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Building cities for the future | From blueprints to gridlines

Gepost op 14/07/2018
Building cities for the future | From blueprints to gridlines

As the autonomous vehicle frenzy keeps growing with the speed of light, it’s imperative to start thinking now about how to provide the necessary urban infrastructure. The future of transportation is taking form on a global level, so shaping cities around the promise of more sustainable mobility will be crucial to guarantee an efficient and effective ecosystem.

Most of the cities worldwide aren’t ‘future of mobility optimized’. They are designed around the existing paradigm, being handling as much traditional traffic as possible. Above the ground, we are talking about cars and buses and underneath the surfaces, metro lines provide limited distance commuters a way out of the city after a day of work.

Given the urban future will consist out of mixed mobility schemes, new forms of shared mobility and self-driving cars, urban planners have a challenging task at hand. They have to design new city infrastructure blueprints from scratch AND reengineer existing city infrastructure. Can you imagine having to reinvent the mobility plan of a city like New York or Brussels? Where should one start?!

Luckily there are organizations such as the NACTO (National Association for City Transportation Officials) and the EIP-SCC (European Innovation Partnership on Smart Cities and Communities) taking the lead in anticipating on and tackling the major challenges that come with redesigning complete cities from the ground up.

We researched both initiatives to understand more specifically what it is that they bring to the smart city table. For the sake of clarity, we provide a high-level sketch. We did include links and documentation, allowing you to delve a bit deeper, might you want to do so.

Pan-European initiatives to design the cities of the future

The EIP-SCC organizes its work around five main clusters, ranging from creating scalable blueprints for integrating EVs in cities and communities to rethinking and redefining public transport in major European metropoles.

By building a multidisciplinary platform between policymakers, urban planners, researchers, and innovators, the European Union aims to co-create the future of cities. Together with the different stakeholders, all sorts of documentation is published that might result in real-life projects. This keynote by Edwin Mermans about NMS (New Mobility Systems) is a very good example of how sharing knowledge and expertise leads to the conception and creation of the future.

To learn more about all the efforts Europe is making, you can have a look at the dedicated Sustainable Urban Mobility website here.

Crossing the Atlantic with the NACTO

In the United States, the National Association for City Transportation Officials is taking the lead when it comes down to building sustainable urban infrastructure. Over 60 cities put together their hands and their heads to think, talk and take action.

Quite recently the NACTO published a holistic white paper called ‘the Promised Land’, which is basically a general outline and blueprint to fabricate the infrastructure of the future. With a very people-centric approach, the Promised Land makes it very clear that people have to run the city, not vehicles and/or other means of transportation.

The whitepaper can be downloaded here, for those amongst you interested to learn more.

The visionary Urban planners

Aside from policy-making initiatives, another major driver to guarantee sustainable city infrastructure is the Urban Planners movement. Urban planners are people who make it their responsibility to come up with disruptive and innovative concepts, potentially giving us a glimpse of how our cities could look like in a couple years from now.

Wanis Kabbaj, to name a global renown urban planner, can be considered as a visionary transportation geek. He believes that we can find a lot of inspiration in biology to help us build the transit systems of the future. Kabbaj gave a very inspiring talk about organic transport design at TED@UPS last year.

The future looks bright…and

The examples put forward are obvious examples of how the different actors, when taking a proactive position, are preparing for and actively building future-proof cities. A big thumbs up to all the people involved. It will, however, require more resources and a certain sense of urgency to make it happen, better, faster and bolder.

Chris De Backer

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