The Future of the City Is a Car-less One
By Bill Moore
Dennis Walsh is a respected Canadian futurist who consults global businesses and organizations on trends that not only impact their bottom lines but also may represent new financial opportunities, especially in the context of evolving demographics and those social organizations we call cities.
Check out this high-resolution, wide-angle photograph of Detroit's City Hall in the year 1900. Count the streetcars, bicycles and carriages. Note the number of pedestrians. Now count the number of automobiles.
No? That's because there aren't any. None. Zero. Zip.
In the very heart of what will soon become "Motor City" there is not one single 'motorcar' or horseless carriage or quadracycle to be seen anywhere. Detroit is a cosmopolitan city with what appears to be excellent public transit serving a thriving downtown filled with genteel ladies with parasols and trim men in bowler hats.
Lead photo caption: Emblematic of Detroit's economic woes of the last several decades is its once-grand Michigan Central Station, now a decaying derelict on the outskirts of the downtown. Like other downtown buildings, there now appears to be efforts underway to revive its fortunes.
If current trends continue, future generations may find this is what the Detroit of the future looks like again: a car-less city once more.
That's becoming the collective view of trend spotters like Dennis Walsh, a Canadian futurist who specializes in identifying ripples in economy that will have significant impacts on corporations, organizations, and governments. Walsh is the co-author of a trilogy of books on the future of cities. The third installment, now in the works, is entitled, "Resilient Cities." The series, starting with Millennial City, looks at the demographic and business forces driving the fate of today's metropolises. Considering more than half the world's population now lives in dense urban communities, a fraction forecast to rise to as much as 70 or more percent in the next several decades, planners and politicians are keenly interested in how to deal with this shift away from the automobile-engendered suburbia of the last century.
One of the key questions is: What challenges and opportunities does it represent, especially if you're in the mobility business, which all carmakers and their supplier are?
In his research over the last decade, it's become increasingly obvious to Walsh, as well as his colleagues, that the cities of the future are going to be increasingly car-less. If they are - and there appears to be a strong consensus in this view - this is not only going to impact how cities function, what services they provide, but also the corporations who have thrived on sprawl from carmakers to shopping center developers.
In this nearly 40-minute dialogue, EV World's publisher, Bill Moore, talks with Mr. Walsh about this car-less city future and what forces are driving it. While Walsh admits he doesn't have all the answers, he does say there is surprising consensus among his colleagues on this matter, which is reflected in the individually-authored chapters of his second co-authored book, 'Enterprise City.'
You can listen to the interview in its entirety via the embedded MP3 player below, or you can download it for playback on your favorite MP3 device.
Originally published: 08 Jan 2015
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