The City as an Instrument of Public Health

The concept of urban health is becoming an increasing concern as awareness of the true extent of the issue spreads. Particularly for health services in low and middle-income countries (LMICs), which are already struggling to cope with the burden of infectious diseases, the added pressure of NCDs poses a serious threat.

And yet, this does not need to be the case. There is positive work that can make an enormous difference to the health of city-dwellers. We need to close the gap between awareness and action, recognizing cities’ potential enabling features to address public health issues.

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Integrating Formal and Informal Transportation Services into a Hybrid Network

Featuring Roger Behrens

Meeting of the Minds talked with Roger Behrens about planning for hybrid urban transportation systems that include both formal and informal transit services. Roger is an Associate Professor in the University of Cape Town’s Department of Civil Engineering. He is Director of the Centre for Transport Studies, and of the African Centre of Excellence for Studies in Public and Non-motorised Transport (ACET). He graduated with a Master Degree in City and Regional Planning from UCT in 1991, and with a PhD degree in 2002. His current research activities relate to: the integration and improvement of paratransit services; the dynamics and pace of changing travel behavior; the use of transport systems by pedestrians; and the urban form prerequisites for viable public transport networks. 

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Bus Stops and the Future of Digital Placemaking

As two officials of a distressed public agency facing down the consequences of a long history of underinvestment, we are acutely sensitive to the need to get things done on a budget. We are also technologists, which brings us to the idea and potential of digital placemaking for mobility infrastructure: the repurposing of web, mobile and other software and hardware tools to bring new value to the places around the physical nodes and artifacts of the transit system.

Digital tools are often limited to a public engagement role in placemaking. We believe that they can play an important role in transit agency efforts to make its physical infrastructure work better for people.

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Local Climate Action Starts with Infrastructure

Infrastructure is a place where climate action, business interests, and political will have the potential to intersect. Infrastructure investment tends to be a bipartisan, business-friendly policy, in large part because the need is so great. The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that the United States will need to spend $3.6 trillion between 2010 and 2020 to simply maintain our current transportation, water, and energy infrastructure. Yet there is an estimated funding shortfall of $1.6 trillion, or approximately 45% of the total requirement. In the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Infrastructure Report card, most infrastructure categories received a D+, with only one category, solid waste infrastructure, receiving a B- or higher.

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Towards a New Digital Deal

Towards a New Digital Deal

Communities around the world are accelerating their response to the current wave of digital innovations and they have good reason to. Digitalization can be considered a critical ingredient in the recipe of our sustainable communities of today and tomorrow – in the broadest sense of the word – economically, socially and environmentally. Digitalization carries the means and the organizational paradigm to not just do things slightly more efficiently, but differently and better. The design shift it affords can help us collectively tackle some of the greatest challenges humanity has ever faced, such as climate change, the need for sustainable and affordable energy, fair and sufficient levels of water and food distribution, and education and healthcare for all in a world where the population continues to grow. And of course, it should help us arrive at solutions and services that will allow burgeoning cities to thrive.

When Smart Cities Become Digitally Insecure

When Smart Cities Become Digitally Insecure

This week, we’re featuring a three part article series from Meeting of the Minds co-founder, Gordon Feller, on cities and cybersecurity. This is the first article in the series.

We’re in the midst of an exciting revolution that’s changing virtually everything about the way we work and live in cities. What’s happening to us all has various names—the Gartner Group calls it “the Nexus of Forces”; IDC Research refers to as “the Third Platform”. Others refer to it as “the Internet of Things (IoT) revolution”. Whatever name you choose, this could be the mother of all big transitions, and what’s driving it is the stitching together of a wide range of many different kinds of technology-driven disruptions.

One thing is clear, and it’s starting to get widely noticed: this process, stimulated by the emergence of low-cost connected technologies, is transforming our experience of cities as we’ve known them.

Creating a Smart City? Start With Your Entrepreneurs.

Creating a Smart City? Start With Your Entrepreneurs.

The city of Cleveland recently launched a neighborhood transformation initiative that will be working to build up various neighborhoods within the city. Starting over a year ago, the city began laying the groundwork and identifying the neighborhoods; now the city is ready to work with local partners and entrepreneurs to move forward by providing capital to grow local business. 

Starting a large city overhaul is a daunting task but by having coordination between the groups involved in the project and the city before the project even started, the city has already set the precedent for open communication and keeping the project on course.

Big Data, Automation, and the Future of Transportation

Big Data, Automation, and the Future of Transportation

In recent years, a variety of forces (economic, environmental, and social) have quickly given rise to “shared mobility,” a collective of entrepreneurs and consumers leveraging technology to share transportation resources, save money, and generate capital. Bikesharing services, such as BCycle, and business-to-consumer carsharing services, such as Zipcar, have become part of a sociodemographic trend that has pushed shared mobility from the fringe to the mainstream. The role of shared mobility in the broader landscape of urban mobility has become a frequent topic of discussion. Shared transportation modes—such as bikesharing, carsharing, ridesharing, ridesourcing/transportation network companies (TNCs), and microtransit—are changing how people travel and are having a transformative effect on smart cities.

Smart Cities and the Weather

Smart Cities and the Weather

A study by the US National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in 2008 found that the impact of routine weather events on the US economy equates annually to about 3.4% of the country’s GDP (about $485 billion). This excludes the impact of extreme weather events that cause damage and disruption – after all, even “ordinary” weather affects supply of and demand for many items, and the propensity of businesses and consumers to buy them. NCAR found that mining and agriculture are particularly sensitive to weather influences, with utilities and retail not far behind.

Many of these, disaster management included, are the focus of smart city innovations. Not surprisingly, therefore, as they seek to improve and optimize these systems, smart cities are beginning to understand the connection between weather and many of their goals.  A number of vendors (for example, IBM, Schneider Electric, and others) now offer weather data-driven services focused specifically on smart city interests.

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Let’s Not Get Run Over by Major Transportation Trends

As we look back on the auto revolution since 1945, we have spent trillions of dollars on cars and related infrastructure. These investments transformed our country and greatly assisted us to an unprecedented level of prosperity. Yet there are many things we would no doubt do differently with 20/20 hindsight to shape the use of cars in relation to other modes of travel and in relation to the urban forms we want to live in. As we look on in amazement at the current technological prowess on display in the auto and mobility industries, it is important that we learn from the automobile revolution of the last 75 years. We can learn from the past to shape new developments to meet shared goals as these technologies unfold, rather than suffer the impacts of unintended consequences. 

Expanding Visual Accessibility of Mobility Information using the Physical Web

How does public information work for people who can’t read information screens? In the US there are over 1.3 million legally blind people, many of whom have difficulty reading public screens, and over 100,000 totally blind people, who often depend on assistive technology like screen readers (which read text on computers out loud). Naturally, public transportation plays a major role in many of their lives.

Cities Can’t Prejudge Winner in Green v. Grey Infrastructure Battle

One of the ironies of the green versus grey infrastructure battle is that they are not mutually exclusive approaches; many times the best design solution is a combination of grey and green infrastructure working together. Grey and green infrastructure are on the same team, and that team’s goal is to take action on any number of difficult problems coastal cities are grappling with: hurricane risk, saltwater intrusion, coastal erosion, tidal flooding, sea level rise. Arguing about green versus grey infrastructure makes taking action on these problems harder than it already is.

Cleveland Midtown Tech Hive: Technology & Community

DigitalC aims to begin to address this need by developing the Midtown Tech Hive located at 6815 Euclid Avenue in Cleveland’s Midtown neighborhood. The Midtown Tech Hive will house Cleveland’s first neighborhood innovation space anchored and operated by DigitalC, an organization dedicated to making Cleveland a thriving hub of innovation and digital inclusion. The Hive will provide vibrant workspace, feature robust 18-hour programming, and a commitment to a diverse user base.

The New Commons

Mark Twain once advised, “Buy land, they’re not making it anymore.” In many low-income city neighborhoods, that may seem impossible. The land’s been consumed; built on, paved over, or contaminated, and none is left at any price for parks or other greenspace. But many communities are proving Twain wrong by reclaiming their landscapes and, in effect, making new land.

Take Yonkers, New York, for example. Or Lawrence, Massachusetts, or Richmond, California. All are mid-sized cities where, after industry and jobs departed, black and brown people ended up being concentrated in park-poor – sometimes park-free – environments. Now these are all places where, through community-driven efforts, abandoned rail rights of way are being transformed into green community corridors.

Reshaping Mobility: The Factors and Innovations at Play

Digitization continues to plough its way through whole industries, changing such old worlds as retail and finance in ways big and small. In the world of mobility and transport, a number of forces are driving massive shifts in the expectations and the needs of those who run or use our transportation systems: commuters, shippers, and many more.

We’re only just starting to see the outlines and contours of the big changes underway. The shifts now taking shape are being propelled by advances in technology, shifting socioeconomic factors, and public policy.

Basque Transformational Narratives

Since the end of the Spanish dictatorship, self-government has been a key driver of the socio-economic transformation of Basque society. A democratically-elected local Parliament and government administration took control over health, education, security, and economic planning; and local governing bodies were re-established with the capacity to collect and allocate taxes. The strategies and projects promoted by these self-governing institutions helped to design and implement a model of sustainable human development, rooted in economic growth and social cohesion. The Basque case presents a unique case of systemic transformation under extreme circumstances.

Building Towards Resiliency with Healthy Digital Ecosystems

We are only starting to understand the power of networked technologies. And our learning comes at a cost: we are increasingly divided in our increasingly interconnected world.

We’re trying something new in New York: making communities more resilient by building healthy place-based digital ecosystems. Resilient Networks NYC is a multi-stakeholder partnership building local wireless networks in six Superstorm Sandy-impacted neighborhoods. In each neighborhood, New America’s Resilient Communities Program is partnering with a local community organization on the front lines of climate adaptation and economic resilience. With our support, our partners are training local residents as “Digital Stewards” to conduct outreach, collaborate with local businesses and leaders, and design, install, and maintain resilient public WiFi systems.

Meeting of the Minds is made possible by the generous support of these organizations.

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