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  • Writer's pictureSiria Contreras

How Smart Is Your City?

You hear the term “smart” paired up with many words these days,“ “smart watches,” “smart homes,” we may not necessarily know what makes them “SMART,” but we know we want them.

We’ve come a long way from having to live one-size-fits-all lifestyles and our cities are no different. Shell-shock can ensue, as you go from uber-connected larger metropolises such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, or New York to less developed, rural small-town U.S.As.

A city’s residents can be “smart” regardless of where they reside, however a city in itself cannot be “SMART” independent of its constituents and residents. It takes great visionary and action-oriented minds in order to create the change that is ultimately defined as “smart” and it is not mutually exclusive to larger cities.

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of being invited by Fast Company to a private and intimate dinner with former Maryland Governor and 2016 Presidential Candidate Martin O’ Malley, where the hot topic for the 20 or so in attendance was just that: SMART Cities.

A smart city is a designation given to a city that incorporates information and communication technologies (ICT) to enhance the quality and performance of urban services such as energy, transportation and utilities in order to reduce resource consumption, wastage and overall costs.

I ended up seated directly in front of the Governor and next to a head of sustainability and one of our L.A. Police Commissioners—needless to say I was in good company, surrounded by some of the city’s brightest officials and futurists. It was a great dinner with lively discussions and great insights as to what truly does make a city smart and progressive and how Los Angeles is continuing its work to become one.

Core infrastructure in a smart city can include:

  • adequate water supply

  • ensured electricity supply

  • sanitation, including solid waste management

  • efficient urban mobility and public transport

  • affordable housing (especially for the financially disadvantaged)

  • robust IT connectivity and digitalization

  • good governance, especially e-governance and citizen participation

  • sustainable environment

  • safety and security of citizens

  • health and education

A large part of our conversation seemed to center around the fourth and sixth bullets.

The sixth bullet is a given. A city cannot be smart without a fortified IT and data infrastructure.

Bullet four has long been a challenge for Angelenos to make better use of our public transportation resources and to implement additional alternatives to help alleviate congestion, decrease pollution, and significantly lower carbon emissions. However, in an on-the-go city inhabited by movers and shakers, it is not as conducive for residents of our county as it seems to be in other better planned major cities.

In truth, I myself am quite unfamiliar with our Los Angeles Public Transportation System as I still, unfortunately tend to drive or opt for ride-share alternatives. I’ve blamed it on inconvenience, as I tend to be busy. My days can be so meeting-heavy or packed with other commitments that I often fear not being able to meet all of my daily demands if commuting via public transportation. Yet, I am the first to comment on how easy commuting via subways, metros, etc. can be when getting around other cities like Washington D.C., New York, or countries in Europe.

I’ve noticed that even in my own vast circle of friends and varied communities of acquaintances, most of them do not consistently take public transportation outside of doing so to attend sporting, music, or downtown-centric events.

Another instance where I did see the largest and most varied participation via public transportation was for the community-centric movements such as the Women’s marches where public transportation made the most sense to reach the congested destinations.

I foresee that at least within Los Angeles, driving considerable uptick of public transportation adoption will continue to be a big challenge for some years to come. At this moment, there is a better chance of our population continuing to move towards electric vehicles, cycling, and scooters than to fully adopting public transportation.

Although, after this dinner, I was quite relieved to know that so many bright minds continue to work on it.

Obviously, as our team focuses on more of the issues that plague not only our communities but the world at large, I have some ideas and some thoughts as to how to help turn this around transportation, so I’m sure it is a topic that you will see resurface in association with Consciously Studio, but first that will mean that I myself will have to make the time to become better familiarized with our public transportation sector and to continue my conversations with our city’s experts.


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