Part of what makes planning such a rewarding profession is that we have a direct say in how our future communities will work and appear. What often becomes an issue, however, is setting out specific steps to achieve these envisioned towns and cities.
This is particularly true of “smart cities”. There’s no doubt that smart cities are more than a “should do” – they’re a “must do”. Execution is something many planners struggle with, which is why we’re providing a bit more insight into the smart city concept.
A proactive approach to infrastructure
Our population is growing at a healthy rate, which means spending more time behind the wheel in traffic when we’d rather be at home or the beach.
Populations shouldn’t have to wait years and years to “qualify” for government upgrades in infrastructure. Traffic problems shouldn’t have to be chronic before they are fixed.
Because of these unsavoury commute times, this also means that more people are vying to live in inner urban areas rather than the suburbs. This only compounds the issue as it makes the population of cities denser.
Many of these problems can be eliminated by being proactive rather than reactive when it comes to infrastructure. This means taking into account historical community issues and understanding both the current and future needs of a population.
The development of employment clusters
Another reason why people want to live in inner urban areas is that it tends to be where they work.
Employment clustering can be a solution to this far too common issue. Existing areas where job opportunities lie beyond the city limits (like small-scale manufacturing areas) can be identified. Planning authorities, local councils, and state governments can then dig in and create conditions that encourage employers to relocate and expand, as well as make the area more attractive to populations.
The great thing about this concept is that it doesn’t have to consume a lot of time or resources. It can be as simple as:
- Creating green spaces
- Providing basic amenities (such as a community or recreational centre)
- Having a variety of dining options available
- Building bike lanes
The reduction of travel time
State and local governments largely subsidise public transportation. If the full cost were passed to the commuters, the extravagant fares would price a lot of people out of using it. This would likely result in another fare increase to account for those losses, forcing the remaining commuters to pay higher fees which would again reduce the number of people using the service.
We can avoid this vicious cycle, while also saving governments resources, by creating plans allowing people to either work at home or closer to their employer. Local authorities can be incentivised to develop “co-working” areas or hubs so that employees only spend upwards of 15 minutes travelling to a suburban or neighbourhood hub rather than endure a long commute into the city.
The smart city planners of today are building the cities of tomorrow. To do so effectively means recognising past flaws, expanding our perspectives, and working strategically in order to build new and sustainable smart Australian communities.