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4 ways cities will dramatically change in the future ' and how we can prepare

Published by Business Insider on Tue, 08 Dec 2015

Cities are the defining political entity of this century. But what makes cities moveahead'At the most fundamental level, mobility makes urban activitypossible. Creating and sustaining a transportation network is one of the oldest and most important functions of government, opening the doors to commerce and humaninteraction.Technology is another force that is deeply intertwined with the evolution of urban environments. It's leading cities to more dynamic transportation systems where people shift seamlessly between multiple modes of transport, including bicycle, pedestrian, automobile, and rail.Lets remember that the ultimate goal of cities is to facilitate our liveshome, work andplayin a coherent way, so that moving from place to place is easy, equitable andenjoyable. As weve seen throughout history, theres a lot of room for innovation withinthis framework.The National League of Cities' new report, City of the Future: Mobility & Technology, examines current transportationtrends to forecast future developments in the urban environment. We delved into thetransportation plans from the 50 largest cities as well as the largest cities in each state.What we found is a widening gap between where technology is rapidly taking us andwhere cities are planning to go. Only 6%of cities transportation plansconsider the potential effect of driverless technology. Just 3%of these plans lookat companies like Uber and Lyfteven though they operate in 60 of the 68 markets.Some 50%of the plans contain explicit recommendations for new highwayconstruction, while only 12% clearly state no new highways are planned.This doesnt necessarily align with what people increasingly want, and reflects in manyways the disruptive speed at which recent technologies have come online. As citiescreate new plans or refresh their existing ones, here are four critical areas they must consider:1. Demographic and workforce trends willimpact mobility in citiesMajor urban areas will continue to grow.Baby boomers will retire and younger generations will dominate theworkforce. Commuting patterns will change, with the rush hour beingdispersed over longer time periods.2. How we pay for infrastructure will changeWe see a nationalinfrastructure bank most likely being established. State infrastructure bankshave already been growing at a rapid pace and we expect that to only continue.The primary take-away is that the continued growth in public/private financingoptions will change the way many transportation projects are evaluated.3. Public and private mobility systems will grow in the comingyearsWe will start to see public transit go driverless. We are already seeing this in limited runs now in multiple cities in Switzerland, Greece, TheNetherlands, and China.Cities will also see a reduction in single occupancy vehicles,enabling two competing trends: cities redeveloping more densely and somemetros sprawling further. Policy choices matter greatly here. Additionally, therewill be greater coordination between the public sector and private companies tocreate truly comprehensive mobility systems.4. New modes of transportation will become availableFor the first time ingenerations, we will truly see newways to around. Driverless technology, first widely deployed in fleet vehicles and buses, willgreatly impact cities.What the future looks likeThe impacts of these trends will be felt in both small and large citiesthe outcomes,though, may very well be different. Larger cities will gain added development potential intheir downtowns as roads are recaptured for people. In smaller cities, self-drivingtechnology may greatly impact industries like trucking and the companies that have grown around it.Furthermore, when cars drive themselves, the reductions in traffic fineswill affect smaller communities relying more on this revenue stream. Everywhere,though, we will see increased safety outcomes, reduced traffic, and fewertraffic fatalities.In recent years, biking has been on the uptick in cities throughout the US. But in order to reach criticalmass, technology will need to help get more people on two wheels.Electric assist technology will likely make bike commuting more attractive.High speed rail systems willalso be a reality in the east and west coast travel corridors. This will impacttransportation networks throughout California, and the proposed enhanced Amtrak Acela line will create positive impacts throughout the Washington-Boston corridor.Finally, we will see several new transportation options become mainstream.Entrepreneurs of all stripes are figuringout new ways (and old waysreimagined) to move people around. Whether that meansurban gondolas, pods, foldablecars, or even a hyperloop, we can safely assume that there will be something in thecoming decades that greatly impacts cityscapes in ways that are currently unimaginable.Much of the change in how we get around can be attributed to peoples' behavioralevolution. Travelers no longer think of themselves as users of a transportation network.Instead, an app-oriented mindset has led to greater expectations of personalized services. People want to be able to know instantly, for example, how to get from Point A to Point B.The rapid change ahead will be highly impacted by technology, and the lessons of thepast tell us that while we can anticipate and make predictions, the future is farfrom certain. We can guarantee, though, that we should all buckle up and hold on,because it will be an interesting ride.Brooks Rainwater is the Director of the City Solutions and Applied Research Center at theNational League of Cities.SEE ALSO:Tech employees are fleeing Silicon Valley with their riches and making other cities more expensive to live inJoin the conversation about this storyNOW WATCH: This futuristic floating city will produce zero waste and house 7,000 residents
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