Is your city ready for the sharing economy?

Fri, 2015-03-13 06:00 -- Doug Cooley

Milan is counting on the sharing economy to help it accommodate the more than 20 million visitors expected descend on the Italian city for Expo2105, its upcoming world’s fair. In December, Milan in fact passed a law that encourages car sharing, bike sharing, home sharing and the like.

But elsewhere services like Uber and Airnb are giving city leaders stomach aches. How do you regulate private citizens who, thanks to today’s mobile apps, are offering to drive people around, rent out their homes to travelers, or do someone’s grocery shopping or laundry? Some cities have been ticketing ride-sharing drivers.

Milan’s decision to promote, rather than contest, the “Uberization” of the economy seems to concur with the current thinking of some municipal government watchers.

“Many cities appear reluctant to unleash market forces and innovation,” writes Tom Still, Wisconsin Technology Council president. “In the process, they may be costing their own constituents a chance for part-time work that pays pretty well … Cities that want to stand out as innovation hubs to the rest of the country and the world should walk the walk as much as possible.”

Because the technology that’s given rise to the sharing economy isn’t going away, other observers note that it's better to embrace it.

National League of Cities weighs in
To help cities navigate this new territory, the National League of Cities just published a report titled “Cities, the Sharing Economy and What’s Next.”  The document “provides an analysis of what is currently happening in U.S. cities on the ground, in order to assist city leaders as they seek to make sense of the sharing economy,” said Brooks Rainwater, director of the league’s City Solutions and Applied Research.

Among other things, the report addresses these questions:

  • How can cities meet their governing obligations while positioning themselves as innovative places to live, work and visit?
  • What is the impact of the sharing economy on economic development?
  • How can cities ensure that the emerging sharing economy promotes access and equity?
  • How can cities promote and regulate safety provisions in sharing economy services?

The league has also launched the Sharing Economy Advisory Network that brings together businesses, policy leaders and city officials to promote model solutions for regulatory challenges posed by the sharing economy.

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Doug Cooley is a staff writer with the Smart Cities Council. Follow @smartccouncil on Twitter.

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