5 cities, 5 smart ideas: LA, Bristol, Cape Town, Tacoma, Vitoria-Gasteiz

A whale of an idea to raise awareness of plastic pollution in Bristol
To commemorate its year as Europe's Green Capital and send a message about the impact of marine litter on the world's oceans, an energy efficient LED-lit monument made of recycled plastic bottles has been installed in Bristol's Millennium Square. The sculpture features two large whales breaching in a sea of 70,000 plastic bottles, which were recovered from sporting events, according to edie.net. "Our sea of recycled plastic bottles represents the detrimental effect of plastic pollution on the ocean which is something that all of us can act on – today – by reducing our consumption of single use plastics," said Sue Lipscombe, lead artist on the project. Watch a video about the Bristol Whales.

LA's electric car-sharing pilot will serve low-income residents
The Shared-Use Mobility Center (SUMC) is partnering with the city of Los Angeles and the California Air Resources Board to introduce electric car sharing in some of the city's most disadvantaged neighborhoods. The three-year, $1.6 million initiative will be paid for with state cap-and-trade revenues. SUMC Executive Director Sharon Feigon says the size and scope of the project make it an unprecedented public investment in shared mobility. "This unique project will increase access to transportation for hundreds of thousands of Angelenos, while at the same time attracting new private-sector investment, increasing public awareness of electric vehicles and cutting congestion and harmful emissions," she said. Adds California Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León: "We believe shared mobility is a powerful tool that cities can use to reduce transportation costs, lessen air pollution and expand access to jobs, opportunity and a better quality of life." He said the project will add approximately 100 electric and hybrid car-sharing vehicles and more than 100 charging stations in disadvantaged communities in and around Central Los Angeles.

Cloud analytics improve graduation rates in Tacoma schools
A 2007 national study dubbed the 30,000-student Tacoma (Washington) Public School District’s five high schools "dropout factories," where many freshmen never made it to graduation.  In 2010, just 55% of the district's high school students earned their high school diplomas on time – well below the national average of 81%. District administrators didn't give up; rather, they figured out how to use the data they collect to better predict at-risk students, allowing them to intervene earlier and work more closely with those students. Using predictive analytics tools based on Council Lead Partner Microsoft cloud technologies, the district is providing comprehensive data snapshots of student success indicators and has already helped to improve graduation rates from 55% in 2010 to 78% in 2014.

Cape Town builds citizen engagement via gaming
To encourage citizen involvement in the design of its future Khayelitsha Business District, the city of Cape Town is using gaming technology developed by Amsterdam and Istanbul-based Play the City. The gaming company developed Play Khayelitsha to foster a collaborative vision for the new business district. With small movable buildings and blocks, the game creates a negotiation and design scenario for stakeholders "to simulate complex real life development decisions for the KBD," according to an article by the Future of Cape Town posted at the Sustainable Cities Collective. "It [takes] people out of their comfort zone and they have to negotiate with others to achieve outcomes,” explains Marco Geretto, an urban designer for the city of Cape Town. Play the City's gaming method has been used in other city projects around the world.

Spanish city of Vitoria-Gasteiz curbs its car addiction
The old city of Vitoria-Gasteiz (founded in 1181) is located in Spain's Basque Country.  It has a population of about a quarter of a million people and in 2012 won the European Green Capital award. London-based planner and cities blogger Tom Payne recently visited the city to see how it is transforming itself from what was a polluted, car-dominated city 10 years ago into one of Europe's most pedestrian and bike-friendly cities. As Payne explains in a post at govtech.com: "Today over 50% of people walk to get around and 12% of people ride bikes. The number of people driving cars quickly continues to fall. Compare this with 21% people walking and 3% riding bikes in London, and 10% and 1% respectively in New York City." To make that happen, Payne says, city officials studied what other cities were doing to create sustainable mobility and borrowed the ideas that were deemed appropriate for Vitoria-Gasteiz.


Share your city's smart ideas!  Send an email to news@smartcitiescouncil.com. Are you a member of the Smart Cities Council? You can join for free and get access to all of our premium content.