Bring American cities into the 21st century by funding urban innovation

Article by Dan Doctoroff and Richard Florida: “The U.S. is on the verge of the fourth revolution in urban technology. Where railroads, the electric grid, and the automobile defined previous eras, today, new strategies that integrate new technologies in our cities can unlock striking possibilities.

Our buildings can be dramatically more sustainable, adaptable, and affordable. Energy systems and physical infrastructure can fulfill the promise of “climate-positive” development. Secure digital infrastructure can connect people and improve services while safeguarding privacy. We can deploy mobility solutions that regulate the flow of people and vehicles in real time, ease traffic, and cut carbon emissions. Innovative social infrastructure can enable new service models to build truly inclusive communities. 

Congress and the administration are currently negotiating a reconciliation package that is intended to put the U.S. on a path to a sustainable and equitable future. However, this mission will not succeed without meaningful investments in technical solutions that recognize the frontline role of cities and urban counties in so many national priorities.

U.S. cities are still built, connected, powered, heated, and run much as they have been for the past 75 years. Cities continue to generally rely on “dumb” infrastructure, such as the classic traffic light, which can direct traffic and do little else. 

When Detroit deployed the first red-yellow-green automatic traffic light in the 1920s, it pioneered state-of-the art traffic management. Soon, there was a traffic light at every major intersection in America, and it has remained an icon of urban technology ever since. Relying on 100-year-old technology isn’t all that unusual in our cities. If you look closely at any American city, you will see it’s rather the rule. While our policy needs and technical capabilities have changed dramatically, the urban systems U.S. cities rely on have remained essentially frozen in time since the Second World War.  

We must leverage today’s technology and use artificial intelligence, machine learning, data analytics, connected infrastructure, cloud computing, and automation to run our cities. That is why we have come together to help forge a new initiative, the Coalition for Urban Innovation, to reimagine urban infrastructure for the future. Consisting of leading urban thinkers, businesses, and nonprofits, the coalition is calling on Congress and the administration to seize this generational opportunity to finally unlock the potential of cities as powerful levers for tackling climate change, promoting inclusion, and otherwise addressing our thorniest challenges…(More)”.