Abstract. The growing maturity and deployment of low-cost georeferenced sensors, navigation systems, fast wireless communication, cyberinfrastructure and the Internet of Things (IoT) is accelerating the speed of geographic data flowing from the environment and our capabilities for reacting quickly to geographic information, often automatically and in real-time. This is leading to the rise of real-time GIS and smart cities technologies. While reacting quickly to changing circumstances has value, there are potentials for unintended consequences and rebound effects resulting from our inability to build geographic knowledge quickly and the selective acceleration of societal processes. This report discusses why these unintended outcomes may occur, and suggests technical and scientific approaches for understanding and managing the potential impacts of fast geographic data.
On July 15-16 2019, a diverse group of university researchers and community stakeholders from Columbus, Ohio and Portland, Oregon participated in a workshop to explore issues surrounding new mobility technologies, sustainable urban systems and data. This event was organized in response to the National Science Foundation Dear Colleague Letter (NSF 19-032; “Concepts for Advancing Sustainable Urban Systems (SUS) Research Networks”) released in December 2018.
Deeper scientific understanding of cities and more nuanced, effective sustainability policy and planning interventions are crucial as we move towards an almost completely urbanized planet by the end of the 21st century. A pressing concern are questions and needs relating to new technology-enabled services that are disrupting the mobility landscape of cities. Urban mobility is experiencing a revolution, much of it driven by the private sector, with new technologies and services involving light individual transport (e.g., scooters), shared vehicles, microtransit, mobility as a service and eventually connected and autonomous vehicles. The impacts of the new mobility revolution on urban sustainability is uncertain: similar to the introduction of cars and highways in the early 20th century, it is possible that mobility technologies and services that individually appear to be sustainable and beneficial may collectively reshape cities to have larger environmental footprints, greater inequality and/or less economic flexibility and resilience.
Urban sustainability data observatories (USDOs) are a means for persistent, ongoing data collection, archiving and analysis to enable new knowledge about complex human and coupled human-natural systems, such as cities. They integrate many of the diverse elements that are needed to significantly advance sustainable urban systems (SUS) science. Importantly, they support new data and methods for understanding current SUS drivers and interactions, advancing comparative studies, developing the science to model the future of SUS, and fostering the science of knowledge co-production. USDOs can also facilitate more sensitive and nuanced understanding of how context and history shape the outcomes of policy and planning interventions in complex urban systems. Finally, they can go beyond observation to enable platforms and processes for data-enabled engagement and discussions among heterogeneous stakeholders concerned with the environmental, social and economic future of their community.
Columbus is the winner of the US Department of Transportation’s Smart City Challenge, beating out San Francisco, Austin, Portland, Kansas City, Denver and Pittsburgh. Columbus will receive a $40 million federal grant combined with $10 million from Vulcan Inc. and matched by an additional $90 million from private sector partners. The award will invest in next generation transportation technologies and services, including driverless vehicles, advanced traffic analytics and intelligent infrastructure.