A World Reimagined- Building A City With Autonomous Cars

Carter Boehm discusses how autonomous cars could rule our highways

 

 

Something strange is happening in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The shadow of an emerging city creeps over the landscape, and by passers remain mystified by this unknown change, whose presence they can now feel. This shadow, this growing city over the landscape has been called -Mcity. Mcty is a place where transportation consists solely of robotic vehicles that steer themselves without a human at the wheel. This new innovation- driverless cars, must navigate several miles of the urban grid using a complex reliance on software, wireless communications, and sensor technology to get to and from their point of destination. Sounds impressive right? Well Mcity is just a simulation.

The buildings, as Urban Land Institute reports, “ are just facades, and the inhabitants unexpectedly step off curbs are just mechanized mannequins. Jonathan Levine, a University of Michigan professor of architecture and Urban Planning told the magazine “ You wouldn’t mistake it for a movie set, let alone a real city.” A new study introduced this year, relayed that the Boston Consulting Group, major automakers such as General motors are already rushing to add gadgetry that would give these cars an ability to pilot themselves on a low speed, stop and start traffic- jam conditions or in single lanes on highways, or even to find parking spaces and pull into them without human help.

This technology could really change the way we see our landscapes, in the same way that the urban street car or interstate highway was instrumental in developing the suburban and urban landscape in the US. “I think it’s going to be the most important transformational change in 100 years,” says Randall K. Rowe, chairman of Green Courte Partners, an Illinois-based private equity real estate investment firm. “It’s going to change the way we get around, the way we transport goods, and how we look at land use.”

Many experts in varying fields believe that driverless cars could start a revolution in the way we live. In a previous post, I mentioned some of the propositions for a walkable city. Well, not everyone is in full agreement with the Mcity model. Many worry about safety first, even though autonomous vehicle advocates point to Google’s experience, in which its experimental vehicles have travelled for 1.7 million miles on regular road, and a total of 11 minor accidents to its name. There are other debates on the table which present the argument that autonomous cars can free our roads of distracted drivers, and this in turn could make our cities even much more walkable.

Whether a city is walkable or driverless, it is important to remember that technological advancements in society have the ability to impact our landscape in a way that could potentially benefit or drive us out of our living spaces.

To learn more about MCity and the reimagination of a city without drivers, visit this article by Urban Land Institute

How European Cities Can Densify

ULI Europe has undertaken a broad effort to investigate the issue of densification and how European cities can densify in ways that keep the focus on people and create livable, vibrant, and thriving places. While discussions of density in the popular media often focus on the rapidly urbanizing megacities of Asia and Africa, the question of how to develop land most efficiently without sacrificing quality of life or opportunity is as urgent in Europe as it is elsewhere, a new report argues.

The Density Dividend: Solutions for Growing and Shrinking Cities says that density is a tool applicable to all cities no matter where they are in their growth cycles. In Europe, cities vary widely in terms of population growth: a few are attracting newcomers at a steady clip, whereas many others are steadily losing population through out-migration or low birth rates, or both. Several cities—particularly those in the former Eastern Bloc—built isolating residential towers, sprawling single-use suburbs, and gated communities that are now proving to be liabilities.

“Density is an essential component of how cities manage and accommodate the ebb and flow of urban change,” write coauthors Greg Clark, senior fellow at ULI Europe, and Tim Moonen, director of intelligence at the Business of Cities Ltd. “Today, the drivers of population growth, economic change, new lifestyle demands, and sustainability mean Europe’s cities have little choice but to optimize their land use and reimagine density for people,”

The Density Dividend was recently discussed at a panel on density and sprawl held during the 2015 ULI Fall Meeting in San Francisco. Alice Breheny, global cohead of research at TH Real Estate, a key sponsor of the report, remarked that the rural-to-urban migration occurring elsewhere in the world “finished a long time ago” in Europe. Nonetheless, European cities still need to densify in order to attract consumers who are moving to cities not out of economic necessity, but simply because they want to.

“The population isn’t growing organically anymore, apart from in a handful of locations,” Breheny said during the panel. “The move of people, urbanization, and densification is more about choice or the global nature of the workforce now and how mobile that is.” (Watch a video of this session.)

Published in October, The Density Dividend is a follow-up to an earlier publication,Density: Drivers, Dividends, and Debates, which set out to define what good density looks like, address myths and misperceptions around density, and differentiate the well-intentioned but misguided attempts at densification of the past from current efforts.

To illustrate how density can help cities regardless of whether they are growing, shrinking, or slowly rebounding, the report offers case studies of six cities that are at different points in their evolutionary paths. It identifies challenges each city faces in terms of maximizing density’s potential to suit its needs as well as strategies that are working to meet demand in scalable and sustainable ways, accentuate assets to attract new investment, or consolidate in cases where land is vacant and underused. The report’s findings were informed by forums held in each of the cities where feedback from stakeholders was incorporated into the final report.

Here are some case studies

Strongly Growing Cities: London, Istanbul, Stockholm

London, Istanbul, and Stockholm are identified as cities that continue to attract new businesses and residents in search of opportunity. Their central dilemma is how to ramp up development in ways that are human in scale.

London and Stockholm are two growing cities that are densifying thoughtfully, according to the report. Long-range planning has been key to their efforts.

In London, the London Housing Strategy has created a clear blueprint for delivering 42,000 new homes within a year. The strategy divides the city into 18 housing zones, which will allow local authorities to assemble and package brownfield land for development and obtain planning permission in advance. A “housing bank” that provides loans and other banking services to developers and housing associations to fund new home construction and renovation has been created as part of the strategy.

To learn more about other densifying cities in Europe , view this article Urban Land Institute

Urban Design: The Importance of Vibrancy in Downtown Centers

Downtown centers of your favorite cities are not arbitrary placements on the map.   Aside from the obvious tangible aspects of your favorite downtown locations which offer: places to live, shopping, dining and other forms of entertainment, downtowns are created for one very important reason- vibrancy.

Before we explore vibrancy, these questions may come to mind- what is involved in the makings of a downtown center? What makes a downtown area more livable? These are the questions urban planners and designers attempt to answer. Some of the best downtown locations in the United States are vibrant not only because of their strategic planning, but also the mingling and engagement this planning introduces into a city.

What is vibrancy and why does it matter?

A Vibrant downtown center is one that offers social interaction and engagement to its residents. Most city planners describe a vibrant center as an environment which is walkable, liveable and offers the residents an opportunity to play.

View of downtown Denver, Colorado

To put this in further perspective, a well designed downtown center offers what Emily Talen in her 2012 book City Rules: How regulations Affect Urban Form describes as: “Good urbanism that covers generic features of vibrant places quite well”.  Talen further explains a well designed downtown center as a, “compact urban form that encourages pedestrian activity and minimizes environmental degradation; encourages social, economic, and land use diversity; . . . connects uses and functions; has a quality public realm that provides opportunities for interaction and exchange; offers equitable access to goods, services, and facilities; and protects environmental and human health.

One important feature of a vibrant downtown center is walkability.  Another important feature of a vibrant center is the installation and development of parks, waterfronts and places for play. These places have an impact on the vibrancy of a downtown area because they increase the opportunities for interaction between residents. Planners and designers also see an increase in vibrancy when an area features historical or cultural landmarks.

If vibrancy is so important to the growth and sustainability of our downtown regions, how can the state and planning bodies promote vibrancy to add to make the lives of residents sustainable?

Here are some examples of the ways we can promote vibrancy:

Encouraging the development of higher-density housing in urban and suburban neighborhoods.

Most people adhere to the increase in higher-density option due to the consequential increase in property value, higher rent, and an increase in tax base.

Gentrification of lower income neighborhoods is also common fear when considering this option. To create a positive living environment for residents, it is also important to provide sustainable housing for low income residents who work in customer service or labor jobs, because their proximity to the city job market is important in driving revenue and developing the workforce. This can be enforced through inclusionary zoning laws and density bonuses .

Staying away from suburban development prototypes.

Suburban prototypes imposed on urban centers have been linked to a decrease in urban density, which as mentioned above is a possible key to vibrancy. Placing more importance on walkability, planners need to veer away from designing adjacent surface parking, drive-through lanes, lack of sidewalks in downtown areas,  if they aim to build a city which is walkable and subsequently vibrant.

To learn more about Vibrancy in downtown areas, visit the this article on Urban land Magzine

Utah Residents Vote On State Land Preservation

The use of public land and how it can be preserved is often up for debate in the public in states like Utah and Montana where much of the land is still relatively en masse and unused by the public or private ventures.

Recently, in Utah, many Utahans are seeking a different approach to how land in the state is being used. In a survey taken by 53,000,  Utahans were prompted on what they envisioned for Utah’s future on topics ranging from education, agriculture to housing and the use of public lands.

The survey aimed to understand Utahans needs and hopes for the future. As a state housing 3 million residents, Utah’s numbers are set to increase to a 5.4 million residents by the year 2050. The state is now taking measures to ensure that Utah is a place people will envision for possible residency in the future. The question remains, how will land be used in the future? And will this land be developed sustainably?

Aerial of Salt Lake City, Utah

In describing the aptly named survey “Your Utah, Your Future”, Director Kathleen Clarke, director of Utah’s Public Land’s policy Coordinating Office, commented on the results, saying “Utahans recognize a need for energy. But I think they are saying we need to be thoughtful about development and about uses. We need to pay particular attention to watersheds.”

As Utahans voice their concerns on land development and preservation, the state government is following up with results on the survey, which indicated that 54 percent of Utahans want public lands managed to maintain and improve ecosystems and watersheds. Utahans also want their state government to focus on providing recreational access and foster jobs and economic development.

Landscape view of Moab, Utah

The preservation of public land for conservation reasons is also a primary finding in the survey. 29 percent of survey takers would like more Utah land to be set aside for preservation, with envisioned focus on energy development and the grazing of livestock.

Differing opinions also persist in the use of Utah’s land. 11 percent of the survey takers insisted on the use of more land for energy development and livestock grazing.

Land preservation continues to play an important role in public discourse as water shortages and inefficient conservation methods plague land development initiatives in the United States. It is important to note that preserving contiguous natural lands is important to sustain the environment.

To learn more about the Utahn Survey on land preservation, click here