Vital Cities, Vital Connections

Urban centres across the world are facing significant challenges to ensure they can not only house their citizens but also provide strong communities and first-class living and working spaces for all. The Future Spaces Foundation argues in favour of dense urban environments to accommodate the world’s growing and increasingly urban population, rather than sprawling, low-density cities.

Of course, density must be managed efficiently and intelligently to ensure cities are vital and enhance the ability of people and organisations within them to interact, exchange and innovate.

Vital Cities: Transport Systems Scorecard

For 2016/17 the Foundation is taking a closer look at one integral ingredient for vitality: transport systems within cities. We believe that connected cities – those with well-networked, efficient and sustainable transport systems – are better equipped to meet the needs of rising (and ageing) populations and provide vital, dense environments for people to live and work in.

We have developed the Vital Cities: Transport Systems Scorecard to measure the connectivity of urban transport systems in 12 cities around the world. The scorecard seeks to determine how well cities’ transport systems allow citizens to move around in the most efficient, sustainable and ultimately, healthy and stress-free way.

Our study looks at cities across Asia, the Middle East, Europe and the Americas. To ease comparisons, we group the cities into four broad typologies:

  • Global cities – large, well-established and densely-packed metropolises (London, New York, Hong Kong)
  • Mega cities – massive cities in rapidly urbanising emerging markets (Beijing, Sao Paulo, Mumbai)
  • Car cities – sprawling cities that have evolved around vehicles (Houston, Dubai, Kuala Lumpur)
  • Green cities – smaller, denser cities focused on becoming environmentally sustainable (Copenhagen, Singapore, Vancouver)

How we measure connectivity

Cities in the scorecard were appraised in a total of 10 separate transport categories: 4 ‘network inputs’ (infrastructure and policies a city has in place to promote connectivity) and 6 ‘network outputs’ (data and qualitative assessments that indicate the impact each is having on people and the environment).

The full list of categories are: public transport, bike and foot network, private vehicles policy, and data & apps (the inputs); and affordability, accessibility, sustainability, breathability, mobility, and safety (the outputs).

The categories consist of 31 separate tests or indicators of connectivity. These are a mix of quantitative data – for example, carbon emissions from transport per capita, or the number of electric vehicle charging stations per square kilometre, and qualitative assessments – such as network reliability, quality of cycle lanes, or car-sharing promotion.

Local researchers in the cities collated primary information and sourced opinions and insights from stakeholders, which were used to inform the qualitative scores. Other data sources for the individual scorecard indicators include: city administrations and policy documentation, transport companies, local and national statistical offices, traffic police reports, environmental agencies, local and international NGOs, and a variety of news sources.

Scoring

The Scorecard awards each city an overall letter grade between A and F based on these measures, an exercise that offers a standalone assessment of how each one’s overall approach to transport fares, and provides a basis for comparison between cities.

To create the overall score for each city, each of the 31 individual measures is ‘normalised’ on a scale of 1 to 5. Quantitative measures are benchmarked against ‘ideal’ targets cities should strive to achieve – for example, a rapid transit network length of 1km per 1km2 (below this, few people can walk to such transit exchanges). Qualitative measures are scored using a tightly defined criteria based on policy information, local insights and expert judgements about city infrastructure and policies – for example, the measure examining the quality of cycling infrastructure assesses the extent to which cycle lanes are separated from road and pedestrian traffic, the network connectivity, and what safety features are available, like dedicated crossing and lighting.

These scores are then aggregated within their relevant category, which is awarded a score, converted onto a scale of A to F. From here, an overall score is calculated, also converted on a scale of A to F. Each of the 10 categories has an equal weighting, and the maximum number of points in the overall scorecard is 50, converted as follows:

Score*    Points
A    47.5 and above
B    40 to 47.5
C    32.5 to 40
D    25 to 32.5
E    17.5 to 25
F    10 to 17.5

*‘Plus’ and ‘minus’ scores are derived at points equidistant from the main scores.

Why?

The Foundation’s 2015 report ‘Vital Cities Not Garden Cities’ addresses what it identifies as the cornerstones needed to improve cities’ social and commercial vitality, naming density as chief among them.

The Vital Cities, Transport Systems Scorecard examines the key role transport infrastructure and associated data exchange networks play in facilitating vitality within densifying and already high-density cities. The Scorecard highlights the particular successes and areas for improvement for each individual city, which we hope will ultimately help to broaden our understanding of how cities can become better connected, and therefore more vital.

For anyone wishing to use the data in the Transport Systems Scorecard, collaborate or find out more about the research, please contact info@futurespacesfoundation.org.