Smart Cities

Technological advancements have the potential to improve the livability and ease of our urban spaces. Through thoughtful urban planning, technological application, and policy, we have the potential to more effectively design our cities around people. This area of study will explore how we should be thinking about and planning our cities for human-centric outcomes.

Pedestrian zones

In 2009, the New York Department of Transportation famously shut down Times Square to cars in response to an increase in traffic crashes. While noteworthy, pedestrian plazas and car free zones have been a tool in the planning arsenal for years. From historic Venice to Las Vegas, policy makers and planners have tested the viability of reallocating street space from cars to pedestrians and economic activities. While this concept has long been of interest, it is not always politically popular. It can be challenging to reallocate space from automobiles to other uses.

COVID-19, however, has brought a resurgence in interest in pedestrian plazas and car-free streets or zones. Also, new lighter forms of micromobility have opened up the possibility of different types of transportation in more automobile zones. The Commission seeks to explore the following questions within this sub-topic:

  • What is the economic value of car free zones or pedestrian plazas? What key factors are most critical in evaluating if these types of policies are economically valuable for specific projects and cities?
  • When designing and implementing a car free zone or pedestrian plaza, what are key factors to consider? How should policy makers manage or consider these factors?
  • How does micromobility fit into a car free zone and does this change the political calculation?
  • How do people who live and work in these areas access private vehicles?

Parking and curbs

Since the introduction of cars, policy makers and developers been creating places to store them. Policies such as parking minimums, maximums, or explicit curb allocation approaches have sought to meet this need. In recent years, needs have shifted. Urban residents and businesses are now seeking ways to leverage curb or parking spaces for ride-hail, food delivery, or e-commerce. Others are interested in repurposing underutilized parking spaces for housing or additional development. For the sub-topic, the Commission will explore the following questions:

  • What are the current global trends around parking? Around the utilization of curb space or pick-up and drop-off areas?
  • Who is competing for the curb or parking spaces? How are these resources being allocated? How should they be priced or managed?
  • What policies or legislation is currently supporting or hindering our ability to reach our goals?

Smart growth

Over the past century many cities have been designed around the automobile and suburban ideals. This section seeks to look across the next century to explore what our cities should look like and how we want to get there, asking the following questions:

  • How should we consider growth and density in our cities over the next 100 years? What should urban planners be advocating for?
  • How will climate change shift our urban environments? How can we become more resilient?
  • How can we think about the future of the intersection of land use and mobility?