The Greenfield Cities Alliance Dialogues 2021
Sustainable Urban Mobility
Systems of the Future
On September 23, 2021, NewCities convened the second edition of the Greenfield Cities Alliance Dialogues 2021 in New York City at Cornell Tech’s Verizon Center in partnership with the university’s Urban Tech Hub. Titled “Sustainable Urban Mobility Systems of the Future,” this installement explored how greenfield city projects might act as proving grounds for the proper balance of local-, walkable- and regional-, high-speed transportation systems of the (near-) future.
The session began with a keynote address by Canadian-American transportation planner Adam Giambrone, who ran projects in Toronto, New York, and Riyadh before joining the Saudi greenfield city project NEOM as its Director of Regional and Urban Mobility. In his opening remarks, Giambrone paid particular attention to The Line — an audacious plan to create a 140 kilometer-long urban corridor combining high-speed transit strung with local nodes of “five-minute cities” along its trunk.
Following his presentation, he was joined by ITDP CEO Heather Thompson and Starbust Co-Founder and COO Van Espahbodi to explore and debate the particulars of NEOM’s proposal, which recalls both Hong Kong’s extreme urban-rural divide and utopian projects such as Paolo Soleri’s Arcosanti, which sought to limit urban sprawl across the deserts of Arizona through its desert “arcology” concept.
During their subsequent discussion, the panelists debated the appropriate speeds- and scales of urban movement; how to balance the sheer audacity of building greenfield cities with the need to sustain existing urban systems; and even how to reconcile the energy intensity of our desires to move and to travel with the early pandemic-era lesson that the fastest way to decarbonize society is to simply sit still.
How do we resolve these tensions in the face of decades of climate change? Here’s what you need to know: