Five Cities That Are Leading the Way in Urban Innovation

WORLD

From skyline gondolas to downtown “pink zones,” urban planners around the world are redefining what cities can be. (Wall Street Journal)

Use our resources to learn more about the challenges of urban planning.

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources, including today’s simple MapMaker Interactive map.

Houston is one of the cities introducing practical innovations to meet the challenges of an increasingly urbanized world. Photograph by Henry Han, courtesy Wikimedia. CC-BY-SA-3.0

Houston is one of the cities introducing practical innovations to meet the challenges of an increasingly urbanized world.
Photograph by Henry Han, courtesy Wikimedia. CC-BY-SA-3.0

Discussion Ideas

  • Read through the questions in our “Housing in Jaipur” study guide. What are some leading challenges faced by urban planners around the world?
    • zoning. Urban planners must mark each area of a city for specific use, such as housing, business, industrial, or school. Additionally, many areas are “mixed-use,” allowing for a determined mixture of zones. A downtown area, for example, may be zoned for both business and residential use, allowing for commercial businesses and apartment buildings on the same block.
    • services. Urban areas must provide access to city services, such as clean water, reliable sewage systems, and a source of power.
    • infrastructure. Urban planners must include infrastructure such as roads, bridges,power plants, electric and fiber-optic cable networks, cell phone towers, pipelines for water supply and disposal, levees and other flood-control systems, WiFi hubs for Internet access . . .
    • transportation. Urban planners and transportation engineers design roads, bridges, and trails for car, bus, bike, and pedestrian traffic. They also plan for rail and metro (subway) systems. Many cities are near lakes, rivers, or seashores, so some amount of maritime traffic must also be considered. In addition, large urban areas usually have a nearby airport.
    • environment. Urban planners often incorporate “green areas” such as parks, bike trails, walking paths, nature reserves, and public gardens.

 

Click through today’s simple MapMaker Interactive map to better understand how cities are meeting innovation challenges.

Click through today’s simple MapMaker Interactive map to better understand how cities are meeting innovation challenges.

 

  • What cities are introducing zoning innovations?
    • Houston’s zoning laws have allowed affordable housing to keep pace with the city’s booming expansion.
    • Detroit’s “pink zones” aim to reduce red tape in business districts to better encourage economic growth.
    • Vancouver has adjusted its zoning laws to encourage downtown density, which makes more destinations within walking distance.

 

  • What city is providing innovation in the service sector?
    • Singapore is working to provide its citizens with clean water through investment in desalination plants and massive rainwater reclamation projects.

 

  • What city is providing innovative infrastructure projects?
    • Medellín has invested in immense infrastructure projects in disadvantaged neighborhoods, including public gondolas and outdoor escalators, plazas, and libraries.

 

  • What cities are improving transportation options by reducing vehicle traffic?
    • Medellín’s public transportation system includes gondolas, as well as quarter-mile-long public escalators, to serve mountainside neighborhoods.
    • Singapore was a pioneer in “congestion pricing,” charging motorists for driving into the central business district during morning rush hour. Going forward, the city wants to require all vehicles to have a satellite-linked device that can calculate exact driving distances and make it possible to adjust tolls depending on traffic and the time of day.
    • Vancouver’s roads are built and redesigned to favor pedestrians by installing pedestrian-controlled traffic signals on busy streets.

 

  • What city is innovating to provide more environment-friendly “green areas” of reduced development?
    • Vancouver has made walking a key part of its “green city” goals, which as resulted in major declines in vehicle traffic over the past 20 years.

 

TEACHERS’ TOOLKIT

Nat Geo: Five Cities That Are Leading the Way in Urban Innovation

Nat Geo: Housing in Jaipur: City planners grapple with urbanization

Nat Geo: How are cities meeting innovation challenges? map

One response to “Five Cities That Are Leading the Way in Urban Innovation

  1. Pingback: 11 Things We Learned This Week | Nat Geo Education Blog·

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