Innovation News August 2012

SMART CITY PLATFORMS
Many cities are adopting the concept of the city as a platform, or a hyper-connected technology environment that focuses on the flexibility and openness of the real-time web.  Open data polices are in place worldwide and governments are sharing records and documents to enable the creation of apps that can be shared with others.  Local governments are turning over problems to civic hackers who can explore alternative approaches to delivering services.  Learn more about key urban data platforms and the advent of “civic gamification” to increase urban engagement.

RENEWING INDUSTRIAL LANDSCAPES
Post-industrial sites are being transformed from toxic, abandoned areas to vibrant new event and green spaces that reflect the best in public design.  From a new cultural centre, C-mine Square, in Ghent, Belgium to a coal mine redeveloped to parkland in North Sydney, Australia and a former steel plant converted to a band shell in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, these newly designed spaces also offer opportunities to preserve historical structures.

BARCELONA’S CITY PROTOCOL
In late July, academics and community leaders gathered in Barcelona to establish the City Protocol, a framework of principles, guidelines and best practices for the smart cities movement.  Organizers sought to duplicate the Internet Protocol which sets out common standards and language for computer systems on the Internet.  The Barcelona initiative will lead to a common blueprint for the application of technology for efficient and sustainable cities around the world.

HOMEOWNERSHIP AND CIVIC ENGAGEMENT
A new study in a coming issue of the Urban Affairs Review, will examine the question, “Does homeownership really encourage civic engagement?” Based on data collected from low and mid-income homeowners and renters over four years, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researchers have found that owning a home can encourage civic and neighbourhood engagement.

WORLD CITIES CULTURE REPORT
The World Cities Culture Report 2012 explores the culture of twelve of the world’s most important cities using 60 measures of cultural activity. It also assesses the individual cultural strengths of each city and outlines the policies that have shaped culture in each place.

2012 AMO P.J. MARSHALL AWARDS
Ontario municipal leadership in innovation was recognized at the recent 2012 AMO Conference in Ottawa, with the 2012 P.J. Marshall Awards.  Certificates of Merit were awarded to the City of Brampton for its innovative use of technology to improve fire response times and to the City of Hamilton for enhancements to the Woodward Wastewater Treatment Plant that will produce natural gas for use in the city’s fleet and in the local grid.  This year’s Plaque Award went to Waterloo Region and seven other municipal transit system partners for the Transit Inventory Management Services procurement initiative.

THE ROLE OF LIGHT RAIL TRANSIT SYSTEMS
Transit researchers Gregory Thompson and Jeffrey Brown of Florida State University recently examined specific light rail transit systems to identify key factors of success.  Since 1981 a dozen U.S. cities have built light rail transit lines and in five of these cities, including Dallas, Portland, Sacramento, Salt Lake City and San Diego, light rail now accounts for at least 30 percent of all transit ridership. Learn more about the characteristics of these systems that attract substantial ridership.

VANCOUVER MUNICIPAL FLEET THE GREENEST IN CANADA
With the addition of 13 new Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric vehicles, the City of Vancouver now has the greenest municipal fleet in the country. The recent fleet purchase is expected to save the city $20,800 annually in fuel and maintenance costs and reduce GHGs by 29,000 kilograms per year.  The city has six vehicle charging stations and these will expand to 67 for use at home or work by the end of 2013.

MOBILE APP DEVELOPMENT TIPS FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT
If your municipality is building an official mobile app and needs some guidance, IT experts from two California cities have some advice for smart phone app development.  Local governments are advised to assess what devices residents are using to access online services and to plan around those statistics.

THE FUTURE OF SUBURBIA
Pundits, academics and journalists have described the demise of suburbia and the resurgence of growth in cities, propelled by a mass migration of young people from the suburbs to higher density accommodation in the cities. A recent Forbes magazine article challenges recent U.S. Census Bureau data and growth assumptions that support this trend and contends that an historically weak economy has boosted the city share of population growth and that there are some basic reasons not to write off suburbia.

LESSONS OF LOCAL ECONOMIES
As many U.S. local governments begin to recover from the Great Recession, it is instructive to assess the different community experiences, those of areas that have sustained or increased growth and those who suffered major job loss.  Learn more  about some critical lessons based on interviews with local government and community officials from metropolitan areas and “micropolitan” cities.

PARTICIPATORY BUDGETING
Participatory Budgeting (PB), initiated in Porto Alegre, Brazil in 1989, is a multi-stage process that starts with canvassing ideas from citizens on topics ranging from transportation, parks, schools and public safety to environmental improvements.  Subsequently, a group of delegates is selected to reduce the ideas to a few projects that could be implemented, as a basis for a citizen vote.  While the process has been attempted in New York and Chicago, it is not yet clear whether there will a wider application.

A NEW MODEL FOR METROPOLITAN LEADERSHIP
While personal networks are proven vehicles for career building, they also have the potential to lead to more sustainable, livable metropolitan areas and other communities. While current metro networks are larger, less formal and more diverse in terms of their composition and geographic reach, they share important characteristics for success and are focused on collaboration and not on competition.

TECHNOLOGY PLANS FOR CITIES
Technology is now seen, alongside transportation and utility systems, as critical to economic growth. Communities that integrate technologies into their strategies and plans are very likely to have an edge over those that don’t, to foster closer local relationships and better coordinate service delivery.  Learn more about the technology planning activities and their benefits.

LONDON’S BEDZED ECO-VILLAGE
BedZED located in London, UK, south of the city’s Mall, is the country’s first large scale mixed use sustainable community, consisting of 100 homes, office space for 100 workers and community facilities. Residents in BedZED have a level of energy use 77 percent lower than the local average, electricity use 45 percent lower, water consumption 58 percent lower, a driving rate 64 percent lower than the national average and recycling of 60 percent of waste. The site also has car share and electrical vehicles facilities and programs for sustainable food.

URBAN FORM AND SUSTAINABILITY
Research published  in the spring issue of the Journal of the American Planning Association has found that urban form may have very little impact on energy use and other sustainability measures.  Using computer models, researchers examined three British metropolitan areas and imposed urban forms of compaction, dispersal and expansion over a 30 year period and evaluated these using 26 different measures of sustainability.  The UK researchers concluded that limiting development to high density urban locations could significantly increase land and housing costs and the costs of doing business and that efforts could be better focused on automobile technology and energy efficiency in buildings.

FACTORS AFFECTING COMMUNITY WALKABILITY
U.S. architect Steve Mouzon, who operates the Original Green blog on sustainable places and buildings, contends that “comfortable walking distance” is not constant but variable and that distances that people are willing to walk depends on the quality of the environment along the route, or “walk appeal.

NEW BEIJING CROWDSOURCING WEBSITE
A new crowdsourcing website developed by the Beijing Transport Research Centre and the World Bank is being tested to help transportation planners in the municipal government to understand how roads and sidewalks are being used, as a basis for identifying where improvements may be needed.  Members of the public can submit a mini report on issues related to walking or cycling infrastructure via the web, social media or smartphone apps an the reports are the mapped for further review.    

Contact

Bruce McLeod
OMKN Coordinator

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