May 13, 2019  |  permalink



I’m delighted to announce I’ve been invited to return as guest curator of reSITE 2019: REGENERATE in Prague this fall. As the name of this year’s conference implies, our theme not only concerns urban regeneration, but also creating cities for multiple generations, whether re-designing safer cities and streets for seniors to grappling with the challenges facing younger generations, including housing, raising families, and of course, climate change.

Last year’s edition attracted more than 1,200+ guests and 50+ speakers from around the world, with big names such as Jeanne Gang and Sou Fujimoto joining less heralded but brilliant thinkers such as Infinite Detail author Tim Maughan and Apoyo Mutuo Mariana co-founder Christine Nieves.

Please watch this space for more announcements about speakers and programming soon.

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March 27, 2019  |  permalink

City of Tomorrow: How Do You Build a Better City? Urban Planners, Architects & Innovators Debate

Earlier this month, the 92nd St. Y and its partner Hundred Stories invited me to moderate a session at City of Tomorrow, its annual event on the future of New York. Held the day after Hudson Yards opened, it helped us frame a friendly debate over who has the right the remake the city and how. Starring Shin-pei Tsay, Executive Director, Gehl Institute; Paul Whalen, Partner, Robert A.M. Stern Architects; Story Bellows, Partner, CityFi; Luca Ballarini, Founder & Creative Director, Bellissimo and Curator of Torino Stratosferica. Tune in above.

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March 15, 2019  |  permalink

MadCity 2019

I won’t be able to make it to MadCity 2019 in Riga, but seriously: you should go.

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March 14, 2019  |  permalink

“Capital for Micromobility,” now in podcast form

Back in January, I invited myself to host the closing “Capital for Micromobility” panel at the Micromobility conference. The audio from that session has been appended to the latest edition of the Micromobility podcast series, which you can listen to above. Please tune in to listen to me gently mock, in no particular order: scooters, Bird, the trough of disillusionment, the “high priest of Micromobility,” cults, and venture capital in general.

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February 11, 2019  |  permalink

“The City of the Future” at IREI


(Last month in Carlsbad, California, Institutional Real Estate, Inc. asked me to speak to a roomful of commercial real estate investors — the men and women who build the world, or at least write the checks to those who do. Here’s a quick recap of my talk by IREI’s Jody Barhanovich.)

(Update: IREI has posted a — retroactive — preview video of my talk here.)

At Institutional Real Estate, Inc.’s 2019 Visions, Insights & Perspectives (VIP) Americas conference in Carlsbad, Calif., in January, the first day’s keynote was presented by Greg Lindsay, an expert on globalization, urbanization and innovation. Lindsay said the city of tomorrow does not depend on large skyscrapers, it depends on people and the way those people spend time inside and outside of work (pubs, bars, coffee shops).

The city of the future will be walkable urban places, where people can “live, work and move.” This is the reason why large cities such as Seattle, San Francisco and New York have so many people; they are walkable. “Cities get better as they get bigger, even through a financial crisis,” explained Lindsay.

Lindsay also discussed the future of mobility, or “micro-mobility,” in the cities of the future. Scooters, bikes, Uber/Lyft and walking will be even more prominent and more utilized than ever before. Linsday noted Uber is in the works of becoming an “all-mobility provider,” where one app will control all forms of transportation. In the future, certain lanes in roads may have toll prices as well due to transportation such as Uber and Lyft congesting the roadways. He even took it a step further and asked, “Instead of a data plan, what about a mobility plan?”

In addition, because of the popularity of Uber and Lyft, there may be a decrease in the need for parking spaces. Lindsay said current parking garages in major cities are already being turned into other assets such as multifamily homes or office buildings.

Lindsay also suggested that we will start to see a rise in co-working, where companies will begin to work with other companies in the same space.

Another topic he touched on was energy usage and storage. Because of issues such as climate change, Lindsay said in the future, each building may be in charge of supplying their own energy through microgrids and solar panels.

Lindsay finished his keynote by explaining what a winning city must have: It must bring people together; provide housing; be walkable and have access to amenities. He concluded the best cities are “locally close and globally connected.”

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February 09, 2019  |  permalink

Mobility as a Service: One Ring To Rule Them All


(I’m the opening keynote speaker at the Trapeze Group’s 2019 ThinkTransit conference in April. Ahead of that, they asked me to record a quick Webcast covering some of the themes of my talk — which is still several months away, so who know how much will change by then! Click here to watch the Webcast, or read Trapeze’s write-up of my talk below. I hope to see you there in Tampa on April 15 — on my birthday, no less!)

I once took an English class for the sole reason that it included the study of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I hadn’t read the books at that point, so I really didn’t know what I was in for. As it turned out, our class embarked on a poetic and exciting journey. At the heart of the stories was a ring.

One Ring to rule them all,

One Ring to find them,

One Ring to bring them all

And in the darkness bind them

A self-professed “Tolkien nerd,” [Editor’s note: I’m not really a Tolkien nerd.] Greg Lindsay, Futurist and Urbanist, joined us for a webinar on January 25th for a sneak peek into his ThinkTransit 2019 keynote address, where he’ll discuss how the idea of one ring or one body can be applied to the state of the passenger journey today. The ring model could offer the industry a guide as to how to solve what we’re seeing with multiple competing services (traditional transit, scooters, bikes and ride shares) with little or no integration. As Greg put it in the webinar, “What role can we take in advancing our standards to ensure that at the very least we have open standards to perhaps demand interoperability between shared services?”

Although it seems imperative that there be some overarching coordination of shared mobility, Greg went on to say that, “if the one ring model does not prove true, how can we advance this notion of open standards, how can we promote interoperability so we can get public transit front and center and really have it become the backbone of the larger shared services?”

Do you think J.R.R. Tolkien had any idea of the impact he would have more than 60 years after writing his original masterpiece? Or that we would be taking his idea and applying it to a discussion about public transit? Probably not. Regardless, he imparted some valuable notions that we can build on today.

I hope Greg will have more Tolkien-isms to share at ThinkTransit. Regardless, I’m looking forward to an open and engaging forum to really think deeply about how our industry will successfully approach the unprecedented new challenge of shared mobility.

If you haven’t visited the ThinkTransit website yet, Greg will be kicking off the 2019 ThinkTransit Conference with a discussion on mobility. Here’s a sneak peek on his topic:

Mobility-as-a-Service: Open standards or walled gardens? MaaS is seen as a potential antidote to private mobility operators controlling the customer relationship, data, and booking mechanism. But that was before TNCs pivoted into full-stack mobility offerings with bicycles, scooters, and transit integration (such as Uber’s deal with Masabi). Can cities, DOTs, and transit agencies embrace-and-demand open standards before it’s too late?

Micromobility: Friend-or-foe to transit? Scooter madness aside, early surveys suggest that rather than diverting passengers from driving private automobiles, scooters are capturing riders who might have otherwise walked or taken public transit. While this might be a positive from an active mobility standpoint, it still poses a threat to transit — especially when the data collected from these services is being funneled to companies competing with transit, such as TNCs. How do we ensure micromobility is complementary to transit, rather than a competitor?

Intrigued? Want to hear more? Watch the webinar here and don’t forget to sign up for ThinkTransit by the early bird deadline on February 20th! I know I can’t wait to hear the rest of the story.

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January 04, 2019  |  permalink

After the Fall: My 2018 Year-End Update


Happy new year! Before 2019 shifts into gear, here’s a quick recap of what I was up to in the closing months of last year.

• This fall, I hosted three dinners in three cities in three weeks on behalf of CityLab, gathering more than 100 public officials from San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Boston, and Detroit along with executives from Uber, Lyft, Ford, GM, Lime, and more to debate the future of urban mobility. Here are my five takeaways from those dinners, along with the whitepaper that inspired them.

• In November, I hosted the second annual LA CoMotion mobility conference in the Arts District of Los Angeles, where in addition to being MC, I moderated the opening session with Montreal mayor Valerie Plante, Estonian minister of Transport Kadri Simson, Avis Budget CEO Larry De Shon, and UITP Secretary General Mohamed Mezghani. I also interviewed BMW Group board member Peter Schwarzenbauer about the automaker’s plans to transform MINI into a lifestyle brand. You can find video of both conversations and much more at LA CoMotion’s YouTube channel. I’m also the co-host of an ongoing LA CoMotion podcast series. with special guests from Daimler, Lyft, the city of Los Angeles, and many more, available on SoundCloud.

• Other talks included a three-night stand in Nashville addressing Nissan’s Regional Dealer meetings; talks to the central Ohio and Jacksonville, FL chapters of NAIOP; a dinner keynote atop Los Angeles City Hall to the clients of Principal Financial; exploring the future of housing for Constellation Homebuilders; and a special launch event for the URBAN-X ‘zine, starring Tech Reset Canada’s Bianca Wylie — the “Jane Jacobs of the smart cities age.”

• Finally, it was an honor and pleasure to co-host a fundraiser for my Congresswoman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. People call me a “futurist” because I insist another world is possible. She’s building it.


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January 02, 2019  |  permalink

WarGames, But For Real


(In 2017, my colleagues at the Atlantic Council’s Foresight, Strategy, and Risks Initiative housed within the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security asked me to write a fictional memo set in 2032 outlining how artificial intelligence was brought to bear on the National Security Council. My memo was a response to a short story by “Ghost Fleet” co-author August Cole envisioning an all-seeing, all-knowing national security AI named METIS. Rather than host presidential debates, future contenders would wargame worst case scenarios live on the Internet. I was challenged to backfill how Cole’s future came to be. Here is my memo to President Ocasio-Cortez as she prepares to win her second term…)


Subject: Faster than the speed of thought
From: GLindsay, White House Press Secretary
September 7, 2032

Ma’am, with the IVN news network’s “Presidential Leadership Live” simcast airing tomorrow, you asked for a summary of how we got here, where we’re headed, and how we intend to communicate your vision to the American people.

As you know better than anyone, METIS — the Multidomain Enhanced Thinking Insight System — represents the culmination of an AI revolution twenty years in the making—one that was not without its missteps and tragic, unintended consequences. But the bottom line is that we succeeded in radically streamlining your predecessor’s bloated NSC, scrapped the fatally flawed interagency process—exposed once and for all during its response to the Bus Flu pandemic—and transformed the NIC into the Artificial Intelligence Council (AIC) to prevent intentional or unintentional human bias from polluting METIS’ recommendations.

The result is a national security apparatus capable of operating at, as you like to say, “at the speed of thought”—which is still barely fast enough to keep up with today’s AI-enhanced threats. It required a wrenching shift from deliberative policymaking to massively predictive analysis by machines, with ultimate responsibility concentrated in your hands at the very top.

The strategic implications of bigger and bigger data coupled with ubiquitous machine intelligence were apparent as early as the Trump administration. A precipitous drop in the cost of predictions led to constant probabilistic analysis being brought to bear on previously unexplored problems, including national security. In turn, as the capabilities of machine prediction started to outstrip human performance, they also began absorbing the role of analysts. By the time Zuckerberg took office in 2021, the IC-as-we-knew-it was hollowing out.

A new consensus emerged that three functions were critical in the era of the National Security AI: split-second decisiveness at the top, massive raw intelligence gathering at the bottom, and the correct predictive models in between. The last piece was the most important, because otherwise we’d be gambling nearly a trillion dollars on a machine sucking garbage in and spewing garbage out. It was the Germans who cracked it first.

In July 2020, the German Foreign Ministry unveiled its Vorhersagemaschine, the first modern NSAI system capable of building—and then learning from, in an endless iterative loop—thousands, or even millions of plausible scenarios for any given policy dilemma. Built primarily by the consulting group SAT, the prediction machine was expressly designed to tackle “wicked problems” of deep uncertainty—so deep that policymakers and planners can’t even agree on how to structure the problem. So, the Vorhersagemaschine does it for them a million different ways using what SAT’s consultants called “exploratory modeling and analysis.” After the machine generates its scenarios, the ministry’s team of data scientists, visualization specialists, and policy experts drill down and explore variations on their decisions.

It was thanks to this approach that the ministry convinced Chancellor Merkel to abandon her stance of “Wir schiffen das” at the outbreak of the Iraqi Civil War, instead choosing to close the borders and assist in creating safe zones in Turkey after the Vorhersagemaschine suggested a 90 percent probability of the Alternative for Germany party (AfD) winning a majority of seats in the next Bundestag elections.

But massively predictive approaches contained their own hazards, as the Zuckerberg administration discovered to their lasting regret. As the NSAI’s predictive accuracy rapidly improved through unsupervised machine learning—which the president had endorsed given his successes at Facebook—his national security team couldn’t resist the temptation to act pre-emptively on the basis of its prediction, rather than wait for events to unfold. After winning their internecine struggle with members of the “reality-based community, they began rubber-stamping its recommendations to forward deploy assets — effectively thinking several moves ahead, or so they thought.

While it’s one thing for Amazon to ship our packages before we’ve even thought to order them, it’s another to dispatch carrier battle groups to contested waters without knowing how the algorithmic black box on the other side might interpret them. The ensuing Spratleys Crisis touched off the current Sino-American Cold War—starting with the crippling economic sanctions that sank Zuckerberg despite owning the greatest propaganda machine in history.

It was a similar “mistake” that opened the door for you, Ma’am. The first Bus Flu pandemic in 2026 was the world’s worst since the Spanish Flu more than a century before. After tracing it back to China’s Unit 21, your predecessor’s re-election seemed assured. That was before The New York Times noticed vaccine shortages in specific majority-minority communities—all in toss-up Congressional districts.

Ugly terms like “ethnic cleansing” were thrown around until the press settled on “genemandering” (i.e. genetic gerrymandering). Upon investigation, it became clear that someone — we may never know at who’s direction — deliberately introduced bias into the joint DHS/HHS AI handling the crisis. Besides the obvious electoral implications, the scandal permanently soured the public on black box algorithms and underscored the dangers of what a singularly motivated actor could do.

One of your first acts as president, of course, was signing into law the bi-partisan AI Transparency Act of 2029, which required federal agencies to use “clear-box” models that publish their rules as they go along. This doesn’t apply to classified systems, obviously, which is why we added a Federal Reserve-style board of governors to the NIC (now the AIC) to vet the rules generated by METIS and its predecessors. (If you’ve noticed METIS is acting more hawkish than usual, it’s because they voted last week to loosen the reins a bit.)

The Bus Flu pandemic also exposed a literally fatal lack of data for sensing and thwarting epidemiological weapons of extreme consequence (WECs). Just as 9/11 prompted the Patriot Act, the DHS and DNI, and “Total Information Awareness,” one of the many provisions of the “Shane Doctrine” declared by the prior administration required that the NSA’s backdoors into the Big Five and other tech companies became front doors.

Controversial to say the least (and heavily resisted by Silicon Valley’s lobbyists), these proposals were held up in court for years until Director Rhodes hit upon the idea that we should simply pay Americans for the privilege of surveilling them. Starting from MIT professor Alexander Pentland’s “New Deal on Data” proposal for the World Economic Forum, we won over a deeply skeptical electorate by restoring personal ownership of their data exhaust. Then we offered a blanket license to every man, woman, and child living in America, along with e-citizens overseas.

Making the American people and their digital simulacra a line item in the defense budget was one of your most inspired ideas—which we sold to the public as a “peace dividend” at the official end of the War on Terror. From there, it was a fairly simple matter to build on work by Pentland, West Point’s Network Science Center, and many others to build the underpinnings of METIS.

The final piece was the simsuit. DARPA had been toying with exoskeletons for decades, and the first gaming suits hit the market in the late 20-teens But just as the U.S. Navy researched heads-up displays to lessen the mental burden on pilots during combat, our challenge was to somehow increase your cognitive bandwidth before METIS resorted to using PowerPoint slide decks.

One solution was haptic, using WearWorks’ touch lexicon to communicate feedback from METIS But the real breakthrough was the biolink—the science of which I don’t truly understand beyond what the techs call the “Dobelle Effect.” When you put on the helmet, you don’t actually “see” anything—it sends signals straight to your brain to trigger phospenes at levels that never appear in nature. That’s how METIS gives you a God’s-eye view.

So that’s where we are. METIS is the logical response to a world in which wars are now fought with drone swarms directed by repurposed high-frequency trading algorithms—replacing NSC meetings with fast-twitch gaming. Speaking of which, Steam and Twitch have agreed to host the next round of simcasts on 21 September.

Break a leg, Madame President. I hear Arkin was a decent motocross racer back in his day. But he’s never driven anything like this.


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December 16, 2018  |  permalink

The URBAN-X ‘Zine #2: Rules


As the “urbanist-in-residence” at URBAN-X — the tech accelerator founded by BMW MINI — one of my favorite duties is writing and editing the “zine” published twice a year on Demo Day. The second issue, “Rules,” explores how startups and citizens are augmenting increasingly machine-readable cities. Now that public space has been quantifiably proven to be a critical, social reactor powering urban life, how will we prevent companies from exploiting it? The obvious solution is to simply put a price on everything. But in doing so, will we learn the value of nothing?

The centerpiece of the issue is an oral history of public space after the smartphone (which you can download here), along with profiles and Q&A of several startups and vignettes from a kitchen-sink dystopian future in which every square inch of the city is priced. Sign up here for a physical copy.

On November 27, URBAN-X hosted a special launch event starring Tech Reset Canada’s Biance Wylie as well as past and present cohort members and special guest stars. Daniel Wu wrote an extensive summary of the event I’d encourage you to read.

The issue’s editor’s letter is reprinted below. Stay tuned for issue #3 in April 2019!

In his novel The City & The City, author China Miéville describes a pair of conjoined cities that are illegible to each other but occupy the same ground. Residents are taught from birth to “unsee” their counterparts with terrible consequences for those who break the rules. Miéville’s story is an allegory for the unwritten rules governing cities and for public goods and public space.

If there is a guiding principle for urbantech startups, it’s making invisible rules more visible. Using various combinations of data, sensors, and smartphones — surrogates for citizens — past and present cohort members of URBAN-X have exposed the price and risks things like a strip of road, the value of a patch of greenery (and who can use it), and codified the fraught relationship between landlords and tenants. They have broken these rules to extract value from the public realm.

The second edition of the URBAN-X Zine explores how startups and citizens are augmenting increasingly machine-readable cities. Now that public space has been quantifiably proven to be a critical, social reactor powering urban life, how will we prevent companies from exploiting it? The obvious solution is to simply put a price on everything. But in doing so, will we learn the value of nothing?

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December 12, 2018  |  permalink

The State of Play: Connected Mobility in San Francisco, Boston, and Detroit


(First published at CityLab on December 10, 2018.)

This summer, CityLab Insights published “The State of Play: Connected Mobility + U.S. Cities,” a snapshot of the technologies and actors roiling transportation policy and a briefing for public officials struggling to follow it all. Building on the success of that report, earlier this fall CityLab convened a series of dinners in San Francisco, Boston, and Detroit attracting nearly a hundred public officials, transit professionals, startup founders, technology executives, non-profit directors, designers, academics, and more.

Although each dinner had a theme—mobility-as-a-service, the potential impacts of electric and autonomous vehicles on land use, and whether the public or private sectors should drive transportation policy—several themes emerged that cross-cut all three conversations, regardless of participants or geography. A few are summarized below:

1. The public vs. private debate rages on (and on)

Held in early autumn, in the wake of public officials deciding whether to ban, cap, or begrudgingly allow free-range electric bicycles and scooters in cities ranging from New York to Santa Monica to San Francisco, all three dinners were to varying degrees a microcosm of the debate raging in mobility circles for nearly a decade now – will private companies or the public sector define the future of urban mobility? It was a debate everyone present professed to have no interest in re-fighting… and then did so anyway.

In San Francisco, Lime’s chief programs officer Scott Kubly—who was previously director of Seattle’s Department of Transportation—lamented cities’ approach to regulation, at least when it comes to micromobility. “Many governments are regulating a service, scooters, that is addressing its policy goals of affordability, climate change, and reducing congestion instead of figuring out how to encourage their use,” he said. Rather than grading firms or services on performance, arbitrary caps on vehicles and other measures were largely performative—signaling to voters that the scooter menace won’t be tolerated, and to companies that they won’t get fooled again as they were by ride-hailing.

Work with us was a clear and persistent refrain by private sector participants to their public counterparts. Set objectives, define goals, and let us help you achieve them. If the solution to ride-hailing clogging city streets is to price roads and use the proceeds to fund transit, then why not partner with them to achieve exactly that? (Uber and Lyft both tend to favor broadly-applied road pricing over city-imposed surcharges on ride-hailing.)

But this line of thinking obscures a critical difference between vendors and would-be disruptors. In Detroit, guests mused on what Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi really meant when he said, “I want to run the bus systems for a city.” They unanimously agreed he likely had no interest in running buses as we know them – as heavily-subsidized public goods with a relatively high degree of equity.

Unless Uber wants to own the “holistic experience,” argued Chris Thomas, co-founder and president of the Detroit Mobility Lab and until recently a co-founder and partner of Fontinalis Partners. “They want to own every aspect of that transaction. If they have the opportunity to own the entire food chain,” selling bus tickets will be worth it. And between a flurry of deals to add bike-sharing, car-sharing, and public transportation to its app, it would appear Uber is poised to do just that, with Lyft and Ford among others in hot pursuit.

All of which points to a wrinkle which is rarely discussed openly in polite mobility circles, which is whether these massively-valued companies are content to act as innovative vendors versus uncontrollable disruptors. Given the volatility of their business models—pivoting from ride-hailing to electric bicycles and scooters, for instance—several guests wondered whether they were even stable enough to be effective partners for cities.

2. What cities should do… but won’t

Early in San Francisco’s dinner, Timothy Papandreou—former chief innovation officer of the SFMTA and now founder of Emerging Transport Advisors—passionately argued what cities should do, which is rethink their entire approach. “We haven’t done a good job of asking what is the right price to move a person from A to B?” he said. “Or asking: what is the best way to move people in the most efficient, effective, and safest manner? Quantify that. And then ask, Are you part of this? If so, great. If you’re not, you’re no longer welcome in our city. But I haven’t heard that happen.”

Guests in Detroit framed this approach as performance-based regulation, with an emphasis on ends rather than means. “Should we be thinking about regulating markets or paying for performance?” asked a senior private mobility executive who was present. There was general agreement on both sides of the public/private divide that cities must do a better job in articulating their policy goals.

From there, the question was how. In all three dinners, talk eventually turned to implementing open APIs such as GTFS, GBFS, and LADOT’s proposed Mobility Data Specification as a means for creating a marketplace to achieve those goals. Without them, cities face the prospect of regulating competing, vertically-integrated walled gardens. “Either we’ll have open APIs to which you can plug in, or there will be a fait accompli with a system placed on top,” said Chris Thomas.

3. But they still need the data to do it

Open APIs are great, but compelling private mobility operators to share data granular enough to be useful remains a fruitless exercise, whether cities employ carrots or sticks. While there have been a handful of high-profile partnerships (such as Ford’s, Uber’s, and Lyft’s commitments to NACTO’s SharedStreets initative), new mobility operators remain loath to even allow price discovery, let alone allow their data to be aggregated for mobility-as-a-service. The idea of performance-based regulation is moot if cities have no way to evaluate performance.

“It’s very difficult to act when you don’t know what’s going on,” said Regina Clewlow, a former research scientist and CEO of the mobility data platform for cities, Populus. “The metrics both government agencies and the public sector care about is safety, sustainability, and equity – but we can’t actually make progress if we’re not measuring them.”

One form of information is prices. In Boston, Coord CEO Stephen Smyth described his firm’s ambition to create “a world in which every square foot is priced.” This “asphalt marketplace,” realized through open standards and the Internet of Things, would allocate and re-allocate curbspace and lanespace according to cities’ wishes, as manifested in dynamic pricing.

4. What are streets for, and how should we value (rather than price) them?

In response to several proposals to slice-and-dice city streets in response to mounting pressure from new mobility services, several participants from Gehl Architects and Greenfield Labs—a collaboration between Ford Smart Mobility and IDEO with support from Gehl—demanded guests take a step back and ask what streets are really for.

In San Francisco, Gehl’s chief innovation officer Jeff Risom called for a new means of engaging the public to imagine what streets could be. The now-familiar phenomenon of “bikelash” underscores how cities’ efforts to reclaim streetspace for new uses have faced nearly universal opposition from car owners. “If we want to state new policy goals, we need a new kind of conversation—one that can include a broad number of people and be facilitated in a way that’s productive,” he said.

To that end, Greenfield Labs has launched the National Street Service, a pilot organization recruiting local volunteers capable of leading those kinds of conversations. In Boston, Greenfield Labs researcher Tiffany Obser argued these new roles and institutions will be essential in changing informal rules of the road to promote safety and defuse bikelash. “There’s a lot of fear by residents about all of these modes sharing space, so cities create more rules to govern these systems,” she explained. “The more rules we create, the more fear it induces, and it becomes a vicious cycle. We’re trying to understand where we can move the needle.”

5. Land use and mobility remains a Gordian Knot

Several guests noted who wasn’t at the table—real estate developers, housing experts, and others who can help cut the Gordian knot of mobility and land use.

“Many cities and transportation authorities have challenges beyond their control, especially around land use,” said Clewlow in San Francisco. “We have last mile problems because we created them through terrible housing policy. They’re set up to fail.”

One approach is to work closely with residential developers to offer mobility-as-an-amenity in lieu of parking, which adds substantially to construction costs and is reflected in higher rents. Justin Holmes, Zipcar’s director of public policy, described in Boston how his company partners with cities and developers to provide its car-sharing service as part of mobility bundles. “Not only is it a great opportunity to serve a viable market, but you’re reaching people at a moment when they’re making a life change and thinking differently about their mobility choices,” he said.

But simply providing alternate modes for the first/last mile problem doesn’t actually solve the first/last mile problem, argued Soofa CEO Sandra Richter. Reflecting on her own upbringing in Europe, she noted that American neighborhoods are missing crucial pieces by design. Until we know exactly what those pieces are—jobs? schools?—we’ll never understand what generates trips in the first place, let alone what modes could solve them. Cities are trying to solve traffic congestion when perhaps they should be patching holes in the urban fabric.

Looming over this issue is the accelerating demographic trend of Millennials entering their long-delayed peak child-rearing years. Boston guests lamented the informal selection process facing anyone (especially parents) wishing to live a car-free lifestyle—finding the right combination of schools, commuter rail service, and walkability that fits within their budget. Could AVs provide first/last mile solutions for families, the elderly, and others precluded from using micromobility to expand the scope of car-free neighborhoods?

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About Greg Lindsay

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

» More about Greg Lindsay

Articles by Greg Lindsay

Fast Company  |  March 2020

How to design a smart city that’s built on empowerment—not corporate surveillance

URBAN-X  |  December 2019


CityLab  |  December 10, 2018

The State of Play: Connected Mobility in San Francisco, Boston, and Detroit

Harvard Business Review  |  September 24, 2018

Why Companies Are Creating Their Own Coworking Spaces

CityLab  |  July 2018

The State of Play: Connected Mobility + U.S. Cities

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

» See all articles


July 04, 2020

Inoculating the Planet: Cities After COVID-19

July 04, 2020

CoMotion MIAMI Live: Ford’s Mark Kaufman

June 15, 2020

Navigating the Noise: Coming Back to Mobility

June 15, 2020

CoMotion LIVE: Life After Lockdown — Learning From Asia’s All-Delivery Future

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