Megacities minus mega-traffic

By Catherine

Written by Catherine Bolgar

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Two-thirds of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050, according to the United Nations Population Fund. The number of megacities—i.e., those with more than 10 million inhabitants—is expected to rise to 41 by 2030, from 28 today, with most of the increase occurring in emerging economies.

Urbanization is particularly strong in China, where some 16 million rural Chinese migrate to cities every year. In addition, China also suffers from chronic air pollution, made worse by rising middle-class car ownership. With 154 million cars on the road in 2014, particulate-matter counts—a measure of air quality—regularly surpasses 500 micrograms per cubic meter, about 20 times the World Health Organization pollution guidelines.

China’s government is trying to improve the urban environment. Its six-year New Urbanization Plan includes plans for hundreds of new “eco-cities,” though existing eco-cities, such as Shenyang, Caofeidian, Nanning, Dongtan, Qingdao and Sino-Singapore Tianjin, have had mixed results.

“They’re making courageous attempts and are learning from success and failure,” says Victor Vergara, lead urban specialist at the World Bank. “If you have a situation where you have a greenfield and you have a lot of capital, you’re able to do things that otherwise couldn’t be done.”

But sometimes the cities don’t have the natural economic base to grow organically. You can’t invent a city. It has to emerge from a marketplace where people work and study and enjoy themselves.”

However, cities in emerging economies tend to grow haphazardly, with irregular settlements that don’t conform to (often unrealistic) zoning laws. Indeed, urban growth is so rapid that even cities with strong traditional institutions have a hard time keeping up, Mr. Vergara notes.

Despite these challenges, some cities are working to grow in ways that make them sustainable and pleasant places to live. That means rejecting the urban sprawl typical of U.S. and some Latin American cities, in favor of urban areas that are compact, walkable and well-served by public transport.

Such transit-oriented development prioritizes support for public transport over private cars. It aims to make the best use of land around transit nodes and stations, attracting more people and increasing land prices in the process. “It’s basically good urban planning, which puts long-term public interest before short-term private gain,” Mr. Vergara says.

One key to success is ensuring that schools, shops, health care, work, and other basic facilities are available locally. “The first thing is designing, or at least steering, their growth in ways that limit as much as possible the need for mobility,” Mr. Vergara says.

Cities have to be polycentric, with more than one area where services are available to citizens. They also have to have many neighborhood centers where people can walk to get their basic daily needs, like shopping.”

Walkable cities must also have good sidewalks and prioritize pedestrian safety, avoiding dangerous intersections and long waits when crossing broad avenues. And when longer journeys are necessary—for example, commuting across town for work—cities must ensure that good public transport is available, Mr. Vergara says.

In the past, you have had the whole thing upside down. You had roads that defined how cities grow, rather than cities that want to grow a certain way and have roads that enable that growth,” he adds.

As a result, some initiatives to limit car usage, such as car ownership quotas or odd- and even-license plates for driving on alternate days, have backfired. “In middle-income countries, people just buy a second car,” he says, and often one that’s older and pollutes more. A better way to discourage car use is by charging for driving on congested roads and through stricter parking policies.

Meanwhile, cities can make public transport more attractive: by subsidizing ticket prices; allowing single-ticket transfers between transport modes—such as from bus to metro—and reducing connection times; introducing more bus lanes to make bus journeys faster than by car; and by making buses and train cars more comfortable.

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And many cities are doing just that. Curitibia, in southern Brazil, first focused on rapid-transit bus services four decades ago, later upgrading with dedicated bus lanes, level boarding, free transfers and futuristic tube-like bus stops. Despite its high level of car ownership, 70% of the city’s commuters use the bus system.

In East Africa, Addis Ababa, Nairobi and Dar es Salaam are adopting rapid-transit bus systems to improve service while shifting commuters away from unregulated, high-polluting minibuses.

“There are new ways of living that people have to understand to make large cities viable,” Mr. Vergara says. “Cities need to be both efficient and equitable in order to ensure shared prosperity and poverty reduction.”

 

Catherine Bolgar is a former managing editor of The Wall Street Journal Europe. For more from Catherine Bolgar, contributors from the Economist Intelligence Unit along with industry experts, join the Future Realities discussion.

 

Photos courtesy of iStock

Sustainability Series blog post: A Decade of Evolution in Sustainability — Q&A

By Christina

Q&A with Valérie Ferret, Director Public Affairs & Sustainability, Dassault Systèmes

Valérie Ferret, Director Public Affairs & Sustainability, Dassault SystèmesIn 2014, for the first time, carbon emissions decreased over the previous year while the economy grew. Valérie Ferret, Director Public Affairs & Sustainability, Dassault Systèmes, offered her thoughts on this milestone and on the evolution of corporate sustainability. Environmental-responsibilityValerie joined the company in 2008 to develop the influencer network and promote our vision of providing businesses and people

with virtual universes to imagine sustainable innovations. This is the third part in our “Sustainability Series,” aimed to shed light on the importance of positive contributions to preserve the earth’s resources for future generations.


3DS: Ten years ago, how would you define the role of sustainability in the enterprise? What evolution have you witnessed over the past decade?

 VF:  Ten years ago, sustainability meant corporate responsibility.  Companies had not truly embraced the concept of product innovation as part of their sustainability strategies.  This has since changed, yet there is still progress to be made, as it is rare to find an enterprise that has defined an end-to-end sustainability model.

 3DS: In 2014, for the first time, carbon emissions decreased over the previous year while the economy grew.  Can it be said that advances in corporate sustainability are responsible? 

 VF:  Global carbon emissions come mainly from the energy, transportation, agriculture and forestry sectors.  There have been great strides made by companies to integrate sustainability into their operations, and we are now witnessing the fruit of these efforts.  For example, alternative powertrain development is rising in the way of electric vehicles and hybrids, or more efficient turbo-charged internal combustion engines.  Better equipment and infrastructure investment over the last 30 years has doubled fuel efficiency of freight railroads. Now we definitely need to accelerate and develop new business models to decouple economic growth from carbon emissions and resources use.

3DS: Is sustainability top-of-mind at corporations now, or is there still progress to be made? 

VF:  Sustainability is an important aspect of a company’s reputation, and it has become an important topic at the CEO level. Yet the sustainability function is not yet integrated into all aspects of an organization, from marketing, communication and operations, to product development.  Sustainable decisions go beyond the concept of carbon emissions.  They involve resource efficiency and a product lifecycle approach.  Businesses that understand upfront the resources consumption involved in production and in a final product, and how these will benefit nature and life, have a greater chance of succeeding in the marketplace in the longer term.

3DS: How exactly is corporate sustainability measured?

VF: Sustainability methodologies and science have been well developed over the past two decades.  These include lifecycle assessment methodologies at the product level, a balanced combination of environmental, social, governance, financial and innovation indicators at the corporate level, as well as carbon footprinting methodologies both at the product and the enterprise level. A number of notation agencies measure sustainability and recognize corporations that engage in sustainability programs based on their improvement rate rather than on performance, meaning that companies with an excellent performance and lower lever of improvement are not recognized as they should be.  In order to provide a better sustainability assessment, there are more and more standardization and sectorial approaches, which will allow for more accurate comparison between corporations. In addition, we need to progress on real data reporting.  Most methodologies such as carbon footprinting still rely on estimations and average data, which makes it difficult to create a competition market for sustainability. Lastly, product innovation should be at the heart of the assessment in order to create a sustainable economy.

3DS: What kind of influence do consumers have on corporate sustainability strategies?

VF: Sustainability isn’t just about the product and how the consumer uses it, it’s the entire process behind making that happen.  However, consumers are powerful industry drivers.  Public opinion provides valuable feedback—and often pressures—that can extend the corporate innovation system.  For example, consumer desires for alternative and greener transportation methods have inspired large cities like Paris and New York to install short-term bike rentals. However, many companies are still finding that sustainability is not yet a large market driver.

3DS: Technology trends are influencing the types of products that are developed.  Which ones are impacting sustainability and how?

VF:  There are some technology trends which will help companies to have more integrated and ambitious sustainability strategies:

  • Cloud computing will enhance what we call the social industry. Companies will be able to work with an even more extended ecosystem to include not only the supply chain, but also research institutes, partners and consumers, in the innovation process. This will allow for systemic innovation which is key to achieving sustainability.
  • Big data and the Internet of Things will target end-to-end product experiences, from design to usage, for more delightful and efficient experiences.
  • Fablabs are changing production models towards more localized supply and demand.

Technology that can decipher consumer needs and wants and influence subsequent product development can later define new consumer uses, behaviors and experiences.

3DS: In 2050, the world’s population is estimated to surpass 9 billion.  What will be critical to meet the needs of such a large population?

VF:  We will need both scientific and economic innovation to define new business models which decouple resource use and carbon emissions from economic growth.  The world needs to think bigger in order to define targeted strategies.  Take urban infrastructure, for example. How will a city that was built for a population half its size be able to manage waste? With social and environmental pressures so great, virtual technology and process management are effective ways to understand, react to, and drive new initiatives.

3DS: In 2012, you launched Dassault Systèmes’ “sustainable innovation lab” to develop partnerships with customers and industry groups to share ideas and best practices on science, technology and business models for sustainability.  What was the inspiration for this?

 VF:  Sustainable innovation can be achieved by combining new design and manufacturing processes with new business and marketing strategies to create a sustainable and flourishing marketplace.  Our business experience platform, which is used by many businesses today for this, served as the inspiration for our sustainable innovation lab, in order to offer proof points of innovation and sustainability in industry.

3DS: Since joining Dassault Systèmes, what has been the most satisfying achievement in terms of sustainability? 

VF: From a corporate sustainability perspective, we’re proud to say that we have been included in the Corporate Knights Global 100 ranking of the most sustainable companies for four consecutive years, and we lead amongst software companies.  This is testimony to our dedication, and reinforces our mission of harmonizing product, nature and life.  Our focus remains on innovation for solutions to help the industry become more sustainable.  We are proud of every achievement: from helping a company reduce materials use through eco-design and simulation, and allowing a company be compliant with environmental regulations, to making its supply chain or its operations more sustainable.  Overall, we are committed to helping the industry define the best consumer experiences based on sustainable innovation.

Better collaboration, better innovation

By Alyssa

If companies connect all the right people with all the right data, what can they achieve? That is the question at the heart of a new 3-part series created by the BBC Advertising Commercial Production team in partnership with Dassault Systèmes, first published as an Advertisement Feature on BBC.com. While the stories explore very different industries, they all consider how 3DEXPERIENCE can positively impact humankind. In the next few weeks we will introduce you to each story in depth.  We invite you to check out a preview of the series now!

Clean Skies

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How close are we to having clean aviation?  While many are working towards this goal, there are many boundaries to cross to get there.  This series explores what it will take – looking at current projects like Solar Impulse as well as other approaches to deliver cost-effective, resource-efficient transport that respects the environment while ensuring safe, seamless mobility.

What’s Next in the Internet of Things?

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The impact of the Internet of Things (IoT) will run deep into the very fabric of our lives and the way we interact with the world around us. This series will explore the how our day to day process of living will evolve and the potential impacts on safety and ethics as IOT devices become more attuned to our specific needs and desires.

The Future of Energy

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In the final series, we consider how our rapidly growing global population has to find new ways to address the challenge of power, while at the same time facing the depletion of easy-to-access fossil fuels and the threat of climate change.  With the world steadily turning to renewable energy sources as the answer to our future energy needs, we explore what it will take to make a 100% renewables planet.

 
This series is similar to a 2014 program, where we explored advances in cardiovascular medicine, the impact performance footwear can have on both everyday and professional athletes and new ways to imagine future cities.

Over the next few months, we will reveal each of these stories to you through videos, infographics and news articles.  Preview the series in our new commercial that gives a glimpse into Dassault Systèmes vision for the future and how 3DEXPERIENCE can shape our lives. Watching TV? Look for the spot through July 31st on BBC World News and on CNN.

 



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