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Updated: 11 hours 36 min ago

Equitable Planning in Ahmedabad: Beyond Eminent Domain

Wed, 2018-09-05 13:13

Ahmedabad uses a special process for acquiring land to make sure new developments receive city services. Photo by WRI

A huge challenge for growing cities is provision of core services and infrastructure. Every time a new neighborhood crops up, services like roads, water and sanitation, education, and health centers must be extended to cover new residents.

In practice, cities need land to make this work. Typically, new development – especially lower-income housing – crops up in distant, un-serviced locations because it seems affordable.

But extending services to these areas is expensive for cities – so expensive that sometimes, they don’t do it at all, leaving residents on their own for things like water and energy. Living farther out also means higher transportation costs.

Ahmedabad, India’s fifth-largest city, has been trying something different: a process known as the Town Planning Scheme (TPS). With TPS, the city has been able to obtain land for public purposes, such as low-income housing and utilities, while avoiding much of the haphazard, un-serviced expansion that characterizes many other Indian cities.

new case study in the World Resources Report, “Towards a More Equal City,” explains the conditions that enabled this mechanism to be adopted in Ahmedabad, the benefits to equitable land allocation in the city and the limitations that slow down the process.

A Participatory Approach

One of the most common ways cities acquire new land for public services is through eminent domain. With TPS, as with eminent domain, Ahmedabad appropriates land to build public infrastructure, but plots are not expropriated, rather their boundaries are readjusted to create space for roads and underlying infrastructure. Any land that isn’t used is returned to the landowner. Under TPS, compensation to landowners is also adjusted against the cost of government-provided infrastructure, meaning that landowners and the city share costs as well as benefits.

Though disputes over appropriation still occur, the result, generally, is a more collaborative process, one where landowners are included, not displaced.

The TPS process happens in three stages and takes about four years:

  1. Draft stage.The TPS location is identified, announced and negotiated with the landowners. Once approved, land is transferred to the planning authority to begin infrastructure implementation.
  2. Preliminary stage. A Town Planning Officer is appointed, and plots are reorganized based on negotiations with the landowners.
  3. Final stage. The Town Planning Officer settles landowners’ compensation, minus “betterment charges,” which reflect the increased value of the land based on the new investments.

In Ahmedabad, the TPS was first put in place in 1915, when the city was under British rule. It became much more effective after a 1999 amendment empowered the city to appropriate lands earmarked for roads once a TPS draft was approved, accelerating construction and paving the way for other infrastructure to come later. The changes also enabled the process to finance itself by allowing the city to sell some land.

These changes revamped the classic TPS process resulting in nine times as many TPSs prepared from 2000-2016. In the 10 years after the amendment, twice as much land was developed with infrastructure, compared to the preceding 25 years.

There are now 480 TPS areas within Ahmedabad’s metropolitan area that are part of a long-term development plan for the city. In 2010, Ahmedabad used TPS to appropriate 48 square kilometers (nearly 12,000 acres) of land for roads, utilities, green space and low-income housing with amenities.

According to our research, the TPS can be credited for significant changes in the city:

  • Increased street density.More compact, coordinated and connected develop has improved accessibility. The average trip length in Ahmedabad is seven to eight kilometers, significantly shorter than in comparably sized Indian cities, such as Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Pune.
  • More low-income housing.About 88,000 new dwelling units have been constructed for people evicted as a result of earlier infrastructure and beautification projects. Unlike other housing programs, TPS housing units are also well-distributed spatially instead of being concentrated in the city’s periphery, improving access to jobs and services.

Thanks in part to the TPS process, social housing in Ahmedabad is more centrally located than in many cities, giving greater access to jobs, services and amenities for residents and reducing the costs of reaching new developments with services. Graphic by WRI

Thanks in part to the TPS process, social housing in Ahmedabad is more centrally located than in many cities, giving greater access to jobs, services and amenities for residents and reducing the costs of reaching new developments with services.

The TPS is flexible enough to accommodate pre-existing development, including informal settlements, in order to minimize conflict with residents of the city’s large informal sector.

In Danilimda, part of a large informal settlement called Bombay Hotel, residents objected to giving away land. In response, the Town Planning Officer assigned to the project reduced the amount of land appropriated and adjusted road alignments planned for the area. Even though these decisions limited provision of infrastructure and amenities to the area, minimizing demolitions was more important to residents and the TPS process led to a compromise.

Room for Improvement

While TPS has proven to be an effective tool for urban land provision in Ahmedabad, it hasn’t been perfect.

Though more participatory than eminent domain, it is not fully participatory. Only landowners are consulted during negotiations, omitting people who might occupy but not own land, including formal and informal tenants.

An even bigger challenge has been timely implementation. Even though many more TPS drafts were prepared after the 1999 amendment, only 18 percent were actually realized. Most drafts stay in limbo for years; in the interim, people reoccupy the land and the process is undermined. And sometimes financing never comes through. For example, the Hansol TPS was finalized in 2004, but it took another six years to get the funds to build roads included in its plan.

In general, the TPS has worked well in urban extension areas – i.e., areas in the city’s immediate periphery that see short-term appreciation in land values. But it has been less effective in distant farm land sites or in dense locations that are already fully developed.

A Constructive Endeavor

Among available approaches to generating urban land for new infrastructure and amenities, Ahmedabad’s TPS mechanism has been relatively successful. It has enabled transformative outcomes in the city, such as the construction of thousands of well-distributed social housing units and the expansion of a well-planned road network that has reduced trip lengths, increased connectivity and helped enable India’s largest bus rapid transit system.

The TPS alone is not a panacea to ensure more equitable cities, but Ahmedabad’s experience offers important lessons for other cities striving to grow in a practical and more participatory manner.

This article was originally published on WRI’s Insights. 

Equitable Planning in Ahmedabad: Beyond Eminent Domain

Wed, 2018-09-05 13:13

Ahmedabad uses a special process for acquiring land to make sure new developments receive city services. Photo by WRI

A huge challenge for growing cities is provision of core services and infrastructure. Every time a new neighborhood crops up, services like roads, water and sanitation, education, and health centers must be extended to cover new residents.

In practice, cities need land to make this work. Typically, new development – especially lower-income housing – crops up in distant, un-serviced locations because it seems affordable.

But extending services to these areas is expensive for cities – so expensive that sometimes, they don’t do it at all, leaving residents on their own for things like water and energy. Living farther out also means higher transportation costs.

Ahmedabad, India’s fifth-largest city, has been trying something different: a process known as the Town Planning Scheme (TPS). With TPS, the city has been able to obtain land for public purposes, such as low-income housing and utilities, while avoiding much of the haphazard, un-serviced expansion that characterizes many other Indian cities.

new case study in the World Resources Report, “Towards a More Equal City,” explains the conditions that enabled this mechanism to be adopted in Ahmedabad, the benefits to equitable land allocation in the city and the limitations that slow down the process.

A Participatory Approach

One of the most common ways cities acquire new land for public services is through eminent domain. With TPS, as with eminent domain, Ahmedabad appropriates land to build public infrastructure, but plots are not expropriated, rather their boundaries are readjusted to create space for roads and underlying infrastructure. Any land that isn’t used is returned to the landowner. Under TPS, compensation to landowners is also adjusted against the cost of government-provided infrastructure, meaning that landowners and the city share costs as well as benefits.

Though disputes over appropriation still occur, the result, generally, is a more collaborative process, one where landowners are included, not displaced.

The TPS process happens in three stages and takes about four years:

  1. Draft stage.The TPS location is identified, announced and negotiated with the landowners. Once approved, land is transferred to the planning authority to begin infrastructure implementation.
  2. Preliminary stage. A Town Planning Officer is appointed, and plots are reorganized based on negotiations with the landowners.
  3. Final stage. The Town Planning Officer settles landowners’ compensation, minus “betterment charges,” which reflect the increased value of the land based on the new investments.

In Ahmedabad, the TPS was first put in place in 1915, when the city was under British rule. It became much more effective after a 1999 amendment empowered the city to appropriate lands earmarked for roads once a TPS draft was approved, accelerating construction and paving the way for other infrastructure to come later. The changes also enabled the process to finance itself by allowing the city to sell some land.

These changes revamped the classic TPS process resulting in nine times as many TPSs prepared from 2000-2016. In the 10 years after the amendment, twice as much land was developed with infrastructure, compared to the preceding 25 years.

There are now 480 TPS areas within Ahmedabad’s metropolitan area that are part of a long-term development plan for the city. In 2010, Ahmedabad used TPS to appropriate 48 square kilometers (nearly 12,000 acres) of land for roads, utilities, green space and low-income housing with amenities.

According to our research, the TPS can be credited for significant changes in the city:

  • Increased street density.More compact, coordinated and connected develop has improved accessibility. The average trip length in Ahmedabad is seven to eight kilometers, significantly shorter than in comparably sized Indian cities, such as Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Pune.
  • More low-income housing.About 88,000 new dwelling units have been constructed for people evicted as a result of earlier infrastructure and beautification projects. Unlike other housing programs, TPS housing units are also well-distributed spatially instead of being concentrated in the city’s periphery, improving access to jobs and services.

Thanks in part to the TPS process, social housing in Ahmedabad is more centrally located than in many cities, giving greater access to jobs, services and amenities for residents and reducing the costs of reaching new developments with services. Graphic by WRI

Thanks in part to the TPS process, social housing in Ahmedabad is more centrally located than in many cities, giving greater access to jobs, services and amenities for residents and reducing the costs of reaching new developments with services.

The TPS is flexible enough to accommodate pre-existing development, including informal settlements, in order to minimize conflict with residents of the city’s large informal sector.

In Danilimda, part of a large informal settlement called Bombay Hotel, residents objected to giving away land. In response, the Town Planning Officer assigned to the project reduced the amount of land appropriated and adjusted road alignments planned for the area. Even though these decisions limited provision of infrastructure and amenities to the area, minimizing demolitions was more important to residents and the TPS process led to a compromise.

Room for Improvement

While TPS has proven to be an effective tool for urban land provision in Ahmedabad, it hasn’t been perfect.

Though more participatory than eminent domain, it is not fully participatory. Only landowners are consulted during negotiations, omitting people who might occupy but not own land, including formal and informal tenants.

An even bigger challenge has been timely implementation. Even though many more TPS drafts were prepared after the 1999 amendment, only 18 percent were actually realized. Most drafts stay in limbo for years; in the interim, people reoccupy the land and the process is undermined. And sometimes financing never comes through. For example, the Hansol TPS was finalized in 2004, but it took another six years to get the funds to build roads included in its plan.

In general, the TPS has worked well in urban extension areas – i.e., areas in the city’s immediate periphery that see short-term appreciation in land values. But it has been less effective in distant farm land sites or in dense locations that are already fully developed.

A Constructive Endeavor

Among available approaches to generating urban land for new infrastructure and amenities, Ahmedabad’s TPS mechanism has been relatively successful. It has enabled transformative outcomes in the city, such as the construction of thousands of well-distributed social housing units and the expansion of a well-planned road network that has reduced trip lengths, increased connectivity and helped enable India’s largest bus rapid transit system.

The TPS alone is not a panacea to ensure more equitable cities, but Ahmedabad’s experience offers important lessons for other cities striving to grow in a practical and more participatory manner.

This article was originally published on WRI’s Insights. 

Video: Rit Aggarwala on the Promise of Big Data and a More Responsive City

Mon, 2017-09-25 13:08

Rit Aggarwala says we should think of the city as a machine. “It requires capacity to handle the people, the traffic, the throughput, the sewage, the garbage, everything that a city is there to handle. And if it is overcapacity, it inevitably breaks down. That’s where we get traffic congestion, that’s where we get environmental degradation.”

Aggarwala, co-head of labs at Sidewalk Labs and former head of New York City’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability, recently visited WRI to discuss the opportunities for technology to add to capacity and improve urban life worldwide.

Many cities in the global south simply are not prepared for the number of new residents they are seeing. Technology and big data can help, Aggarwala argues, but only if they are part of a larger plan for managing growth.

“If you plan for growth, you can make it okay,” he says. “If you don’t – if you ignore it, if you pretend it’s not going to exist, if you pretend that you can stop it by neglecting it – you actually get a terrible environmental catastrophe and you get a city that does not provide opportunity for its people.”

Data for Decision-Making

“The millions and billions of activities and decisions and interactions that are going on in a big city at any given moment, humans can’t really keep track of all that,” Aggarwala says. “What technology offers is the opportunity to gather all of that information and process it and make available what’s necessary, what’s useful.”

Big data doesn’t necessarily mean big government, with centralized decision-making powers, he cautions. Big data can also enable decision-making at the individual and local level through user-oriented technologies like self-configuring transit networks and automated permitting and approval systems. “You can think not only about streamlining government, but in fact about driving government decisions down to the public in a way that’s responsive and also doesn’t just empower one group that might be advantaged in terms of interacting with government,” he says.

Accountability and equity are key, and urban decision-makers have an important part to play, Aggarwala says. From wi-fi access to car-sharing services, city governments can help ensure that technology benefits everyone, not just those who can pay the most.

“We know from cities all over the world that poorer people have longer commutes than wealthier people,” he says. “If we can improve traffic congestion, that will actually have a disproportionately greater impact on the poor people who are coming from longer distances.”

Lessons from New York

From 2006 to 2010, Aggarwala worked for Mayor Michael Bloomberg where among other tasks he was responsible for “PlaNYC: A Greener, Greater New York,” which helped reduce the city’s carbon footprint by 19 percent from 2005 to 2013. He had three takeaways from the experience.

First, it’s important to include a wide range of stakeholders. “You can’t do this as a top-down plan,” he says. The Sustainability Advisory Board brought together a group of 17 leaders from different organizations to advise the city, and Aggarwala’s team met with more than 50 community groups through private and public meetings to collect ideas and feedback.

Second, it’s essential to tie decision-making to data and analysis. “‘If you can’t analyze it, if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it,’ as Mike Bloomberg always said. And what decision-makers need to do is provide evidence both for what they want to do and how they are doing as they progress.”

Lastly, Aggarwala believes that government should be ambitious and aggressive – but also focused.

“I think one of the things that the Bloomberg administration did very well was focus on policies that the city government had the power to determine, rather than trying to have programs and other things where it was trying to make up for the shortcomings in policy areas that it did not actually have authority over,” he says. “I think if every mayor in the world, if every city government in the world actually used all the tools at its disposal and thought creatively and aggressively about how to do that, cities would be more empowered and you would have more responsive cities that served their citizens better.”

Alex Rogala is a former editor of TheCityFix and currently a master’s student in urban planning at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

Video: Rit Aggarwala on the Promise of Big Data and a More Responsive City

Mon, 2017-09-25 13:08

Rit Aggarwala says we should think of the city as a machine. “It requires capacity to handle the people, the traffic, the throughput, the sewage, the garbage, everything that a city is there to handle. And if it is overcapacity, it inevitably breaks down. That’s where we get traffic congestion, that’s where we get environmental degradation.”

Aggarwala, co-head of labs at Sidewalk Labs and former head of New York City’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability, recently visited WRI to discuss the opportunities for technology to add to capacity and improve urban life worldwide.

Many cities in the global south simply are not prepared for the number of new residents they are seeing. Technology and big data can help, Aggarwala argues, but only if they are part of a larger plan for managing growth.

“If you plan for growth, you can make it okay,” he says. “If you don’t – if you ignore it, if you pretend it’s not going to exist, if you pretend that you can stop it by neglecting it – you actually get a terrible environmental catastrophe and you get a city that does not provide opportunity for its people.”

Data for Decision-Making

“The millions and billions of activities and decisions and interactions that are going on in a big city at any given moment, humans can’t really keep track of all that,” Aggarwala says. “What technology offers is the opportunity to gather all of that information and process it and make available what’s necessary, what’s useful.”

Big data doesn’t necessarily mean big government, with centralized decision-making powers, he cautions. Big data can also enable decision-making at the individual and local level through user-oriented technologies like self-configuring transit networks and automated permitting and approval systems. “You can think not only about streamlining government, but in fact about driving government decisions down to the public in a way that’s responsive and also doesn’t just empower one group that might be advantaged in terms of interacting with government,” he says.

Accountability and equity are key, and urban decision-makers have an important part to play, Aggarwala says. From wi-fi access to car-sharing services, city governments can help ensure that technology benefits everyone, not just those who can pay the most.

“We know from cities all over the world that poorer people have longer commutes than wealthier people,” he says. “If we can improve traffic congestion, that will actually have a disproportionately greater impact on the poor people who are coming from longer distances.”

Lessons from New York

From 2006 to 2010, Aggarwala worked for Mayor Michael Bloomberg where among other tasks he was responsible for “PlaNYC: A Greener, Greater New York,” which helped reduce the city’s carbon footprint by 19 percent from 2005 to 2013. He had three takeaways from the experience.

First, it’s important to include a wide range of stakeholders. “You can’t do this as a top-down plan,” he says. The Sustainability Advisory Board brought together a group of 17 leaders from different organizations to advise the city, and Aggarwala’s team met with more than 50 community groups through private and public meetings to collect ideas and feedback.

Second, it’s essential to tie decision-making to data and analysis. “‘If you can’t analyze it, if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it,’ as Mike Bloomberg always said. And what decision-makers need to do is provide evidence both for what they want to do and how they are doing as they progress.”

Lastly, Aggarwala believes that government should be ambitious and aggressive – but also focused.

“I think one of the things that the Bloomberg administration did very well was focus on policies that the city government had the power to determine, rather than trying to have programs and other things where it was trying to make up for the shortcomings in policy areas that it did not actually have authority over,” he says. “I think if every mayor in the world, if every city government in the world actually used all the tools at its disposal and thought creatively and aggressively about how to do that, cities would be more empowered and you would have more responsive cities that served their citizens better.”

Alex Rogala is a former editor of TheCityFix and currently a master’s student in urban planning at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

Live from Habitat III: National Policy, Local Empowerment and Climate Change

Thu, 2016-10-20 06:33

Urban World Leaders Gather for Habitat III Plenary Session. Photo by Agencia de Noticias ANDES / Flickr

WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities is reporting on Habitat III from Quito, Ecuador. Follow our daily coverage on TheCityFix.

Habitat III, the third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, officially began on Monday, October 17th in Quito. On Wednesday, urban leaders from around the world gathered for two plenary sessions. Both sessions focused around three main elements, as speakers strove to unite the participants toward implementing a strong, robust and effective New Urban Agenda (NUA).

The third day of Habitat III hosted the fifth and sixth high-level plenary sessions. While the plenary primarily centered on Habitat III and the NUA, country representatives discussed distinct national urban policies and frameworks, the role of decentralization in urban planning and the link between climate change and sustainable development.

1. National Urban Plans

The success of the New Urban Agenda relies almost entirely on the ability of participating countries to create and update national urban plans and other institutional frameworks focused on enabling effective management of urban development. Processes of enhancing institutional capacity and garnering widespread political will to improve cities for all can be galvanized behind a National Urban Plan.

Recognizing the impact of creating a specific national policy for urban growth, many nations have already taken up this approach. Plenary participants from Togo noted that “Togo has been chosen as a pilot country by the UN for integrating the SDGs into national development programs and strategies,” and that a new national housing strategy has been implemented to address unhealthy conditions in informal settlements and land tenure issues. Papua New Guinea has also embedded urban planning into its political planning, creating the National Urbanization Policy that spans from 2010 to 2030 along with plans for a national slum upgrading policy and affordable land and housing programs. This national-level buy-in to a better vision of cities has guided social policies in many countries already, and if further encouraged, will continue to provide new perspectives on managing urban growth.

2. Decentralization of Urban Development Planning

Within these national urban policies, however, many delegates specified that more effective models of governance would be needed for a successful New Urban Agenda; namely, in decentralizing the process for urban decision-making within a broader, national plan. Many of the represented nations highlighted that bringing a more distributed approach to decision-making could prove useful in the action phase of the NUA.

Togo’s delegate, for example, went on to elaborate that “effective decentralization and good governance” would prove vital to continuing their progress on housing policy. By highlighting decentralization, this distributed and inherently participatory approach can allow for customized and locally appropriate thinking to be the driver of solutions. Representatives from Azerbaijan also noted that state-level plans would be formulated under the umbrella of a national-scale plan for urban development. Meanwhile, India is “empowering municipalities and other local-level institutions” to create and implement appropriate policies. Galvanizing support under a national plan is a start, but giving decision-making power back to cities and regional authorities allows for a closer view of what works to make a given city more livable and sustainable.

3. Intersection of Climate Change and Urban Development

Throughout Wednesday’s plenaries, country representatives drew attention to the harmful impacts of climate change on urban regions and the role cities must play to mitigate these effects. Seeing as cities emit 70 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, a representative from Finland noted that they play a crucial role in the implementation of the Paris Agreement. To fit within the global framework, the delegate encouraged cities to develop local climate change and mitigation strategies, linking climate change and urban planning.

While climate change is not often aligned with urban development, and has therefore taken a backseat throughout most of the proceedings, it was an important theme in the day’s plenary sessions. A distinguished representative from Papua New Guinea declared: “climate change is a key to development challenges.” To echo these sentiments, a delegate from the Seychelles called for NUA implementation to heavily encompass climate change provisions. The island nation challenged all governments to take climate change seriously and to achieve the commitments of the NUA accordingly. By reinforcing the relationship between climate change and development, representatives demonstrated the importance of integrating the NUA into other global processes, coordinating the NUA with climate goals in the Paris Agreement. “Cities should adopt a climate agenda that is closely linked with their growth,” said a delegate from Morocco. By aligning growth with climate policies, cities can protect their people and environment, while ensuring sustainable development. The Moroccan representative highlighted the upcoming COP22 in Marrakesh, Morocco’s capital, as an opportunity to link the implementation of the NUA with climate change agreements.

While Wednesday’s plenary sessions reflected a mosaic of nations, the call to action was singular. A cohesive and shared vision of a sustainable urban future will be empowered by national urban actions that empower all levels of regional and local actors in addressing urbanization, especially as it relates to global climate goals.

Follow our daily coverage of Habitat III on TheCityFix.

Live from Habitat III: National Policy, Local Empowerment and Climate Change

Thu, 2016-10-20 06:33

Urban World Leaders Gather for Habitat III Plenary Session. Photo by Agencia de Noticias ANDES / Flickr

WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities is reporting on Habitat III from Quito, Ecuador. Follow our daily coverage on TheCityFix.

Habitat III, the third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, officially began on Monday, October 17th in Quito. On Wednesday, urban leaders from around the world gathered for two plenary sessions. Both sessions focused around three main elements, as speakers strove to unite the participants toward implementing a strong, robust and effective New Urban Agenda (NUA).

The third day of Habitat III hosted the fifth and sixth high-level plenary sessions. While the plenary primarily centered on Habitat III and the NUA, country representatives discussed distinct national urban policies and frameworks, the role of decentralization in urban planning and the link between climate change and sustainable development.

1. National Urban Plans

The success of the New Urban Agenda relies almost entirely on the ability of participating countries to create and update national urban plans and other institutional frameworks focused on enabling effective management of urban development. Processes of enhancing institutional capacity and garnering widespread political will to improve cities for all can be galvanized behind a National Urban Plan.

Recognizing the impact of creating a specific national policy for urban growth, many nations have already taken up this approach. Plenary participants from Togo noted that “Togo has been chosen as a pilot country by the UN for integrating the SDGs into national development programs and strategies,” and that a new national housing strategy has been implemented to address unhealthy conditions in informal settlements and land tenure issues. Papua New Guinea has also embedded urban planning into its political planning, creating the National Urbanization Policy that spans from 2010 to 2030 along with plans for a national slum upgrading policy and affordable land and housing programs. This national-level buy-in to a better vision of cities has guided social policies in many countries already, and if further encouraged, will continue to provide new perspectives on managing urban growth.

2. Decentralization of Urban Development Planning

Within these national urban policies, however, many delegates specified that more effective models of governance would be needed for a successful New Urban Agenda; namely, in decentralizing the process for urban decision-making within a broader, national plan. Many of the represented nations highlighted that bringing a more distributed approach to decision-making could prove useful in the action phase of the NUA.

Togo’s delegate, for example, went on to elaborate that “effective decentralization and good governance” would prove vital to continuing their progress on housing policy. By highlighting decentralization, this distributed and inherently participatory approach can allow for customized and locally appropriate thinking to be the driver of solutions. Representatives from Azerbaijan also noted that state-level plans would be formulated under the umbrella of a national-scale plan for urban development. Meanwhile, India is “empowering municipalities and other local-level institutions” to create and implement appropriate policies. Galvanizing support under a national plan is a start, but giving decision-making power back to cities and regional authorities allows for a closer view of what works to make a given city more livable and sustainable.

3. Intersection of Climate Change and Urban Development

Throughout Wednesday’s plenaries, country representatives drew attention to the harmful impacts of climate change on urban regions and the role cities must play to mitigate these effects. Seeing as cities emit 70 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, a representative from Finland noted that they play a crucial role in the implementation of the Paris Agreement. To fit within the global framework, the delegate encouraged cities to develop local climate change and mitigation strategies, linking climate change and urban planning.

While climate change is not often aligned with urban development, and has therefore taken a backseat throughout most of the proceedings, it was an important theme in the day’s plenary sessions. A distinguished representative from Papua New Guinea declared: “climate change is a key to development challenges.” To echo these sentiments, a delegate from the Seychelles called for NUA implementation to heavily encompass climate change provisions. The island nation challenged all governments to take climate change seriously and to achieve the commitments of the NUA accordingly. By reinforcing the relationship between climate change and development, representatives demonstrated the importance of integrating the NUA into other global processes, coordinating the NUA with climate goals in the Paris Agreement. “Cities should adopt a climate agenda that is closely linked with their growth,” said a delegate from Morocco. By aligning growth with climate policies, cities can protect their people and environment, while ensuring sustainable development. The Moroccan representative highlighted the upcoming COP22 in Marrakesh, Morocco’s capital, as an opportunity to link the implementation of the NUA with climate change agreements.

While Wednesday’s plenary sessions reflected a mosaic of nations, the call to action was singular. A cohesive and shared vision of a sustainable urban future will be empowered by national urban actions that empower all levels of regional and local actors in addressing urbanization, especially as it relates to global climate goals.

Follow our daily coverage of Habitat III on TheCityFix.

Live from Habitat III: Inclusive and Well-planned Cities For All

Wed, 2016-10-19 04:52

Quito, Ecuador hosts Habitat III. Photo by Sakeeb Sabakka / Flickr

WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities is reporting on Habitat III from Quito, Ecuador. Follow our daily coverage on TheCityFix.

Habitat III, the third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, officially began on Monday, October 17th in Quito. On the second day of the conference, governmental leaders from around the world gathered for two plenary sessions. Speakers addressed country-specific urban challenges and strove to unite the participants toward implementing a strong, robust and effective New Urban Agenda (NUA).

With Habitat III fully underway, Ministries of Housing from around the world gathered for two high-level plenary sessions. The speakers discussed what Habitat III and the New Urban Agenda can do for global cities, the status of urban development in their countries as well as desired outcomes from the implementation of the New Urban Agenda. These remarks often centered on specific national policies, but three themes resounded throughout the day: inclusive cities; accessible and affordable housing and the importance of integrated planning.

1. Inclusive Cities: Leave No One Behind

Throughout the proceedings, participants noted that inequality is often exacerbated in urban centers, where economic opportunity and social services cannot keep up with the rate of urbanization. Therefore, the success of Habitat III is dependent on the ability to promote inclusive growth while implementing a robust vision of future cities in the New Urban Agenda. Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development of Canada, explained that creating: “inclusive communities means promoting diversity, protecting needs of underrepresented groups and ensuring that no one is left behind.”

Following Duclos’ remarks, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro urged plenary participants to invest in inclusive communities that promote shared prosperity for all urban residents. He noted that cities where residents value inclusivity are often the most innovative and successful in accomplishing global goals like the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

To Maria Nuñez, Minister Executive Secretary of the National Secretariat for Housing and Habitat of Paraguay, the mark of an inclusive society is participatory planning. She called for the NUA to inspire “participatory processes from the outset” that take into account diversity while managing solutions at the local scale. Similarly, Eneida de Leon, Minister of Housing of Uruguay, noted the importance of “bringing the decisions back to society; this is what will strengthen coexistence.” The delegate went on to say that this shift in approach must also promote the notion of buenvivir, or “living well,” for all who live in cities today, or will do so in the future.

2. Housing as Entry Point to Equality

A global deficit in affordable housing also came to the forefront in delegates’ addresses. But, many cities are taking action to close the gap. Jan Claude Mbwentchou, Minister of Housing and Urban Development of Cameroon noted: “building housing for all social groups” as one of the most crucial challenges, occasioned by “rural exodus and population growth.” As a result, the Cameroonian government is re-launching public investment to reduce a deficit in housing, and demonstrated collaborative effort within its plans to; “build and plan for 50,000 housing units,” while providing “new incentives…to combat unhealthy and unclean housing.”

One solution that many country representatives highlighted was the integration of a plan for affordable housing into broader national plans. Diene Farba Sarr, Minister of Urban Renewal, Habitat and Living Environment of Senegal, detailed the country’s plans for a broad-scale “new policy of economic and social development… and framework of the Emerging Senegal Plan.” This policy framework “attaches importance to urban renewal,” and is poised to “produce 15,000 new housing units each year,” while also strengthening slum upgrading programs. This comprehensive approach to development planning can ensure that burgeoning cities are better able to accommodate an influx of new residents and provide a better quality of life for those already living in urban areas.

3. Integrated Planning Ensures Stronger Communities

This devotion to implementing more integrated planning was the another common thread in Tuesday’s plenary sessions. Ministers highlighted the importance of integrating planning measures across governmental levels, metropolitan areas and sectors; Minister of International Affairs of Kiribati Atarake Nataara described how the NUA “acknowledges the significance of building partnerships at the global, regional, national, subnational and local levels.” It is this multi-level and multi-sectoral coalition-building that can lead to widespread buy-in on more comprehensive policies.

Julian Castro, on the other hand, urges participants to embrace integrated urban planning specifically across metropolitan sectors. He said that by integrating policy and focusing on how communities are connected, cities will become more resilient and sustainable. For example, Castro noted that as cities continue to grow, they will increasingly rely on the rural agricultural lands that grow their food. By planning across these areas, he claimed, food security will improve through advanced coordination.

However, by the end of the conference proceedings, what most participants are hoping for is the establishment of robust follow-up mechanisms. Nearly all participants in Tuesday’s plenary sessions described the desire for a robust monitoring, reporting and implementation platform and proclaimed their support for this enhanced implementation in their countries, to ensure cities are inclusive, well-planned and provide adequate housing for all. Long-term vision and sharing of results seems to be something that all participants can agree on.

Follow our daily coverage of Habitat III on TheCityFix.

Live from Habitat III: Inclusive and Well-planned Cities For All

Wed, 2016-10-19 04:52

Quito, Ecuador hosts Habitat III. Photo by Sakeeb Sabakka / Flickr

WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities is reporting on Habitat III from Quito, Ecuador. Follow our daily coverage on TheCityFix.

Habitat III, the third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, officially began on Monday, October 17th in Quito. On the second day of the conference, governmental leaders from around the world gathered for two plenary sessions. Speakers addressed country-specific urban challenges and strove to unite the participants toward implementing a strong, robust and effective New Urban Agenda (NUA).

With Habitat III fully underway, Ministries of Housing from around the world gathered for two high-level plenary sessions. The speakers discussed what Habitat III and the New Urban Agenda can do for global cities, the status of urban development in their countries as well as desired outcomes from the implementation of the New Urban Agenda. These remarks often centered on specific national policies, but three themes resounded throughout the day: inclusive cities; accessible and affordable housing and the importance of integrated planning.

1. Inclusive Cities: Leave No One Behind

Throughout the proceedings, participants noted that inequality is often exacerbated in urban centers, where economic opportunity and social services cannot keep up with the rate of urbanization. Therefore, the success of Habitat III is dependent on the ability to promote inclusive growth while implementing a robust vision of future cities in the New Urban Agenda. Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development of Canada, explained that creating: “inclusive communities means promoting diversity, protecting needs of underrepresented groups and ensuring that no one is left behind.”

Following Duclos’ remarks, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro urged plenary participants to invest in inclusive communities that promote shared prosperity for all urban residents. He noted that cities where residents value inclusivity are often the most innovative and successful in accomplishing global goals like the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

To Maria Nuñez, Minister Executive Secretary of the National Secretariat for Housing and Habitat of Paraguay, the mark of an inclusive society is participatory planning. She called for the NUA to inspire “participatory processes from the outset” that take into account diversity while managing solutions at the local scale. Similarly, Eneida de Leon, Minister of Housing of Uruguay, noted the importance of “bringing the decisions back to society; this is what will strengthen coexistence.” The delegate went on to say that this shift in approach must also promote the notion of buenvivir, or “living well,” for all who live in cities today, or will do so in the future.

2. Housing as Entry Point to Equality

A global deficit in affordable housing also came to the forefront in delegates’ addresses. But, many cities are taking action to close the gap. Jan Claude Mbwentchou, Minister of Housing and Urban Development of Cameroon noted: “building housing for all social groups” as one of the most crucial challenges, occasioned by “rural exodus and population growth.” As a result, the Cameroonian government is re-launching public investment to reduce a deficit in housing, and demonstrated collaborative effort within its plans to; “build and plan for 50,000 housing units,” while providing “new incentives…to combat unhealthy and unclean housing.”

One solution that many country representatives highlighted was the integration of a plan for affordable housing into broader national plans. Diene Farba Sarr, Minister of Urban Renewal, Habitat and Living Environment of Senegal, detailed the country’s plans for a broad-scale “new policy of economic and social development… and framework of the Emerging Senegal Plan.” This policy framework “attaches importance to urban renewal,” and is poised to “produce 15,000 new housing units each year,” while also strengthening slum upgrading programs. This comprehensive approach to development planning can ensure that burgeoning cities are better able to accommodate an influx of new residents and provide a better quality of life for those already living in urban areas.

3. Integrated Planning Ensures Stronger Communities

This devotion to implementing more integrated planning was the another common thread in Tuesday’s plenary sessions. Ministers highlighted the importance of integrating planning measures across governmental levels, metropolitan areas and sectors; Minister of International Affairs of Kiribati Atarake Nataara described how the NUA “acknowledges the significance of building partnerships at the global, regional, national, subnational and local levels.” It is this multi-level and multi-sectoral coalition-building that can lead to widespread buy-in on more comprehensive policies.

Julian Castro, on the other hand, urges participants to embrace integrated urban planning specifically across metropolitan sectors. He said that by integrating policy and focusing on how communities are connected, cities will become more resilient and sustainable. For example, Castro noted that as cities continue to grow, they will increasingly rely on the rural agricultural lands that grow their food. By planning across these areas, he claimed, food security will improve through advanced coordination.

However, by the end of the conference proceedings, what most participants are hoping for is the establishment of robust follow-up mechanisms. Nearly all participants in Tuesday’s plenary sessions described the desire for a robust monitoring, reporting and implementation platform and proclaimed their support for this enhanced implementation in their countries, to ensure cities are inclusive, well-planned and provide adequate housing for all. Long-term vision and sharing of results seems to be something that all participants can agree on.

Follow our daily coverage of Habitat III on TheCityFix.

Managing Behavior and “Building Culture” for Greater Efficiency

Tue, 2016-08-09 21:41

Building owners and tenants strive to heighten building efficiency in modernizing cities, like Hong Kong. Photo by ¡kuba! / Flickr

In the past few years, large commercial building owners and managers have expressed growing interest in using behavioral strategies to improve their buildings’ performance. That interest often takes the form of “occupant engagement,” whereby tenants are encouraged to adjust their habits to save energy or water. Researchers estimate that behavioral strategies can save 25 percent of energy in homes and between five and 30 percent in commercial buildings. However, despite burgeoning interest, commercial building owners and their facilities managers have barely begun to unlock the potential of behavioral strategies. Achieving these tremendous benefits first requires an understanding of the people and culture of a building.

Big Potential in Need of Better Strategies

Building owners and managers often overlook the many simple changes they have the power to make. “Energy efficiency is a complex societal problem that needs a multi-pronged approach. Policy, rate structures and utilities all make a difference, but in the end, the motivation for change remains with corporate entities and individuals,” says Stephen Selkowitz, a researcher at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. In a recent research paper, Alan Meier and co-authors argue that building owners and operators “have the technical means to reduce energy use, [but] social, organizational and technical constraints limit ability and motivation. These include low status, customer service practices, poor feedback on occupant environment, little energy data, and technology shortcomings.” Understanding and addressing these human factors is essential to creating effective behavioral strategies.

Managing a Changing Building Culture

Technology is only as good as how it is used. Often overlooked is the fact that this relationship works both ways—any technology incorporated into a building can ultimately change behavior. If building operations staff encounter new or unfamiliar technology, then it is important to understand the impact on the “culture” of the building. Just as technology and science are some of the biggest drivers of deep changes across societies, the same is true at the scale of a building.

To manage cultural change in buildings and enable cooperation among all the participants in the building lifecycle, researchers Lamberto Tronchina and Massimiliano Manfren have recommended that building owners use common terminology and definitions; performance metrics; and building design and operation management approaches (particularly those that are integrated, data intensive, model based). These steps provide the foundation for better building operations and greater energy savings.

Top-Down and Bottom-Up Approaches

Why does one building and its staff perform flawlessly while another similar building struggles to keep up? It often depends on the management approach used in the building’s operations group: top-down vs. bottom-up.

For example, someone operating within a top-down paradigm is more likely to put together a training program that emphasizes instructions and references to authoritative sources—rather than creative problem solving and peer-to-peer networking. A top-down manager will expect thorough and rapid adoption and compliance with their “system.”

But imposing an unfamiliar system may end up creating changes for staff that are unwelcome, imposed and superficial, lacking meaning for their everyday lives. If so, the manager will have set themselves up as the sole authority and will probably experience more unexpected failures and disruptions to the system they established. They will receive more calls to come fix things, rather than staff fixing problems themselves. The result will be an account that requires heavier, more intensive servicing. This means higher costs and more demands on time, in addition to poorer results.

On the other hand, a bottom-up or social approach requires patience and a belief that a few changes can move operations and management staff in the direction they need to go in order to better manage the building. Understanding the mechanics of a building includes understanding people. Meier and coauthors recommend:

“(1) recognizing the building as a social system and using real buildings and users to experiment with solutions; (2) supporting increases in the visibility and professionalization of building operators and operations; (3) improving technical capabilities for seeing and managing energy in buildings; and (4) improving coordination between indoor environmental quality and energy efficiency, helping ensure that efficiency technologies meet their energy performance expectations without leading to unnecessary deterioration of the workplace environments.”

People matter. Considering their habits and their subtle differences when making management decisions can create more engaged occupants and managers and tilt future outcomes in desired directions. Deeper buy-in among personnel leads to greater support over the longer-term and, with it, more consistent outcomes and realized savings.

Managing Behavior and “Building Culture” for Greater Efficiency

Tue, 2016-08-09 21:41

Building owners and tenants strive to heighten building efficiency in modernizing cities, like Hong Kong. Photo by ¡kuba! / Flickr

In the past few years, large commercial building owners and managers have expressed growing interest in using behavioral strategies to improve their buildings’ performance. That interest often takes the form of “occupant engagement,” whereby tenants are encouraged to adjust their habits to save energy or water. Researchers estimate that behavioral strategies can save 25 percent of energy in homes and between five and 30 percent in commercial buildings. However, despite burgeoning interest, commercial building owners and their facilities managers have barely begun to unlock the potential of behavioral strategies. Achieving these tremendous benefits first requires an understanding of the people and culture of a building.

Big Potential in Need of Better Strategies

Building owners and managers often overlook the many simple changes they have the power to make. “Energy efficiency is a complex societal problem that needs a multi-pronged approach. Policy, rate structures and utilities all make a difference, but in the end, the motivation for change remains with corporate entities and individuals,” says Stephen Selkowitz, a researcher at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. In a recent research paper, Alan Meier and co-authors argue that building owners and operators “have the technical means to reduce energy use, [but] social, organizational and technical constraints limit ability and motivation. These include low status, customer service practices, poor feedback on occupant environment, little energy data, and technology shortcomings.” Understanding and addressing these human factors is essential to creating effective behavioral strategies.

Managing a Changing Building Culture

Technology is only as good as how it is used. Often overlooked is the fact that this relationship works both ways—any technology incorporated into a building can ultimately change behavior. If building operations staff encounter new or unfamiliar technology, then it is important to understand the impact on the “culture” of the building. Just as technology and science are some of the biggest drivers of deep changes across societies, the same is true at the scale of a building.

To manage cultural change in buildings and enable cooperation among all the participants in the building lifecycle, researchers Lamberto Tronchina and Massimiliano Manfren have recommended that building owners use common terminology and definitions; performance metrics; and building design and operation management approaches (particularly those that are integrated, data intensive, model based). These steps provide the foundation for better building operations and greater energy savings.

Top-Down and Bottom-Up Approaches

Why does one building and its staff perform flawlessly while another similar building struggles to keep up? It often depends on the management approach used in the building’s operations group: top-down vs. bottom-up.

For example, someone operating within a top-down paradigm is more likely to put together a training program that emphasizes instructions and references to authoritative sources—rather than creative problem solving and peer-to-peer networking. A top-down manager will expect thorough and rapid adoption and compliance with their “system.”

But imposing an unfamiliar system may end up creating changes for staff that are unwelcome, imposed and superficial, lacking meaning for their everyday lives. If so, the manager will have set themselves up as the sole authority and will probably experience more unexpected failures and disruptions to the system they established. They will receive more calls to come fix things, rather than staff fixing problems themselves. The result will be an account that requires heavier, more intensive servicing. This means higher costs and more demands on time, in addition to poorer results.

On the other hand, a bottom-up or social approach requires patience and a belief that a few changes can move operations and management staff in the direction they need to go in order to better manage the building. Understanding the mechanics of a building includes understanding people. Meier and coauthors recommend:

“(1) recognizing the building as a social system and using real buildings and users to experiment with solutions; (2) supporting increases in the visibility and professionalization of building operators and operations; (3) improving technical capabilities for seeing and managing energy in buildings; and (4) improving coordination between indoor environmental quality and energy efficiency, helping ensure that efficiency technologies meet their energy performance expectations without leading to unnecessary deterioration of the workplace environments.”

People matter. Considering their habits and their subtle differences when making management decisions can create more engaged occupants and managers and tilt future outcomes in desired directions. Deeper buy-in among personnel leads to greater support over the longer-term and, with it, more consistent outcomes and realized savings.

Friday Fun: How Pokémon Go Is Creating a New Generation of Urban Explorers

Fri, 2016-07-29 18:30

A Pokemon Go player catches a Pokemon while walking outside. Photo by Penn State / Flickr

In the past few weeks, if you’ve seen people roaming around, staring at their phones and spontaneously shouting with glee, or crowds of people inexplicably congregating in parks, there’s a good chance you’ve witnessed someone playing Pokémon Go. Since its release on July 6th, Pokémon Go has taken over cities around the world. With an estimated 26 million players in the United States, it’s the biggest mobile game in U.S. history. In fact, on a daily basis, more people have used Pokémon Go maps than Google Maps—the developer for the maps in the game.

In contrast to its strictly visual predecessor, Pokémon Go requires a more active gaming lifestyle. The smartphone app utilizes GPS, geotagging, cameras and maps to integrate the gaming experience into a semi-virtual reality. Like the original Pokémon, the objective of the game is to catch different Pokémon creatures. However, in the new version, players must leave the confines of their homes and roam city streets, parks and popular landmarks to find Pokémon. Some Pokémon prefer certain environments over others, inspiring players to visit nearby bodies of water and recreational areas. Users visit “Pokéstops,” which are mapped to real-world public spaces, to collect Pokémon and assorted items, encouraging the use of public transit and walking over private vehicles.

Urban developers and city officials have been trying to inspire smart city planning for years, underscoring the environmental, health and economic benefits of a walkable city. What planners have continuously struggled with, Pokémon Go has achieved overnight. Pokémon Go has enhanced urban exploration and engagement, leaving us to wonder if the cartoon has uncovered the secret to effective urban planning.

Pokemon Go players on the DC Metrobus. Photo by Oren Levine / Flickr

Encouraging Urban Exploration to ‘Catch Em All’

Pokémon Go goes against the grain of indoor and sedentary videogames, as it promotes active exploration and engagement with people and places around the city. It pushes people out of their homes to enjoy sunshine and fresh air. Players get to explore new neighborhoods, restaurants, parks and landmarks, developing a newfound appreciation for their city and breathing life into public spaces that were previously empty. Gamers are even meeting new neighbors and talking to strangers about how many Pokémon they’ve caught.

This dynamic gaming experience is introducing exercise to a previously motionless activity. Many have reported sore legs from walking and running miles at a time. In the game, players collect eggs that will hatch only after they’ve walked two, five or ten kilometers (one, three or six miles). The game may also incentivize use of public transit due to the large number of Pokémon on and near transit stops. The Metro in Los Angeles created a Twitter account for gaming riders, tweeting tips on where to capture the cartoon creatures.

Pokémon Go is even impacting local business by attracting Pokémon, as well as humans, to their businesses. Signage promoting the game, as well as a purchasable “Lure Mode,” which attracts Pokémon for 30 minutes at a time, is helping business owners increase their revenue.

Local businesses like Frank & Oak are attracting customers using Pokemon Go signage. Photo by Jamey M. Photography / Flickr

An Innovative and Powerful Tool for Civic Engagement 

With greater pedestrian activity and exploration comes enhanced awareness. Players are not only developing a greater sense of what their city has to offer, but some people are also becoming more aware of mobility and environmental issues. Many are now noticing their neighborhoods do not promote walking, detecting flaws in transit infrastructure and discovering unhealthy, urban ecosystems.

This newfound awareness has triggered dialogue between gamers and city leaders, heightening civilian engagement. Pokémon Go’s popularity has inspired some city officials and stakeholders to play into the game culture. Some are using the app as a platform to shed awareness to local issues, promote political events and incentivize visits to landmarks. By sparking conversation with players, leaders are harnessing the interactive power of Pokémon to awaken a new generation of urban stakeholders and activists.

But is this engagement always civil? There is a fine line between genuine interest in visiting landmarks and inappropriate, even dangerous behavior. Some players are capturing Pokémon in the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC, Arlington National Cemetery, the 9/11 Memorial in New York and Auschwitz in Poland. For some, merging the game world with reality has proven quite dangerous, even resulting in robberies and getting hit by a car.

 Future Urban Planning in a Pokémon World  

Pokémon Go has exhibited successful aspects of urban planning that cities may learn from. The mobile game integrated cities, pedestrians and local officials to form a more cohesive, lively and well planned urban system. Through aligning city programs with interactive incentive, leaders may be able to expand upon the success of Pokémon Go to promote smart and sustainable cities while enhancing civilian awareness and respect.

 

Pokemon Go – Official Launch Trailer from Stephan Pilon Lectez on Vimeo.

Friday Fun: How Pokémon Go Is Creating a New Generation of Urban Explorers

Fri, 2016-07-29 18:30

A Pokemon Go player catches a Pokemon while walking outside. Photo by Penn State / Flickr

In the past few weeks, if you’ve seen people roaming around, staring at their phones and spontaneously shouting with glee, or crowds of people inexplicably congregating in parks, there’s a good chance you’ve witnessed someone playing Pokémon Go. Since its release on July 6th, Pokémon Go has taken over cities around the world. With an estimated 26 million players in the United States, it’s the biggest mobile game in U.S. history. In fact, on a daily basis, more people have used Pokémon Go maps than Google Maps—the developer for the maps in the game.

In contrast to its strictly visual predecessor, Pokémon Go requires a more active gaming lifestyle. The smartphone app utilizes GPS, geotagging, cameras and maps to integrate the gaming experience into a semi-virtual reality. Like the original Pokémon, the objective of the game is to catch different Pokémon creatures. However, in the new version, players must leave the confines of their homes and roam city streets, parks and popular landmarks to find Pokémon. Some Pokémon prefer certain environments over others, inspiring players to visit nearby bodies of water and recreational areas. Users visit “Pokéstops,” which are mapped to real-world public spaces, to collect Pokémon and assorted items, encouraging the use of public transit and walking over private vehicles.

Urban developers and city officials have been trying to inspire smart city planning for years, underscoring the environmental, health and economic benefits of a walkable city. What planners have continuously struggled with, Pokémon Go has achieved overnight. Pokémon Go has enhanced urban exploration and engagement, leaving us to wonder if the cartoon has uncovered the secret to effective urban planning.

Pokemon Go players on the DC Metrobus. Photo by Oren Levine / Flickr

Encouraging Urban Exploration to ‘Catch Em All’

Pokémon Go goes against the grain of indoor and sedentary videogames, as it promotes active exploration and engagement with people and places around the city. It pushes people out of their homes to enjoy sunshine and fresh air. Players get to explore new neighborhoods, restaurants, parks and landmarks, developing a newfound appreciation for their city and breathing life into public spaces that were previously empty. Gamers are even meeting new neighbors and talking to strangers about how many Pokémon they’ve caught.

This dynamic gaming experience is introducing exercise to a previously motionless activity. Many have reported sore legs from walking and running miles at a time. In the game, players collect eggs that will hatch only after they’ve walked two, five or ten kilometers (one, three or six miles). The game may also incentivize use of public transit due to the large number of Pokémon on and near transit stops. The Metro in Los Angeles created a Twitter account for gaming riders, tweeting tips on where to capture the cartoon creatures.

Pokémon Go is even impacting local business by attracting Pokémon, as well as humans, to their businesses. Signage promoting the game, as well as a purchasable “Lure Mode,” which attracts Pokémon for 30 minutes at a time, is helping business owners increase their revenue.

Local businesses like Frank & Oak are attracting customers using Pokemon Go signage. Photo by Jamey M. Photography / Flickr

An Innovative and Powerful Tool for Civic Engagement 

With greater pedestrian activity and exploration comes enhanced awareness. Players are not only developing a greater sense of what their city has to offer, but some people are also becoming more aware of mobility and environmental issues. Many are now noticing their neighborhoods do not promote walking, detecting flaws in transit infrastructure and discovering unhealthy, urban ecosystems.

This newfound awareness has triggered dialogue between gamers and city leaders, heightening civilian engagement. Pokémon Go’s popularity has inspired some city officials and stakeholders to play into the game culture. Some are using the app as a platform to shed awareness to local issues, promote political events and incentivize visits to landmarks. By sparking conversation with players, leaders are harnessing the interactive power of Pokémon to awaken a new generation of urban stakeholders and activists.

But is this engagement always civil? There is a fine line between genuine interest in visiting landmarks and inappropriate, even dangerous behavior. Some players are capturing Pokémon in the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC, Arlington National Cemetery, the 9/11 Memorial in New York and Auschwitz in Poland. For some, merging the game world with reality has proven quite dangerous, even resulting in robberies and getting hit by a car.

 Future Urban Planning in a Pokémon World  

Pokémon Go has exhibited successful aspects of urban planning that cities may learn from. The mobile game integrated cities, pedestrians and local officials to form a more cohesive, lively and well planned urban system. Through aligning city programs with interactive incentive, leaders may be able to expand upon the success of Pokémon Go to promote smart and sustainable cities while enhancing civilian awareness and respect.

 

Pokemon Go – Official Launch Trailer from Stephan Pilon Lectez on Vimeo.

Urban Planning “Games”: A Novel Approach to an Old Problem

Thu, 2016-05-26 23:32

Istanbul, Turkey. Photo by Gabriel Garcia Marengo/Flickr

How do you liven up discussions around urban planning, get participants thinking outside of the box and get people to take a holistic and inclusive approach to community planning? Why not try a game?

Games are emerging as a useful platform for fostering meaningful dialogue on today’s most pressing urban development issues. Through simulations, role playing and even the use of LEGO blocks, interactive urban development and planning games can provide a fun and engaging way of bringing disparate groups of stakeholders to the table. These games remove the threatening atmosphere often felt in more formal meetings, and allow participants to more casually communicate with one another while collectively evaluating different paths of development.

Games can help simplify complex and seemingly insurmountable problems by detangling components and breaking them down into smaller, more comprehensible pieces. Furthermore, games that require role playing can force participants out of their comfort zone helping them to begin to understand and view problems from a different perspective, such as through the eyes and experiences of a bicyclist, bringing light to issues they may normally overlook.

Recognizing the value of games, the United Nations in collaboration with the makers of Minecraft, the Urban Land Institute, MIT and countless other institutions have developed interactive games as teaching and outreach tools to facilitate learning and decision making between stakeholders of all ages and backgrounds.

Putting TOD Games in Action in Mexico and Turkey

Recently, WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities’ team in Mexico co-developed a role playing, LEGO-based game to supplement their Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) Guide for Urban Communities, inviting players to explore a range of development strategies at different scales for a city and facilitating a discussions of the benefits of zoning and transit-oriented development (TOD).

Players are assigned roles, representing different government agencies or sectors, private developers and the public. With a map of a specific site, they use colorful LEGOS that represent different land use types (e.g. commercial, residential, industrial) and stickers to denote different types of sidewalks (e.g. with or without trees), cycle paths (e.g. two-way), and traffic lanes (e.g. dedicated bus lanes) to build and visualize different development scenarios.

DOTS game in Mexico. Photo by Benoit Colin/WRI

The game serves as a vehicle for bringing to life the principles of TOD and has proven to be an effective technique in engaging the public and professionals from multiple sectors in talking about TOD.

Given the game’s success in Mexico, the Ross Center’s team in Turkey incorporated a session of the game into the 2015 Livable Cities Symposium in Istanbul in November 2016. The workshop introduced the topic of transit-oriented development (TOD) and allowed participants to explore the concept through the redesign of an actual squatter settlement (Kucuk Armutlu), located next to the university where the Symposium was held. The workshop provided an interactive environment for participants from various disciplines—from urban planning and environmental engineering to the private sector and academia—to learn how they can better design communities in an actual low-to-middle income neighborhood isolated from public transport, both by natural barriers and a major highway.

Players were divided into two teams. One group was assigned to represent  a  ‘business as usual’ approach, requiring members to develop recommendations within the confines of current legal restrictions, such as zoning that does not allow mixed-use development, and planning conventions that typically take a top-down strategy. The other group was tasked with taking a more ‘radical’ approach, allowing recommendations to include reforming laws and planning processes. Both teams focused on three main problems facing the community: disjointed scales of planning; disconnected modes of transit that are physically inaccessible by the community; and a lack of vibrant public space.

In addition to addressing real problems and facilitating an understanding of TOD in the design process, the game attempts to foster meaningful collaboration between players of diverse backgrounds. Each player must shed their professional and educational beliefs and take on an assigned character, making decisions through that person’s eyes.

This was the most challenging part of the game. Many of the engineers, urban designers, architects and others found it difficult to support new and contrary ideas to what they normally believe. Another challenge that the players faced was learning to interact with one another and accept different perspectives. In fact, what was most revealing about the workshop and the game was that with honest and enthusiastic participation and discussion, it was still possible to establish common ground.

Players acknowledged the importance of active participation from diverse stakeholders in the decision-making process. The participants’ motivation and excitement demonstrated the importance of instilling empathy in players during the strategic decision-making process. Greater empathy fostered better communication and collaboration and helped players to better plan for all people. Participants realized that planners in Turkey and beyond need to actively engage the public in the planning process—a practice that is largely non-existent today.

As Jane Jacobs explains in The Death and Life of Great American Cities: “Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”

Urban Planning “Games”: A Novel Approach to an Old Problem

Thu, 2016-05-26 23:32

Istanbul, Turkey. Photo by Gabriel Garcia Marengo/Flickr

How do you liven up discussions around urban planning, get participants thinking outside of the box and get people to take a holistic and inclusive approach to community planning? Why not try a game?

Games are emerging as a useful platform for fostering meaningful dialogue on today’s most pressing urban development issues. Through simulations, role playing and even the use of LEGO blocks, interactive urban development and planning games can provide a fun and engaging way of bringing disparate groups of stakeholders to the table. These games remove the threatening atmosphere often felt in more formal meetings, and allow participants to more casually communicate with one another while collectively evaluating different paths of development.

Games can help simplify complex and seemingly insurmountable problems by detangling components and breaking them down into smaller, more comprehensible pieces. Furthermore, games that require role playing can force participants out of their comfort zone helping them to begin to understand and view problems from a different perspective, such as through the eyes and experiences of a bicyclist, bringing light to issues they may normally overlook.

Recognizing the value of games, the United Nations in collaboration with the makers of Minecraft, the Urban Land Institute, MIT and countless other institutions have developed interactive games as teaching and outreach tools to facilitate learning and decision making between stakeholders of all ages and backgrounds.

Putting TOD Games in Action in Mexico and Turkey

Recently, WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities’ team in Mexico co-developed a role playing, LEGO-based game to supplement their Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) Guide for Urban Communities, inviting players to explore a range of development strategies at different scales for a city and facilitating a discussions of the benefits of zoning and transit-oriented development (TOD).

Players are assigned roles, representing different government agencies or sectors, private developers and the public. With a map of a specific site, they use colorful LEGOS that represent different land use types (e.g. commercial, residential, industrial) and stickers to denote different types of sidewalks (e.g. with or without trees), cycle paths (e.g. two-way), and traffic lanes (e.g. dedicated bus lanes) to build and visualize different development scenarios.

DOTS game in Mexico. Photo by Benoit Colin/WRI

The game serves as a vehicle for bringing to life the principles of TOD and has proven to be an effective technique in engaging the public and professionals from multiple sectors in talking about TOD.

Given the game’s success in Mexico, the Ross Center’s team in Turkey incorporated a session of the game into the 2015 Livable Cities Symposium in Istanbul in November 2016. The workshop introduced the topic of transit-oriented development (TOD) and allowed participants to explore the concept through the redesign of an actual squatter settlement (Kucuk Armutlu), located next to the university where the Symposium was held. The workshop provided an interactive environment for participants from various disciplines—from urban planning and environmental engineering to the private sector and academia—to learn how they can better design communities in an actual low-to-middle income neighborhood isolated from public transport, both by natural barriers and a major highway.

Players were divided into two teams. One group was assigned to represent  a  ‘business as usual’ approach, requiring members to develop recommendations within the confines of current legal restrictions, such as zoning that does not allow mixed-use development, and planning conventions that typically take a top-down strategy. The other group was tasked with taking a more ‘radical’ approach, allowing recommendations to include reforming laws and planning processes. Both teams focused on three main problems facing the community: disjointed scales of planning; disconnected modes of transit that are physically inaccessible by the community; and a lack of vibrant public space.

In addition to addressing real problems and facilitating an understanding of TOD in the design process, the game attempts to foster meaningful collaboration between players of diverse backgrounds. Each player must shed their professional and educational beliefs and take on an assigned character, making decisions through that person’s eyes.

This was the most challenging part of the game. Many of the engineers, urban designers, architects and others found it difficult to support new and contrary ideas to what they normally believe. Another challenge that the players faced was learning to interact with one another and accept different perspectives. In fact, what was most revealing about the workshop and the game was that with honest and enthusiastic participation and discussion, it was still possible to establish common ground.

Players acknowledged the importance of active participation from diverse stakeholders in the decision-making process. The participants’ motivation and excitement demonstrated the importance of instilling empathy in players during the strategic decision-making process. Greater empathy fostered better communication and collaboration and helped players to better plan for all people. Participants realized that planners in Turkey and beyond need to actively engage the public in the planning process—a practice that is largely non-existent today.

As Jane Jacobs explains in The Death and Life of Great American Cities: “Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”

Pioneering Open Government Innovations in São Paulo and Austin with the OGP Subnational Pilot Program

Tue, 2016-04-19 21:27

Sao Paulo, Brazil. Photo by Gabriela Sakamoto/Flickr.

Cities are where real progress is made for sustainable development. They’re where governments are closest to their citizens and where essential public services like education, health and transport are delivered to people. However, with this proximity comes a responsibility for cities to be more transparent, accountable, and responsive to their citizens’ needs. A more open government at the local level can directly improve quality of life for all.

Last week (April 12, 2016), the Open Government Partnership—a global organization that works with countries voluntarily committing to greater openness and transparency—announced that it is opening up membership to subnational governments, including cities, municipalities and regional bodies. Fifteen pioneers in open government were selected for their commitment and leadership in driving innovation and reform at the local level.

To celebrate this step forward, we’re highlighting two of the fifteen urban pioneers—Austin, Texas and São Paulo, Brazil—who have made incredible strides towards improving people’s quality of life through open government.

Open Data for Better Transport in São Paulo, Brazil

With 11.3 million residents, São Paulo is one of the OGP’s largest subnational nominees. The city has been working towards a more open government by focusing on technology and has opened up data and decision making processes to support public participation. For example, the new Open São Paulo Portal has enabled more citizens to be part of decisions made about the budget as well as services like transport and education. The Open São Paulo Portal served as the starting platform for two laboratories, Mobilab and LabProdam, and continues to provide a collaborative space for citizens, tech innovators and the public sector to advance collective goals like better mobility.

Mobilab is a partnership between São Paulo’s public transport and planning agencies, private operators (like Easy Taxi), local citizens, universities and innovators. Established in response to public protests and dissatisfaction with public transit services and rising bus fares, Mobilab was founded on the principles of public participation and open data. The city recognized the need to innovate new transport solutions while also increasing transparency and public satisfaction. Opening up data from traffic signals, parking meters and public transit GPS systems, the lab has supported the creation of many mobile apps that have improved the way transit users plan their trips and travel throughout the city.

Similarly, LabProdam is an organization looking to “develop tools aimed at improving social participation, transparency, innovation, and integrity and conduct discussions and activities on open government, especially in the area of technological innovation”. One product they’ve developed is the Contador de Ciclista or “Cyclist Counter,” which measures the use of bike lanes throughout the city using simple technologies like webcams and mobile apps. The cycling data is then made public for cycling advocates, city planners and elected officials.

Citizen Engagement in Urban Planning in Austin, Texas

Over the past five years, Austin has embraced the open government movement as well as democratic innovation and citizen engagement. For example, instead of an executive decision by city officials, the city council openly debated their application to join the OGP pioneer program. A Council Resolution was passed to support the city’s participation, showing support for the principles of transparency, accountability and responsiveness.

Two excellent examples of civil society engagement are Imagine Austin and Code Next—initiatives that are helping to shape Austin’s urban environment through citizen engagement. Imagine Austin, a master planning and visioning effort adopted in 2012, is founded on co-creation and co-implementation with citizens, community organizations and businesses. The initiative created Austin’s long-term plan, guiding regional development for the past four years. During the two-year planning process, Imagine Austin received over 18,500 public inputs through community forums, social media campaigns, local media outlets, surveys and other media.

Building on recommendations that came from the Imagine Austin planning process, CodeNext is a new, collaborative initiative that revises and updates Austin’s zoning and land use codes. The project works with the community “to preserve, protect and enhance the City’s natural and built environment.” While urban zoning and planning codes are typically considered highly technical in nature, CodeNext is helping to demystify urban development among citizens—drawing on the community’s perspectives and using their input to shape the city’s development.

Creating a Culture of National and Local Collaboration

Over the next 18 months, Austin, São Paulo, and the rest of these 15 selected subnational governments will make progress towards becoming more transparent, accountable, responsive and participatory cities. Additionally, the national governments participating in the OGP will work with urban pioneers both in the pilot program and beyond to help create and implement city-level open government initiatives and policies through national action plans.

Cities will play a large role in helping the world achieve its climate and sustainable development goals—from the Paris Agreement to the Sustainable Development Goals and the New Urban Agenda. By prioritizing open government, these cities will also help create a more inclusive and equitable future.

Pioneering Open Government Innovations in São Paulo and Austin with the OGP Subnational Pilot Program

Tue, 2016-04-19 21:27

Sao Paulo, Brazil. Photo by Gabriela Sakamoto/Flickr.

Cities are where real progress is made for sustainable development. They’re where governments are closest to their citizens and where essential public services like education, health and transport are delivered to people. However, with this proximity comes a responsibility for cities to be more transparent, accountable, and responsive to their citizens’ needs. A more open government at the local level can directly improve quality of life for all.

Last week (April 12, 2016), the Open Government Partnership—a global organization that works with countries voluntarily committing to greater openness and transparency—announced that it is opening up membership to subnational governments, including cities, municipalities and regional bodies. Fifteen pioneers in open government were selected for their commitment and leadership in driving innovation and reform at the local level.

To celebrate this step forward, we’re highlighting two of the fifteen urban pioneers—Austin, Texas and São Paulo, Brazil—who have made incredible strides towards improving people’s quality of life through open government.

Open Data for Better Transport in São Paulo, Brazil

With 11.3 million residents, São Paulo is one of the OGP’s largest subnational nominees. The city has been working towards a more open government by focusing on technology and has opened up data and decision making processes to support public participation. For example, the new Open São Paulo Portal has enabled more citizens to be part of decisions made about the budget as well as services like transport and education. The Open São Paulo Portal served as the starting platform for two laboratories, Mobilab and LabProdam, and continues to provide a collaborative space for citizens, tech innovators and the public sector to advance collective goals like better mobility.

Mobilab is a partnership between São Paulo’s public transport and planning agencies, private operators (like Easy Taxi), local citizens, universities and innovators. Established in response to public protests and dissatisfaction with public transit services and rising bus fares, Mobilab was founded on the principles of public participation and open data. The city recognized the need to innovate new transport solutions while also increasing transparency and public satisfaction. Opening up data from traffic signals, parking meters and public transit GPS systems, the lab has supported the creation of many mobile apps that have improved the way transit users plan their trips and travel throughout the city.

Similarly, LabProdam is an organization looking to “develop tools aimed at improving social participation, transparency, innovation, and integrity and conduct discussions and activities on open government, especially in the area of technological innovation”. One product they’ve developed is the Contador de Ciclista or “Cyclist Counter,” which measures the use of bike lanes throughout the city using simple technologies like webcams and mobile apps. The cycling data is then made public for cycling advocates, city planners and elected officials.

Citizen Engagement in Urban Planning in Austin, Texas

Over the past five years, Austin has embraced the open government movement as well as democratic innovation and citizen engagement. For example, instead of an executive decision by city officials, the city council openly debated their application to join the OGP pioneer program. A Council Resolution was passed to support the city’s participation, showing support for the principles of transparency, accountability and responsiveness.

Two excellent examples of civil society engagement are Imagine Austin and Code Next—initiatives that are helping to shape Austin’s urban environment through citizen engagement. Imagine Austin, a master planning and visioning effort adopted in 2012, is founded on co-creation and co-implementation with citizens, community organizations and businesses. The initiative created Austin’s long-term plan, guiding regional development for the past four years. During the two-year planning process, Imagine Austin received over 18,500 public inputs through community forums, social media campaigns, local media outlets, surveys and other media.

Building on recommendations that came from the Imagine Austin planning process, CodeNext is a new, collaborative initiative that revises and updates Austin’s zoning and land use codes. The project works with the community “to preserve, protect and enhance the City’s natural and built environment.” While urban zoning and planning codes are typically considered highly technical in nature, CodeNext is helping to demystify urban development among citizens—drawing on the community’s perspectives and using their input to shape the city’s development.

Creating a Culture of National and Local Collaboration

Over the next 18 months, Austin, São Paulo, and the rest of these 15 selected subnational governments will make progress towards becoming more transparent, accountable, responsive and participatory cities. Additionally, the national governments participating in the OGP will work with urban pioneers both in the pilot program and beyond to help create and implement city-level open government initiatives and policies through national action plans.

Cities will play a large role in helping the world achieve its climate and sustainable development goals—from the Paris Agreement to the Sustainable Development Goals and the New Urban Agenda. By prioritizing open government, these cities will also help create a more inclusive and equitable future.

Unlock Bangalore: Making the Right Decisions for Sustainable Growth

Thu, 2016-03-31 21:46

To ensure a high quality of life for Bangalore’s residents, the city will need to address traffic congestion, urban expansion and energy efficiency. Photo by bionicgrrrl/Flickr.

Bangalore is India’s third most populous city and is among the top 100 cities that contribute to the global economy. 75 percent of Bengaluru’s income is from the service sector, with over ₹ 500 billion (approximately US $7.6 billion) from IT and real estate. Several Fortune 500 companies have their offices in Bangalore. In 2014, the city received the ninth highest number of foreign investment projects in the world.

While this growth has increased incomes, it has also led to infrastructure problems, like poor quality of water, unreliable power and traffic congestion. Public investments in infrastructure have not kept pace with growth, giving rise to self-provisioning solutions like diesel-powered generators, bore-wells and packaged water that have created environmental and health concerns. Bangalore needs to sustain its economic growth and improve quality of life for its citizens to maintain its appeal for investors and talent. In its attempt to address congestion, limit sprawl and improve efficiency, Bangalore has to now make key decisions on land-use, infrastructure, transport and energy.

Addressing Congestion

In the last 20-30 years, Bangalore has been building wider, faster roads and flyovers in response to the growing number of vehicles in the city. This approach has failed. Not only has it made it unsafe for pedestrians, but it has also resulted in the city having the sixth worst traffic jams in the world. With the metro still under construction, the city’s public bus operator, BMTC, carries the majority of the commuter load—42 percent. However, increasing costs and inefficient operations has resulted in a less than optimal quality of service. Every day, 5.2 million people commute via 6,700 buses operated by BMTC.

To actively address congestion and solve mobility and accessibility issues, Bangalore needs to (1) redesign roads to make them safer for all users, and specifically for pedestrians and cyclists, (2) improve speed and quality of bus-based mass transport, including bus rapid transit (BRT), in addition to Namma Metro, (3) integrate various modes of public transport and intermediate public transport through schedule, fare and physical integration, (4) develop progressive regulations for emerging shared mobility options like ridesharing, carpooling, shared bicycles and taxi aggregators and (5) ensure car-users pay the full cost driving, including the costs of parking and congestion.

Managing Urban Expansion

Bangalore has led the growth of India’s technology industries. These emerging economies are located in the suburbs and peripheries of the main city and have global access. While the core city is undergoing some transformation, the peripheries have seen rapid growth. From 2006 to 2012, the metropolitan region added 1228 square feet per minute. Over 10,000 gated residential developments now dot the region. Areas such as Whitefield and BIAAPA are manifestations of this growth. In order to manage expansion in a sustainable manner, Bangalore needs to:

  1. Move from a traditional static land-use approach for planning and development, and adopt a strategic spatial planning approach.
  2. Leverage the US $2 billion investment in Namma Metro by implementing transit-oriented development principles in its well-serviced core area.
  3. Develop peripheral and satellite ring roads as area-based development projects rather than mere road projects by integrating land-use and transport
  4. Adopt local area planning that allows for improved infrastructure and services for new and existing wards
Improving Energy Efficiency

BESCOM, the city’s electric utility, serves 8.9 million customers—almost the entire population of the city. However, the utility has been struggling to supply sufficient power to meet the 3400 megawatt peak demand. In 2015, due to technical challenges and dropping hydro reserves, the gap between demand and supply was almost 900 megawatts.

Bangalore consumes 40 million units every day, which is projected to increase to 74 million units by 2030. To meet this growing demand, Karnataka proposes to increase generation capacity by 22.5 gigawatts, of which 14.5 gigawatts will come from non-renewable energy sources. Distribution losses are at 14 percent, with additional transmission losses.

In order to reduce the demand-supply gap, the city needs to (1) identify and overcome information, technical and financial barriers to installation of rooftop solar PV, (2) focus on energy-efficiency and demand-side management via by promoting the use of energy efficient appliances and user education, (3) facilitate the procurement of renewables by large electricity consumers to reduce their dependence on diesel and other pollutants and (4) promote increased public participation in BESCOM’s decision making

Bangalore is at a critical juncture in its growth, where decisions today will be “locked-in” for the next 40-100 years. By addressing congestion that shifts the conversation from vehicles to people, managing urban expansion towards sustainable growth and implementing practices that provide clean, reliable energy for its people, Bangalore can move on to a path of improved livability and sustainability, and maintain its competitive status in the global economy.

This piece was originally published on wri-india.org. Learn more about our talk series on Unlock Bengaluru here.

Unlock Bangalore: Making the Right Decisions for Sustainable Growth

Thu, 2016-03-31 21:46

To ensure a high quality of life for Bangalore’s residents, the city will need to address traffic congestion, urban expansion and energy efficiency. Photo by bionicgrrrl/Flickr.

Bangalore is India’s third most populous city and is among the top 100 cities that contribute to the global economy. 75 percent of Bengaluru’s income is from the service sector, with over ₹ 500 billion (approximately US $7.6 billion) from IT and real estate. Several Fortune 500 companies have their offices in Bangalore. In 2014, the city received the ninth highest number of foreign investment projects in the world.

While this growth has increased incomes, it has also led to infrastructure problems, like poor quality of water, unreliable power and traffic congestion. Public investments in infrastructure have not kept pace with growth, giving rise to self-provisioning solutions like diesel-powered generators, bore-wells and packaged water that have created environmental and health concerns. Bangalore needs to sustain its economic growth and improve quality of life for its citizens to maintain its appeal for investors and talent. In its attempt to address congestion, limit sprawl and improve efficiency, Bangalore has to now make key decisions on land-use, infrastructure, transport and energy.

Addressing Congestion

In the last 20-30 years, Bangalore has been building wider, faster roads and flyovers in response to the growing number of vehicles in the city. This approach has failed. Not only has it made it unsafe for pedestrians, but it has also resulted in the city having the sixth worst traffic jams in the world. With the metro still under construction, the city’s public bus operator, BMTC, carries the majority of the commuter load—42 percent. However, increasing costs and inefficient operations has resulted in a less than optimal quality of service. Every day, 5.2 million people commute via 6,700 buses operated by BMTC.

To actively address congestion and solve mobility and accessibility issues, Bangalore needs to (1) redesign roads to make them safer for all users, and specifically for pedestrians and cyclists, (2) improve speed and quality of bus-based mass transport, including bus rapid transit (BRT), in addition to Namma Metro, (3) integrate various modes of public transport and intermediate public transport through schedule, fare and physical integration, (4) develop progressive regulations for emerging shared mobility options like ridesharing, carpooling, shared bicycles and taxi aggregators and (5) ensure car-users pay the full cost driving, including the costs of parking and congestion.

Managing Urban Expansion

Bangalore has led the growth of India’s technology industries. These emerging economies are located in the suburbs and peripheries of the main city and have global access. While the core city is undergoing some transformation, the peripheries have seen rapid growth. From 2006 to 2012, the metropolitan region added 1228 square feet per minute. Over 10,000 gated residential developments now dot the region. Areas such as Whitefield and BIAAPA are manifestations of this growth. In order to manage expansion in a sustainable manner, Bangalore needs to:

  1. Move from a traditional static land-use approach for planning and development, and adopt a strategic spatial planning approach.
  2. Leverage the US $2 billion investment in Namma Metro by implementing transit-oriented development principles in its well-serviced core area.
  3. Develop peripheral and satellite ring roads as area-based development projects rather than mere road projects by integrating land-use and transport
  4. Adopt local area planning that allows for improved infrastructure and services for new and existing wards
Improving Energy Efficiency

BESCOM, the city’s electric utility, serves 8.9 million customers—almost the entire population of the city. However, the utility has been struggling to supply sufficient power to meet the 3400 megawatt peak demand. In 2015, due to technical challenges and dropping hydro reserves, the gap between demand and supply was almost 900 megawatts.

Bangalore consumes 40 million units every day, which is projected to increase to 74 million units by 2030. To meet this growing demand, Karnataka proposes to increase generation capacity by 22.5 gigawatts, of which 14.5 gigawatts will come from non-renewable energy sources. Distribution losses are at 14 percent, with additional transmission losses.

In order to reduce the demand-supply gap, the city needs to (1) identify and overcome information, technical and financial barriers to installation of rooftop solar PV, (2) focus on energy-efficiency and demand-side management via by promoting the use of energy efficient appliances and user education, (3) facilitate the procurement of renewables by large electricity consumers to reduce their dependence on diesel and other pollutants and (4) promote increased public participation in BESCOM’s decision making

Bangalore is at a critical juncture in its growth, where decisions today will be “locked-in” for the next 40-100 years. By addressing congestion that shifts the conversation from vehicles to people, managing urban expansion towards sustainable growth and implementing practices that provide clean, reliable energy for its people, Bangalore can move on to a path of improved livability and sustainability, and maintain its competitive status in the global economy.

This piece was originally published on wri-india.org. Learn more about our talk series on Unlock Bengaluru here.

Live from Mexico City: The Impact Today’s Cities Can Have on Tomorrow

Tue, 2015-10-13 04:51

This week, TheCityFix is live from Mexico City for the 11th International Congress on Sustainable Cities and Transport (“XI Congreso”). Línea 4 de Metrobús in Mexico City is shown. (Photo Credit: EMBARQ Mexico)

TheCityFix is coming to you live from Mexico City this week, where EMBARQ Mexico is hosting the 11th annual International Congress on Sustainable Cities and Transport (“XI Congreso”) today through Wednesday. The conference is aimed at helping cities work toward a sustainable future.

The first day of the conference was filled with workshops and sessions touching on a variety of issues, including urban mobility, building efficiency and urban development. Over the course of the day, three topics in particular were discussed at length: the impact that sustainable efforts can have on city dwellers, the importance of collaboration and the role that cities play in encouraging the rest of the world to implement change.

Impact on the Connection to Cities

Designing safer, more sustainable cities has an endless list of benefits. In addition to reducing traffic fatalities, improving air quality and implementing sustainable urban mobility, the community’s connection to the city is strengthened when smart choices are made.

When public spaces are reinvigorated, the community is given another place to connect with neighbors, appreciate the beauty of the area and celebrate the local culture. A city that is designed to put people first restores the ties between the area and those who live there. When talking about the impact of pedestrianization during the conference’s opening ceremony, Claudina de Gyves of the Pedestrian League (Liga Peatonal) noted, “it’s not just about going from one place to another, it’s about enjoying the city and enjoying the view.”

Collaboration is Key

Collaboration was discussed as a key to creating more sustainable cities. Participation from organizations, consultants, the private sector, governments and local politicians is vital for creating and implementing change around issues such as energy, urban planning, transportation, and building efficiency. Encouraging diversity in the decision making process is key. Cities should seek participation from people of all backgrounds, especially those impacted the most by the decisions – the community.

Facilitating the exchange of information and resources can help our cities of today become the leaders of tomorrow. By having a deep and thorough understanding of the current situation, city officials can uncover the best solutions that benefit the city as a whole.

The Role of Cities

With COP21 just around the corner, now is the time to work together to tackle issues such as climate change. Cities have a large role to play in this challenge, and with the help of local officials, can help set the stage for change at a broader scale. Initiatives such as the Compact of Mayors are bringing together city leaders from across the world to help take action at the urban level.

By leading the way in confronting the most pressing environmental issues of today, cities can show countries the tremendous impact that action can have. Successful programs and policies can be used to show national governments that these changes can and should be scaled up to a higher level.

Jordi Hereu, former mayor of Barcelona, eloquently stated the importance of cities in his keynote presentation: “the city creates hope and opportunities for humanity.”

Follow the conference online at #CiudadesyTransporte, @Congreso_CTS, @EMBARQMx, @WRIcities, TheCityFixMexico and watch the keynote sessions live online from Mexico City’s World Trade Center.

Live from Mexico City: The Impact Today’s Cities Can Have on Tomorrow

Tue, 2015-10-13 04:51
TheCityFix is coming to you live from Mexico City this week, where EMBARQ Mexico is hosting the 11th annual International Congress on Sustainable Cities and Transport (“XI Congreso”) today through Wednesday. The conference is aimed at helping cities work toward ...

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