July 09, 2022  |  permalink

How so-called “quick commerce” is “damaging the cityscape”

The Thomson Reuters Foundation’s Carey L. Biron was kind enough to include me as the fly-in-the-ointment in his recent story on online grocery delivery’s effects on cities. While most of the sources quoted gush about its prospects to alleviate food deserts (doubtful, given their focus on non-perishable, high-turnover SKUs), I sounded a more cautious note, one familiar to anyone who read my Bloomberg Citylab story with Lev Kushner from last December. Here’s my brief contribution:

Prioritizing delivery services can end up “damaging the cityscape,” said Greg Lindsay, a senior fellow at NewCities, a global nonprofit.

In an effort to be as close as possible to customers, some delivery groups have taken over storefronts as “microwarehouses” and logistics hubs that can detract from street life and thus potentially hurt other shops, he said.

“It was already hard enough to make it as a small business, and this makes it harder to survive,” he said.

Read the entire thing here.

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May 29, 2022  |  permalink

CBC Chatter: June 8th @ 2 PM EDT

(Update: Please find video from the session embedded above.)

Please join me next week for a Webinar (stop groaning!) on June 8th at 2 PM EDT with the folks at Coldwell Banker Commercial about the future of cities, downtowns, the office, and more. Here’s the lowdown:

Coldwell Banker Commercial’s quarterly CBC Chatter, a virtual discussion diving into the industry’s hottest topics, will be exploring the Future of Cities. Host Daniel Spiegel, Senior VP and Managing Director of Coldwell Banker Commercial, will be joined by Greg Lindsay, journalist, urbanist, and futurist; and Tracy Loh, computer scientist, urbanist, and scholar.

To RSVP, click here.

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May 25, 2022  |  permalink

Get on Board: Learning from Informal Transportation in the Global South

(Originally published May 24, 2022 by UNDP Global Accelerator Labs. Written with my Global Partnership for Informal Transportation colleague Julia Nebrija and UNDP’s Eduardo Gustale.)

They move millions, employ hundreds of thousands, and support the sizable informal sector in urban economies. They are informal, or entrepreneurial transit modes (think ojeks, tuktuks, jeepneys, matatus or collectivos). They are reliant on the market: people need to go places, and these services fulfill that need. Urban mobility systems in the rapidly growing metropolitan regions of the Global South are privately provided transport modes that have emerged to meet the demand for cheap, flexible mobility.

The UNDP Accelerator Labs announced a new UNDP research agenda in partnership with NewCities’ Global Partnership for Informal Transportation last October, 2021. We came together with the shared goal of making informal transportation more visible on a global scale. 

Our work advances the UNDP Accelerator Labs’ focus around informal economic activity using the Lab’s network learning prototype, which aims to transform centrally driven knowledge management and R&D into a distributed model that acknowledges diversity and continuous change across multiple local contexts. With informal economies as a priority area for us to test out new ways of learning, transportation is a first sectoral cut.  We are keen to explore all sides of informality, including its positive contribution in terms of providing service to those with mobility needs not currently served by formal systems.

Informal Transportation: an asset or a problem?
For many, informal transportation is a normal part of everyday life. It is highly visible on the streets of cities across the Global South but remains much less visible in mainstream mobility and transportation practice, investment and policy. 

Too often the world of informal transport is viewed as a problem to be solved. Yet, informal transport provides us with a window into how people want and need to move. Through a set of specific learning questions, we want to explore the potential of this important sector and eventually, we hope, showcase the opportunities that exist to provide better mobility for all. 

As a first step, our review, “Applying Learning Questions on Informal Economies to Informal Transportation,” takes a preliminary look at how these systems work. We consulted literature and interviewed current experts to develop an in-depth understanding. The learning questions explore the perceptions and motivations within the ecosystem of informality, focusing on drivers, operators and passengers. We questioned the incentive to formalize and the risks that may result from it. We looked at the role digital technologies are playing in making the sector more accessible, efficient and profitable, while also considering who it leaves out. We investigate the impact on the environment and try to understand the opportunities to improve sustainability and weave in solutions to move us forward on the Sustainable Development Goals.

Throughout the review, we are concerned with issues of equity and aim to identify those most affected and to understand the challenges they face. Next, we will look for policy models that offer a hybrid between the positive attributes of both formal and informal transportation.

Can we find an opportunity to focus on the worker, rather than the service? 
The predominant assumption is that informal transport should be formalized. We are looking at the risks and incentives of that assumption. Our work thus far suggests that there is an opportunity to investigate how outcomes might change if we focused on formalizing the drivers and their vehicles, instead of formalizing the services. One expert we spoke with, Aishwarya Raman, from the Ola Mobility Institute argues that current definitions of “formal” and “informal” uselessly strive to regulate services, rather than centering on the rights and protections of the workers themselves. She points to India’s new labor codes of 2019-2020, which enshrined the legal status of gig workers and extended social security benefits such as maternity leave, disability insurance, gratuity and health insurance regardless of employer. While these reforms still await implementation, she believes they hold the potential to transform labor’s relationship with the government and platforms alike. 

How can we shift the focus to integration rather than formalization?
As technological capabilities begin to outstrip those of formal public transportation when it comes to booking and payment, the question is how and where to integrate the two. In India, in 2020, for example, Gojek launched GoTransit for seamless multimodal trip planning across its own services and the Jakarta MRT. Will super apps fold formal transportation into their platforms? If so, who will determine public policy for these hybrid entities and how will they make these choices?

Is digitalization already introducing a degree of formality to informal transport? 
The speed and impacts of digitalization over the last two to five years cannot be overstated. In fact, digitalization has introduced a degree of formality to informal transport. By requiring drivers to submit credentials, wear uniforms and submit to GPS-based tracking and surveillance, platforms such as Gojek, Grab, and Ola, for example, have clearly instituted some formalization of the sector, but to what extent is up for debate. Policymakers will need to determine whether and how to ensure interoperability across markets and between players, or even the development of digital public infrastructure and interfaces. 

Watch this space.
In the next phase, the UNDP Accelerator Labs will continue to explore these questions in informal transportation. So far, we are working with UNDP Accelerator Labs in Bolivia, Guatemala, Lebanon, Kenya, North Macedonia, Togo, and Zimbabwe. 

Read the first set of insights and stay tuned as we continue to share our learnings and (mis)adventures on approaching informal transportation from the bottom up. If you wish to contribute, please contact us at accelerator.labs@undp.org.

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May 25, 2022  |  permalink

The Fast and Furious Rise and Fall of 15-Minute Delivery

My writing-and-sparring partner Lev Kushner and I were invited to virtually present this morning to the Digital Age Tech Summit in Istanbul. Riffing off our Bloomberg CityLab essay on “the dark side of 15-minute delivery,” we mounted a case on how cities should try to regulate these services while offering better alternatives. It might all be a moot point, however. With the spigot of cheap money turned off, “quick commerce” companies like Gorillas and Getir are firing staff, cutting their losses, and scrambling to find a path to profitably, the threat to cities might be passing as quickly as it emerged.

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May 15, 2022  |  permalink

Reaping the Whirlwind: My Spring Speaking Travel

The good news is that after nearly two years with no live events (and a corresponding smoking crater in my bank account), I’ve had the busiest spring in my 10+ year career as an infotainer. That’s also the bad news, as lurching from a few quiet years at home to full-throttle travel also means a lot of wear-and-tear on family and home. But to be honest, I haven’t let that stop me — it just feels great to be back in the world again, sharing ideas and reconnecting with old friends. I’m writing this update from New York City, which feels as vital and alive as it ever did. Cities are back. I’m back.

That said, here’s a whirlwind tour of my travel this spring/summer — where I’ve been and where I’m headed next, in chronological order.

The year kicked off with a trip to Raleigh for the North Carolina Transportation Summit, followed by returning home and catching COVID from my child’s daycare. (That’s always how it goes.) The next month I was back on the road, starting with a visit to Continental’s Contitech North American sales conference to talk about the future of mobility and energy. From there it was off to Orlando for the International Builder Show — a mammoth event on the future of home — and then onto Scottsdale for Tiger 21.

After a breather, I was off to Austin for Coldwell Banker Commercial’s Global Conference (above), then zig-zagging back-and-forth across the country for Cartus in Santa Barbara, Citywire in Miami (below), and the National Association of Realtors in Phoenix. Then it was off to Vegas for the Expedia Group’s massive EXPLORE22 confab — video here — followed by Houston for the real estate developer Hines, where I was joined onstage by friends and colleagues including Richard Florida and Ayesha Khanna. And now here I am.

From here, I’m off to Miami next week for the International Fresh Produce Association, followed by another whirlwind in June with trips to Toronto for Coldwell Banker; British Columbia and Nova Scotia for Kal Tire; Washington for Bonaventure Holdings, and more this summer and fall. Stay safe as the next wave of Omicron sweeps through, and hopefully I’ll see you on the road soon.

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April 28, 2022  |  permalink

Utopia, Dystopia, and Everything In Between: CRE with CBC Worldwide

My spring of podcasts continues with Christina Balas, host of CRE with CBC Worldwide, which is produced by Coldwell Banker Commercial (which in turn was kind enough to invite me to speak at the CB Commercial Global Conference in March). We covered climate change, digital nomads, the future of work, and much, much more. You can listen on Spotify below, Apple Podcasts, and wherever else fine podcasts are streamed.

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April 26, 2022  |  permalink

Webfleet Mobility Conference: Mobility 2032

The folks at Webfleet — which as their name would indicate manages vehicle fleets in the cloud — graciously invited me to deliver the opening keynote at their virtual conference in April. Titled “Where the Robot Meets the Road,” my talk delved into the challenges of managing a future in which cities are full of autonomous stuff, not just vehicles. Here’s the official description:

Self-driving cars will prove to be the horseless carriage of autonomy, looking backward rather than charging ahead. The future of urban mobility promises to be much wilder, filled with new species of self-pro­pelled scooters, stores, and drone seemingly with a mind of their own. How are these techno­logies already trans­forming the way we see, understand, and get around cities? What new business models will emerge as the costs of autonomy plunge and the potential explodes? And what tools will cities need to track and regulate streets filled with self-driving stuff? Drawing upon his work with BMW, Intel, MIT, the Bloomberg Philan­thropies, the Aspen Institute, and NewCities, Greg Lindsay offers a tour of future urban mobility and how they promise to transform our cities in the coming decades.

My talk is available on demand at the conference Website. Register here to watch.

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March 26, 2022  |  permalink

Behind the Bricks Podcast

It’s officially podcast season! Next up is my recent interview with Behind the BricksPeter Von Der Ahe about the future of real estate — especially New York City real estate. Show notes below, and listen on Apple Podcasts at bottom.

Today we sit down with a man of many talents. Greg Lindsay is a journalist, urbanist, futurist, and speaker. He is a partner at the geo-strategic and climate advisory firm FutureMap, the senior fellow for applied research and foresight at NewCities, a senior fellow of MIT’s Future Urban Collectives Lab, and a non-resident senior fellow of The Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Strategy Initiative. Greg is an expert in urban planning with an eye and mind focused on the future. In this episode we discuss what lies ahead for real estate in New York City and the country. Interestingly, Greg is also a former Jeopardy Champion who actually defeated IBM’s Watson supercomputer… So without any further ado lets go Behind The Bricks… with Greg Lindsay.

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March 24, 2022  |  permalink

The Flow of Urban Life Podcast

NewCities alumnus and KONE director of smart and sustainable cities Tessina Czerwinski was kind enough to invite me to speak on the latest episode of the company’s podcast The Flow of Urban Life. We covered a lot of ground – from Jan Gehl to Tokyo’s exciting mixed-use mid-rise buildings, to the potential for a new urban aesthetic driven by the application of machine learning in architectural design. Show notes are below; you can listen on Soundcloud at bottom or on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and wherever quality podcasts are found.

Smart cities have always been using data to imagine a better future for urban inhabitants. In 2022, enhanced digitization continues to help us recognize greater opportunities for citizen participation within built environments, find new avenues for business growth, and identify previously ignored waste.  
 
As the next chapter of digitized, urban living continues to develop at pace, how can we ensure that the technology facilitating this shift is used ethically, delivers sustainable solutions to genuine end user problems, and creates greater opportunities for all?

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March 20, 2022  |  permalink

Unfrozen: London Calling

Over at Unfrozen, Dan Safarik and I are keeping the faith — and a regular podcast schedule — with a pair of episodes based on my spring break trip to London. The latter episode is an especially fun one: back-to-back readings of essays inspired by our respective walking tours with the former master planner of the City of London Corporation, Peter Rees. The next time you’re in London, if you can find him, you should do the same. Show notes below:

Episode 21 (above): Greg, fresh from a trip to London, shares with Dan updates and reminiscences of the hale old town in the throes of ever-later capitalism, doffing hats to its raconteur-in-chief, Peter Wynne Rees.

Episode 22 (below): Building on the momentum of Episode 21, this special episode is a back-to-back Rees attack, with Greg and Dan both relaying their respective reports from the City of London’s raconteur-in-chief, from 2017 and 2013, respectively.

And just for good measure, here’s last year’s podcast with the man himself!

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About Greg Lindsay

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Greg Lindsay is a generalist, urbanist, futurist, and speaker. He is the chief communications officer at Climate Alpha, the senior fellow for applied research and foresight at NewCities, a senior fellow of MIT’s Future Urban Collectives Lab, and a non-resident senior fellow of The Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Strategy Initiative.

» More about Greg Lindsay

Articles by Greg Lindsay

-----  |  January 1, 2022

2022 Speaking Topics

CityLab  |  December 7, 2021

The Dark Side of 15-Minute Grocery Delivery

Fast Company  |  June 2021

Why the Great Lakes need to be the center of our climate strategy

Fast Company  |  March 2020

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

URBAN-X  |  December 2019

ZINE 03: BETTER

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

» See all articles

Blog

July 09, 2022

How so-called “quick commerce” is “damaging the cityscape”

May 29, 2022

CBC Chatter: June 8th @ 2 PM EDT

May 25, 2022

Get on Board: Learning from Informal Transportation in the Global South

May 25, 2022

The Fast and Furious Rise and Fall of 15-Minute Delivery

» More blog posts