Innovation News July 2013

TRANSFORMING NEW YORK INTO A DIGITAL CITY
In a recent interview, Rachel Haot, New York City’s Chief Digital Officer, talks about the city’s famework and roadmap to success in becoming a digital city and its creation of a digital platform to leverage local innovation and creativity.   

PERCEPTIONS OF NEIGHBOURHOOD SAFETY
A new paper published at PLOS ONE, an online journal, outlines a comparison tool using Google Street View Maps to identify unseen triggers of the perceptions of place. Using images from Boston, New York and the Austrian Cities of Salzburg and Linz, researchers found that relatively cost-effective interventions can impact how safe people feel in a neighbourhood.  

REINVENTING THE HIGHWAY   
A five step plan for modernizing European highways is attracting attention from civic engineers.  The Smart Highway plan developed by Dutch designer, Daan Roosegaarde, proposes embedding roads with technology to improve safety. 

GOOGLE ANALYTICS FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT
A new startup, called Revelstone, has developed new Compass software that enables municipalities to track key metrics related to police, fire, sanitation and roads services to track operating performance.  The software assists local governments to determine how they are doing, what can be improved and what can be learned from other jurisdictions.  
 
EPA STORMWATER CALCULATOR 
A new National Stormwater Calculator has been released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to assist property owners, land developers, landscapers and urban planners to make better decisions about stormwater runoff and protection of local waterways.  The calculator is a desktop application that estimates runoff from a specific site under various soil, land cover and weather scenarios as input to the development of remedial measures.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS   
IMPROVING PUBLIC SPACE 
Successful cities have been recognized for attractive, interesting and healthy public spaces; however, municipalities generally, may struggle with the definition of the various forms of public space and citizen input to the design of these areas. The Project for Public Spaces (PPS) has released a handbook on Placemaking and the Future of Cities,which set outs some principles for attractive, vibrant public spaces.
    
HIGHER QUALITY URBAN PLACES
Common urban elements such as streets, parks and plazas offer opportunities to provide relief from high density living and the pace of urban life. The concept of “complete streets” has been an important approach to view the street from broad, multi-use perspectives and urban squares can be adapted to local climates and cultures.  Learn more about considerations for creating better public spaces.    

TACKLING URBAN SPRAWL    
Earlier this year, the City of Cape Town hosted a meeting of local government officials, urban developers, planners and academics to discuss urban sprawl and a way forward to sustainable spatial urban growth. A recent SustainableCitiesCollective article highlights the conclusions of the discussion. 

THE IMPACTS OF ABANDONED RETAIL PROPERTY     
As shopping in enclosed malls decreases, some anchor retailers are being forced to close store locations, often leading to abandoned malls and unproductive parking space. As enclosed malls, strip malls and big box stores decline, municipalities are finding ways through redevelopment incentives and  performance bonds to manage closure impacts.  
    
CITIES LEADING THE GREEN BUILDING REVOLUTION
An infographic has been developed that compares the efforts of six leading world cities related to building green and reducing CO2 emissions. Learn more about the results of their activities. 

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS CREATIVE TRANSIT FUNDING
In 2004, the Rochester-Genessee Regional Transportation Authority faced a $4.5 million deficit and poor performance.  By 2011, the transit system had been transformed through a “private sector mindset” that resulted in lower fares and an improved level of service.
  
DESIGNING SUCCESSFUL MOBILE APPS FOR COUNCILS 
Increasingly, municipal governments are expected to ensure that services meet user needs and the development of mobile apps is one example of how local governments are responding to this demand.  Learn more about some examples of innovative municipal apps.  
 
ELDERLY-CENTRIC CITIES
While current discussion of urban design seems focused on the expectations of Millennials, the largest urban population cohort is people between 30 and 64 years of age, who will continue to age in urban areas. More sensitive design perspectives for new development and redevelopment projects can help meet the future needs of elderly in cities.      

STRATEGIES FOR ABANDONED GAS STATIONS
North American communities have witnessed a decline in the numbers of gas station retailers, given both market forces and regulatory policy.   The costs of remediation of these sites often means that they remain abandoned; however, there are viable opportunities for reuse of these sites.    
 
APPLYING BID DATA TO VACANT PROPERTY    
The problem of vacant properties is very real for cities like Detroit, Chicago and Philadelphia and communities beyond as a result of widespread housing foreclosures.  These properties have ended up in the hands of cities and banks for disposal to owners that can use them. The Cook County Land Bank Authority is now working on a tool that can process data on vacant properties to determine which are the best choices for redevelopment.      
 
OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
PERSPECTIVES ON URBAN DENSITY 
A building in Changsha, Hunan in China, called “Sky City,” is a pre-fabricated  structure that is set to break ground.  It is expected to take six months to complete and when constructed to its planned height of 220 storeys, it will be the tallest building in the world. The community and self-sufficiency issues related to this structure, raise questions about a “Goldilocks density.”  
      
GREEN BUILDING STANDARDS AND BEHAVIOR
A study by transportation expert Reid Ewing (University of Utah), finds that neighbourhood development designed and built to LEED standards, will have significantly lower rates of driving than the average development in the same metropolitan area.  The most urban, centrally located projects demonstrated the highest levels of walking and transit use.     

SUSTAINABLE IDEAS TO TRANSFORM CITIES    
Sustainia 100 is a Danish annual catalogue that contains a range of available sustainability solutions. Catalogue categories include transportation and buildings, as well as ten ideas to transform cities.  

URBAN DESIGN AND INTELLIGENT VEHICLES 
Do fully automated highway networks and intelligent vehicle systems offer more efficient and safer traffic volumes?  Learn more about some benefits of electronic highways and some perspectives on their integration with walkable urban environments.    
 
URBAN VISIONISTAS
Civic entrepreneurs or “urban visionistas” refers to extraordinary citizens who are motivated by visions that others may not see.  While there are many examples of their success, local government leaders need to ensure that the plans of visonistas are affordable, compliant with regulations and understandable by the broader community. 

NYC TACKLES FINAL RECYCLING FRONTIER 
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is planning to roll out a new composting plan that seeks to divert some of the 100,000 tons of food scraps generated annually, from landfill sites. A pilot project will be tested in some neighbourhoods in order to develop a city-wide composting plan.

SUPPORTIVE HOUSING FOR LOW INCOME SENIORS
Projects are emerging in various urban communities to help senior citizens in a range of settings from independent living to continuing care communities, that are better integrated in order to overcome the isolation that more traditional elderly facilities tend to exhibit. Learn more about some unique projects in Paris, Los Angeles and Chicago.   

NEW CITY COMPARISON TOOL
A new interactive mapping tool developed in partnership with geospatial firm Esri, enables comparisons of population, road congestion, land use and other factors across 16 cities.

STANDARDS FOR TRANSIT-ORIENTED DEVELOPMENT
A new tool for measuring transit-oriented development (TOD) quality has recently been developed by the U.S. Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP). The tool has potential in enabling the creation of best practice development designs.

THE VIABILITY OF ECONOMIC CLUSTERS        
The U.S. Economic Development and Small Business administrations have funded more than 50 pilot economic cluster projects across the U.S. The U.S. Small Business Association (SBA) has examined the first two years of 10 cluster pilots to assess performance.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS CREATIVE LOCAL GOVERNMENTS
The Bloomberg Philanthropies Mayors Challenge provides opportunities to mayors across the U.S. to compete in developing local innovations. Similarly in the UK, the Nesta innovation foundation promotes innovative approaches in local councils. Winning local governments in each case, receive funding awards. Learn more about these efforts to pioneer change.

THE URBAN COMMONS
A neighbourhood “commons” can include a city park, public facilities, public squares, streets or sidewalks or other urban places of shared interest. At a global scale, the phrase “global commons” has come to mean oceans, the atmosphere and significant ecosystems, which tend to be subject to international treaties or conventions and at a national scale there are comparable areas governed by laws at specific levels of government. A recent  U.S. NRDC article contains some interesting perspectives on the urban commons.

WORLD’S MOST INVENTIVE CITIES
The OECD tracks patent applications for more than 250 cities around the world under the Patent Cooperation Treaty. The world’s fifteen most inventive cities have been identified based on the total number of patent applications for every 10,000 residents in a metropolitan area.

PERCEPTIONS OF SMARTER CITIES
Urban leaders and professionals are searching for and developing ways to apply technology to the operation of cities and the delivery of community services. A recent article by an IBM professional begins a conversation on a shared understanding of smarter cites and some common misconceptions about them.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS          
 
VANCOUVER DATA ANAYLTICS FIGHTS CRIME
The City of Vancouver Police Department is making efforts to stay ahead of law breakers by engaging crime on a proactive basis. Moving away from traditional policing models through the use of data analytics software and geospatial mapping, the police services has been able to see where crime is headed and to prevent it before it can occur.

MASTER PLANNING
A recent Architects Newspaper article examines the state of master planning in larger U.S. cities as they cope with changing economies, environmental issues and challenges to traditional growth models. Learn more about these planning initiatives and their focus on local ecology, new infrastructure technology, more diversified transportation networks and changing demographics. 

EDMONTON UNVEILS SMART BUS TECHNOLOGY 
The City of Edmonton Transit System recently unveiled a new Smart Bus technology that offers real-time bus schedules, next stop announcements and a reader board display of city streets and avenues. Buses feature mobile data terminals, wireless communications and direct interaction with the transit control centre. 

SMART TECH WATER MANAGEMENT 
The City of South Bend, Indiana has used the IBM Intelligent Operations Center(IOC) dashboard since 2011 to view data aggregated from across city agencies. The results have been a 23% reduction in  wet weather wastewater overflows, a reduction in clogged sewers and avoidance of a $120 million  expenditure in related infrastructure upgrades.

THE EFFECTIVENESS OF CONGESTION PRICING  
Gothenburg, Sweden is the fourth European city to introduce congestion pricing, using a structure that reflects Stockholm’s system. Learn more about the operation of the system and the reactions to it.

THE TRUE COSTS OF CONGESTION
A C.D. Howe Institute Report, "Cars, Congestion and Costs: A New Approach to Evaluating Government Infrastructure Investment", was released on July 11. The report assesses the social and economic costs of congestion in Canada’s cities, that need to be considered in infrastructure investments.

VANCOUVER PARK BOARD LOCAL FOOD PLAN 
The Vancouver Park Board has issued a new Local Food Action Plan that sets out priority areas and actions to increase local food assets in the city’s parks and recreation facilities. The plan focuses on 55 strategic actions to be completed through the next five years.

THE REBIRTH OF THE MALL   
The owners of the mostly vacant Honeydale Mall in the west end of the City of Toronto, are proposing to modernize the “dead mall” space to create a mixed-use community around a new and improved retail space. The new design anticipates residential and green space on the 16 acres site and a more walkable environment.  

“URBANISM WITHOUT EFFORT” 
In his new book "Urbanism Without Effort", Chuck Wolfe focuses on the contention that planners are overly concerned with imposing planning structure on cities, at the expense of examining the interactions of city residents to identify the places where people want to be.

BEST PERFORMING U.S. CITIES
A recent Atlantic Cities article reviews a new report by the Milken Institute that examines why some cities and metros grow faster and better than others. The study’s “Best-Performing Cities Index” reflects “outcomes-based” measures of economic output.

TRACKING INNOVATION IN URBAN AREAS
Some recent research from M.I.T. concludes that productivity and innovation in urban areas grow at about the same rate as population growth. This is a reflection of the fact that urban density tends to increase both opportunities for personal interaction and exposure to diverse ideas. The research determined that the higher a city’s "social-tie density", the higher the level of its productivity and patents awarded.

VIENNA’S GREENER TRANSIT    
The City of Vienna is migrating its bus fleet currently powered by liquefied petroleum gas, to a new kind of electric bus that can run unplugged, go anywhere and recharge its batteries using older overhead tram power lines. While the individual buses are more expensive, the city has realized savings from not having to build new fleet infrastructure.

SOME TOP INNOVATIONS FOR MUNICIPAL LEADERS
NYU’s Wagner Graduate School of Public Service has released a study, "Innovation and the City", that assesses fifteen innovations that can improve the quality of urban life. 

HOW WILL DRIVERLESS CARS IMPACT CITIES?
As major automakers continue to develop self-driving vehicles, questions are being raised on the extent of their impacts on the city of the future. With the driverless car expected to become a reality within the next decade, planners and engineers are starting to grapple with the impacts on urban spaces and systems.    

SPAIN’S FIRST SMART CITY
The Smartcity M├ílaga pilot project in Spain, integrates a wide range of technologies into the city’s electricity distribution system network to enable cost savings and evolution to greater sustainability. With the completion of the first phase of its new energy management model, the city will now deploy and test new technologies and equipment and evaluation systems for residential and large energy consumers.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
A U.S. TEMPLATE FOR A THIRD MILLENIUM CITY
With the U.S. population projected over the next 40 years to grow by 36 per cent to 438 million people from the current level of 322 million, new urban environments will be necessary. Learn more about the tension between low density suburbs and Manhattan-like environments, the need to accommodate the projected demand for 45 million new homes and the quality of life and sustainability considerations that will influence future urban form.

CUTTING EDGE MAPPING TOOL 
OpenStreetMap, a mapping tool supported by amateur cartographers and developers from around the world, stands apart from Google Maps based on its use of open data. The global project was launched in 2004 and since that time has been developed to incorporate a super-fast map editor that provides users high quality tools to create and edit maps from around the world.

BOSTON FED LAUNCHES WORKING CITIES CHALLENGE
The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston has initiated the Working Cities Challenge to improve public-private cooperation and collaboration in smaller cities and to support economic development projects that help improve quality of life for low-income families.

CITY OF OTTAWA OPEN DATA
The City of Ottawa Open Data initiative is committed to improving citizen engagement and enhancing transparency and accountability through public access to city data. Visit http://www.apps4ottawa.ca/en/apps for more information.

NEW CALGARY PARKING METER TECHNOLOGY 
Parking meter payment in Edmonton will be possible using credit cards and cellphones, as the city works to install a new high-tech parking system from Calgary. The ParkPlus system features digital terminals and vehicles mounted with cameras that can read license plates.

REGINA PLANS TO TACKLE HIGH PENSION DEFICIT 
Regina city officials have developed a plan to tackle their employee pension plan deficit that is approaching $300 million. The proposed changes that include new special employee and employer payments and no benefit increases will require a number of approvals.

THE 21ST CENTURY CITY HALL
New technology platforms have changed perceptions of civic duty and how citizens engage with government and new technology tools enable more creative interaction with city administrations. Learn more about five platforms that reflect these developments.

THE FUTURE OF FOOD SECURITY     
The Rockefeller Foundation, which has a record of addressing the linkages between food and population, is now focused on the specific linkages between cities and agriculture. The Foundation has identified three predominant trends that relate to food security and resiliency.  

DENVER INTRODUCES INNOVATION ACADEMY 
The Mayor of Denver has introduced the Peak Academy, the city’s first innovation school. City employees receive training to develop new, cost effective service delivery ideas with the goal of creating a culture of innovation in the city administration.

CHICAGO INCLUDES ENERGY COSTS IN HOME LISTINGS
Chicago is the first U.S. city to include energy costs in home listings on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). The program, developed in partnership with CNT Energy and Midwest Real Estate Data, is designed to help homeowners make more informed purchasing decisions.

ASSESSING SINGAPORE’S URBAN MOBILITY MODEL
A chapter in a book entitled, “Megacity Mobility Culture: How Cities Move on in a Diverse World,” examines Singapore’s urban transport policy and practices. While Singapore has implemented effective, but unpopular urban transport policies to secure efficient traffic movement, meeting this objective has come at the expense of livability considerations and the development of transit alternatives.  

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS SURVEY POINTS THE WAY TO LOCAL GOVERNMENT IMPROVEMENTS
A recent GovDelivery survey of over 400 U.S. state, county and city government organizations identified key trends to support operational efficiency, including better collaboration, improved customer service through citizen engagement and use of mobile devices. Learn more about these trends and related priorities.

SMART CITY INITIATIVES
Priority outcomes for cities such as economic growth and social well-being are the products of integrated and aligned city programs and systems that operate in a local government corporate structure. The issue is one of identifying what cities should do what do to secure "smarter city" alignment through a range of service delivery approaches, including contracted services.

ALGORITHMS AND LAW ENFORCEMENT
Crush (“Criminal Reduction Utilizing Statistical History”) policing, a technique used by criminologists using IBM predictive analytics software, is being used by police services across the globe. The use of algorithms in policing and in other broadly based applications, enables processing of huge quantities of data, but their use is not without concerns related to privacy, which uses the data and how it is being interpreted.

THE TOP URBAN PLANNING WEBSITES FOR 2013  
The Grid identified a range of urban planning related websites that support planning professionals. View the top websites from around the world that offer information and urban planning resources. 

LOCAL GOVERNMENT DIGITAL INNOVATION
Innovation is the key word for local governments and many municipalities have stepped up to develop technology platforms and applications to improved service delivery and public engagement. View some leading examples of digital innovation.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS GLOBALLY FLUENT METROS
A Brookings Institution report, "The 10 Traits of Globally Fluent Metro Areas", defines global fluency as the level of global understanding, competence, practice and reach that a metro demonstrates in meeting its economic objectives. The report assesses key traits associated with cities that have achieved global success.

QUANTIFYING CITIES
Technology analysts have observed the emergence of applications that enable citizens to monitor the operation of their cities and communities. Civic Insight in New Orleans has partnered with the city to monitor progress on addressing urban blight and OpenCounter helps businesses with local government permitting processes. Learn more about smarter cities and citizens and using data to inform local government performance.

NEW FOODPRINT CALCULATOR      
A new “Foodprint Calculator" helps cities to understand where their food comes from, how it is produced and the energy sources, food waste and packaging involved. The City of Oxford (population 150,000) is the first in the world to be “foodprinted” with some interesting results.

A SUSTAINABLE CITY WITH CARS AND LOW DENSITY?   
A new paper to be published in the Journal of Planning and Development, proposes a radical concept that would enable people to have suburbs and their cars and sustainable cities as well. Small city clusters built around town centres with stores, offices, schools and parks would be served by a “light” road network (walking, biking and tiny cars) and a “heavy” road network to carry conventional vehicles on out of town commutes.

GLOBAL CITIES INITIATIVE
In late June, Brookings Institution Vice President, Bruce Katz, spoke at a Denver meeting convening the Globe Cities Initiative to collaborate on metropolitan leadership in the world economy and related actions that metro leaders can take. Read about Katz’s perspectives on the next economy.

CITY CONTRACTS OUT FOR ALL PUBLIC SERVICES
Centennial Colorado (a suburb of Denver), a city of 100,000 people, has a policy of contracting with outside providers of all public services, unless there is a demonstrable, quantifiable advantage to providing services in-house. The Reason Foundation has published an interview with Centennial’s Mayor and City Manager on the city’s approach.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

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