Top Cities

For Functional Cities, First Get the Basics Right – News

Rather than looking to flashy, high-tech transportation projects, writes Skip Descant in GovTech, urbanists have another recommendation for cities: “fix the sidewalks.”

At the recent Urbanism Next conference, experts in the field cautioned against focusing on new technologies to the exclusion of basic infrastructure fixes and much-needed maintenance. “Getting the basics right is a necessary precondition for actually having the technologies work, in the sense of having people use them consistently,” argued David Zipper, a visiting fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Taubman Center for State and Local Government. “Well-maintained sidewalks that connect to other transportation systems, he argued, could rise to high priority for any number of reasons — like improving safety for pedestrians or reducing car trips.” A better sidewalk can encourage more people to use any number of high-tech mobility devices. “The moonshot mobility tech solutions that we think about — especially the shared ones — they really rely on cities first getting the basics right.”

Zipper is not advocating a “retreat from technology.” Rather, he asserts that “cities should more enthusiastically embrace the use of pilot projects as a way to test ideas against their ability to truly achieve some of those high-level goals, and rethink the project when it doesn’t.”

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