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The greater city: connected, attractive, sustainable

  • Meeting in digital format
  • 21 March 2022

        Fears of urban crisis stoked during the most difficult months of the pandemic have not borne fruit. Indeed, revived economic and social activities are rekindling the vitality of cities, yet the change due to significant lifestyle interruptions is inexorable. The need has emerged, first of all, to redistribute and reconfigure urban density: the de-synchronization of rhythms consequent to social distancing has eliminated rush-hour congestion and made public transportation more efficient. A second boost has come from a digitization that has transformed mobility and how urban areas are used, strengthening the “mobility as a service” paradigm and eliminating unnecessary travel. Another long-term trend lies in regionalization, which does not necessarily mean population dispersion but rather the creation of city networks capable of more evenly distributing density and connectivity.

        These changes prompt consideration of the concept of accessibility. If the idea of the “15-minute city” has encountered some problems in its application to vast metropolitan areas, then designing services in terms of proximity involves not only mobility and access to essential services but also the range of factors that constitute the minimal conditions by which to ensure full citizen involvement. The goal must be to create a fair and sustainable model, and access to opportunity across a vast area can be the first step in reducing inequality.

        Transportation networks are a pivotal factor, owing not least to the possibility for urban regeneration around infrastructures that can transform places, such as railway stations for example, into services hubs. These can then offer a point of departure for shared “last mile” services that contribute to lowering motor vehicle use and air pollution not only in urban centers but also across the broader metropolitan area.

        Moreover, sustainable urban and regional mobility are fundamental to achieving the Agenda 2030 and National Recovery and Resilience Plan (PNRR) objectives. Two factors will make that possible: the first is governance, which must be sufficient and flexible in order to accommodate the changes through projects capable of involving all territory actors; the second is data, a form of wealth that cities generate and that must be placed at the service of the society with a view to improving services and reducing inequality.

        Building connected, attractive, sustainable cities will not be possible, however, in the absence of robust political participation. The trends underway need to be governed properly according to a future vision capable of steering and accompanying citizens as they navigate the – even radical – changes urban areas are undergoing. These policies’ degree of approval and effectiveness can be gauged not only at the ballot box but also in peoples’ choice of where to live. A city’s appeal is reflected in its ability to attract investments and, above all, to offer residents that quality of life that remains central to hopes for a sustainable future.

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