Local government eyes social media for feedback

Work is underway on a new digital platform that will enable councils to capture and analyse conversations on social media as a means of improving community consultation on major projects.

The study involving two councils and a team of urban planners, policy experts and data analysts aims to ensure the “citizen voice” helps to drive smart city initiatives.

NSW’s City of Canada Bay and Queensland’s Logan City Council are participating in the project being led by the University of Sydney’s Smart Urbanism Lab and supported by the Commonwealth’s Smart Cities and Suburbs Program.

While there is sometimes a perception that smart city initiatives are led by technology, Dr Tooran Alizadeh, director of urban design at Sydney University’s school of architecture, said the project aimed to find a new way of “crowd sourcing” opinion on key local government initiatives.

“The conversations about the hot urban projects of the day are already happening in the public online domain, and we are essentially gathering them, categorising them and feeding them back to local governments,” she told Government News.

Sydney University’s Smart Urbanism Lab is leading the project.

The project, which involves the development of algorithms and tools to capture this information, will produce two dashboards – one for local government and one for the public.

“The fact we’re now building the citizen voice means we have a responsibility to feed that back to the public and tell people we heard them… it’s useful for individual members of the community to know the diversity of opinion,” Dr Alizadeh said.

The study will scrutinise social media feedback around two key projects for each of the participating local governments: Cronulla Park and the Yarrabilba development for Logan, and Parramatta Road and Five Dock for Canada Bay.

The dashboard will be fed by the live conversations happening on Twitter and Facebook, as well as those captured in reader comments on news sites’ coverage of the projects.

“It will be useful on two levels,” Dr Alizadeh said.

“The first is the live conversation which is important if they have a sudden issue or problem. The second is a longitudinal benefit because the longer we collect the data the more we will hopefully be able to make sense of the things that trigger reactions over the life of a project,” she said.

People’s attitudes towards urban projects and issues are usually dynamic, “so the only way we can make sense of them and how they change is if you keep an eye on it over a longer period,” she said.

Dr Alizadeh said the project would utilise the diverse skillset within the newly established Smart Urbanism Lab, which has staff expertise in urban planning, geography, policy making and big data.

An early version of the dashboard is expected in the next two to three months for the participating local governments to comment on, while the project is slated to conclude next May.

Logan City Council’s innovation committee chairperson, councillor Laurie Smith said social media presented a new opportunity to increase the reach of community consultation on planning and development.

“This gives residents another option to have their say on how their city develops and to feel included in council decision making,” she said.

Originally Published by Government News, continue reading here.

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Rail access improves liveability, but all regional centres are not equal

Our research on the liveability of regional cities in Victoria has identified an important element: liveability in these areas requires fast, reliable and frequent rail connections to capital cities.

Previous research has established that we need better models of early transport delivery in growth areas of Melbourne. Public transport, in particular, is an essential ingredient for a liveable community. Less attention has been paid to transport in regional areas, particularly regional areas with growing populations.

People living in regional areas still need access to capital cities. The reasons include employment, education, medical services, shopping, arts, culture and visits to family and friends.

Regional Victorians who lack access to reliable rail services remain deprived of non-car travel options. This forces them to drive and that adds to traffic congestion in our capital cities. Car dependency is costly for health and wealth.

Regional rail is important both to meet the needs arising from predicted population increases across regional areas and to manage the rapid population growth and sprawl of our capital cities. Australia’s population is predicted to increase by 45 million by 2100 and our cities are already expanding rapidly. We need to start thinking about where these extra people are going to live.

At present, most people (more than 80%) in Australia live in capital cities. However, as populations grow, more people will start moving to regional areas. This means we need to pay more attention to the liveability of regional Australia as well as capital cities.Wherever they live, people need transport to get to employment, education, shops and services, and to socialise with friends, family and community members. Furthermore, our research has found that having close access to a range of these things is associated with better health and well-being. Good access to frequent, reliable and fast transport is not a luxury. It is a critical factor influencing liveability and is described as a social determinant of health – one of the conditions (where we live, learn, work and play) that influence our health.

Liveable places promote health and well-being among the people who live there. However, they also require transport options, including public transport such as trains, buses, trams as well as walking and cycling. In regional areas expansive distances make it hard to get by without a private vehicle.

A good example of this is Mitchell Shire. It begins at the northern edge of metropolitan Melbourne and extends to the regional town of Seymour in northeastern Victoria.

The population is booming in this non-metropolitan shire. The small town of Beveridge is expecting to accommodate at least 150,000 people in new urban development over the next 30 years. To put that into context, the town had a population of just over 2,300 people in 2016.

Originally Published by The Conversation, continue reading here.

Making a global agenda work locally for healthy, sustainable living in tropical Australia

Life in the tropics is often seen as “living in paradise”, a place where everything grows and flourishes. This picture-postcard environment is not the year-round reality. At certain times of year, intense heat, humidity and the wet season affect liveability, making outdoor activity unattractive and thereby reducing social cohesion.

Urban living can already be pretty insular these days. People move from temperature-controlled houses to temperature-controlled cars to temperature-controlled offices, and vice versa. There’s no need to talk to anyone really. And exercise? It’s something you try to fit in if you can – but you probably don’t.

An ideal city life might be one in which you walk or cycle to work easily, say hi to a neighbour, and pick up some fresh produce for lunch along the way. While it is nice to expect that people will do this for a healthier self and planet, the truth is that daily life choices depend on convenience.

Furthermore, the planning and design (or haphazard evolution) of urban spaces largely dictate the way we live. This in turn affects our health in many ways. It can, for instance, encourage or discourage active lifestyles, social cohesion and access to healthy food choices.

This is where the New Urban Agenda comes into play.

The New Urban Agenda and why it matters

The New Urban Agenda, drafted by UN-Habitat and endorsed in late 2016 by the United Nations General Assembly, aims to help everyone to benefit from urbanisation.

Through Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11 (Sustainable cities and communities), the agenda provides a guide for developing safe, inclusive, resilient and sustainable new cities that promote social integration and equity. It can also provide the impetus for conversations about the growth, redesign and redevelopment of existing urban spaces.

Making the New Urban Agenda work locally depends on more than overall regulations, or “importing” southern Australian solutions to the tropics. Even within the Australian tropical region, the climate varies. Cairns experiences a tropical monsoon climate (wet tropics), while Townsville is exposed to a tropical savannah climate (dry tropics).

The way public spaces should be designed must, therefore, also vary within the tropical climate zone. We need to listen to locals, understand their behaviour and preferences, then promote these preferred public space qualities through urban planning and design.

Good design can improve the choices we make. But what is good design? And how do we adapt general guidelines to specific places and cultures?

Urban diaries to understand each city

Urban diaries are premised on the importance of local history, values and knowledge. This approach aims to “distinguish underlying organic relationships between people and cities from indiscriminate prescription imposed upon place”. Urban diaries are a powerful tool for personal observation, raising awareness and creating positive urban change.

In our investigation, participants are invited to shoot and caption photographs of their surroundings, noting what makes their lives healthier, happier and stronger, and what does not. These images will be shared through social media and used to capture ideas and start conversations.

These urban diaries will help clarify how Cairns and Townsville function as tropical cities. At the same time this approach will help bring to light ways of improving local lifestyles by implementing the New Urban Agenda principles in this local context.

Place-based urban planning and design

Climate-responsive planning and design are important to make sure people can incorporate incidental exercise into their everyday routine. People will use public spaces if these are designed in a way that mediates the negative impacts of tropical climates.

What type of spaces and features will encourage people to walk even if the temperature outside is 40℃? We are particularly interested in three overarching questions. These concern how existing urban infrastructure and amenities promote or restrict:

  1. active lifestyles
  2. social inclusion
  3. healthy eating.

These questions will be explored through public participation in the upcoming UN-Habitat World Urban Campaign Urban Thinkers Campus events in Cairns on June 8 and Townsville on June 15. Drawing on urban diaries, these events will provide the fundamental basis for understanding these places through a local lens.

Originally Published by The Conversation, continue reading here.

Join us at the 11th International Urban Design Conference

The 2018 International Urban Design Conference will be held at the SMC Conference and Function Centre, Sydney, NSW over 12 – 13 November.

The conference will showcase innovations in projects and research embracing and creating transformational change in urban environments.

Topics will include exploring the potential of mixed use places, spaces and precincts/districts, urban design best practice, designing safety into a city, future proofing, connectivity and design quality outcomes.

The conference will also explore the links which create the concrete physicality of the built environment, the complex social, economic, political and cultural processes through which the physical urban form is produced and consumed.

Applications to Present and Registration are NOW OPEN!

Conference Topics Include:

  • Potential of mixed use places, spaces and precincts/districts
  • Regulating urban design
  • Safe city design
  • Transport
  • Design quality
  • Digital

Individuals and organisations are invited to submit an abstract (summary of your presentation) to deliver an oral presentation or poster presentation which addresses one or more of the conference topics. The abstract should be no more than 300 words and outline the aims, contents and conclusions of the presentation. Abstracts should not include tables, figures or references. Please also submit 3 key learnings of your presentation, as well as a 100 word biography of each presenting author.

All proposals will be reviewed by the Program Committee. Presentations will be selected to provide a Program that offers a comprehensive and diverse treatment of issues related to the Conference topics.

For more information on the 2018 International Urban Design Conference, topics, to submit your application to present, registration and more please visit the conference website at urbandesignaustralia.com.au

Locals call for a ‘High Line’ on Sydney’s north shore

Residents of the Sydney suburb of Lavender Bay are pushing for a linear park to be developed along side a historic rail line that would provide a pedestrian link between Lavender Bay and Waverton Station.

Established in 2016, the Sydney Harbour High Line Association describes itself as “a group of like-minded people that sees the importance of building on the amenities to support the huge growth in the number of people living in Sydney in general and the lower north shore in particular.”

According to the Mosman Daily, earlier in April the association met with a State Government committee, where it presented its detailed plans for the publicly held land that lies beside the railway. If the project goes ahead, the park would be operated by North Sydney Council.

Proposed ramp access from Harbourview Crescent. Image: Sydney Harbour High Line

The heritage-listed rail line is not used for a passenger service, but is used by Sydney Trains for driver training. The site is significant due to its connection to artist Brett Whiteley, who famously painted scenes of Sydney Harbour from his home in Lavender Bay, adjacent to the railway tracks, as well as the “secret garden” created by Brett’s former wife Wendy. The Whiteleys’ house and garden were both recently added to the state heritage register.

Local state MP Felicity Wilson, who supports the project, told the Mosman Daily that she had “secured an agreement from Sydney Trains to explore the feasibility of installing a segregated walking track alongside the current active line.” The proposal is inspired by and takes its name from the High Line in New York City, an elevated railway conversion designed by Diller Scofidio and Renfro. This was in turn inspired by the first rail park, the Coulée verte René-Dumontin in Paris, which opened in 1993.

Originally Published by ArchitectureAU, continue reading here.