Signing off

Dear readers, First, I want to thank you for reading my contributions to the Report on Mobility over the last 2 years. It’s sometimes strange to sit in a room by oneself and write to a faceless, unknown audience. And at the same time the ability to do so reflects the communication- and information-rich world in which we live today whose novelty and strangeness have long since disappeared.

The opportunity presented by new media to spread ideas and engage ever-broadening audiences is being leveraged by Living Labs Global and its partners to create a world that is both more efficient and more pleasant to experience. I admire this mission and will carry it with me throughout my future in the practice of planning. As I write this final signing-off post, I wanted to reflect on a few of the big ideas of the past couple years.

Take advantage of new technology; don’t abandon traditional methods

There’s no doubt that new communications technologies have helped people with constrained time budgets who are geographically distance communicate more often and more efficiently. These same technologies are helping localities engage their citizenry in new ways; politicians are more in touch with their constituents. That said, we have to keep in mind that these advances are complements to, not replacements for, face-to-face collaboration and discussion.

Sharing and collaboration

Car sharing, bike sharing, even tool sharing have flourished in the last few years. Perhaps as a result of the openness of the online virtual world, people have become more comfortable sharing their personal things – and companies like Relay Rides are giving them financial incentives to be interested, too. The public sector has also encouraged sharing of cars and bikes, highlighting the huge efficiencies to be achieved by pooling resources.

Planners as stewards of real-time information

Smart cities, intelligent cities, city 2.0: whatever you call it, the way we manage our cities is changing. Real-time data are becoming more and more available whether it’s through mining cell phone location for assess traffic conditions, monitoring bus on-time performance, or remote security and surveillance for your home. Planners in the future will need to design these systems advantageously, to interpret the trends they reveal appropriately, and to make beneficial changes that reflect those interpretations.

Public-private partnerships

Living Labs Global itself uses public-private partnerships to forward its mission of spreading good ideas and implementing the best solutions. The success of groups like Code for America and Venture for America demonstrate the public’s thirst for solutions and the private industry’s ability to get things done.

Thank you all again for reading and providing insightful comments. I’m looking forward to completing my master’s degree in city & regional planning this spring and getting my hands dirty with planning activities in the San Francisco Bay Area this summer. Please don’t hesitate to be in touch.

-          Terra Curtis