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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Interestingly, my recent conversations with people have often drifted toward innovative revenue generators for cities – new solutions that might help them dig their way out of the budget shortfalls we’re all about to experience. I think smart city technology has turned the corner (well…many corners, over the years) from creating internal efficiencies in municipal services to creating revenue from municipal assets.
Revenue generation is always a stronger pitch than efficiency, and it’s coming as the right time. But in the post-COVID world we’ll have the same three challenges we had in the pre-COVID world:
As always, moving forward with these amazing tech solutions for cities will hinge on resolving privacy concerns, not just technically, but perceptually, too.
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Spotlighting innovations in urban sustainability and connected technology
My take-aways from this interview:
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.