How do I Envision the City of the Future? 

The city of the future will be designed for humans to live in comfort, health, peace, and prosperity for hundreds of years. In order to accomplish this reality, urban planners must focus on three primary issues: 

1. Increasing Urban Population

2. Global Climate Change

3. Increasing Urban Inequality 

Many of the world's cities are already taking steps to improve urban life and alleviate current challenges. Collectively these initiatives will help form the city of the future and as we gain greater access to data within our cities, we will be able to make more informed decisions regarding what changes need to be made. 

Below please find a few initiatives necessary to developing the city of the future. 


Commuting and transportation are key aspects of modern work life. The average commute time in the United States is 25 minutes, meaning the average American spends nearly one hour each day getting to and from work and this number is only increasing.  

Many of the world’s newer cities were designed for motorized transit and this design is largely responsible for the growing amount of time spent commuting.  The city of the future will both limit access to and remove the need for personal cars.

In order to reduce automobile congestion, cities must invest in transportation alternatives such as more bicycle and pedestrian lanes, bikeshare programs, and reliable, affordable, and sustainable public transportation. Cities can also de-incentivize personal car use by increasing gasoline sales tax, parking fees, and city registration fees. 

Limiting the number of personal automobiles in urban areas will reduce congestion on city streets. This will be a critical change as urban populations continue to grow. 

Below is an image that represents the amount of space required to transport 200 people with 5 different modes of transportation. Cars clearly require the largest amount of space.


The benefits of limiting access to personal cars go far beyond shorter commutes.

New research indicates that cities that discourage driving and invest in active transportation have residents who report higher levels of well-being.

Additionally, cities with efficient and affordable public transportation promote greater equality by providing a public good that can be accessed by all. 

By limiting personal car use, the city of the future will mitigate the negative effects of global climate change by minimizing the release of carbon emissions from cars. Furthermore, high-cost gasoline will incentivize alternative-fueled, fossil-free public transportation.

These efforts combined will improve air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

Finally, fewer cars means smaller roads, leaving more space for buildings and parks. 


In the city of the future, residential properties will be "smart" and buildings will be retrofitted and designed with cutting-edge technology to account for the demands of growing urban populations.

As urban population increases, urban housing must meet new demands. Urban planners will need to reevaluate obsolete architectural decisions and create energy-efficiency multifamily housing that is attractive, safe, and affordable. 

Energy efficiency will be a priority for all buildings. New buildings will be built with best-in-class equipment and old buildings will be retrofitted with efficient technology. Building control systems will be installed to ensure that buildings are running as efficiently as possible.

LED Bulbs are just one advancement in  building efficiency technolog

LED Bulbs are just one advancement in  building efficiency technolog


In order to address energy security concerns and combat global climate change, renewable energy and battery storage will be used wherever possible.

 Decreasing costs in solar technology, energy storage solutions, energy efficient lighting, and high-performance insulation will enable residential properties to become energy neutral. 

Rooftop Greenhouse in Whole Foods Brooklyn. Source: flickr user Reana

Rooftop Greenhouse in Whole Foods Brooklyn.
Source: flickr user Reana

With the majority of the global population living in cities, the city of the future will need to address urban food deserts by prioritizing urban agriculture. Rooftop gardens will be an easy solution, utilizing space that is otherwise unused. Incorporating small-plot gardening in recreational areas and parks can also improve local agriculture efforts, reduce transportation costs, and limit emissions from commercial haulers. This movement will enable cities to create a food oasis.

Recreational Areas

The city of the future will prioritize public spaces for play with investments in parks and green spaces. 

With urban land at a premium it may seem like a trivial item to prioritize, but there are numerous benefits from investments in parks. 

First, green spaces and parks improve the air quality of cities through photosynthesis and aid in slowing global climate change. 

Additionally, public spaces for play provide equal access for urban residents and families to relax and enjoy their recreational time together, thereby promoting socioeconomic trust and equality. 

Finally, access to  public spaces encourages human interaction, play, and fosters a sense of community within a city.


Public access to parks means that individuals do not need to venture to suburban and rural areas for recreation or build their own recreational facilities, thereby minimizing pressure on available undeveloped land. Parks and nature preserves can be developed to encourage biodiversity, bringing back native and endangered species of plants and wildlife to be enjoyed by large numbers of the urban population. 

With land at a premium, the City of the Future must use space efficiently and find clever ways to develop play space along abandoned highways, streetcar lines, and underground parking structures that will no longer be in use because of the decreased need for personal automobiles.

Many cities in the United States have developed or are developing parks on old railways and highways. These cities include: 

The Chelsea Highline is just one example of a park made in an otherwise unused plot of land. Source: flicker user Wasabi Bob

The Chelsea Highline is just one example of a park made in an otherwise unused plot of land.

Source: flicker user Wasabi Bob


The city of today faces a number of challenges, primarily increasing population, global climate change, and urban inequality. I believe that the city of the future will be designed to tackle these specific problems. The city of the future will be livable, safe, healthy, and sustainable. 

Access to data about our cities, from urban sensing and measurement projects, will allow us to make more informed decisions about how we design the city of the future. Increased access to new technologies and capital through innovative financing will make the implementation seamless. 

Many of today's cities are working independently to prepare for the future. It is time for these cities to share their lessons with one another to create the city of the future.