San Francisco Inspires Mobility in European Cities
Tenacity, persistence and a lot of patience. Some of the attributes that Timothy Papandreou, Director of Transport Planning of San Francisco, considers essential to take forward some of the most important developments in the mobility sector not only in North American cities but also throughout the world.
Timothy is a young folk. His creative journey is unique and he has managed to reach the happy level of “being heard” by public decision-makers, by bureaucrats, administrators and managers. But this was not all done from one day to another or in a passive approach. He was always an “enthusiast” of urban mobility; he has his own personal experience of 10 years living in the city “without a car”, a very important contribution to the vision that he presents in his speech. His cheerful, relaxed, eloquent, agile, enthusiastic and enlightening speech is precisely one of his foremost tool. Nothing of what he says sounds too technical or too academic or even too activist. Besides being an “extremely curious and interested listener” look forward new things, new examples, more knowledge and innovations, there’s no doubt that Timothy is an example of how to communicate in the field of Smart Cities. With a sparkle in his eyes, believing in his own ideas, no matter how crazy they might seem and convincing a few more (insane or not) of moving towards the proof of concept implementations of cities. “I believe San Francisco is, contrary to what you might think, much harder to convince than your European cities”, he says, when confronted with the alleged “greater” openness and modernity of cities in the most developed country in the world. Timothy explains that “it is the opposite”, there is greater struggle in more enlightened and advanced ambient, a clash of ideas and projects which often fall by the wayside, “lost” in the halls and dungeons of bureaucracy and refused by the natural obstacles of communities.
But Timothy Papandreou doesn’t give up, doesn’t turn away from challenge and tries to demonstrate many solutions that end up being “accepted and cherished”, some “months and years after being put into practice in other areas”.
“Cities have to listen to people and companies”
Timothy guarantees that the secret of success of any city in the world is tenacity, persistence, intelligence and a lot of patience.
There, perhaps, Americans are more advanced than Portugal, for example, where the most creative and innovative people not always are the ones responsible for planning, thinking and executing projects related to the mobility or to other Smart Cities themes. That’s what we need to change in the cities, “the responsible people need to listen more to the citizens and businesses” the real world, that is, no more and no less, than those who will have to live with all the engagements, by action or inaction of the public and municipal administrations.
Listening to Timothy’s words I believe there is much work that needs to be done in a city before implementing ideas related to the topic of mobility, “listen to the people”. Listen to communities and note the suggestions. He assures that “everyone has something to say, everyone has an opinion”. And that is true. There’s creativity everywhere even in the most humble places, even within the most modest citizen.
Which means not only listen to them, but also involve them in the process and motivate them. And most important of all, we need to make citizens believe that “they will win something”, even though the wins sometimes may be rather simpler than a small everyday improvement.
Of course there are also “lots” of mistakes, sometimes it is necessary to correct some designs that look good “but don’t work in reality”, he says.
Yes, theoretically everyone in the cities will benefit from a more sustainable, efficient, eco-friendly and healthy mobility. But these concepts are assimilated only if there is an effective “advantage” for the communities. Timothy gave examples of negotiations with communities and small businesses in areas where some of the most innovative solutions of the city, which he manages, have been implemented. He also gave examples of how the large companies in the world like Google or Facebook are engaged in the implementation of other actions “which represented an effective gain for families and for everyone”.
Timothy’s experience is enlightening and consistent. Nothing of what he says sounds like fiction or hidden corporate interest (and concealed). A model that should be tracked by administrations, to choose those who are passionate about ideas, innovative and creative solutions and find financial and technical means, that they accomplish and make this information available to citizens. And citizens effectively accept that with open arms. The cities will be acclaimed; the edges of conflict resolved and business models will be transparent. The ideal Smart City should be like this.
Future Cities in Oporto wants to be a national example
An objective that the project Future Cities no Porto also hopes to achieve with a series of integrated initiatives and in partnership with companies, universities and municipalities.
The theme of mobility has been, moreover, one of the most noticeable in the city of Oporto (Portugal), which is executing some of the most advanced projects in the world. The invitation of Timothy Papandreou to take part in a Workshop linked precisely with the theme of mobility was, by itself, an interesting contribution to motivate young students and even their own project participants, academics and entrepreneurs, who did not lost the opportunity to internalize the concepts of someone who speaks directly with the “big sharks” and, with same genuineness, with “the neighbourhood”. “I have to repeat many times what I said weeks or months ago”, explains Timothy. “But if it is required I will repeat as many times as necessary”, he concludes, smiling with the spontaneity of someone who knows how to be patient, despite also having the advantage of different political cycles, perhaps more demanding and clarified citizens and, of course, the most urgent needs for his ‘playground’.
A goal (among many more) Timothy’s presence in Portugal was achieved: exemplify and testify, in the first person, how complicated it is to manage willpowers, desires and realities, often in completely opposite sides, to take forward solutions and strategies that significantly improve the quality of life of citizens.
You are always welcome Timothy! Thank you.
After 20 years of Journalism and Media Professional, I'm dedicated since 2008 to new projects related with Innovation and Technology. Consultant of many municipalities to the Smart Cities theme and Tourism sector based on the newest technologies and communication tools.