Government Technology

Shared Cities: Building the Infrastructure for a Collaborative Economy

Recently, AirBnb announced a partnership with the city of Portland called the Shared Cities Initiative. Based on a manifesto from its innovative CEO Mark Chesky, Airbnb aims to set up a social capital model that will be replicable in other cities. This model promises expanded economic, social, charitable, and environmental value to Portland’s sharing economy.

April 21, 2014 By Michael Scott

Sharing and collaboration have long been a universal characteristic for cities. Centuries ago, money and other financial means of exchange didn’t exist. Thus human survival depended on cooperation, trading, and bartering.

Today, in many U.S. cities, an innovative, shared infrastructure is being erected, fueling a renaissance in how people live, work, and play. This new movement—both revolutionary and disruptive—dovetails the popularity of the book What’s Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption, a bestseller by Rachel Botsman. It features ideas that promote civic connection, economic continuities of scale, and sustainable lifestyles. Once the concept takes hold, this fast-growing collaborative model promises to revolutionize urban systems and the delivery of goods and services to the general populous. 

Convenient Options

In the past 12 to 18 months, consumers and civic leaders have witnessed the proliferation of early stage companies in what’s being called the “collaborative economy." Popular new enterprises such as Lyft (ridesharing) and Zipcar (car-sharing) are sprouting up in hundreds of communities to provide cost-effective, convenient options to consumers craving flexibility. 

These and other shared economy options have captured the attention of scores of stakeholders including public officials, transportation planners, regulatory commissions, private sector service providers, sustainability experts, and non-profit community advocacy groups. All are grappling with what a restructured societal landscape might look like amidst this new normal. And all of this is occurring against a backdrop of explosive shifts in demographics, consumerism, and technology that are butting up against existing Industrial Age rules and regulatory structures. 

Shared Cities as an Emerging Trend

Enter “shared cities,” a movement which is reimagining ways to efficiently and safely facilitate the dispersion of community assets like housing, transportation, and workspaces. Denver, Portland, Boston, and Madrid (Spain) are among the many cities now capitalizing on this model. If executed well, these collaborations will foster highly sustainable communities that boost civic vibrancy and strong economies. 

Brad Segal is president of Progressive Urban Management Associates, a national leader in advancing downtown and community development. He believes that sharable assets in cities naturally grows out of significant changes in consumer behavior. “An entire section in our PUMA Global Trends Report explores the impact of the sharing economy on cities throughout the U.S.,” says Segal. “It’s an emerging trend that appears to be here to stay.” 

The shared cities movement recently captured the attention of municipalities, as evidenced by the June 2013 Sharable Cities Resolution adopted at the U.S. Conference of Mayors. The purpose of this resolution? To foster and encourage increased adoption of sharability within cities. This includes boosting awareness of the possibilities as well as addressing regulations that may hinder participation in the shared economy. 

Collaborative Travel Services

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