Cities We Want to Live In
Writers: Ella Muja & Kamil Wojcik
Cover image: Tampere City, Smart Tampere 2030 Roadmap
One growing and trending topic has taken over many cities worldwide over the past ten years known as Smart Cities. These cities promote their community’s wellbeing through the use of technological advances, efficient decision making, and people from a variety of different fields. This trendy new movement has sparked interest of dozens of European cities over the past few years, and it has also stretched across the Atlantic to the United States as well. More specifically, multiple cities in Finland have been in the top ten smart cities of Europe recently (Lauri Lyly, Tampere Mayor, 2017) and their plans continue to develop with the intent of putting their inhabitants’ wellbeing first. On the contrary, the United States has not been in the spotlight for Smart Cities yet, but one small city has stood out in the news in the recent years.
Definition of smart city is possibly mentioned for the first time in 1997 by Graham and Aurigi. At the same time, it was a rise of information and communication technology tools used to collect and manage the cities what is essentially the definition of smart city. (Graham, S.; Aurigi, A. Virtual cities, social polarisation, and the crisis in urban public space. J. Urban Technol. 1997)
Before diving deeper into smart cities, let’s think about cities where people dream to live in or city where people are happy. According to Andrew Tuck (Essay: HOW TO: make a city that works by Andrew Tuck 2013) there are a few metrics that can help to find out. For the start: is it possible to cycle or walk to work?
Is it safe, for example on the Friday night walking back home from the late dinner with friends or will the ambulance come in time when one really needs it? While these are easy to check, there is many other factors that influence people to come and stay. What is it that attracts artists, entrepreneurs or young people looking for possibilities?
According to Andrea Caragliu, Chiara Del Bo, and Peter Nijkamp’s 2009 report on smart cities in Europe, smart cities require “the utilization of networked infrastructure to improve economic and political efficiency and enable social, cultural and urban development.” Meaning, that by combining the use of advanced technology and sustainable development projects will eventually produce a high quality of life. The goal of these cities is to create a place to live and work that will last well into the future. These new cities consist of multiple moving parts, such as public transportation, architectural design, and environmental health advancements just to name a few. One of the most influential and effective ways these smart cities succeed, is by having enough funding and support. A key difference between successful smart cities, and concepts is their funding. Without the government participating in some way, aggressive investors will get the chance to implement their own ideas, that often “favor elites” (Macomber, 2018). Each city trying to become smart has a different situation and different capacity when it comes to urban development. The best environment for a smart city to thrive in, is a city that is dense physically, and has a developed economy, because there is a lower risk of corruption. For some cities, installing free WiFi in the center may be the most efficient and cost-friendly start, whereas other cities with higher capabilities can look at restructuring their public transportation sectors. All smart cities are unique and take time to develop thoroughly, but with the combined backing of a local government and private vendors, the possibility of them becoming successful and long-lasting is much higher.
Tampere holds strong position when it comes to mobility, health care services or education. While looking from perspective of average citizen everyday’s life, the city also provides a lot of space to simply live. Besides the things that are taken for granted, like good public transportation, possibilities to walk and cycle freely, accessibility to nature there is are things that encourage even more quality life. Worth mentioning is steady progress among people in sustainable mobility, more and more people decide to leave their cars home. Summer time is truly celebrated here, urban habitats are occupied by people having picnics in the parks or swimming in the lakes – yes there are many places to take a dip. In the winter carefully prepared ski tracks and skating paths on the frozen lakes fill with enthusiasts.
Key difference is that that examples mentioned above are not an accident, but an outcome of thought through plan that City of Tampere is executing to create a place to be. Tampere is the biggest in land urban area in the Nordics and most preferred city in Finland to live in, attracting 4000 new comers per year. Besides that it constantly challenges Helsinki with its lower living cost, easy access to other parts of the country, high level of education and rapid growth in sector of services that also creates opportunities for tourists.
Main elements of the Smart Tampere are ecosystem and digitalisation programs along with the sustainability goals aiming to be reached by 2030. Desired result by that time is to have a carbon neutral city that is comfortable and lively with 300 000 residents, and has position of a pioneer in sustainable transportation and urban development.
Smart Tampere is the strategic development programme of the City of Tampere for 2017–2021. The programme is building a sustainable and smart Tampere region in which housing, living and mobility are carbon neutral and in which services are user-oriented and work digitally and flexibly.
We also boost Tampere as an internationally recognised hub of expertise, an attractive place for talent, students, companies and new business initiatives.
Tampere in Finland has been ranked in the top ten smart cities. Tampere, a city with a long history of factories and industry has a population of just over 340,000 and is constantly growing every year. Due to this increasing population, the city of Tampere has made modifications to its layout, transportation, efficiency, and sustainability so it can withstand a higher influx of people and support its community. One project the city of Tampere has backed is known as the Hiedanranta project. Hiedanranta is a small area on the outskirts of the city center that has been a magnet for sustainable development and urbanization over the past ten years. The first move made by the city took place in 2014, when they purchased the previous Lielahti factory property (Tampere City, 2021). Ever since then, dramatic changes have occurred, including just last year when the city’s general plans were finalized. A noticeable change in the Tampere is the new tram project that is to be finished by September 2021 in the center, and by 2024 the tram will run through Lentävänniemi, a region just past Hiedanranta. This public transportation focus will increase the mobility of the future residents of the city and fulfill Tampere City’s goal of limiting car usage. The tram is going to move thousands of people a day to and from various parts of the city and will eventually have the capacity of the growing population. Tuomas Vanhanen, a project manager for the city, says that the goal is for Hiedanranta to have upwards of 25,000 inhabitants and 10,000 jobs available. These numbers are significant, and to achieve those goals, the city must be able to support the future population.
Technological solutions will promote well-being and joint development of the area. Energy production is based on renewable energy sources, for example to minimise pollution and car use with effective public transportation, while electric charging stations are important part of the area. Planners included elements like circular economy as a core of the new area, as much waste and remaining materials will be used as possible. At the bottom of the lake by the bay lays 1.5 million cubic meters of wood waste that is currently processed by the research institutions developing ways to use it for the area. It’s worth to mention that the area won’t be carbon neutral, but the goal is to be a CO2 negative. Area will produce more than it consumes. Multiple projects and experiments are ongoing to guarantee the best solutions for new citizens.
By using all corners of the community, Hiedanranta is building connections and using all skills to its advantage. Just to scratch the surface, a group called Forum, funded by the city’s environmental ministry, meets often to discuss the project and its development (Väliharju, 2019). In their meetings, instead of having presentations and official speakers, they use open conversation to include all members of the group. In this way, they can utilize all perspectives and create a safe space for the brainstorming of new ideas that will eventually benefit the future Hiedanranta community.
Another noticeable change from previous city projects is the use of students at Tampere University to collect data, generate studies, and come up with new projects for the city. These students come from all different backgrounds and are all majoring in a variety of fields, once again promoting the use of various perspective. One project called CircVol, led by the Tampere University of Technology’s Jarmo Uusikartano, looks at finding solutions for the high volume of by-products that will come from the city and utilizing Hiedanranta’s zero fiber plans. In the end, they would like to earn profit from this process and return it to future projects to then continue University projects in the Tampere area.
One aspect of smart cities is the focus on increasing safety and encouraging its inhabitants to spend more time outdoors by engaging in activities such as walking, cycling, utilizing parks, or working out. Three companies have collaborated in the Hiedanranta project to design a new technologically advanced light post that will keep the community safe. The design called Älypylväs, or smart pillar, was created by Orbis Oy, DNA, and Tehomet Oy with the intent of bringing an efficient source of technology to this new region of Tampere. The LED lightbulbs in the lamp post are bright and long-lasting, which is preferred in dark parks or streets during the long winters that Finland receives each year. The pillars also include security cameras, which were wired and installed with data transmission integration by Orbis Oy. The multipurpose pillar also has a circular bench at its base and USB ports above the benches for people in need of a short break, or students looking to study outside with their laptops or phones. Everyone should be able to safely walk around their neighborhood without fear, and having additional technologically advanced inventions for security are added to smart cities to increase their efficiency, safety, and provide new resources for its community.
In compression to Tampere let’s look what is happening in City of Wroclaw. It’s located in southwestern Poland. It’s the largest city in the region with population over 600 000, while urban area is double. City has rich history as it was part of the Kingdom of Poland, the Kingdom of Bohemia, the Kingdom of Hungary, the Habsburg Monarchy of Austria, the Kingdom of Prussia and Germany. There are multiple UNESCO sites, city produced 9 Noble prize laureates and is host to over 130 000 students. It is very youth orientated. City sees people, local governments and entrepreneurs as partners in future development of the city. Wroclaw has on going plan of smart city development based on 8 pillars: environment, transport, infrastructure, management, people, education, life style and economy. Each of the areas has different projects that help to pursue the goal of smart and sustainable city.
At first sight it is very similar approach, one could say smart and sustainable it a trend taking over all over the world. Some places faster and some slower, but since early 2000 ’s it has been more and more noticeable topic. Smart city concept in Wroclaw took off already in late 90’s, but it doesn’t matter how much city itself will try, change has to come from the society. Transformation time in Poland was very rapid, chaotic and its hiccup still remains apparent.
It seems to be that in Poland values are a little different. After search for new progressive neighbourhoods in Wroclaw, Nowe Żerniki came up. It was great to see fresh approach for planning, more freedom given to architects. Main point was to break down the cookie cutter house production and bring something fresh ideas. Impressive solutions were taken into consideration, here is a few examples. Area is collecting grey water for simple households needs like flashing toilets or gardening, while grey water is also collected, filtered and used in the other parts of the building complex. Buildings and rooms inside are located in a way to promote light in spaces that need it most and to reduce the need for heating. For example, living rooms are facing south to get as much sun light as possible and bedrooms with smaller windows are located on the opposite sides of the buildings. Many green areas fill the wider than usual spaces between the buildings, giving space for people for leisure and simply living well. Worth mentioning is that architects addressed polarisation in society and wanted to create spaces that would bring people together. That is as well one of the important issues around the world being addressed by United Nations in Global Development Goals set for 2030. Ambitious plans don’t come easy, as the research progressed mixed information came up about the public transportation in the area, tram line is supposed to come and promises are big, but as the area is constantly growing and car use is still number one means of transportation is creates a conflict. Another issue that is related to problem mentioned before is ability to bring enough services and stores to the area in order to reduce need for car use for daily errands. That is perhaps normal for new neighborhoods, it takes time to attract new entrepreneurs.
New areas tend to attract certain people, but nice touch is the social housing building in the area that is kept with the same aesthetics and is available for rent. That will guarantee that not area won’t be ruled group of people with certain salary level or age – as people get older loan capacity goes down.
Wroclaw in 2015 started to work on the draft of new strategy for Wroclaw 2030, the city authorities came up with new philosophy where the citizens were included in the process. Multiple forums where organised and everyone could bring their ideas and opinions. Second step were meetings where city’s council’s committees could meet with people. Third step was to provide another feedback loop. In 2016 public opinion pools were carried out. That way citizens of the city could take active part in process regarding the future of their city. Information gathered was included in the development of the plan.
The result of the pool allowed to create a common value for the residents who see city as “beautiful, wise and rich city – a city that unites and inspires”. That followed by the aspiration to be a leading center of science and culture that attracts tourists. At this point Tampere and Wroclaw could be put side by side, especially that in both cities can be noticed increasing expectations of the residents regarding the quality of life and their impact on decisions, problems related to sustainable development and effective implementation of the proposed plans and visions.
When looking at both cities from the side, most apparent difference could be the process and how it’s executed. Hiedanranta is still in early stage, but comparing for example with other projects, like construction of tram line in Tampere or fast paced city growth it does bring comforting and assuring feeling that the city will follow up its own plans all the way and overcome the obstacles. While Wroclaw has support of its people, it became apparent that more work has to be done regarding the details and pushing through all the way to meet the goals and satisfy the expectations of the audience.
South Bend, Indiana, USA:
Across the Atlantic Ocean, the United States, a wealthy and technologically advanced nation, has very few, if any, cities that are considered “smart”. This is partly due to the structure of the country, because each state gets to decide on funding and which projects deserve more tax money than others. However, one small city in the central United States has made headlines in the past few years due to the man behind it. In South Bend, Indiana, the previous mayor, Pete Buttigieg, started a project designed to create a safer and more utilized downtown of the city. The name Pete Buttigieg may sound familiar because he was a candidate in the running for the 2020 presidential election, however he had to drop out due to the lack of support in multiple swing states. An article by the Washington Post stated that Buttigieg as mayor made large changes to the South Bend area starting all the way back in 2012 when he was elected.
His $25 million plan to completely restructure the city’s main road included adding bike lanes and sidewalks on either side, having crosswalks at every intersection, lowering of speed limits and new creating new parks. According to Suzanne Spencer, a local Indiana news reporter, the South Bend population increased for the first time in 50 years in 2014, which is shortly after Buttigieg was elected for mayor, which was a hopeful response for his project, and increased support after a number of people voiced their disapproval for his plans. The goal of this project was to increase social interaction within the community and help local businesses on main street flourish again by “encouraging people to spend money in the downtown area”. Buttigieg and other city employees noticed that as soon as his project was finished in 2017, there was a gradual increase in economic growth in South Bend, because of the safer and easier opportunity to spend money.
Being able to live in a smart city, such as Tampere, that is soon to become a sustainable city by 2030 is reassuring. Every city should be able to ensure the safety of its citizens, provide the right resources such as public transport, and improve the quality of life in general. A huge part of smart cities is the utilization of technology and digitalizing many outdated resources such as public transportation, libraries, housing, environmental health monitoring, and the list could go on. Tampere has plans of being named a sustainable and smart city by 2030 once Hiedanranta is further developed, and with the support of the government and its people, it will surpass other cities in Europe as well. With the continued growth of smart cities across the world, there is hope for an even more technologically connected global community with access to efficient resources and sustainable future.
Interview with an expert:
- Does city feel pressure from residents to become smarter and more sustainable?
- If yes, how does city plan to follow up the expectations of the residents when it comes to sustainability?
- What is the response to Heidanranta project as well as “car free”, since there was a lot of controversy about the tram line.
- Does the city see real possibility to succeed in its plan regarding sustainability by 2030?
1) Sure. A very good example is plastic waste recycling. It took a while to push communal waste company to start it at every apartment building. Now there is some pressure to establish more chargers for e-cars.
2) I am not aware of the follow up plans at that level. City collects comments via web, hosts events where people can comment and ask questions and holds continuous talks with different groups for example entrepreneurs. Also there is project Smart Tampere.
3) The controversy is not that big, you get to read from the news. Tram to Hiedanranta will almost certainly happen within few years. The most controversial issue will be Vaitinaro interchange, which will face a internal political quarrel between political groups and also between the city and the government.
4) In a way yes. Most officials are doing a great job to meet the requirements, but not all politicians are helping them. Most difficult goal is to reduce car traffic. There is still too much political pressure not to establish measurements needed. Conservatives do not see the needs of the carbon neutrality. Cars are too precious for too many.
After contacting Juhana Suoniemi, a Tampere City worker, with questions regarding Tampere’s present and future plans, the answers found within the research regarding Hiedanranta and Tampere as a whole were confirmed.
Juhana Suoniemi has been a part of the Tampere City Parliament since the year 2013. He is a member of the Green Party and was chosen as the Chairman of the Prikanmaa Green Party in 2009, and later the Tampere Green Party in 2013. His political activity within the city has been a large part of his career and before his political focus began, he was working on projects in the environmental sector, international peacekeeping collaboration with Israel and Syria, and even worked in the restaurant industry for around ten years. Juhana has a long history of collaboration with his community, and it can be seen in his continuation to push for sustainability and urbanization in Tampere.
One question that was difficult to find answers to during the research process was: Does the city feel pressure from residents to become smarter and more sustainable? The answer was yes. The city constantly receives feedback and suggestions from its community through their website and social media to create more opportunities for sustainable and smarter choices. One example Juhana mentioned was the practice of plastic waste recycling. Many people in the city sort their waste to create the most optimal system of recycling single use products, and not all apartment buildings offered waste sorting. The city then took charge and set up communal waste companies at every apartment building in the city so everyone had the opportunity to recycle. This answer was harder to find from websites because citizen’s own opinions and pressures regarding sustainability are not published, and it can only be heard from someone receiving the feedback firsthand.
Looking back at Hiedanranta, there is also a lack of information regarding push back of becoming carbon neutral and utilizing the future tram system more instead of cars. Juhana answered that the tram system is guaranteed to be finished in a few years, and even though the city is pushing for the use of it, there is a political quarrel coming from the Conservative party to eliminate the concept of carbon neutrality. It is a big change to rely solely on public transport when cars and other vehicles have been an everyday staple from dozens of years, but for the benefit of society and the environment it is important to embrace change.
As far as Tampere’s 2030 sustainable city goal, there are a great deal of politicians supporting the process and meeting requirements, however there is pushback from the opposing parties which causes extra obstacles in the decision-making process. The biggest controversy is over the reduction of car traffic and push for electric vehicles if any. This requires new chargers for these e-vehicles and marketing of the tram to encourage its’ use. Juhana does have hope for 2030 even with the opposition because there is large support from the city’s population and organisations that collaborate with the city.
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