Key questions for Smart and Future Cities

1.         The nature of transaction
The principal purpose of cities is to facilitate human interaction and, as a result, socio-economic transaction. Cities are transaction machines. With the rise of online transaction, what will be the role/nature of physical transaction? How will the physical and online worlds interact to create a “digital urbanism”?

2.         The nature of movement
In the 20th century, cities have grown at low densities, occupying ever larger spatial footprints. To overcome such distances, cities became movement machines. This led to the erosion of the street (in which movement and transaction both occurred) and its replacement by a twin system of highways and neighbourhoods: the separation of movement from “place”: the parcelisation of the city. And, with this came social isolation, sedentary lifestyles and obesity. There was a shift in the “fundamental urban paradigm” away from transaction and towards movement.

More recently, some cities have attempted to turn this tide with a greater focus on walking and cycling as principal movement modes – a more local focus geared towards the creation of “place”.

What are the future trends in urban movement?

3.         The look and feel of cities
What will the physical-spatial signature of cities be? This is less a question of high-rise v low rise but more about high-density v low density. Especially about high-speed, divisive motorway (needed to connect low-density cities) or mixed-mode boulevard (possible if densities are great enough)?

What are the most effective street patterns? Land use arrangements? Transport mixes? What will future cities look like?

4.         The modelling of urban performance
We have witnessed an institutional failure of international urban planning to create “place”: to create social vitality as well as economic success. Successes are exceptions to the rule. There is a lack of system-wide urban performance modelling: social, economic and environmental. Instead, there has been a historic focus on traffic modelling alone, principally private vehicle modelling. Cities have been planned with these models and have grown to be dominated by private vehicles.

What is the future of urban performance modelling? First, mixed-mode traffic modelling, including walking, cycling and public transport? Second, social, economic and environmental modelling?

How will developments in sensing permit more robust urban modelling systems?

How can changes in the fundamental urban paradigm (from movement to transaction) inspire new modelling approaches?

What are the key societal/transactional objectives around which urban performance models should be developed?

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