Featured Ideas

  • Potholes on the Road to Becoming a Smart City

    Read Amie’s most recent article by clicking the link below. It was published in time to be circulated in Barcelona at the International Smart Cities Conference in October, 2015.

    Smart Community, a Publication of the Smart Cities Business Institute.

     

  • Now Offering Executive Coaching

    World-Class Leaders and championship results aren’t accidental. They require skill, strategy, planning and practice.  Are you interested in championship outcomes.  S4C and Amie Devero can help! Contact us for a free consultation. Start 2016 as a winner!

  • Interactive Map of Global Cities

    Trust Mckinsey and Company to come up with this very cool tool.  Open the map and hunt the globe to view the projected growth of urban centers going forward. Click here for the pop-up map without the context or article.

     

  • 10 Green Ways to Improve Our Cities

    According to Best Sociology Programs, here are the ten best ways to green our cities.  Scroll to the bottom to see the same information in text!

    Top 10 Ways to Make Cities Greener
    Source: Best Sociology Programs
    The editors at Best Sociology Programs decided to research the topic of

    Top 10 Ways to Make Our Cities Greener

    City loyalty can be like a micro-form of patriotism. Many of us love the cities in which we were born, raised, or currently reside. But there’s always room for improvement–and some cities need it much more than others. Taking these actions can improve any city.

    10. Convert to Electric Cars

    – Reduce footprint
    – Battery performance rivals gasoline
    – Electric cars may use 40-60% less petroleum than gas vehicles
    – Less demanding production

    9. Living Architecture

    – Construct from biomaterials
    – Reduces harvesting of trees
    – Revolutionize the cityscape
    – Currently, buildings in the US occupy:
    – 65% of electricity consumption
    – 30% of greenhouse gas emissions
    – 30% of raw materials use
    – 136 million tons of waste annually

    8. Wireless Sensor Networks

    – Area monitoring creates Smart Cities
    – Detect temperature, pollution, radiation, water leaks, full garbage bins, traffic jams, etc.
    – Improve research and information processing
    – In Geneva, a cooling system monitored by WSN saved 2,100 MWh per year
    – That’s enough to power about 80 homes for a year

    7. Convert from Heating Oil to Natural Gas

    – Gas burns cleaner than oil
    – NYC plans to eliminate its use by 2030
    – Estimated to cut 85% of soot emissions
    – The cost benefit is apparent:
    – Winter Heating Prices in the Northeast

    6. Urban Farming

    – Dirt-beds can be put almost anywhere
    – Foodprint makes up 21% of our carbon footprint
    – The average meal travels 4,200 miles from farm to table–what if it traveled 10, 5, 1… or 0?

    5. Green Roofs

    – Build more dirt-beds for greenery
    – They look good and reduce both pollution and temperature
    – NYC’s green roofs can:
    – Hold up to 90% of rainfall for later use
    – Reduce runoff 50-60%
    – Reduce ambient temperatures 9 degrees Fahrenheit
    – Save 15-45% on energy consumption

    4. Grassroots Initiatives

    – Start a farmer’s market or local community-supported agriculture (CSA) pickup point
    – There are nearly 7,200 farmer’s markets in the US
    – Community swap meets to trade unwanted items and make social connections
    – Turn libraries into share centers, where more than just books are shared

    3. Reduce Waste

    – About 50 cities in the US have banned plastic bags
    – We use over 1 million plastic bags per minute worldwide
    – Encourage recycling
    – 75% of solid waste is recyclable… but 70% is still thrown away
    – Buy long-lasting quality products

    2. Open Space and Natural Features

    – Improve aesthetics and recreation
    – Open space can also support other improvements like green materials
    – Seattle has 75 miles of trails
    – Jacksonville, FL has 103,000 acres of green space, including plenty of parks and activity centers

    1. Improve Public Transportation

    – 2011: 10.4 billion public transportation trips
    – 2.3 increase from 201
    – Ridership in towns under 100,000 people rose more: 5.4%
    – Buses using alternative fuels in 2000: 1 in 10
    – Buses using alternative fuels in 2009: 1 in 3

  • Maybe there is more than Infrastructure to Disaster-Preparedness

    In recent disasters such as Super-Storm Sandy, or the terrible flooding in the Midwest — or the deluge in Thailand — there has been tons of appropriate attention to strengthening infrastructure and re-thinking buildingstormwater trends in light of rising waters.  Since the rising waters will continue, and the advent of frequent weather extremities are apparently here to stay, cities are grappling with other ways to strengthen their underpinnings, beyond the physical structure and rules.  Social networks as communication stalwarts for disaster planning are coming to the forefront.  To learn the extent of these projects and focuses, read the full article here.

  • ParkNOW! in Westfield, NJ

    Customers can now pay by app in Westfield, instead of fishing for quarters

  • ParkNOW! Pay by Cell for Parking in Madison

    S4C client MobileNOW!, LLC is proud to announce that its ParkNOW! service is now available for customers who are parking in Madison, WI. For more info, click here.

  • How Mayor Nutter has Turned Philadelphia’s Fortunes Upward

    Listen to  Amie Devero’s full interview with Mayor Nutter on internet radio at Cities at Work on Blog Talk Radio. Just click to play.

    In preparing to write this article, I made the mistake of imagining I might gain an overview of the work done in Philadelphia by the Mayor and his administration over the last 4 years.  But in the 5th largest city in the US, so much is done all the time — and in particular during this administration — that it would have required several whole days of interviews and a book length article to cover it in any real depth.  So, instead of depth, I settled for breadth – too much to penetrate deeply in just 60 minutes.  But although there are many items presented here without fleshing out their details and nuances, there are links through the article which will provide greater information on the initiatives and approaches the Mayor shared with me.  Hopefully they will satisfy curious readers or students of local government with added substance.

    The Mayor of Philadelphia, Michael Nutter, had his hands full when he first took office in 2008.  Along with the recession and its corresponding high unemployment, Philadelphia hadn’t grown in population in over 50 years, adding to the $2.4 billion budget gap the Mayor had to confront.  But unlike many in public office, Mayor Nutter came from a particularly good background to attack the challenges he faced.  Having graduated from Wharton, one of the top business schools in the world, his understanding of finance and management was significant; and his years spent on the City Council made him an expert on Philly’s own way of doing things.

    I suspect most people, like me, will first want to know the answer to the most obvious question: What happened with the budget gap?   The answer is that the $2.4 billion gap was closed, and it was done through a spirit of “shared sacrifice”, based on a 50/50 ratio of cuts to revenue increase.  Nothing was off the table, but some things were further outside of consideration than others.  The choices of the actual specifics would emerge inside the very heart of the shared-sacrifice-model.  Instead of firing employees on a last in first out basis, or according to some other tried formulae, 1400 employees were eliminated, but largely through attrition.

    Between 2009 and 2010, the prison population was reduced 10%, and violent crime decreased and has continued to drop each year.  Reducing the prison population was a great money-saver, but required a constellation of programs and funding to succeed.  Undertaking this reduction began with a careful analysis of who, exactly, was in prison.  It turns out that a large number of prisoners were non-violent, and therefore, not a likely risk to public safety.  So wherever the penal law permitted, non-violent prisoners were released into alternative programs such as transitional housing and jobs programs.  Furthermore, businesses were incentivized with a $10,000 tax credit for hiring ex-offenders – something that was a substantial sweetener in a stagnant economy with too little hiring.

    In order to ensure that those who were released, either early or on time, remained out of prison, the City secured over $550,000 in outside grants aimed at reducing recidivism.  These efforts were compounded by strong anti-crime initiatives on the street and by an aggressive crack-down on illegal weapons in cooperation with State and Federal agencies. The result of these efforts includes a 21.7% decrease in homicides and a 12.7% reduction in violent crime in the City since 2007.

    Prompting hiring by businesses during the country’s worst recession in decades required creativity.  This is a challenge being felt globally, and while Philadelphia hasn’t solved the problem, it has made inroads beyond what was predictable.  From an economic development perspective the results are impressive and include both expansions within and relocations of major corporations to Philadelphia, bringing jobs with them.  Some of the relocations are within the city itself, including 2 major companies going into The Navy Yards, and preserving over 1500 jobs that could potentially have been lost to the city.  Some of this has been aided by the Mayor’s attention to new economy business.  Focusing on sustainability, green and high tech jobs as well as on education and the medical industries has assisted in creating the conditions for new jobs in growing fields.  The intent has been both to create a need for new human resources within businesses who could hire, and sufficient population of the right kind of talent to fill open positions.  New economy businesses often include those focused on sustainability and energy efficiency.  While encouraging green business has a positive impact on economic development, it also produces its intended environmental impact.

    In this double-pronged effort of greening and growing, Philadelphia has encouraged business and developers to embrace green technology and construction retrofits..  For example, a $40m fund has been established to provide bridge funding to businesses that choose to retrofit for greater energy efficiency.   Along with incentive programs for business, Philadelphia has modeled “greenifying” in municipal functions and operations  wherever possible. On-street recycling is available city-wide, and trash is picked using solar-power.  Each green initiative that takes a bit of carbon emission out of the environment also stokes the economy and job growth through start-ups, new projects, construction, and expansion.

    One noteworthy sustainability project under Mayor Nutter’s leadership has been a groundbreaking undertaking by local company NovoThermal Energy to create the US’s first commercial geothermal system, using wastewater to heat the building. “The … .. NovaThermal unit is located in the building’s basement from which it directly accesses the adjacent sewage channel.”   The idea behind this pilot program is to demonstrate the possibility of reducing the cost of heating buildings by up to 50%, creating a swell of sustainable development, retrofitting, investment and corresponding money-saving and reduction in carbon footprint.

    Along with cultivating new economy business growth, Philadelphia has also been attentive to encouraging new business growth, including start-up incubation, technology skills-building and an emphasis on entrepreneurialism.  To assist these new industries in their inception, relocation or growth, the City’s Commerce department has been transformed into a concierge style department, with a comprehensive business portal right on the city’s website.  Some of the specific projects and initiatives that fulfill those roles include Philly Tech-Week, Philly Start-Up Leaders, and many business incubators.  Philly Tech Week, having recently completed its second year, is 9 days long and includes over 80 events.  Its founder, Christopher Wink is committed to expanding its opportunities, and increasing the public’s participation in it.

    During this year’s Tech-Week, the Mayor announced his Executive Order opening the City’s data to the public (wherever consistent with privacy and security concerns ). While it is too early to tell if it is true in Philadelphia, one of the impacts of open government data policies in other major US cities has been to prompt the creation of applications and initiatives that utilize the city’s data as their fodder.  Those applications can provide myriad services to end-users and the City itself, whether culling and analyzing information about parking availability, increasing efficiency in public records searches or providing automated job-hunting for local veterans.   In the short term, however, it largely eases the paperwork associated with accessing information under Freedom of Information laws, making the business of the City’s business more open to all.

    In April of this year the Environmental Protection Agency launched a new program in support of the City of Philadelphia.  Green Cities, Clean Waters is a partnership  between the City and the EPA,  that aims to better manage the City’s storm water using green technologies and infrastructure.  “[The project] is pioneering a broad multi-decade investment in green storm water management practices that reduces sewer over flows to the City’s waterways and enhances communities and the overall environment. “  Green storm water management attempts to capture water where it falls, and immediately integrate it into natural activities like plant growth, landscape irrigation and eventual evaporation so that it doesn’t become a burden on sewers, and empty into rivers and streams, polluting them with the urban effluvia accumulated on the way.  The EPA/City project sets up a long-term plan for both entities to bring to Philadelphia, and eventually the country at-large, examples of new and innovative ways of managing storm water in an ecologically responsible way.

    There are a large number of unique initiatives under the collaboration, many of which will begin in the first five years as various infrastructure projects are in an implementation phase.  The plan is spearheaded by the Philadelphia Water Department, and will be executed over twenty five years.  For more information on Philly’s transformation to a greener city, read this current article in Living Green Magazine.

    One of the Mayor’s areas of interest has been in increasing the business excellence of the City’s operations, creating demonstrable efficiencies that can be measured.  Examples of the results include an increase in productivity in the Office of Business Services.  The time it takes to turn around a case has dropped from 23 to just seven days.  Business cases are also getting handled more quickly.  Most are resolved in fewer than five business days and many as fast as the same day.

    Finally, in order to address public health concerns and create a healthier environment, there have been a variety of inroads.  Among the new initiatives is $15 million which is going toward efforts to make healthy foods more easily accessible in the City by adding to the availability of farmers’ markets in neighborhoods where it is often difficult to find fresh foods — or where shops do not stock it — and by making that farm-fresh food more affordable. “ In 2010, the City created PhillyFoodBucks which are given to SNAP [food stamps] recipients who purchase fruits and vegetables at Farmers’ Markets—for every $10 purchased, the shopper receives $5 in PhillyFoodBuckswhich can be used to reduce the cost of future purchases.”

    Now it isn’t even close to the end of Mayor Nutter’s reign in Philly, but I still wanted to know what he might offer in the way of guidance to other city leaders who are out to produce great results.  His advice was eloquent, but at its heart, rather simple.  “Know your budget and your core principles, and be honest with the public.”  And once again, showing his business background, he explained that in truth, he was the CEO of a $4b operation, with 22,000 employees, and Board of Directors in the City Council and 1.5m shareholders – to all of whom he must answer.  But his management and finance acumen never overshadow his commitment to public service and to distinguishing government from business.

    As I said at the onset, this is more of a wide-angle view than an in-depth expose.  As is probably obvious, there are simply too many projects to try to be comprehensive in a single article.  Perhaps Mayor Nutter will write a memoir of his administration eventually, and elucidate many more of his efforts, successes and perhaps, failures too.  But it bears saying that as the incoming President of the US Conference of Mayors, Philadelphia’s Mayor is a great example to others throughout the country and the world.  Perhaps the most telling statistic is the advent of the first population increase in Philadelphia in over 50 years, as revealed in the 2010 census. In some ways, that says it all – people are coming to Philly!

    For Mayor Nutter, his closing admonition to Mayors and city leaders – and probably to all who want to better the place where they live, work and play, is:

    “Love your city.  Love your people.  Love your work.  Never stop trying to do better today than you did yesterday.”

    For more information on any of the projects or departments mentioned here, use the links provided, or visit the City of Philadelphia’s web portal, where there are copious quantities of information, links, documents, videos and much more.  It can be found at www.Phila.gov .

  • Pew American Cities Project is Instructive and Illuminating

    For students and lovers of cities, the Pew American Cities Project is like oxygen! This comprehensive research undertaking gives tremendous insight into the statistics, history of and policy implications for US cities.  Whether you are curious about how State policy effects local government, or how cities are faring in this economic nadir, you will find something both to fulfill and stoke your curiosity.  Visit the homepage at the link below.  But one cautionary note: Make sure you’re not in a rush.  There’s LOTS to see.

    Click here for Pew American Cities Project.

  • Jennifer Pahlka of Code for America, at TED: Coding a better government

    In the video below, Jennifer Pahlka, the Founder of Code for America, discusses the immense possibility that technology offers for government.  As part of her February 2012 TED presentation she distinguishes the difference between politics and government, addressing the national contempt for the former, versus the immense possibility offered by and expected of the latter.  This video is of utmost importance to government leaders and citizens alike, especially those in cities.  Pahlka points out  in the clearest possible terms what the new paradigm of government  — one based on the model of the Internet itself — can make available to individuals, families, organizations and the world.  By adopting the openness of the Internet, using the wisdom of crowds and opening access to data, government can truly be by the people, of the people and for the people; accomplishing those very things that we cannot do well individually, but which collectively, can be done superbly.

  • Bringing Farming to the City: A Video

    In the video below, found on the NRDC website,  the American Society of Landscape Architects provides a terrific introduction to the whole notion of urban farming.  Having set the stage for the subject matter, they use animation techniques to depict a variety of ways that cities can accommodate farming in public spaces, rooftop gardens, backyard gardening and much more.  A wonderful video!  For more information on these subjects, also, check out the links below the video.

  • Benchmarks of Energy Savings Encourage Retrofits, Create Jobs

    Would it be useful for property owners in your city to see the real dollars and cents associated with energy use and retrofitting their energy systems?  It seems that if a property owner could see the predictable savings he might gain by adding solar, or selling back to the grid, it would encourage more sustainable property retrofits.  In fact, in places where those benchmarks are available, they are incredibly good resources.   Along with the benchmarking data, there is overwhelming information in several studies that demonstrate that retrofitting pays back the investment — and well.  It’s hard to know this data exist, and that makes finding the funding to retrofit  virtually impossible.  Both cities and private citizens struggle to finance retrofitting — yet banks and the investment banking world stand by and decline to provide funding. Maybe they too lack access to the data!  We think these studies and ongoing benchmark data could help.  “One of the key findings of the report is that half the examined properties could fully support loans with energy savings. That is huge news for an industry that’s been trying to attract investor interest with minimal success. It’s even greater news for the long term prospects of green job creation as more workers will be needed to support investor-backed retrofit programs operating at a larger scale.”

    But whether benchmarks or studies, finding corroboration for the value of retrofitting  is harder than you might imagine.  There are almost no institutionalized procedures to post energy usage by buildings.  And where there is an ordinance requiring those numbers be posted, they are only applicable to the largest users, and so are only illuminating for property owners of that scale; That doesn’t help small property owners, who make up the majority of landlords in most cities. “This is the problem that advocates like Andrew Burr of the Institute for Market Transformation want to fix. Burr pushes cities and states around the country to adopt policies that require building owners to measure their properties’ energy use and disclose it to the public, the local government and in some cases, directly to tenants.” (Click here for full article).

    There is even more benefit — especially for cities — in attacking energy inefficiency.  More and more studies show that the jobs created through these efforts are significant, and do not merely create short-term relief for casual workers.  And with the recession only slowly receding, that may be the best short-term news possible.  Of course, the long-term benefits of benchmarks are clear — more retrofits, funding for energy companies and sustainable construction, greater energy saving, reduced carbon emissions, and jobs.  What is your city waiting for?

  • MindMixer Crowd-Sourcing Tool Now Live in Tampa

    MindMixer provides customized, web-based citizen engagement to cities, agencies, and institutions — tools that are intuitive and fun for citizens to use and extraordinarily robust as data generators for cities.    S4C is proud to have MindMixer as a client, and even more delighted that the service is now available here in our home town, Tampa, Florida.  For more information on MindMixer, please click here.  To see how Tampa is utilizing this invaluable tool, click here.

  • Vancouver Offers Object Lessons For Cities

    This is a fascinating article that presents a set of 10 “paradigm shifts” that Vancouver made and which underpinned it re-imagining itself.   Each proposed concept is a mini-article written by a different author, so there are multiple perspectives and voices represented here.  I think that is part of what makes it interesting.  Amongst the ideas here are “See transit as a net, not a web”, and “Think small — New York City small”.  These obviously require some unpacking to be really clear.  But instead of my abridging the concepts here, read the full article!

  • Urban Farming in NYC

    In this terrific short film, every aspect of urban farming and local food production is addressed.  How can a local urban farm be scaled to really feed a significant number of people?  Can it be done in an economically feasible way — as a business, not a charity?  How do you transport the crops?  How do you sell them, and at what price?  Rooftop or park farm?  Subway as delivery model?  So many questions are addressed.  This is a wonderful project and addresses many of the kinds of questions that arise as communities attempt to form urban farming cooperatives.  Bookmark it and you will find that you return again and again!

  • Pittsburgh “Experienced Dreamers” Contest Announces Finalists

    About 6 months ago the City of Pittsburgh launched a contest to attract attention and newcomers to the City.  This was one of the first successful contests in the country and began a succession of city contests, many of which have been featured here, on the S4C Featured Ideas pages.  In fact, S4C is holding its own Contest Contest, for cities to enter their own contests and vie to win nationwide publicity and kudos (we are still taking entries, click here).

    The Pittsburgh contest, called “Experienced Dreamers” offered a $100,000 prize to some mid-life professional who wanted to relocate to Pittsburgh and bring a mission or business with him or her.  Now the finalists have been announced, and you can vote on which of them should win.  Check it out here.

  • Philadelphia Launches “E-Lanes” on April Fools Day

    It’s not often a big city Mayor gets to spoof himself, his hometown and cities generally in such a sly and clever way.  Mayor Michael Nutter of Philadelphia and members of his administrative team star in a spoof video, launching “e-lanes” — pedestrian lanes for those reading, texting or otherwise utterly distracted by their smart phones while walking.  The video perfectly imitates all the conventional conceits of municipal news features and public service videos —  including irate protesters, oblivious onlookers, opinionated but ill-informed “man-in-the-street surveys and mediocre camera work — all with tongue firmly in cheek.  Kudos to the city and its leadership for having a sense of humor and sharing it with the world!

  • Universities Compete for Sustainability Kudos

    In an amazing array of creativity and commitment, colleges and universities present their sustainability programs, large and small in inspiring videos as part of their efforts to win the Climate Leadership Award.  The initiatives range from recycling to solar energy, from urban farming to geothermal energy production — and even include integrated curricula that require students to understand these efforts.  “The top vote getters will be featured at the GW Moving the Planet Forward conference this April, and have the opportunity to be featured in blog posts on The Huffington Post and National Geographic’s Great Energy Challenge blog“.  Here is just one video that inspired me — but there are so many more here.  Your vote counts, so make sure you choose a favorite.

  • ParkNOW! Cell Phone Parking at University of Nebraska Lincoln

    S4C client, Mobile NOW! has launched their ParkNOW! phone parking service at UNL.  Now anyone who drives onto the UNL campus in Lincoln can pay to park at a meter by simply scanning a QR code and activating an eWallet payment.

    Mobile NOW! is the most technologically flexible and advanced mobile payment provider to the parking and transit industry.  Along with providing service at UNL, Mobile NOW! also provides service in 8 countries and multiple other locations in the US, including Montgomery County, MD, one of the largest parking enterprises in the country.

    By mid-summer, ParkNOW! service will also be available in Florida, New Jersey, California and Ohio.

    For more information on Mobile NOW!’s ParkNOW! service, click here.

    For more information on paying by cell phone or app to park at UNL, click here.

     

     

  • Chief Innovation Officer or Chief Curator? And Does Your City Need One?

    Several cities have added Chief Innovation Officers to their teams.  For example, in San Francisco, Jay Nath was Appointed by San Francisco Mayor Lee to “introduce new ideas and approaches to make city government more transparent, efficient and focused on our customers — San Francisco residents, businesses and visitors. The chief innovation officer will make sure technology is a driver of change in city government and a job creator.” That is certainly a specific role for a innovator, and one that is understandably central to San Francisco’s unique mission to be the quintessential 2.0 city.  As a result of this emphasis and focus, San Francisco has taken the lead in numerous technological innovations, including acting as the home of Code for America, creation of the Open Cloud, and the first American city to begin an experiment in dynamic parking, in which, through the use of in-street sensors, on-street parking prices change depending on supply and demand.

    In Philadelphia, Mayor Nutter also appointed a Chief Innovation Officer, Adel Ebeid, formerly of the State of New Jersey.  This role looks somewhat different than the front-facing, forward-looking role in San Francisco.  In Philadelphia, Ebeid replaces a previous executive who was IT Director, overseeing an apparently obsolete technology infrastructure.  Further comments from Ebeid seem to focus on using technology to address specific challenges within the city’s inner workings, like bringing the IP system up to date and creating citizen services that allow simple tasks to be performed by customers on-line.  There is also a sense that there will be a focus in his tenure on furthering the cause of technology and open-government in Philly as the role progresses.  But clearly, these are two very different versions of Chief Technology Officers.

    So should your city add such a person?  Apparently, it’s becoming “all the rage” according to a new article in Atlantic Cities. These roles really serve two masters: “The birth of the municipal chief innovation officer job is a response to these two trends: to fundamental changes in technology that are revolutionizing citizen engagement, and to a cultural movement that is turning the data-dense inner workings of city halls into public challenges that are actually kind of a kick to solve.”  In other words, technology is here, and it can clearly make a difference.  Customers are and should be excited about what this innovation portends for the delivery of municipal services.  But to hire a person whose role is simply to legitimize “vigilante” municipal app-writing seems odd. Yes, there are hackers — and there are millions of folks utilizing public data to create interesting functions.  Does that require a Sheriff to patrol?  That’s less clear.  Perhaps there is a genuine role for a Chief Innovation Officer — not in the role of either of these examples.  In our opinion, the ideal C. In.O. is a curator.  Someone who is charged with scouring the landscape for opportunities and innovations that can better serve customers, add efficiency, reduce costs or solve problems through a combination of private/public and technological partnership. That might include vetting hacked apps or soliciting their design; it might also include procuring off-the-shelf software to add openness to government activities.  And it might include funding software development that might eventually be sale-able, with a percentage owned by the municipality.   Those would all fall under the purview of the Chief Curator. We may be biased though, since that us also the mission of S4C!

  • New Cities at Work is Out. Read How Des Moines keeps Winning!

    Mayor Frank Cownie shares how des Moines keeps topping list after list for cities in the US.  You can also listen to the full interview.

    Click here.

  • New Success Built on Old Strengths: How Des Moines Keeps Winning

    Listen to the full, unabridged interview with Mayor Cownie.*

    As I prepared to interview Frank Cownie, Mayor of Des Moines, the sheer quantity of awards this capital of Iowa had received started to seem overwhelming.  Just to further compound that sense of overwhelm, hours before the scheduled interview date, Forbes Magazine named Des Moines the number 2 city in America for finding a job, behind only Washington DC.  It was hard not to wonder… What’s so special about Des Moines, Iowa that has elicited so much praise?

    One of the things that emerged in the course of the conversation was that, while so many cities have been focused on looking for the newest, coolest, highest tech solution to modern challenges, the answers often reside in the least trendy of places.  Not high tech, but low tech; not sophisticated, but fundamental; not novel or innovative, but instead, the familiar and fundamental.  A lot of what is working in Des Moines and in Iowa is a modern approach to leveraging traditional products and services, using long-lived core competencies, and creating new business models from within the heart of bedrock industries that have been here forever and yet are as essential and valuable today as they were in the early 19th century.  So, while other communities may focus their economic development efforts on attracting new technology companies Des Moines remains focused on its core strengths: financial services and insurance, and the new businesses that synergize with them.

    Des Moines is set located in the center of America, at the juncture of two rivers, the Raccoon and the Des Moines. It is located on and surrounded by some of our nation’s most fertile and productive agricultural land and has the Midwest vista that many see as charming, with 2 rivers that wind through town, scenic bridges and the natural undulations of the land formed by the movement of water over millennia.  It also has huge temperature and precipitation fluctuations from season to season, with copious rainfall in later spring, and consistent snowfall during the winter.  Plus, it is prone to flooding and has experienced the worst in its history over the last 10 years, including a flood in 2008 said to have been the “high water mark” of the previous 500 years. To compound the flooding and freezing temperatures, Des Moines is in a tornado zone. The Mayor, T.M. Franklin (Frank) Cownie, is intimately familiar with all of these Iowan traits. He was born and bred in Des Moines, as were his parents before him.  Among many business interests, Cownie owns and operates Cownie Furs, a descendent of Des Moines’ history as a fur trading capital.  Cownie’s business background, coupled to a core belief in public service has led to his strength in building business and government collaborations and partnerships. That mix of private and public working in concert has helped to create a period of growth and accomplishment previously unseen in Des Moines.

    Even before Cownie was mayor, Des Moines had a proud tradition of investing in beautification programs throughout its neighborhoods and parks, as well as in it s downtown corridor. So there was a path and community commitment in place for ongoing investment in quality of life programs.   The community is proud of its ongoing investment in quality of life programs.  But the work done under Mayor Cownie’s administrations has significantly contributed to that trend.   In the last 5 years alone, Des Moines has won more top ten rankings than is practical to list here.  Amongst that enormous list of accolades and top rankings are high rankings in the following lists: 10 Best Cities for the Next Decade (by Kiplinger’s), Best Cities for Young Professionals (Forbes), and the Best for Business (MarketWatch).  There are another 30 or more similar accolades the City has been awarded during the past couple of years.  They are all listed on both the Convention and Visitors Bureau the City’s and the the Greater Des Moines Partnership’s websites.

    So you might say that something is working in Des Moines.  Much of what Mayor Cownie describes conjures a sense of an ethos of attending to the city’s livability on an ongoing basis.  Rather than provide a list of specific projects, he points to a perpetual conversation with business owners and other City customers about what is important to them.  Some examples of the ongoing collaboration between the City and its businesses include the Principal Riverwalk, the World Food Prize, an exemplary public art project, 4 miles of weather protected sky-walks and more.

    Cities have all seen a rise in interest in their downtowns, and have largely encouraged that growth in an effort to re-grow city centers and bring vitality back from the sprawling suburbs.  But often, efforts to grow a downtown end up with high-end condominiums occupied by wealthy retirees or high-paid executives, and no affordable housing for the people one hopes will work in the restaurants, bars and retail outlets that the city leaders visualize lining the streetscape.   Des Moines has grown more than its commercial property occupancy rate.  It has grown a vibrant downtown community for all ages and economic levels.  The skywalks mentioned above were not just for comfort.  (“[T]he thought was that by putting skywalks on the second level of buildings, retail corridors could be created at the entrances to those skywalks. Shoppers would stop to buy while walking to the garage or to lunch.” That is to say, the intent behind much of the infrastructure investments has been to consider how it would impact all potential customers, including large companies, but also, service employees, renters, homeowners, retail and visitors.  Des Moines has experienced a 400% Increase in rentals, so it seems that the steps taken to build a magnetic downtown have worked, attracting people of all walks of life, income levels and background to live, work and play in the downtown.  It is not a downtown with only banks and insurance companies, it is a city that also has rental housing that young service employees can afford, making it possible to live and work downtown, and possibly walk to work rather than drive.  The fact that the cost of living in Des Moines is 8% lower than the national average certainly helps young people and lower wage employees to live better and closer to the city center – as it does all people.  Having a concentration of businesses, housing and recreation in the downtown also makes it possible to live comfortably without the pressure of expenses like car repairs and with reduced anxiety about rising gas prices, as driving is less critical than it is when commuting miles to work every day.  Of course, less driving also helps to reduce the city’s carbon footprint, adding to its overall greenness – something else that the Mayor believes is critical to his city.

    The Mayor’s office along with the Greater Des Moines Partnership all spend time regularly visiting with businesses of every size and looking for ways to enhance the business environment and build the vitality of the city’s economy.  Of course, in some ways, this is true of every city.  But there is unique character to Des Moine’s strategy.  Across the country, cities are attempting to form industry clusters – often to replace clusters that are believed to be too low-paying or insufficiently “modern”.  In Des Moines, they could hardly have more traditional industry clusters.  The city’s economic foundation comes primarily from the financial sector, from financial services and insurance.  And Greater Des Moines is also home to many agricultural businesses, including Dow Chemical and Monsanto.

    But instead of seeking to replace or displace those stalwarts, they have developed new and novel ways to build an entire ecosystem of industry in support of those business segments.  For example local business incubators support budding entrepreneurs who have innovative business ideas by renting them space very inexpensively and providing mentoring through the incubator.  That’s not unique – incubators are popping up all over the country – and there are plenty in Des Moines, with various missions and focuses.  In one incubator in particular, a requirement of these start-ups is that they be in the business service or service area.  For most start-up businesses, despite the advent of Internet marketing, it’s easier to sell locally where you can realistically meet your prospective customers and look them in the eye.  By directing new businesses toward a synergistic role with already sustainable local business verticals– the insurance industry, the agricultural trade, sustainable building and so forth—developing businesses grow into a kind of instant role in a supply chain, strengthening the entire local economic system. So along with the globally-oriented technology start-ups and Internet companies that are growing in Des Moines (especially with the support of the universities and community colleges), there is an emphasis on building businesses that will find a strong, already fully developed, economic base in Des Moines.

    This emphasis on the traditional, long-standing businesses has several very modern twists on it – some of which have global implications.  As an agriculturally rich part of the country there are a number of ancillary businesses that are also strong – those that support agriculture. It’s no surprise that John Deere is based in the state of Iowa and its financial services and logistics divisions are headquartered in Des Moines.  Many other farm equipment companies are based in the region, like Vermeer, based in Pella, and the seed company Pioneer (a subsidiary of Dupont) is in greater Des Moines.   So this ecology of industry clusters in and around the businesses that have been stalwarts of the Iowan economy for decades, continues to flourish.  As important as this is to the local, regional and state economies, there is also a global advantage.  Nationally, the pressure is on to grow GDP and shrink the nation’s trade deficit.  With that in mind, finding ways to sell outside of the local – even outside of the national economy — are inherently smart moves.  Exporting to China, India, Pakistan, Africa, Latin and Central America and more are ways to build the country’s trade strength – and ways to build a local economy as well.  Recently, Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping visited Des Moines as part of a trade mission to the US.  The resulting deal is bringing upwards of $4.3b in soybean purchase alone to the local economy.   That kind of deal casts the trade deficit in a slightly different light – the same new perspective that pervades the Des Moines success story: Traditional products and services that form a core competency in the Des Moines region, are more exportable than manufactured new technology.

     

    While the Chinese and other Asian economies may be able to provide low-cost manufacturing of high tech goods, they lack many of the natural and cultivated resources we have.  They can never produce enough nutritious food for their population; there simply isn’t enough land.  They are unlikely to master the kinds of agricultural skill, agri-technology or the development of farming and other heavy equipment that we have.  They don’t need to – they can buy from us. They can certainly develop brains and innovate in a variety of areas – but no future will eradicate the need to grow or eat food. With China’s growing population, a commensurate need for biotechnological know-how and the food it produces exists – and with its growing economic strength and the corporate and personal wealth that comes with it will come a demand for food that is attractive for survival and attractive for discretionary spending.   That allows for the natural evolution of the agricultural cluster in and around Des Moines to continue to grow in its sophistication, encompassing biotechnology, bio-engineering and so forth.  But the theme is clear,  it is all organic growth, none of it artificially constructed for the sake of “economic development”.

    Returning to the mayor’s commitment to “greening” Des Moines, this too is far more than PR or artifice. The Mayor has advocated for and has been joined by the city as a whole in supporting adoption of environmentally friendly technology and sustainable practices and principles for at least the last six years. “In 2006, the City Council adopted twelve goal statements, one of which was for Des Moines to become a Sustainable Green Community. In 2007, City Council adopted the Energy Conservation and Environmental Enhancement Policy which provided goals and a number of principles based on the built environment, the natural environment, and property management, acquisition, and disposal.”    In November of 2011, Mayor Cownie was awarded the National Environmental Hall of Fame Award.  Des Moines has the first public library likely to be certified LEED Platinum (Franklin Avenue Library) as well as the first certified LEED Platinum commercial office building of its size in the world (Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield building.  And the City’s annual report contains a substantial sustainability section. The Mayor’s and the City’s highly visible efforts on the green front has produced so much of a groundswell that many local businesses are embracing the ROI of investing now in sustainable development.  They receive incentives from the City, but the level of support goes beyond that.  The businesses undertaking LEED certification are not simply looking for tax credits, they see a long-term and perpetual ROI on going the distance toward sustainability, and doing so now.  Moreover, in every project and initiative – many of which have no direct green-oriented impetus – sustainability emerges as a benefit.

    I started off by referencing a culture in the Des Moines City Hall of collaboration between the local government, the business community and the citizens. That clearly exists.  The large companies in Des Moines, those in the insurance and financial services industries, clearly have had a hand in supporting the ongoing economic strength and growth of the city.  They are significant job-creators with a stake in continuing to attract smart employees.  Des Moines has a lot of those kind of businesses, more than many cities their size (1 for every 568 residents).  But that same culture of involvement penetrates to a far more grassroots level than is common.  Rather than there being a clear delineation between the participation and dialogue of the city with huge companies versus mom and pop enterprises, there is genuine collaboration between large and small businesses, profit and not for profit, elected officials, City employees and citizens who are all dedicated to working together.  For example, in the East Village, an area that had lost much of its luster over years and had several buildings slated for demolition, the City got on board with a potential project that required the buy-in of residents and businesses in the neighborhood.

    The buildings (like those in many parts of America) had been built in the 1960s.  They were products of an aesthetic that envisioned a future of cement, with sweeping vistas of blank walls.  The renovation concept started with that visual impact. A common approach to that issue is to tear everything down and start new.  But of course, new buildings look, well… new.  Des Moines had developed a master plan for the redevelopment of its downtown corridor which incorporated renovation of historic buildings with unique architecture that has made the landscape a brilliant combination of new and old.   So in the East Village, instead of a clean sweep, the proposal was to remove all of the facades and to reveal the brick beneath, or in some case, add brick and make the street look more varied and less planned.  The City in collaboration with local citizens offered to provide all of the streetscaping necessary to support the new facades.[i] Along with that streetscape plan, and in a commitment to include local talent and local visions, they held a contest for cool design of bike racks.  Again, the City returns to its sustainability theme…encouraging the use of bicycles without adding regulation or even talking about cycling per se.  Designs ranged from free-form sculpture to a metal, spotted dog lifting his leg – and all of them are bike racks.  Over the course of 10 years or so the area has become a trendy place to live, work and visit.   Perhaps most importantly though, the successful transformation can be owned by everyone.  The city had a role – but so did the developers, landlords, business owners, residents and cultural groups.

    For most residents in most cities, quality of life is a truly personal and local phenomenon.  While grand city issues are extremely important – everything from the comprehensive development plan to jobs growth – most peoples’ direct experience rarely extends far beyond one’s own block or dog-walking range (or commuting traffic).  In Des Moines, the City has taken the same collaborative approach at the very local level, with an outreach program that goes directly to the neighborhoods to listen in at meetings, offer information and solicit ideas for how to make life better at this very local level.  They do this in a couple of ways. Des Moines has 61 strong Neighborhood Associations whose leaders work with the City to identify issues and opportunities.  This system has enabled the effective allocation of resources and empowered neighborhoods to prioritize their needs, cultivating a partnership between the City and Neighborhood Associations that has led to satisfaction and benefits beyond what one can quantify.

    In addition to the collaboration between Neighborhood Associations and the City, Des Moines has a “Neighborhood Based Service Delivery Program” that sends Parks, Police and other City professionals to neighborhood meetings quarterly, to both hear the specific concerns and mood, and to solicit input. “The primary objective of these teams is to assist neighborhoods in identifying and prioritizing concerns, planning a course of action and implementing solutions to solve problems.” The Police even have a Facebook page to promote and support their efforts.

    There is clearly much more to say about Des Moines and its success.  Maybe the best way to find out if it all really is as great as every media outlet in the country has suggested is to go there.  But in the interim, Mayor Cownie offered his perspective on what he has learned as mayor, and what he thinks might be helpful to those who may want someday to lead a city, or those who find themselves in that role already.  It comes down to collaboration and working together.  He has led through example and through demonstrating that shared visions have more support and success than those that are dictated.  Like most businesspeople, he couches this approach in strategic terms.  It’s critical to know where you want to go, to have a vision – one that includes your own as Mayor, but also the vision of the citizens and businesses in a shared whole.  But to achieve that, you have to start by evaluating where you are now, what your strengths and weaknesses may be, and create clear plans to accomplish filling the gaps between the present and that future. In Des Moines, many of those plans are in place, and while the City seems to have succeeded in fulfilling a vision, Mayor Cownie sees a great deal further to go.  His vision is to continue to create more economic, cultural and quality of life opportunities in Des Moines.  Given the track record of accolade piled on accolade, it won’t be surprising to see that trend continue.  But perhaps by watching how Des Moines shapes its future those of us in other cities can improve the quality of life in our hometowns, and perhaps join Des Moines on the one or several Top Ten lists.

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    [i] Janis Ruan lead the downtown landscaping  vision along with the Fleur Drive renovation which was funded by Ruan Companies and the City

    * Although the interview is complete and unabridged, additional material is included in this article.

  • Tactical Urbanism: Grassroots Urban Renewal

    They call it Tactical Urbanism — efforts by small groups or individuals to improve the local quality of life.  “These small-scale interventions are characterized by their community-focus and realistic goals. Maybe the most widespread of these tactics is the annual Park(ing) Day, in which parking spaces are turned into temporary park spaces.”  So says Mike Lyndon, a principal of Street Plans Collaborative, an urban planning firm that is responsible for publishing the Tactical Urbanism Handbook.  The book contains a wealth of information to assist those who are interested in undertaking some kind of project, and also has a Facebook page where interested readers can “meet”.  Equally interesting though is the historical perspective provided, with examples of analogous activities going back to the 16th century in France. As you peruse the hundreds of examples of Tactical Urbanism, what strikes most is how diverse the projects can be.  In Miami, a “chair bombing” day has folks placing Adirondack chairs arbitrarily in Bayfront Park to create “random moments of urbanism”.  Compare that to the “guerrilla scupture” in a small Yorkshire town in England, where artists have carved exquisite and complex sculptures of the trees.  Other examples can include the truck farms that have taken root in multiple US cities (see an earlier Featured Idea), or the vigilante crosswalk painting that citizens undertook in Baltimore to ensure safe street crossings.  There is plenty for everyone.  for a great recent article on Tactical Urbanism, click here.

  • Sustainable Stadiums Are Smart

    Many cities have invested millions in sports stadiums — often tax dollars — with the expectation that the advent of a modern sports venue will attract strong and disproportionate economic impact.  But despite the hopes and dreams — and money — often invested in these massive structures, and further, even when they successfully become iconic local institutions — they are rarely true examples of modern planning or architecture.  Many stadiums are in marginal parts of town, have tremendous built-in access and energy conservation problems — and the more successful the local franchise, the worse the resulting traffic and debris is likely to be.  “Often times, these venues have acted like tumors for the city, sucking up fiscal and environmental resources while causing more problems for the surrounding community”. That is beginning to change.

    At the thin end of the sustainable stadium wedge is the stadium intended for use in the London 2012 Olympics. “It has been made from materials 75 percent lighter than steel, the most common material used to build other stadiums. Low-carbon concrete was used in its construction, which contains 40 percent less carbon than usual.”  But the sustainability of these mini-ecosystems — that can often be the size and scale of a town — should probably begin before the materials are considered, with the choice of location.  Placing stadiums in inner cities may not be the best placement.  perhaps they should go in open tracts where they are less likely to compound urban environmental impacts? Cowboys Stadium in Dallas is an example of careful choice of location. It is also a great example of a valiant attempt to temper a huge production of waste and excess with eco-friendly practices and systems.

    Most of the real thrust of this trend though goes into the planning of the construction, fixtures, parking and internal systems of stadiums.  For example, in Los Angeles, the efforts is going into retrofitting Farmers Field to make it the first LEED certified NFL stadiumIBM is bringing a somewhat different effort to Miami, using the tools of Smart Cities to collect and analyze all of the data within the stadium “that will mean greater insight into stadium-related analytics for the fan — like parking data. And stadium managers will be able to track visitor traffic, monitor inclement weather, and analyze visitor spending habits in real-time, increasing efficiency and reducing costs.”.  One can only project that in the future, all of these practices will intersect, creating sports venues that are all at once located in appropriate settings, built of sustainable materials, and equipped with sensors and computers that permit the smartest possible operation, for the greatest efficiency and cost effectiveness.  Stay posted!

  • Top 25 in Government Technology Leadership

    The top 25 technology leaders have been anointed! As committed technophiles, S4C has been riveted to the results.  The winners include people we have cheered and admired — like the Code for America Fellows, Mayor Ron Littlefield of Chattanooga and Greg Wass, CIO of Cook County  — and many who are new to us!  Don’t miss reading the full list and the extended stories of what these pioneers have accomplished!  Our next anticipated list?  The top 25 technologies for cities… (because like most of these leaders, we are most interested in functions and applications!)

  • Vision of a Fully Connected Smart City

    In this video, the GSMA (global trade association of mobile-related professionals) walks us through a fully connected smart city.  In this vision, everything from electric meters, to water pumps, traffic lights and mass transit, are connected through smart grids, and able to monitor their own energy and efficiency, as well as the needs of customers.  The video is fast-paced and worth watching!

  • Cities Overlook Rainwater as Resource

    In most cities, rainwater does little more than create traffic or puddles, and is left to flow into gutters and ultimately, into storm-water drainage systems.  This is noteworthy only because water is such a scarce and critical resource.  In the US alone there are at least 36 States in which the lack of water is a genuine problem.  According to the NRDC “rainwater collection systems on just half of the available rooftop space could supply between 21 and 75 percent of annual water needs [and] would also save residents a combined $90 billion in municipal water fees. (As a bonus, rainwater collection also reduces the amount of polluted runoff that flows into lakes, rivers and oceans.)” .  So why don’t more poeple collect rainwater and more cities use it?  There are lots of reasons, and some as simple as basic laziness or lack of knowledge.  But in some places there are actual regulatory obstacles to residents seizing upon this money-saving and green opportunity.  In some municipalities, rainwater in its untreated form is only permitted to be used for certain outdoor, non-potable functions, like lawn-watering and other irrigation uses. There are exceptions.  Portland Oregon has created multiple standards and processes for the use of rainwater.

    Using purified potable water for purposes like flushing toilets or irrigating landscape is a waste of a valuable resource. Portland residents are asking more questions about the role of conservation in extending the supply of drinking water. Stored water can substitute for piped drinking water for many uses where a high level of purity is not required.”

    For cities there are more strategic steps they should take to begin seizing the opportunity of rainwater as a conservation device, stem against storm-water contamination and replacements of city water for normal non-potable uses like toilet-flushing, irrigation and  some cleaning. The first thing for cities to do is to adopt a clear set of guidelines for the use and treatment of rainwater.  Here are the recommendations of the EPA:

    • “Adopt stormwater pollution control standards that require on-site volume retention and allow rainwater harvesting and reuse, with appropriate health and safety standards, to be used to meet that requirement, thereby creating an incentive for on-site capture
    • Adopt standards that require or promote rainwater harvesting and/or water efficiency
    • Review building, health, and plumbing codes for barriers to capturing or reusing rainwater
    • Provide incentives for decreasing storm-water runoff and promoting water conservation
    • Require use of rainwater harvesting and reuse on all public properties”

    For individuals there are several steps you can take and products you can purchase that will assist with collecting rainwater.  To read more, click on the links throughout.

  • The S4C City Contest Challenge (#S4CCCC)

    CALLING ALL CITIES!

    S4C challenges you to use your best minds and strongest economic development techniques to develop winning contests. The rules are here, but the idea is simple. Craft a prize contest for the general public. The contest should seek to improve your city, county village, town or municipality by eliciting ideas, residents, businesses, technology, or any other resource you value.  Click here for all of the rules of eligibility, guidelines to format your entry and so forth.  We will publish the best ones.  Deadline is July 1, 2012.  The winner will be featured in our Cities at Work Newsletter as well as distribution of the contest through PR Newswire.

    To follow updates on twitter, #S4CCCC.  We’re rooting for you!

  • Cities Can Win With Public Contests

    David Bornstein of the New York Times writes in a recent New York Times article about the ways that the Obama administration has used contests to stimulate ideas and participation. “Last year the president signed legislation granting all agencies broad authority to conduct prize competitions in an effort to engage large numbers of people outside government in problem solving aligned with governing objectives, and to identify and spread solutions already on the ground.” Cities can seize upon the same wisdom and craft contests that will inspire the public to bring its genius, skill, enthusiasm and idiosyncrasies to the forefront for the general good.  Some cities have already demonstrated the benefits of such contests.  In Pittsburgh, a long-term contest is now in progress to attract a business-owning baby boomer to relocate to Pittsburgh from somewhere else.  Why all the trouble  for one new business or resident?  The enormous amount of positive publicity stimulated by the contest makes the $100,000 winning award seem tiny by comparison. Imagine the number of productive, potential tax-payers who are learning of the contest and reconsidering Pittsburgh.  It’s a great boon to economic development and image.

    In Chattanooga, all geeks are on notice — the city is offering big prizes for great applications and corresponding business plans. Dubbed “Gig City” as part of the competition branding,  the contest and its fruits have been big PR wins for the city.  But more importantly, the actual work product of the competitors and businesses they generate will be in and for Chattanooga — and that kind of innovation and potential job growth is priceless. ““Chattanooga offers forward-thinking entrepreneurs a huge head-start in leading the next generation of Internet commerce,” Tom Edd Wilson, president and CEO of the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, said. “The Gig Prize will provide the support and connections necessary to develop, prove and fund these paradigm shifting business models.”

    Once the competitive engines are purring, it’s easy to see how this paradigm of ferocious creativity and collaboration can create something new and viral.  The perfect setting may be the Code for America project, seeking to bring innovators to cities and counties, and to the nation itself to seize upon the opportunity to innovate in favor of improved operation and service delivery. So how does this effect your city? Go beyond school-age contests and essay competitions.  One place to look is to the kinds of industry clusters you seek to cultivate.  Looking for biotech? Why not launch a business/biotech contest.  Give folks a year to apply and be vetted, require every inch of corroboration necessary to ensure a potential winner, and fund it with enough to make it attractive.  The prize may be in dollars, but the real reward may be tax-free offices, guaranteed executive housing for a year, a partneship with a local hospital or medical school,  places in a magnet school for relocated kids.  Building an craft-ale cluster?  The same principles apply.

    How can your city leverage an investment in prize money?  We want to hear your ideas.  S4C challenges you to use your best minds and strongest economic development techniques to develop winning contests.  To get all the details, including the rules and eligibility guidelines click here.  We will publish the best ones.  Deadline is July 1, 2012.  The winner will be featured in our Cities at Work Newsletter and the contest information distributed nationwide through PR Newswire.

  • When Mobility Meets Mass Transit

    Coming soon, to a city near you, may be a way to download an app that allows you to call for a taxi, get the information on the specific car and driver, track its approach to you — all before you ever enter it — with the use of an iPhone app.  The app is called Get Taxi, and it’s been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times in Tel Aviv and is also in use in London. We are all familiar with paying by app or cell phone for parking through various services such as ParkNOW!, or paying for reserved parking through ParkHub, but so far, park and ride apps and pay for transit apps have not made it to the US.  That is about to change.  Around the globe, the use of mobile applications and integrations, whether for reservations, service requests or payment through apps, credit cards, NFC (Near Field Communications) and more is growing.  In this BMW-sponsored article, some of the more popular international services are highlighted.  And none seem nearly as amazing as they would have just a year ago.  So you know it’s only a matter of a brief time until they are just “business as usual” for us too!  Of course, at S4C, we are scouting for our next best-in-class client.  When we find it, we will let you know first! To read the full article and see photos, click here.

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