at Tomorrow’s City Infrastructure Forum, organised by the World Cities Network.
The one-day forum gathered professionals from both the public and the private sector and presentations ranged from city case studies (London, Helsinki, Paris and Tallin) to more general subjects like the common infrastructure challenges cities in the UK and across the world are grappling with.
During the day, I met a lot of interesting people and gained lot of new insights and ideas. Here’s seven things I learned that you might find interesting:
1. London ranks 18th out of 50 cities on a new international Resiliency Index, developed by the Grosvenor Group. This was mainly attributed to London’s inability to provide affordable housing to its residents (no surprise there!) According to the index, vulnerability + adaptive capacity = resiliency.
2. “Money goes where it’s easier to invest”. This is to say that there is no shortage of capital for urban infrastructure investment, only a shortage of investor confidence. According to participants, confidence can be boosted by a number of factors such as having a clearly defined vision, providing long term certainty or having strong leadership (to name a few).
3. Helsinki City Hall owns 66 per cent of the city’s land and provides most of the services (including utilities). This makes it easier for the city to draw long term, coordinated plans and implement them. Although even for Helsinki, working across city departments and breaking down silos is difficult. On a side note: Helsinki does not suffer from a borrowing cap – imagine the opportunities!
4. Birmingham has the capacity to host around 50,000 new houses within its administrative boundaries. However, it needs over 80,000 (according to DCLG) to accommodate projected growth, while other estimates put this number up to over 120,000.
5. In Dublin, the open data platform launched in 2011 had unexpected effects on the council. Instead of only serving as a data-providing platform, it exposed many weaknesses in public sector processes and the council is starting to change the way it provides services based on feedback from users.
6. Tallin offers its residents ‘free’ public transport, although this is still funded by public taxes. Since it started doing so in 2012, ridership has increased by 12.5 per cent to reach 67 per cent.
7. Delaying Crossrail 2 by five years will increase its cost by £5bn. Don’t quote me on this, but I think it’s fair to say that delaying urban infrastructure will not make it any cheaper.
One more thing: The Guildhall is a beautiful old building which I think everyone should visit.
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