Society

A large focus area that includes health, community, social equity, education, arts & culture, and homelessness.

Consider Anthropology in Your Next Urban Design Project

When applied to today’s cities in a non-academic context, urban anthropology provides a kind of “outsider’s perspective” to the dominant fields of urban planning and design. An anthropologist’s brain is one that views the current age through the long arc of humanity; they see the comparison between the best and worst of the human condition, and can balance human needs with human desire accordingly. This leads to an acceptance (and appreciation) of cultural contexts, with communication and co-creation at its core.

Opportunity with Dignity: Lessons from Multiculturalism in Toronto

Enthusiastic praise for Toronto’s successful transformation from “America’s Belfast” to one of the world’s most successful multicultural cities is rightly celebrated. However, praise should not obscure some of the very real limits to multicultural comity that have emerged with the passage of time. Two structural challenges – those of race and inequality – deserve attention.

Understanding the Soul Of A City

Even as smart city engineers, we too easily pass over thinking of the city as a complex of systems and narrow our view to some simpler, though still complicated, system that we can study in isolation. But cities do not function simply as a collection of parts. They function through the ways in which their citizens and other actors organize and connect these parts into personal and civic systems through which they can live their lives. Actors both exploit and contribute to the soul of the city. If we understood how they do this, we might then apply our skills and technologies to making cities  “better,” although, as Jacob Bronowski liked to point out, “first you have to tell me what ‘better’ means.”

Scaling Smart Cities Through Consistent Performance Measurement

Imagine that cities could be performing at the highest possible levels, and striving to act as global models for other cities. Cities can lead in prioritizing and enhancing human health, while saving energy, water and waste. Cities can be powered by clean and reliable energy, while teaching children in in a green school buildings. Cities can be affordable for even the poorest. We see that future within reach, with consistent and clear performance measurement as the path that will lead the way.

Making Sure that Smart Cities Work for Citizens

When it comes to smart city services and benefits, consumers will naturally respond favorably to suggested improvements without considering the financial implications. Given limited resources, it’s important to highlight the potential tradeoffs that might be involved. CompTIA’s study presented several tradeoff scenarios to those taking the survey: 39 percent of consumers say they would probably be willing to shift budget from city staff raises, but only 31 percent would be willing to shift budget from high school athletic facilities, and just 27 percent would be willing to shift budget from new police or fire vehicles. Understanding acceptable budgetary tradeoffs will help elected officials prioritize investments.

When a City Closes the Streets to Cars, It Opens Streets to People

If you look at any city in the world from the sky, the largest public space is always the streets. Streets are designed for one purpose: to get vehicles from one place to another. Open streets programs transform those streets into meeting places, art installations, and parks, by closing them to cars and opening them to people. For anyone who has experienced the power of open streets firsthand, the sense of joy and freedom can be overwhelming.

Closing the Workforce Equity Gap with Accessible Online Education

Online learning is not a complete solution to a complex problem, but it is a powerful mechanism for transforming the learning experience to improve results, and for potentially transforming institutions that have been slow to reorient programs for student success.

California Governor, Jerry Brown, has proposed a statewide online college, with the other innovations embedded in the design, that could be essential infrastructure for Californians navigating more dynamic economies.

Will Blockchain Be the Secret Sauce for Smart Cities?

The fully realized smart city is rapidly taking shape. Bloomberg New Energy Finance reported an increase in major public-private smart city technology deals to 35 global cities in 2017, up from eight in 2016. Blockchain will further accelerate that progression. Smart cities started in the early 2000’s with broadband and progressed to solution architectures such as LED lighting systems, where now digital services using predictive analytics built on the Internet of Things generating Big Data are becoming prevalent.

Now we are entering an era where, thanks to blockchain, there will be a way to keep a running tally on transactions to provide frictionless financial settlements, claim processes, energy generation, and so much more.

Thoughts on the Fourth Regional Plan of Metropolitan New York

Metropolitan New York is experiencing growth and prosperity, this has brought new economic opportunities for the region but also challenges in housing and affordability. Furthermore, increased storms and flooding from climate change threaten the economic and social life of Metropolitan New York. In all this, it is important to consider the role of the federal government in transit and climate change planning. It is also important to consider the relationship of Metropolitan New York to its neighbours in the Bos-Wash mega-city region, including on issues such as regional transit. Finally, one cannot forget the scale of the street and neighbourhood. For new housing to build on – and not destroy – the neighbourhoods that have been the charm and attraction of Metropolitan New York.

How We’re Making Publicly Available Data More User Friendly

We live in an age of data. Big companies like Google and Amazon are using data to refine their products and target advertising.  Researchers and planners are using data to come up with ways of improving where we live. But is data something that non-experts can use,...

Pittsburgh: From Steel to Sustainable

On June 1, 2017, President Trump withdrew the US from the Paris Accord, a non-binding climate agreement with 195 nations. Trump stated that the agreement blocked development of clean coal. That is not true. What is true is that the industry has promoted “clean coal” for one hundred years without delivering, costing US taxpayers tens of billions.

Trump said, “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.”

Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto was quick to respond.

A Question of Access: Shifting the Transportation Conversation

Relative to most U.S. cities, Boston and the core municipalities that surround it have a rich eco-system of transit options: four subway lines, over 150 bus routes, an extensive commuter rail system, ferry service, a growing network of bike lanes and paths, and a multi-jurisdictional bike share with over 200 docking stations. Yet these resources are spread unevenly across the area with previously red-lined neighborhoods still lacking the services that other parts of the city rely on. Meanwhile, traffic on the highways that lead into the city is legendarily congested, proving not that we need more roadways but that more transit capacity and reliability is needed to provide people with transportation choices that they can rely on in lieu of their personal cars, and particularly if switching away from private vehicles leads to lower emissions.