For all the talk about smart cities and new urban technology, investment in city IT doesn't tend to get much love.
That is, at least, the sense we're getting from our second annual poll asking people what their top urban priorities are for the year ahead.
Before the holidays, we posed that question here on Future Cities and provided a series of options: climate change initiatives, upgrading infrastructure, funding public services, green efforts (including bike lanes), gun control, investing in city IT, and job growth. We purposely posed the same question as we did at the end of 2012 to see if and how priorities may have changed. We were pleasantly surprised to see much more interest in green efforts, which took 28% of the pie, as opposed to 13% the previous year. However, we were also intrigued to find that investing in city IT remained in last place, with just 3% of your vote.
The full results for both years' polls appear below.
Last Year's Results: Recap
New Poll Results
From our end, here are a few notable takeaways.
Green efforts gain interest
After a year when more and more cities invested in bike lanes and bike share programs, green and LEED-certified buildings, EcoDistricts, car-free months, and more, it's encouraging but not surprising that interest in green efforts is surging. What is surprising is that climate change initiatives -- which, one can argue, go hand in hand with green efforts -- gained only two percentage points from the 2012 poll, with 9% of the vote.
"Climate change" is still a dirty phrase
Any effort that encourages greener living is also likely to beat back the effects of climate change. However, that phrase still gets a bad rap. In response to the video blog below, Future Cities user hfreeman17 recently said he had trouble with the phrase. "We should do things that are ethical, financially prudent, and observant of urban growth, rather than primarily to obey debatable trends."
Please fix our infrastructure
It's intriguing, if a bit concerning, that a top priority for respondents to our poll for the second year in a row was fixing/upgrading infrastructure. That category scooped up 32% of the vote, as compared to 29% in the 2012 poll. That's not a significant increase, but it's clear that not a whole lot has been done in the past year to repair ailing and aging infrastructure. In our rapidly urbanizing world, that is not a trend we can afford to maintain.
Wait, what's that, a glimmer of hope? According to analysis done by Yonah Freemark of The Transport Politic, North American cities are due to spend more than $80 billion this year on completing or constructing 737 miles of new lines or extensions on current lines.
This year, dozens of new lines will open to the public, including light rail lines in Houston, Minneapolis, Edmonton, Dallas, Calgary; heavy rail lines in New York City and outside Washington; and streetcars in Tucson, Atlanta, Seattle, and Washington, among many others. Bus rapid transit -- or some variety of it -- will see its coming out, with new lines opening in Chicago, Fort Collins, San Diego, Orlando, Los Angeles, and outside Toronto.
In addition, dozens of projects will enter the construction phase, including three rail lines in Los Angeles; bus rapid transit projects in New York City, Oakland, Fresno, and El Paso; streetcars in Fort Lauderdale and Tempe, and more.
Of course, some of this may be held up, seeing as the federal government is the primary benefactor for most of these projects. We'll see how things shake out, but there's progress on the horizon.
And finally, where's the IT love?
Vendors of smart city technology may bristle at the thought that, for the second year in a row, IT came in last place in our Urban Priorities poll. But it's worth considering that, whether it's measuring the green-ness of our buildings or making our transit infrastructure run better through analytics software, and beyond, city IT forms the backbone of many critical urban projects. That being said, there are only so many dollars to go around, and at least according to this poll, very few people are opting to spend them on IT.
Do you have other observations from our poll or any urban priorities our list may have missed? Please share with us on the message boards below.
— Nicole Ferraro, Editor in Chief, UBM's Future Cities