouchers, rental bikes, etc.) and creating a residentially commercialized industry.

Lifestyles of the Urbanite Pedestrian

The ebb and flow of multi-family housing can be widely seen throughout the 1970s and mid-1980s.  Further evidence suggests that the consumers are shifting from the traditional suburb environment to a more efficient, active-based urban lifestyle. This demographic inversion coupled with a minimalistic view of usage is appealing among the contemporary professional. The conundrum is the amount of commercial dead space not being utilized for urban development. Disaggregating unused business spaces and re-vitalizing has both residential and commercial applications. Whether it’s a multi-family housing unit, or a short term, multi-use space, developers can re-utilize once thriving shopping malls or widely used parking garages into a centric-based model of an urbanized micro-economy.

Tactics of Streetscapes

Public Space is “open air” market for profitability across various facets of capital.  Creating center spaces by re-activating dead space optimizing the value of commercial businesses and multi-family housing units. One approach he discussed was tactical urbanization for re-vitalizing areas. This gives creation to poly cultural neighborhoods and city gathering places. Such interventions adopted by municipalities’ places the sustainability back to the individual creating a wider shared economy.

Problems? Blame the Network

When we begin to identify structural holes in digital technology, we start to measure the performance and the collaboration efforts within a work space. The idea of reduced open space in the workplace escapes many, however intrigue others. Residential and commercial entities are utilizing these methods resulting in creating more organic connections/interactions, increasing productivity.

These areas can have mitigating factors that lie in the process of legislation and its relation to the rapidly evolving landscape of innovative economic growth measures. However, many cities have begun to adopt these innovative opportunities as a means of transforming the once traditional suburban landscape into a centric multi-use interconnection hub where people, goods, and services are exchanged at the micro level.

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October 10, 2016  |  permalink

Nikkei Asian Review: Future may lie in ‘intelligent’ informal transport

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(Originally published by the Nikkei Asian Review on October 6, 2016.)

Weaving between cars, taxis, motorcycles and buses are thousands of “jeepneys”—aged, gaudily decorated passenger jeeps each seating 20 people. Festooned with chrome and painted with names such as “Soldier of Fortune,” jeepneys spew black exhaust fumes, block highways with frequent stops, and race each other for passengers.

They are filthy, inefficient, and unsafe. Fortunately, most are also slated for extinction thanks to an imminent ban on vehicles 15 years old or older. (Production of new ones has slowed to a trickle.) But the passing of the jeepney will probably make Filipinos’ commutes worse.

Metro Manila’s 45,000 jeepneys account for 44% of journeys by the city’s 24 million inhabitants—more than double the 18% share of buses and trains. The jeepneys’ share is changing rapidly, however, thanks to an explosion in private vehicles—new car sales have doubled since 2013. The logic is undeniable: Why breathe smoke when you can drive in air conditioning?

As a result, the megacity’s traffic is among the world’s worst, according to users of Waze, a navigation and information app for drivers. Congestion costs $57 million a day in lost productivity, according to the Japan International Cooperation Agency, which predicts the figure may nearly triple by 2030.

This vicious circle is common in south and southeast Asian cities where public transport is scarce or non-existent, whether the vehicles in question are auto-rickshaws (Mumbai), motorcycle ojeks (Jakarta), or songthaew minibuses (Bangkok).

These forms of so-called informal transport are poorly remunerated, barely regulated and clearly inferior to rail and bus rapid transit, but carry millions of passengers daily, providing transport capacity that, although dangerous and polluting, acts as a check on private car congestion.

Not even ride-sharing services such as Uber or Grab can claim that. In fact, former Metro Manila traffic director Yves Gonzalez estimates that both companies have added between 10,000 and 15,000 cars to the megacity’s roads as entrepreneurs buy fleets of vehicles and hire drivers.

That may be about to change, however, as shared electric autonomous vehicles creep into view. “With the advent of autonomy, it will probably make sense to shrink the size of buses,” Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk wrote in a blog post this summer, describing a vehicle that sounds a lot like a self-driving jeepney.

What would it take to make informal transport the solution to gridlock, rather than part of the problem? Three things: clean electric vehicles; streamlined routes; and—ultimately—on-demand, computer guided vehicles, whether autonomous or not.

In the Philippines, at least two groups are working on the first element. Electric jeepneys, known as ejeepneys, were introduced nearly a decade ago by the Electric Vehicle Association of the Philippines. They never caught on, partly because of costs but also because of the short range and low energy density of their lead-acid batteries.

More recently, however, former Filipine congressman Sigfrido “Freddie” Tinga launched a startup company marketing an electric jeepney named the Comet. Tinga’s plan is to sell them to owners of traditional jeepneys for $35,000 to $40,000 each. In exchange, he will hire drivers, collect fares, sell ads, and share the profits.

Like Musk, he firmly believes the future belongs to the jeepney’s successor. “The world will best be served by these 20-seat electric vehicles in a fleet-managed system,” Tinga said.

Once you have quiet, air-conditioned vehicles, the question becomes where should they go? In Manila, as in many cities, there were until recently no maps of informal transport services and no way to know how many routes overlapped. This meant that transportation planners were flying blind when it came to deciding where to put new metro lines or bus routes.

In 2012, government officials set out to map the informal system, aided by the World Bank and inspired by the success of a pioneering effort in Nairobi, Kenya, to map that city’s matatus—informal minibuses ferrying a third of commuters. A team of researchers from New York’s Columbia University and the University of Nairobi used smartphones and hand-held GPS units to document each of the city’s 130 matatu routes, translating this data into information for traffic apps such as Ma3Route.

In Manila’s case, the conclusions of the mapping project were surprising. There were more than 900 jeepney routes—twice as many as the government had expected. The World Bank estimated that using the data to rewrite jeepney and bus routes in a more efficient way would reduce the number of routes by nearly 90%, with a 23% decrease in greenhouse gas emissions—the equivalent of removing 105,000 cars from Manila’s roads.

It remains to be seen whether this plan will ever be put into motion—jeepney drivers typically oppose change, and they are a poor but vocal voting bloc. But in a city where Waze is ubiquitous and Uber and Grab are both wildly popular, it may be wrong to assume that the future belongs to fixed-route trains and buses.

If Musk is correct, commuters across the global south can look forward to riding electric passenger vehicles that never trace the same route twice. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, for example, has outlined a feature named “Perpetual Trip”—essentially a never-ending shared ride as passengers come and go in the company’s ride pooling vehicles.

The Israeli founders of a ride-sharing app named Via were inspired by sherut—Tel Aviv’s answer to the jeepney. “One way to use our technology is to allow cities with large informal systems to centralize their ... services and gain insight on how they’re performing,” said Zachary Wasserman, Via’s vice president of strategy. “We’re talking to people in South America and have had conversations in Africa about how our technology could upgrade [matatus] and optimize them.”

Given the mounting costs of congestion in cities such as Manila, “intelligent” jeepneys could perhaps provide a short-term solution more easily than traditional mass rapid transport systems (which have proven difficult to plan and build) and autonomous cars, which in the end are still just cars.

Just as many emerging markets leapfrogged over fixed telephony to widespread mobile phones, they might be better off leapfrogging trains and buses by using technology to make informal transport more efficient. The Philippines’ love-hate affair with jeepneys—often called the “kings of the road”—may have life in it yet.

Posted by Greg Lindsay  |  Categories:  |  Comments


October 05, 2016  |  permalink

Inc: Why Every Business Should Start in a Co-Working Space

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(Originally published in the October 2016 issue of Inc. magazine.)

How big is the co-working phenomenon? Reliable estimates put almost a million workers in shared spaces worldwide, and their ranks are expected to nearly quadruple by 2020. And the biggest fish remains WeWork, which, despite some recent hiccups—like cutting 7 percent of its staff in June—still counts 65,000 co-working members packed into 90 locations spread across eight countries.

But if you think co-working is good only for camaraderie and free beer, you’ll be surprised at what businesses can get out of it. Washington, D.C.-based 12-person design and marketing shop Brllnt (pronounced “brilliant”), for example, was largely built and scaled within a WeWork. There, its founders succeeded in scoring clients, talent, and a merger partner—without ever needing to hop on a call or dash across town.

Early days
In March 2014, before Brllnt was born, Melanie Charlton, a creative director for a startup, and her brother Jonathan Smalley, then in R&D at Vanderbilt University’s School of Medicine, were brainstorming a company in her basement in Annapolis, Maryland.

The fledgling founders moved from Charlton’s basement to a local art co-op, but complications arose. “We knew it was time to move out,” says Charlton, “when our client calls got interrupted by band saws in the background.” So they set their sights on an office space in a city.

Brllnt got started when Charlton and Smalley obtained some key client leads from her former employer, the mobile web developer Fiddlefly.

The pair considered Baltimore but ultimately chose D.C. because they had more clients there. And they zeroed in on co-working spaces, sensing that being among scores of other co-workers could give their business a boost. In July 2014, they moved into D.C.‘s only WeWork location at the time, situated in a former Wonder Bread factory. (The high ceilings and outdoor space helped seal the deal.)

Settling in
Brllnt’s first office at WeWork was a glassed-in, six-person space that was used by four people—the founders and their first two employees. Monthly cost: $2,850.

Workers’ playtime? One way Brllnt made its connections: video games. “We were known as the office with Mario Golf,” says Charlton.

Charlton’s dog, Cinna—a Shiba Inu who boasts her own Instagram account—frequently visited the pet-friendly location (and turned up in the “Dogs of WeWork” calendar).

The D.C. WeWork was initially filled with tiny companies drunk on the startup lifestyle (and free beer—legend has it that of WeWork’s first-generation locations, it consumed the most). Brllnt’s office quickly became a popular place to hang out, in part because Charlton and Smalley were known for helping out fellow WeWorkers seeking resources or other assistance.

Fellow WeWorkers provided both a talent pool and a sounding board for recruitment efforts. Brllnt even hired two people from WeWork’s own staff.

Brllnt’s video games and status as WeWork’s go-to office resulted in a steady stream of visitors, and proved to be a very effective form of lead generation. In Charlton’s telling, she and Smalley eventually met around 80 percent of their fellow members—there were roughly 500—and scored 50 percent of their first year’s clients from WeWorkers. Among them: floral delivery startup UrbanStems, which has raised more than $8 million (and is no longer based at WeWork).

A co-working merger
In August 2014, Smalley met Jason Nellis, founder of content strategy firm Overachiever Media. Nellis and Smalley chatted about their roles as their companies’ main salespeople, and bid together on a couple of projects. They started sharing a WeWork glassed-in office to reduce overhead and increase space before merging their businesses (it was as if “we’d moved in together before getting married,” says Charlton). Then, this past February, they moved again, into a 12-person space (monthly cost: $5,400), later adding another three-person meeting room.

How important is WeWork to Brllnt’s present and future? Fourteen of its 33 past and present clients came from WeWork. Eight were found “down the hall,” and four more were co-worker referrals. And the company keeps growing—which may force certain decisions.

Time to move on?
As Brllnt continues to add headcount, it’s bumping up against the limits of its location’s offices. Charlton acknowledges that soon the benefits of having a large enough private space will outweigh the advantages and costs of WeWork. “We have interns this summer, and there’s always the question of how we rearrange our space to accommodate them,” she says. So Brllnt is keeping its options open regarding its next move—and WeWork continues to rearrange its existing office spaces to accommodate clients that need more room.

Posted by Greg Lindsay  |  Categories:  |  Comments


October 05, 2016  |  permalink

Data Size Matters, But Smarts Matter More

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(I’m proud to have joined the United States Military Academy’s Network Science Center at West Point as an associated researcher. In theory, that means working with NSC senior fellow Daniel Evans on refining social network models to analyze highly ambiguous environments and predict where precise interventions will make the biggest difference. In practice, it means working with Evans and his crew at Storm King Analytics to help publicize this work and to look for non-military applications. This post is drawn from SKA’s weekly newsletters; earlier installments are further below.)

Before LinkedIn cashed out to Microsoft this summer, CEO Jeff Weiner liked to describe the social network’s culmination as the “economic graph,” a platform encompassing every relationship between the 3.3 billion people employed in the planet’s formal workforce. It’s a classic case of the totalizing logic of Big Data — once we have everything, we’ll know everything — but if LinkedIn users know anything, it’s that the network’s signal-to-noise ratio has proven inversely proportional to its size. The problem with Big Data is that it is simultaneously too big and never big enough.

Using LinkedIn to identify sales prospects illustrates another problem with even the biggest formal datasets — sometimes the person nominally in charge isn’t the one who decides the outcome. One of the foundational concepts in social network analysis is “brokerage” and the related notion of “structural holes.” The University of Chicago’s Ronald Burt was the first to demonstrate how the individuals who manage to bridge these gaps between cliques within organizations produce more ideas, make better decisions, and prosper accordingly — while also being largely invisible. As Burt once told Inc. magazine, a network like LinkedIn “doesn’t answer the question of ‘why them?’ It assumes you know.”

So, what do you do when you don’t know?

This is the question we ask daily at Storm King Analytics, whether it’s in support of our colleagues at West Point’s Network Science Center or on behalf of clients trying to make better sense of opaque environments — who really drives decision-making and how do I influence them to achieve my goals? That’s not a question that can be answered with Big Data; you need something… smarter. Call it “Smart Data,” for lack of a better catchphrase.

A case in point is our work on behalf of a California biotech firm seeking to make inroads in Morocco, which would appear to be fertile territory for companies invested in battling cancer. In recent years, the royal family, led by King Mohammed VI, has led an ambitious campaign to detect and combat cancer early in their subjects. The King’s wife, Royal Highness Princess Lalla Salma, created the Lalla Salma Foundation to marshal public and private partners for help with screening and prevention. But standing in the startup’s way were pharma giants such as Roche, which have operated in the country for more than 50 years. Outmaneuvering them to reach the royals would be difficult, to say the least. So, who was key?

Our approach is to meld qualitative research and cultural expertise with quantitative analysis — half smarts and half data. In this case, we started by mapping the people and institutions commanding power and influence around this particular issue. Broadly speaking, we found four groups with outsized clout:

1. The royal family and their senior advisors. The King of Morocco possesses vast executive powers and keeps counsel with a tight-knit circle of advisors.

2. Société Nationale d’Investissement (SNI). A large private holding company controlled by the royal family. The group has a huge footprint, estimated to be worth 3% of Moroccan GDP.

3. Collège Royale. A secondary school located within the royal palace in Rabat. It specializes in the education of princes and princesses. Selected children of other families may attend, and historically the classmates of royal family members command great status within Morocco.

4. Authenticity and Modernity Party (Parti Authenticité et Modernité-PAM). A political party founded by Fouad Ali El Himma, advisor to King Mohammed VI and the former interior minister. From its founding, it has been a pro-monarchy party with the implicit backing of the King.

Starting with individuals belonging to these groups, we then added the names of influential members within Morocco’s medical and philanthropic establishment, including Lalla Salma Foundation members and prominent physicians. Populating our model with publicly available biographical details sourced from news outlets, financial databases, Wikipedia, and LinkedIn (why not?), we used these noisy-but-effective portraits to identify connections and create network quantifiably depicting the social capital invested in those relationships.

The result looked like this:

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Your eyes don’t deceive you. Our analysis confirms Moulay Tahar Alaoui is far and away the most connected person on this issue in the entire Moroccan establishment.

Wait, who?

Moulay Tahar Alaoui is a prominent doctor practicing at a prominent hospital, the Centre National de Sante Reproductrice — and a royal family insider. He’s not exactly an unknown commodity — he sits on the Lalla Slama Foundation Board and is a member of its Scientific Council — but he wields no decision-making powers of his own. He’s the bridge over the yawning structural hole between Morocco’s medical establishment and its royals. He’s your way in.

Would LinkedIn’s data scientists have arrived at the same conclusion? (After all, we did borrow some of their data.) We don’t think so. Just as Ronald Burt builds his models of organizations through painstaking interviews with stakeholders, our smart data approach combines the qualitative insights of experts with the quantitative muscle of our proprietary to discover connectors like Alaoui hiding in plain sight.

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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 of the New Cities Foundation — where he leads the Connected Mobility Initiative  — and the director of strategy for LACoMotion, a new mobility festival coming to the Arts District of Los Angeles in November 2017.

He is also a non-resident senior fellow of The Atlantic Council’s Strategic Foresight 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

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

July 28, 2017

Songdo, City of the Future? Or of Our Hopes and Fears?

July 20, 2017

NewCities Summit 2017: Songdo Redux

July 17, 2017

Seedstars, Ananda Urban Tech, and “Cities as a Service”

July 14, 2017

“Columbus Park” and Redesigning Manhattan for Autonomous Vehicles.

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