How Urban Industry Can Contribute Green Solutions for COVID-Related Health Disparities

The best nature-based solutions on urban industrial lands are those that are part of a corporate citizenship or conservation strategy like DTE’s or Phillips66. By integrating efforts such as tree plantings, restorations, or pollinator gardens into a larger strategy, companies begin to mainstream biodiversity into their operations. When they crosswalk the effort to other CSR goals like employee engagement, community relations, and/or workforce development, like the CommuniTree initiative, the projects become more resilient.

Air quality in urban residential communities near industrial facilities will not be improved by nature alone. But nature can contribute to the solution, and while doing so, bring benefits including recreation, education, and an increased sense of community pride. As one tool to combat disparate societal outcomes, nature is accessible, affordable and has few, if any, downsides.

Crisis funding for public parks

Crisis funding for public parks

I spoke last week to Adrian Benepe, former commissioner for the NYC Parks Department and currently the Senior Vice President and Director of National Programs at The Trust for Public Land.

We discussed a lot of things – the increased use of parks in the era of COVID-19, the role parks have historically played – and currently play – in citizens’ first amendment right to free speech and protests, access & equity for underserved communities, the coming budget shortfalls and how they might play out in park systems.

I wanted to pull out the discussion we had about funding for parks and share Adrian’s thoughts with all of you, as I think it will be most timely and valuable as we move forward with new budgets and new realities.

3 Ways Communities Can Bond with Residents in the Age of Covid & Beyond

3 Ways Communities Can Bond with Residents in the Age of Covid & Beyond

There is a risk of further widening the gap between so-called ‘knowledge workers’ able to do their jobs remotely and afford to move, and those with place-based employment who cannot. Beyond that, retreating residents might take the very identity and uniqueness of the places they abandon with them.

Nurturing the community-resident bond could be an antidote to these dismaying departures, and new research sheds light on how. A recent report by the Urban Institute and commissioned by the Knight Foundation surveyed 11,000 residents of 26 U.S. metro areas to uncover what amenities created a “sense of attachment and connection to their city or community.” Three key recommendations emerged in Smart Cities Dive’s synopsis of the results.

What is the Role of Chief Resilience Officers in Responding to COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter Protests?

What is the Role of Chief Resilience Officers in Responding to COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter Protests?

I spoke recently with Stewart Sarkozy-Banoczy about his work with Resiliency Officers around the world through the Global Resilient Cities Network. My four takeaways from this 9-minute video:

  1. As Stewart says, COVID-19 “ripped the bandaid off” to show the weaknesses and frailties of our cities and towns. Chief Resiliency Officers (CROs) around the world are well positioned to assist Mayors in mitigating/recovering from Covid-19 and responding to the protests and civil unrest across our cities.
  2. Their interdisciplinary, holistic role is exactly what’s needed right now as we tackle the enormous task(s) currently at play in cities throughout the world. Not surprisingly, cities, and even states, are creating more resiliency officer positions. Louisiana, for example, has recently created a State Resiliency Officer position.
  3. Resiliency’s baked-in focus on equity and racial justice sets up resiliency officers to quickly engage and assist Mayors offices as they respond to the protests and call for racial justice.
  4. Resiliency officers are seeking to expand their network to engage with leaders (across sectors) focused on this work through the new Cities for Resiliency Recovery network. More information is here.
Lessons from the Lockdown in Paris

Lessons from the Lockdown in Paris

Laetitia Dablanc is a Director of Research at the University Gustave Eiffel/IFSTTAR and a member of MetroFreight, a VREF Center of excellence in urban freight research. I spoke to her recently about lessons learned from the COVID-19 lockdown in Paris.

My take aways from this 6-min video:

  1. She estimates that the lockdown resulted in a 30% reduction in VMT, but the effect were not lasting. Traffic is already back to pre-lockdown levels in Paris.
  2. The Parisian government rapidly deployed improvements in data management, traffic enforcement, bicycle lanes, and the subsidy for companies acquiring electric vehicles has been doubled – all in the last few months.
  3. The demand for bicycle delivery services (UberEats, etc.) has led to an expansion of gig-based jobs in this sector (and increased use of those new bike lanes!). Laetitia thinks freight companies have an opportunity here to attract these part-time, temporary workers to be full-time, longterm workers in freight if the right training programs can be established.
The Future of Work: After the Virus

The Future of Work: After the Virus

My take-aways from this interview:

  1. The world swapped commercial real estate for residential real estate overnight, and as Robert says, our homes are now our castles. The ripple effects this will bring to the workplace and the real estate economy will be far spread and difficult to unwind once the pandemic is resolved. This is a pivotal moment for digital connectivity – Robert calls it the “big bang moment for online.”
  2. Among the many problems commercial real estate has right now – elevators are definitely one of them. Robert describes this is ways I hadn’t thought of, and I don’t look forward to.
  3. Business travel will lose its cool – which could be a net benefit for climate change, but will require business development teams and convening organizations (ahem…like ours…ahem) to recalibrate our business models and not just for the short term.
From Fixed Routes to Flex Routes: Additional Responses to the May 13 Webinar

From Fixed Routes to Flex Routes: Additional Responses to the May 13 Webinar

Earlier this month we hosted a live webinar featuring Alex Gibson from TransLoc, and Josh Powers who is serving as a member of the County Manager’s Office and is the contract administrator and regional transit liaison between Johnson County Government and the Kansas City Area Transit Authority (KCATA). Josh shared his unique perspective and insights from service changes and the re-utilization of infrastructure to creative ways to avoid driver layoffs and the allocation of resources with CARE Act funding.

Included in this post are responses to additional questions we were not able to answer during the live session.

Reopening Our Cities in the Midst of COVID-19 Calls for Inclusive Community Engagement

Reopening Our Cities in the Midst of COVID-19 Calls for Inclusive Community Engagement

Though public life has been put on pause by the COVID-19 pandemic, the recovery period is predicted to bring a sequence of phases returning us gradually into public spaces with varying levels of social distancing as Coronavirus cases decline. The way to recovery is through collaboration; across sectors, across stakeholders, and across equity gaps. We believe that the careful engagement of all voices, in a collaborative, thoughtful way is critical when forming solutions to the challenges we are facing and to moving forward with confidence and trust.

We hope to provide a framework for addressing the challenges that will come with building back our necessary social infrastructure, by and for the community. From our perspectives as an urban anthropologist at THINK.urban and as a director of stakeholder engagement firm Connect the Dots, we see the following key points as a good place to start.

Dynamic street management, city airspace, and capturing the value of municipal infrastructure

Dynamic street management, city airspace, and capturing the value of municipal infrastructure

I spoke last week with Hugh Martin, Chairman & CEO at Lacuna Technologies. My three key take-aways from this 8-min video:

  1. The hand-wringing over whether streets temporarily closed to vehicle traffic during COVID-19 should be permanently closed or not is unnecessary. Technology could allow us to dynamically manage our streets in the way Hugh describes.
  2. Before we take the next step with drone delivery, cities and the FAA need to come to a conclusion on who controls, and in what manner, the airspace above cities.
  3. Private mobility operators are benefitting (sometimes even with profit!) by the free use of public infrastructure assets like streets (and, one day, air). These assets are built and maintained with tax dollars, but if they are ending up on the assets ledger of private companies, it stands to reason that cities could conceivably capture some of that value for their own revenues. If we can figure out #1 and #2, then we could figure out #3.
“With or without the pandemic, children’s safety should be a priority.” – Dr. Anne Kamau

“With or without the pandemic, children’s safety should be a priority.” – Dr. Anne Kamau

Kenya consistently ranks among the countries with the highest traffic fatalities in the world – #18, according to the World Health Organization, and some estimates put it even higher. One of the most alarming statistics is that 1 in 10 traffic fatalities in Kenya is a child.

I recently spoke with Dr. Anne Kamau, Research Fellow at the Institute for Development Studies at the University of Nairobi, about her research on transportation and children’s safety. Her research, funded by the Volvo Research and Education Foundations (VREF), is in collaboration with Dr. Regina Obilie Amoako-Sakyi at the University of Cape Coast in Ghana.

Unloading commercial real estate burdens, bringing supply chain components back to North America, and preserving cash

Unloading commercial real estate burdens, bringing supply chain components back to North America, and preserving cash

Could organizations unload 50% of their real estate burdens post-pandemic? Should essential components of supply chains be brought back to North America? And what’s the best thing companies can do in an environment like this?

I spoke late last week with Marc Mercier, a senior partner at the law firm Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP in Toronto. Marc works across multiple business sectors, including public and private finance, and his work gives him special insights into the rapidly changing economic crisis that governments and companies are dealing with right now. His thoughts on business continuity and supply chains is particularly prescient for this moment in history.

One Approach for Cities to Recoup Lost Revenues Due to COVID-19

One Approach for Cities to Recoup Lost Revenues Due to COVID-19

We encourage public sector partners to think about data monetization as a spectrum of opportunities. On one end, there’s indirect monetization, which refers to the obvious idea of getting more value from data by doing more with what already exists. That could mean putting data in a more accessible form or location; sharing it across departments more effectively; or mining it more deeply to identify potential operational insights, anomalies, or efficiencies.

On the other end of the spectrum is the idea of direct monetization, meaning new, incremental revenue flowing directly to the city in exchange for the rental, purchase, or limited use of the city’s data. This is approach requires some focus and a proactive sales effort, but can deliver attractive, meaningful revenue streams.

In the middle of the spectrum is what we think of as the Hybrid opportunity. This is often where cities are most comfortable getting started, since its initial focus is on ensuring that the municipality is getting fair value for the time, effort, and costs of the city’s current efforts supplying data to other entities.

COVID-19 Pandemic Highlighting the Essential Need for Playgrounds

COVID-19 Pandemic Highlighting the Essential Need for Playgrounds

Since our founding over 24 years ago, KABOOM! has worked hand-in-hand with communities to build incredible, kid-designed playspaces that help give kids in every zip code the opportunity to thrive. Right now, we’re in a scenario we never could have imagined: supporting public health recommendations that playgrounds remain closed.

The challenge of COVID-19 is tremendous, but it also presents an opportunity for the nation to rally around an urgent need: investing in the infrastructure of childhood. We believe that through deep partnerships with communities and a range of public, private, and philanthropic partners, we can achieve what we call playspace equity. Simply put, this means a world in which every kid has access to quality playspaces regardless of factors like race, ethnicity, income, or zip code.

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