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Urban Development

Why public transit is a key economic issue for growing cities

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We’d love to take our daily commute for granted. Except, we can’t. It is essential that we continue to make public transportation as efficient as possible for commuters.

Over the decades, as a nation we have put investing in our transportation infrastructure, particularly our bus and rail systems, on the back burner. The result: Today’s public transit backlog sits at $90 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. This is a missed opportunity to make our public transportation systems more efficient and our cities more productive, and it has serious economic implications.

For instance, a lack of investment in our public transportation infrastructure costs the U.S. economy $340 billion in revenue over a six-year period, according to the study, “The Economic Cost of Failing to Modernize Public Transportation.” The study was conducted by the Economic Development Research Group Inc. for APTA.

“Our failure as a nation to address America’s public transit modernization needs has wide-ranging negative effects,” says APTA president and CEO Paul P. Skoutelas, “because lost time in travel makes a region’s economy less productive.”

Failing to meet growing public transit needs

As the number of U.S. workers continues to rise, so do the pressures on all areas of our infrastructure.

Since 1995, the U.S. has seen a 42 percent rise in public transit miles traveled. Despite that, needed improvements to our bus and rail assets have not kept pace with growth, the study concludes. Furthermore, the study shows how, as the U.S. fails to invest in the upkeep and maintenance in the nation’s public transit assets, it leads to service interruptions and lost time, which leads to lost wages.

Dorval R. Carter Jr., president of the Chicago Transit Authority, oversees a legacy rail system that’s more than 100 years old, and faces the challenge of fixing or replacing aging infrastructure.

“Parts of our rail system date back to the late 1800s,” Carter says, “we are facing an unmet — and growing — capital need of nearly $13 billion and meeting it has become even more challenging given funding constraints not only at the federal level, but especially at the state and local levels.”

The impact of public transit on local economies

Service interruptions and delays because America has not kept up with transit investments have a direct and immediate effect on the economy. If workers can’t get to work on time, it affects their productivity.

When an aging road and rail system adds time and delays to commutes, that puts the brakes on economic output.

“Based on recent surveys of our riders in Central Ohio, we know 70 percent of our customers rely on our service to reach work,” says Joanna Pinkerton, president and CEO of the Central Ohio Transit Authority. “This is just one example of why it is vital to continue investment in public transportation infrastructure to support residents and the economy.”

Pinkerton adds that over the next 30 years, Central Ohio’s public transit system will have to evolve to prepare for 1 million additional residents and 600,000 jobs.

The quality of a city’s public transportation system is an important factor for companies that are looking to expand or relocate. For example, in 2014, Atlanta’s public transportation system played a role in State Farm Insurance’s bid to locate 8,000 new jobs there. One year ago, when Amazon asked cities to create proposals for its second headquarters, the online retailer indicated that it wanted to hear from cities with access to public transit.

The good news is, Congress has allocated a spending increase for the 2018 fiscal year budget for public transit.

“While this is a positive step forward in helping to address the nation’s aging public transit infrastructure,” Skoutelas says, “this momentum must be maintained by providing similar funding levels for 2019.”

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Urban Development

BRIDGE for Cities 4.0: Connecting Cities through the New Industrial Revolution

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photo: UNIDO

Organized jointly by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the Finance Center for South-South Cooperation (FCSSC), “BRIDGE for Cities 4.0 – Connecting Cities through the New Industrial Revolution” took place in Vienna from 3 to 4 September.

An annual event devoted to encourage knowledge sharing and connectivity among cities, this year’s edition of the event explored the impact of the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) and how technology-driven innovation can facilitate the transition towards smart city development.

The two-day event attracted around 800 Participants from over 100 countries. Besides high-level plenaries on particular aspects of the 4IR (urban innovation hubs, circular economy, smart mobility), a Mayors Roundtable led to the adoption of a Declaration of Intent by 15 Cities expressing strong interest to work with UNIDO. A Business Roundtable resulted in the formulation of a Resilience Framework for Projects along the Belt and Road.

To enrich the event, two specific sessions were designed to match regions and cities with similar development challenges. One focused on Metropolis GZM, Poland; Sverdlovsk region, Russia and the Ruhr region in Germany. All three region share a common past linked to mining and heavy industry and now are transitioning to an economic model based on knowledge and innovation. The second matched Shenzhen, China and Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on the basis of the existing sister city agreement. Shenzhen is nowadays a model for cities in the developing world and Phnom Penh is taking advantage of the expertise available in China while developing its city master plan. This cooperation was sealed through an exchange of letters between the two cities’ representatives.

In parallel, the innovations presented by exhibitors visualized practical solutions, and City-Business workshops facilitated partnerships among previous case cities and other stakeholders. The interaction with the famous humanoid Sophia Robot provided participants with an opportunity to obtain first-hand insights regarding the possibilities and opportunities of artificial intelligence (AI) today.

The event has been the first of UNIDO at the Vienna International Centre to receive the Austrian Ecolabel for Green Meetings and Green Events.

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Urban Development

São Paulo to Host International Conference on Sustainable Cities

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The city of São Paulo will host the conference “Catalyzing Sustainable Urban Futures” from September 16 to 20, 2019 at Ibirapuera Park, bringing together mayors, public managers, and urban practitioners from across Brazil and abroad. Made possible by a partnership between the Global Platform for Sustainable Cities (GPSC) led by the World Bank, São Paulo City Hall, and the Sustainable Cities Program, the event will host the 3rd Global Meeting of the Global Platform for Sustainable Cities and the 2nd International Conference on Sustainable Cities.

Press are invited to sessions on September 17 afternoon, opening day (September 18) and throughout the rest of the week. Register by September 6:

The event will feature a Mayors’ Roundtable on the opening day (September 18) chaired by São Paulo Mayor Bruno Covas, where Brazilian and international city leaders will discuss their unique approaches to sustainable urban development.

“São Paulo is moving towards an increasingly sustainable future by enacting strategic measures to benefit our population. Hosting the 3rd Global Meeting of the Global Platform for Sustainable Cities to discuss the topic with domestic and international experts and officials helps us achieve our goal of further contributing to the sustainable urban development of our city,” stated Mr. Covas.

“Cities are where the future is being built. Rapid urbanization brings opportunities – but also unprecedented challenges such as increasing disaster risks exacerbated by climate change – to cities and their residents, especially the poor and vulnerable,” says Sameh Wahba, Global Director, Urban, Disaster Risk Management, Resilience and Land Global Practice, World Bank.“The 3rd Global Meeting of the Global Platform for Sustainable Cities will bring together cities around the world to share innovative and integrated solutions to address those challenges. We look forward to working with our partners in Brazil and worldwide to link knowledge to investment in building low-carbon and sustainable cities for all.”

In the span of one week, nine thematic sessions will focus on topics central to city planning and management, including: biodiversity; financing sustainable urban development; gender and race inequalities; generating opportunities, work, and income for residents; geospatial data; inclusiveness and affordable housing; social participation; transit-oriented development; and urban regeneration. These topics are closely aligned with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations 2030 Agenda and the GPSC’s three knowledge pillars: sustainability, integrated urban planning and management, and municipal finance.

“For us who work with a focus on municipal management, the opportunity to bring together cities that are taking action and creating policies toward the 2030 Agenda in different parts of the world has a unique meaning. We strive to share the most modern initiatives to improve the sustainability of our urban development processes and residents’ quality of life in Brazilian cities. We believe these practices can also be inspiring elsewhere in the world and we look forward to sharing this knowledge at the conference,” said Jorge Abrahão, General Coordinator of the Sustainable Cities Program.

In addition to participants from Brazil, the event will gather representatives from GPSC’s 28 cities in 11 countries, along with its knowledge and investment partners. The estimated audience is 800 people, including urban leaders, civil servants, urban practitioners, academic researchers, journalists, experts from financial institutions, international organizations, the UN, private sector leaders, and civil society organizations. The conference “Catalyzing Sustainable Urban Futures” is supported by the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

WHAT
Catalyzing Sustainable Urban Futures:
3rd Global Meeting of the Global Platform for Sustainable Cities and
2nd International Conference on Sustainable Cities

WHO

  • Bruno Covas, Mayor of São Paulo
  • Jorge Abrahão, General Coordinator of the Sustainable Cities Program
  • Sameh Wahba, Global Director, World Bank Group

See a full list of speakers here.

WHEN: September 16–20, 2019
Open to press starting Sept 17 afternoon; official opening on Sept 18.

WHERE: Ibirapuera Park, São Paulo, Brazil

  • Sept 17 afternoon – UMAPAZ (Av. Quarto Centenário, 1268 – Vila Mariana, São Paulo – SP, 04030-000)
  • Sept 18 morning – Auditorium Oscar Niemeyer
  • Sept 18 afternoon – Auditorium Oscar Niemeyer and Bienal Foundation
  • Sept 19 – Bienal Foundation
  • Sept 20 – Site visits by registration

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Urban Development

UN and civil society team up to make cities more sustainable and inclusive

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Salt Lake City in the US state of Utah, is hosting the United Nations Civil Society Conference. Image: Visit Salt Lake

How can we make sure that cities become more inclusive, with a smaller environmental footprint, and leave no-one behind? These questions will be tackled at the UN Civil Society Conference, which is due to take place in the capital of Utah, Salt Lake City, at the end of August.

Representatives of civil society will have the opportunity to meet with senior UN officials, and discuss a wide range of solutions to the challenges of urban life.

The theme of this year’s conference, “building sustainale and inclusive cities and communities”, reflects the fact that over half of the world’s population, some 55 per cent, now live in urban areas, with that figure expected to rise to 68 per cent by 2050.

Conference sessions will discuss topics connected to the main theme, including climate change; opportunities for youth; and emerging technologies and innovation.

Leaders of large urban centres, such as Salt Lake City in the state of Utah, the communities that live in them, as well as the private sector, are at the forefront of finding sustainable solutions to poverty; climate change; clean water and energy; and many of the other challenges connected to urban living.

Salt Lake City’s sustainability credentials include the development of a Climate Positive Plan, laying out a path for a transition to 100 per cent clean energy by 2032, and an 80 per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2024. In addition, the nearby Utah Valley University, works to educate the campus and larger community on the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and has been an affiliate member of the UN’s Department of Global Communications (DGC) since 2017.

“As a city committed to being inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable, it is an honor to be the first US host city of the UN Civil Society Conference outside of New York,” said Mayor Jackie Biskupski in a statement. “I can think of no better time and no better place than Salt Lake City, for the UN and the world’s NGOs to expand awareness in this country of sustainable development goals and the value of global unity.”

Highlights include interactive thematic sessions, NGO-sponsored workshops, exhibits and a youth hub. Speakers and attendees will include leaders and other representatives from NGOs, UN agencies, academia, faith traditions, the public and private sectors and youth from around the world.

The UN Civil Society Conference is described by the UN as the Organization’s “premier event in the civil society calendar”, focusing on UN topics of interest to civil society and NGOs, where issues of global concern can be discussed.

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