Five Things Cities Can Do to Make the Sharing Economy Work for Everyone

As the source of pilot programs and experimentation, cities are well positioned to leverage new technology and innovative business models to ensure that the sharing economy is truly inclusive.

(Getty Images)

Through Mayor Park Won-soon’s Sharing City initiative, the city of Seoul, Korea, has helped incubate startups and introduce citizens to proven and trusted sharing services. A conference around the initiative has further branded Seoul as an innovative locale and a model of how the sharing economy can thrive. (Getty Images)

This is a guest post by Serena Lei. The post originally appeared here.

The sharing economy holds promise for poor and disadvantaged communities — offering jobs with flexible hours, opportunities to earn extra cash, and access to bikes and cars without having to own them. But according to Solomon Greene and John McGinty of the Urban Institute, it has not yet lived up to that potential.

A recent Pew Research Center survey found that 41 percent of Americans with an annual household income of $100,000 or more have used four or more sharing-economy or on-demand services, while only 13 percent of households earning less than $30,000 a year have done the same.

Low-income communities are much less likely to use car- and bike-sharing programs. Sharing-economy workers operate, for the most part, without labor protections or employee benefits. The social aspect of sharing platforms may inadvertently enable racial discrimination. And home-sharing services can drive up housing costs, making it harder for low-income residents to find affordable places to live.

Cities can help tip the scales. “Many regulations that affect the sharing economy are determined locally,” McGinty said. “Cities are the source of pilots and experimentation. They are well positioned to leverage new technology and innovative business models to ensure that the sharing economy works for all residents.”

But many local leaders have instead been doubling down on outdated regulations and penalties, Greene and McGinty argue in “What if Cities Could Create a Truly Inclusive Local Sharing Economy?” Here are five things they recommend cities do to make the sharing economy work for everyone:

  1. Convene a roundtable to map out the local sharing-economy landscape and identify gaps and barriers to participation. Working together, city leaders, community groups, businesses, researchers, and sharing-economy firms could use this information to create a roadmap forward. For example, cities with high unemployment could focus on using sharing platforms to provide work supports and create paths to quality jobs. Highly segregated cities could use sharing services to support small businesses in economically distressed areas.
  1. Protect sharing-economy workers, who don’t get the same protections as full-time employees. Sharing-economy jobs offer greater flexibility and independence but shift economic risks on to workers. To help, cities could provide flexible and portable benefits, allow contract workers to unionize, and reclassify contractors as employees subject to minimum wages and basic worker protections. The Seattle City Council has approved a bill allowing car-sharing drivers to unionize. And Uber recently announced that New York drivers could form an association — though not a full-fledged union — that would provide some labor protections.
  1. Help sharing-economy entrepreneurs by providing seed capital and training, creating or subsidizing shared workspaces, and reducing licensing and permitting barriers. Seoul, Korea, through the mayor’s Sharing City initiative, has helped seed a clothes-sharing program for job seekers and a home-sharing platform.
  1. Require sharing-economy firms to expand their services into low-income neighborhoods or reduce prices for low-income consumers in exchange for government contracts or regulatory approvals. Some cities are already experimenting with ways to do this. Los Angeles introduced a pilot program to put 100 car-share vehicles in low-income neighborhoods. And in Minneapolis, the Nice Ride bike-share program offers subsidized memberships and conducts outreach in low-income communities.
  1. Support peer-to-peer lending to help people build credit and access more affordable loans, a barrier that may be keeping low-income households from becoming likely consumers of the sharing economy. Oakland and Richmond, California, offer municipal IDs that are also prepaid debit cards, which may help people without bank accounts.

Other barriers to participation — such as lack of Internet and smartphone access — still remain, but these actions could help cities harness the promise of the sharing economy and make it truly inclusive of all residents.

This post is part of an Urban Institute series funded by the Rockefeller Foundation that explores how city leaders can promote local economies that are inclusive of all their residents. The framing brief, “Open Cities: From Economic Exclusion to Urban Inclusion,” defines economic exclusion and discusses city-level trends across high-income countries. The four “What if?” essays suggest bold and innovative solutions, and they are intended to spark debate on how cities might harness new technologies, rising momentum, and new approaches to governance in order to overcome economic exclusion.

About the Author: Serena Lei is the senior writer and editor at the Urban Institute.

NLC Awards Grants to Six Cities to Strengthen Financial Inclusion Efforts

While cities are increasingly creating programs to address financial inclusion, bringing those programs out of their silos to engage with partners and current resources is what makes the difference in those programs’ long-term success.

Mother watching daughter count coins from piggy bank

“At a time when too many Lansing residents face serious obstacles to financial stability, NLC is helping the city to step up to provide them with vital assistance in reducing debt, building credit and saving for the future.” – The Honorable Virg Bernero, Mayor, City of Lansing, Michigan (Photo: Getty Images)

To accomplish his stated goals, Lansing, Michigan, Mayor Virg Benero joined the National League of Cities and five other mayors recently to brainstorm solutions to the financial challenges residents in his city face every day. This Mayors’ Institute was part of NLC’s two-year project supported by MetLife Foundation, Cities Building Systems to Promote Financial Inclusion, which provides technical assistance and grants to eight cities working to build sustainable financial inclusion programs and systems. Last week, NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education and Families (YEF Institute) awarded grants to six of these cities to help them implement diverse approaches to mitigate their residents’ financial challenges.

Nearly half of American households lack enough savings to cover a three-month emergency fund for basic expenses, necessary for the loss of a job or a sudden medical expense. Unless families are financially healthy, cities generate less money from property taxes and can lose revenue from unpaid public utility bills. They must also grapple with the costs of higher rates of foreclosure, decreasing education and health outcomes, and less vibrant local economies.

Cities and their community partners can build and implement programs that provide financial support and services, ranging from child savings accounts to financial counseling to avoiding check-cashers and predatory lending. But by focusing on systems-building, cities put infrastructure in place to ensure that programs are sustainable, integrated into community priorities, and efficient in building on existing services.

The grant funds awarded through this project provide mayors with the opportunity to build capacity, integrate services, and learn from other cities that are part of the project cohort. It can be difficult to secure funding that goes beyond support of existing, discrete programs; mayors will be able to think critically about how to build enduring relationships and recognize that while cities are increasingly creating programs to address financial inclusion, bringing those programs out of their silos to engage with partners and current resources is what makes the difference in those programs’ long-term success.

Cities are taking on elements of infrastructure, communication, and program design with technical assistance from NLC’s YEF Institute. Several are using funding to assess the landscape of financial inclusion in their cities: community organizations and nonprofits are passionate about providing services, so how can cities facilitate or coordinate the efforts of numerous partners?

Lansing is a city with strong programs in place to serve families, and their grant will go towards making connections between those programs. Mayor Bernero will use the grant to engage parents of children that are enrolled in the city’s Children’s Savings Account (CSA) program and connect them to services available through the city’s Financial Empowerment Centers. Financial Empowerment Centers offer residents an array of services such as debt reduction, access to public benefits and financial counseling.  This dual generation approach will help families build confidence in planning for their children’s futures.

Meanwhile, Dubuque, Iowa – another city receiving an NLC financial inclusion grant – plans to integrate its Bank On program (which connects unbanked individuals to accounts) with EITC/VITA initiatives to promote financial education and incentivized savings. By building a shared data platform, working together to target residents, and moving beyond the provision of bank accounts, Dubuque will strengthen the programs it already offers and ensure their sustainability.

With mayors as champions of financial inclusion, cities are well-positioned to make tangible changes in the lives of families. By thinking critically about their role as conveners of stakeholders, implementers of impactful programs, and communicators to residents, cities can use a systems-building approach to strengthen and sustain families and the financial inclusion services they receive.

For more information about NLC’s municipal financial inclusion efforts, visit our website or contact Denise Belser, program manager for economic opportunity and financial empowerment at

About the Authors: 

Denise Belser

Denise Belser is the Program Manager of Economic Opportunity and Financial Empowerment Program within NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families.

Lily Roberts photoLily Roberts is an intern with the Economic Opportunity and Financial Empowerment Program within NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education and Families.


The National League of Cities Just Rolled Out a New Logo and Tag Line. Here’s Why.

Today marks the launch of NLC’s new logo and slogan. Here are five reasons why we’re making the change.

(photo: Tim Mudd)

Most people simply know us as “NLC,” so we’ve embraced the abbreviation in our new logo. Many people have guessed (incorrectly) that the ease of printing the new, shorter logo on sunglasses was the real reason we decided to make the switch. (Photo: Tom Martin)

NLC’s New Logo

NLC’s Previous Logo

To reflect cities of all sizes

The circles and buildings in the old logo suggested that the National League of Cities was only for large cities. But more than half of U.S. municipalities have fewer than 2000 residents, and cities and towns of all sizes are members of NLC. The new “all cities mark” used to create the “L” in our new logo symbolizes that all municipalities are welcome in the National League of Cities.

To embrace the abbreviation “NLC” that we’re already using

We try to be very intentional about saying our complete name, the National League of Cities. But everyone uses the abbreviation “NLC.” It even shows up in some of our products and services, such as NLC University and the NLC Prescription Discount Card. We’ve been missing out on the opportunity to create a consistent visualization of “NLC” to associate with our organization and the things we do. Now we’re embracing “NLC,” but we’ll always remind you what it means!

To embody the forward-leaning nature of NLC

NLC’s strategic plan calls for us to be “forward leaning,” and we’ve risen to the challenge. The sharing economy, driverless cars and drones are just a few of the topics NLC has covered to help city leaders learn what’s coming and how they can prepare. We’re also moving into a new, all-glass office with a modern design and innovative, multipurpose spaces. Our dated three-circles logo just didn’t fit the new organization we have become.

To embrace our role as a bold and visible voice for cities

We are the voice of cities in Washington. Our members passionately work every year to develop the National Municipal Policy, our positions on issues that matter to cities. We advise Congress and the Administration on how federal policies affect the nation’s cities, and we are a strong advocate for our members. The boldness of our new logo embodies the passion we and our members feel about the importance of cities to the health of our nation.

And about that tag line…

At NLC, we believe cities are strong. Especially when they work together. Strong in the sense that they represent the majority of Americans. Strong in the sense that they can govern — they have to govern — and serve their residents. Strong in the sense that they learn from each other and become more vibrant, more economically successful, and more innovative by sharing ideas. In NLC, cities are strong together.

It wasn’t an overnight decision, but there were some all-nighters…

We appreciate the hard work of our Executive Committee and Board, our staff, and our brand experts – Red Deluxe from NLC member city Memphis, Tennessee – for all of their hard work to develop a new look for the National League of Cities. It’s a difficult task to capture the spirit of an organization as complex as NLC in a logo that is clean and simple, but they’ve done it!

About the Author: Brian Derr is the Director of Marketing, Digital Engagement and Communications at the National League of Cities.

Lauderdale Lakes: A Story of Economic Revival

As part of our efforts to promote professional development among city leaders, each week we’ll be featuring a new video focused on cities, community issues or local government. In this week’s edition, Lauderdale Lakes, Florida, Acting City Manager Danny Holmes shares big ideas about how economic development in his rapidly growing city can be replicated by other small cities. Have a similar big idea to share? We are currently accepting speaker submissions for the 2016 Big Ideas for Small Cities event to be held at the City Summit in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, November 16-19, 2016.

Lauderdale Lakes, Florida, Acting City Manager Danny Holmes talks about some of the steps that the city of Lauderdale Lakes, Florida, took in the late 1980s and early 1990s to revive the city during a time of economic decline.

What goals were the initiatives designed to address?
Even before the Great Recession, this community was experiencing a weakening economy due to a loss of middle income residents and the departure of major national retail shopping stores. Toward the goal of establishing a process and a set of tools to lead a redevelopment effort, a Community Redevelopment Agency was created in 1999.

What steps were taken as part of the program?
The first step for the Redevelopment Agency was to define and study the area targeted for investment and improvement. The charge included an inventory of vacant land, evaluation of road traffic flows and bottlenecks, and a review of the general characteristics of existing and proposed development in terms of its aesthetics and its commercial viability. The agency had the power to acquire land, execute contracts, and borrow money.

Fundamentally any revitalization needed to be a community process; one with buy-in from residents. In order to achieve a set of concrete goals and policies, a vigorous community engagement process was undertaken. Using community charrettes and other techniques, residents helped to envision what they wanted their city to look like over the long-term.

What was achieved?
As part of a community master plan (adopted in 2003), city leaders and residents focused on vital outcomes. These outcomes included improved walkability and pedestrian safety, more dedicated park and open space, affordable housing, targeting priority development areas, allowing mixed-use development along certain roadways, making better use of the waterfront, and building both a new town center and a new library.

Implementation of the master plan required development of a comprehensive plan and amendments to existing land use and zoning codes. A commercial façade renovation grant program was launched to assist existing businesses upgrade to the new plans. Also, citizens approved a $15 million bond for public improvements within the plan area.

To date, the CRA plan has brought new life to the heart of the city and precipitated numerous building renovations and infill development throughout the district. Streetscape improvements at city gateways along State Road 7 have been completed, maintaining the road width, incorporating signature bus shelters and landscaping. New roads have been constructed and others linked, increasing connectivity throughout the CRA. Traffic calming features have been introduced in strategic locations. All of these efforts have resulted in revived investment, a return of national retailers, newly revitalized commercial activity and greater pedestrian activity overall.

Presented at the NLC Congress of Cities 2015
Danny Holmes, Acting City Manager
Lauderdale Lakes, Florida

NLC Contact
Brooks Rainwater
Director, City Solutions and Applied Research

Paul Konz headshotAbout the Author: Paul Konz is the Senior Editor at the National League of Cities.

How We Worked with a Mayor and a Parks Department to Connect SF Youth with Nature

Implementing successful programs like this takes commitment from multiple partners as well as funding, participant recruitment, event planning, and risk management strategies.

It's all smiles on San Francisco's Lake Merced; Photo - Adreon Morgan, Wilderness Inquiry.

It’s all smiles on San Francisco’s Lake Merced. (photo: Adreon Morgan/Wilderness Inquiry)

This is a guest post by Greg Lais and Phil Ginsburg.

Coming in direct contact with the mighty Mississippi River provided one indelible memory for many of the 700 participants in the recent International Conference on Children & Nature in St. Paul, Minnesota. The mechanism: a fast-spreading national initiative of NLC partner Wilderness Inquiry called the Canoemobile – coming to your city, soon!

For instance, when co-author and San Francisco, California, Recreation and Parks director Phil Ginsburg learned about the Canoemobile at a Fall 2015 Leadership Academy of the NLC YEF Institute-Children & Nature Network Cities Connecting Children to Nature (CCCN) initiative, he determined to enlist the support of Mayor Edwin Lee and others to bring Canoemobile to the City by the Bay – and succeeded in doing so by April, 2016.

In following up, Ginsburg and Mayor Lee grabbed onto a tangible opportunity to connect children with nature, exemplifying San Francisco’s role as one among seven cities in the vanguard of the CCCN initiative. April’s event in San Francisco began to fulfill CCCN’s goal of supporting city leaders to take a variety of actions to create “nature-rich” cities and increase access to nature for all residents as part of their everyday lives.

“Can you canoe?” This is the unusual question co-author Greg Lais asked hundreds of Bay Area young people. As Wilderness Inquiry equipped the young people to answer “yes,” pure joy resulted all around as the experience of paddling six 24’ Voyageur canoes introduced students and young adults with disabilities to the lakes and waterways within the city, including Lake Merced, India Basin, and other waterways in the area such as Rosie the Riveter National Historic Park and Berkeley Aquatic Park.

Canoemobile is a mobile program that brings environmental literacy and engagement to urban youth on local waterways and public lands. Physically, Canoemobile consists of a van and trailer loaded with gear, six Voyageur canoes, and a crew of seven outdoor educators who share their love of all things outdoors with people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities.

Since 2010, the Canoemobile has reached over 100,000 people in more than 40 cities across the US. Most of the students served by Canoemobile do not visit parks and have never been in a boat before. What makes Canoemobile unique is its ability to go to into diverse communities and engage people outdoors within minutes from their homes.

One of the most exciting things about Canoemobile is the sense of discovery it inspires. The lake or river that everyone ignored is suddenly transformed into a living ecosystem, filled with beauty, intrigue, and the circle of life. New worlds emerge as students watch herons hunt for fish, spot turtles sunning themselves, or hear Red-winged black birds defend their territory. Canoemobile engages curious young minds in learning through discovery.

“Equitable access to the outdoors is very important,” said San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee during a visit in support of the Canoemobile program. (From L-R) Phil Ginsburg, General Manager, San Francisco Recreation and Parks; Mayor Ed Lee; Greg Lais, Executive Director, Wilderness Inquiry; Hannah Frawley, Special Events, Wilderness Inquiry. (photo: Lucas Tobin/San Francisco Recreation and Parks)

There is a pattern to participation wherever the Canoemobile goes. It starts with apprehension, as most people are afraid of the water. With training and encouragement from Canoemobile staff, these kids get into the canoes and paddle off. After a few minutes, students begin to cooperate as a team and discover the wonders of the natural world up close. At Lake Merced, for instance, they discovered diving grebes, great blue herons, and an intricate maze of wetlands harboring several species of ducks. After an hour, fear is vanquished and confidence soars. Everyone is eager to keep paddling and discovering more.

Implementing Canoemobile – as with so many other efforts to connect children to nature – takes a commitment from multiple partners. Wilderness Inquiry is currently developing a “tool-kit” for cities and other partners to implement mobile programs like Canoemobile, which will address issues including funding, participant recruitment, event planning, and risk management.

Notably, Canoemobile’s first visit to the Bay Area also provided a case study in how to overcome the barriers that all too often limit urban residents’ access to nature. This took place at India Basin, an industrial area near the site of the former Candlestick Park.

The plan to launch Wilderness Inquiry’s large canoes and take people paddling on the Bay from India Basin hit a snag due to insufficient water access. After discussing alternate plans to move or cancel the event, Jim Wheeler, the Aquatics Services manager for San Francisco’s Recreation and Park Department, suggested he could get smaller canoes and kayaks that were easier to launch, if Wilderness Inquiry could help staff and paddle them. That solution resulted in a great community event. One young man with a developmental disability paddled in the morning, then returned in the afternoon to take his mother and sister out paddling.

Beneficial results in terms of youth development abound when San Francisco and other cities pursue new and innovative ways to engage underserved people such as Canoemobile. Indeed, after its initial successful experience, San Francisco plans to make to make Canoemobile a regular feature in the city.

About the Authors: Greg Lais, Executive Director of Wilderness Inquiry, and Phil Ginsburg, General Manager of San Francisco Recreation and Parks, met at the Cities Connecting Children to Nature gathering in St. Paul as part of the initiative with the National League of Cities, the Children & Nature Network, Wilderness Inquiry and several other partners. They decided to bring Wilderness Inquiry’s “Canoemobile” to San Francisco.

Preparing Cities and Towns for Self-Driving Vehicles

As time advances and new technology, adoption and traffic scenarios unfold, cities face many uncertainties when it comes to transportation and mobility.


As the availability and flexibility of self-driving vehicles such as this Mercedes-Benz F015 begins to increase, flights to nearby regions, intra-regional bus use, and inter-regional goods shipments by train could fall – and this changing transportation landscape will impact cities substantially. (Photo:

This is a guest post by Dr. Kara Maria Kockelman.

A substantial shift in transportation options is emerging, with various technologies advancing to market for connected and highly automated vehicles (C/AVs). Our nation’s $1,000 per capita annual crash costs may plummet – and our days of driving may be numbered – as technologists and manufacturers work hard to publicly deliver communicating vehicles in the near term and fully-self-driving technologies in the longer term.

Connected vehicles communicate a basic safety message involving their position, speed, and direction to help avoid crashes, improve traffic signal timing plans, and receive valuable feedback from roadside devices that wish to alert vehicles or their drivers to downstream issues (like tight, icy bends in the road). These dedicated short-range communications (DSRC) will probably be required on all new passenger vehicles sold in the United States in the 2020 model year, costing less than $100 per vehicle. Adding such radio-signal technology to existing vehicles will also be rather easy, but will require that drivers react to the resulting audible alerts, rather than rely on embedded automated systems that exist on many newer vehicles (like emergency braking and lane-keeping assistance).

Self-driving vehicles (SDVs) will transform personal and freight transport patterns by providing travel alternatives that compete favorably with existing mainstays. While our days of driving may be numbered, our road-use demands, or vehicle-miles travelled (VMT), will rise. With the flexibility of SDVs for rent or purchase, flights to nearby regions, intra-regional bus use, and inter-regional goods shipments by train will fall. Shared SDVs (or “shared AVs”) will allow most Americans to access such vehicles at lower cost – perhaps as low as one dollar per mile within a decade in some cities in the United States. By reducing driver labor costs, and perhaps access and use costs, car and truck travel will rise.

What all of this means is that uncertainties for cities, states, and transportation system managers are high, with many possible technology, adoption and traffic scenarios unfolding as time advances.

Many wonder if Americans are ready to embrace connected and self-driving vehicles, but our fleet’s evolution has already begun – and our research results suggest that 70 to 87 percent of our light-duty vehicle fleet will be fully self-driving by 2045. This is without any proactive policies, though (like requiring only self-driving mode in a city’s downtown or along certain freeway lanes). Falling technology prices and increases in households’ willingness to pay for such technologies, much like we have seen with smartphones and other devices, should help Americans embrace connected and self-driving vehicles. Of course, various levels of automation already exist on select vehicle makes and models, including electronic stability control or ESC (required since model year 2012), adaptive cruise control (ACC), and automatic emergency braking (AEB).

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines Level 1 automation as function-specific automation (like ESC or AEB), Level 2 as combined function automation (like adaptive cruise control plus lane-keeping assistance, as seen recently on Tesla’s Model S car), Level 3 as limited self-driving automation (so a licensed driver must be available within seconds to take over operation of the vehicle, if needed), and Level 4 as fully self-driving automation (where entire trips can be completed without a driver).

How much are Americans willing to pay right now for these kinds of technologies? Our survey results suggest an average willingness to pay $67 for DSRC connectivity and $5,857 for Level 4 automation, when all adults are included, or $111 and $14,196 when zero-value respondents are removed from the averages. As expected, readiness to invest in such advances rises as one’s friends and neighbors acquire the technologies. Moreover, almost 60 percent of all individuals indicated wanting to use self-driving features soon, for at least some of their current trips, but affordability and equipment failure are top concerns.

The value of safer journeys, with lower operator burden and possibly avoided parking costs, is substantial. We estimate SDVs’ social benefits to be roughly $3,000 per year per vehicle initially, rising to nearly $5,000. Moreover, shared AV fleets suggest an important opportunity to improve fuel economy (thanks to smaller vehicles), reduce emissions (thanks to keeping engines warm and avoiding cold starts), reduce parking needs (as households reduce their own vehicle holdings), lower travel costs (for those who drive their vehicles less than 5,000 miles per year), connect to major existing transit lines (as a first-mile, last-mile service), and improve mobility and access for those without vehicles or unable to drive (including  tens of millions of elderly Americans who regularly avoid night-time driving and other endeavors).

All told, AVs may save the United States’ economy roughly $430 billion annually. However, we must plan for the added travel demands and VMT that our networks will be asked to support. Congestion-based tolls and vehicle-type tolls can help avoid the downsides of easier travel. Congestion pricing is designed to keep traffic moving, and is especially valuable at regional bottlenecks, like bridges. Credit-based congestion pricing (CBCP) comes with travel credits or budgets for each traveler, so that everyone in a region owns a share of the network and will pay out of pocket only after exceeding their monthly budget. Our research shows how CBCP policies can improve the welfare of most travelers, while better reflecting the true costs that each of us is imposing on others (those behind us in the traffic stream) when we enter a congested roadway. In addition to avoiding congestion, we want to avoid bigger, heavier, higher-emitting, and less fuel-efficient vehicles. With the GPS systems on board these smart vehicles, we have the opportunity to price based on the external costs that different vehicles place on our infrastructure, our lungs, and our climate. Experts and citizen groups can help policymakers determine such tolls to keep things equitable and realistic as we transition our communities toward transportation systems that function much better than many do today.

As we move toward 100 percent C/AV use, traffic signal systems can be replaced by roadside monitors that send instructions to individual vehicles and mini-platoons of vehicles to make maximal use of an intersection while still offering pedestrian and bicyclist phases. And non-motorized travelers (as well as motorcycle riders) can add connected technologies to their phones, backpacks and bikes, to help smart vehicles anticipate their presence, and avoid the thousands of pedestrian and cyclists deaths this country experiences every year. While motorcycles will be very difficult to automate, a rider’s helmet face or glasses can be designed map drive paths to keep motorcyclists in synch with mini-platoons.

Our simulations also suggest that every shared AV can replace about 5 to 10 privately held vehicles, which provides many benefits. With a fleet of shared smart vehicles, we also can promoted dynamic ride-sharing, where neighbors, colleagues, and complete strangers opt to share their vehicles, saving on travel costs, congestion, and emissions. Such systems may be critical in most cities to counteract the added VMT that comes with easier motorized travel. Our current park-and-ride lots and major destination hubs (like universities, hospitals, convention centers, shopping centers and central business districts) also make great places to cluster trip-makers’ origins and destinations, and self-driving mini-buses can make our transit systems more demand responsive, frequent, affordable and valuable to all travelers.

Together, connected and automated technologies offer tremendous opportunities for improved access, mobility, and safety across the country. But it is important that we promote the best features of these new technologies, helping to avoid more serious congestion and ensure more sustainable systems.

Please click here to learn more about these technologies and associated research results.

About the Author: Dr. Kara Maria Kockelman is the E.P. Schoch Professor of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. She is a registered professional engineer and holds a PhD, MS, and BS in civil engineering, a Masters of City Planning, and a minor in economics from the University of California at Berkeley. Dr. Kockelman is a recognized expert on the subjects of automated vehicles, shared self-driving electric vehicles, travel demand forecasting, urban planning, land use modeling, traveler behavior and crash forecasting, vehicle ownership and use decisions, traffic patterns under congestion pricing and managed lanes, transport emissions and economics, and benefit-cost analysis of transport investments and policies. She is well known for her work holistically characterizing the benefits and costs of different transportation investments, policies and practices.

Cybersecurity is Critical to Our Nation’s Infrastructure

“We must dedicate adequate resources to ensuring that we are protecting our most critical infrastructure – and continued dialogue and cooperation between the public and private sectors at all levels is paramount.”

(Getty Images)

Cybersecurity is the protection of information systems from theft or damage to the hardware, the software, and to the information on them, as well as from disruption or misdirection of the services they provide. (Getty Images)

This is a guest post by Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX).

We are in the midst of an information revolution at a scale and potential change that is unprecedented in human history. Constant innovation has led to the invention of driverless cars and numerous other self-serving devices. Technological advances in “smart” critical infrastructure have also been increasing, helping satisfy the large American appetite for electricity and water. While these technologies have brought about change, we cannot forget that increasingly complex infrastructure systems also bring about additional surface areas and complex systems that must be protected.

Late last year, numerous outlets reported on a series of unscheduled power outages impacting a large number of customers in Ukraine. It was later confirmed that a cyberattack was responsible for this event. While this incident should not cause immediate domestic panic, it should serve as a stark reminder of growing digital threats at-large and the need to constantly update and invest in hardening our electric grid.

To its credit, the electric power industry has taken the initiative to begin protecting the nation’s electric grid to ensure a Ukrainian-type incident does not take place in the U.S. Starting as far back as 2011, the utility industry, led by Edison Electric Institute (EEI), began a project to assess likely targets for a potential cyber attack and discuss ways in which they can be combatted. The private sector and federal government have continued this collaboration, drawing up mandatory, enforceable standards in which the electric utility industry must abide. The electric sector has also led the way in public-private information sharing through the Electric Sector Information Sharing and Analysis Center and the Electric Subsector Coordinating Council.

I have also been pleased with the steps that many of the private sector utilities in my congressional district have been taking to improve on their own cyber posture. CPS Energy in San Antonio and other local electric cooperatives have been thoroughly engaged and unwavering in their commitment to cybersecurity. San Antonio, Texas, also known as “Cyber City USA,” has been ground zero for the innovation and healthy business environment that can result from public-private partnerships between academia, commerce, and local governments.

Unfortunately, while the federal government and private sector possess many of the tools and capabilities needed to protect their systems, many state, local and tribal entities do not. In Congress, I have sponsored and co-sponsored legislation to fix this problem. First, I authored H.R. 3869, the State and Local Cyber Protection Act of 2015, which would allow the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to assist state and local governments, upon request, in securing their information systems. Additionally, I co-sponsored H.R. 4743, the Cybersecurity Preparedness Consortium Act, which authorizes DHS to continue its work with leading cybersecurity academic institutions, like the University of Texas at San Antonio and Texas A&M University, which are working directly with local first responders to ensure proper training is carried out.

Cyberattackers are becoming more aggressive with each passing day. As our systems grow increasingly complex, we must dedicate adequate resources to ensuring that we are protecting our most critical infrastructure – and continued dialogue and cooperation between the public and private sectors at all levels is paramount. I look forward to using my position in Congress to help facilitate these conversations, and ensure that we are prepared to prevent and appropriately respond to the threats we face.

About the Author: A former undercover CIA officer, entrepreneur and cybersecurity expert, Will Hurd is the U.S. Representative for the 23rd Congressional District of Texas. In Washington, he serves as Vice Chair of the Maritime and Border Security Subcommittee on the Committee for Homeland Security, and as the Chairman of the Information Technology Subcommittee on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Inclusive Growth in Cities: A Conversation with OECD Secretary-General Ángel Gurría

In cities, top-line economic growth has not necessarily delivered bottom-line prosperity. Together with the Brookings Institution, NLC hosted an event to examine the rising inequality in cities and focus on concrete ways to address it.

Cities and metropolitan areas are major generators of economic opportunity. Between 2000 and 2013, almost 60 percent of jobs created in the OECD area were in metropolitan areas, and economic and social mobility has historically been higher in large cities.

However, rising inequality, poor quality of services, fragmented labor markets, and non-inclusive institutions challenge the capacity of cities to grow inclusively. Of the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the United States, for instance, only nine outperformed averages in metrics of growth, prosperity, inclusion, and inclusion by race between 2009 and 2014. In short, top-line growth has not necessarily delivered bottom-line prosperity.

To operationalize inclusive growth in cities worldwide, the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), in partnership with the Ford Foundation, has launched an Inclusive Growth in Cities Campaign to increase awareness of rising inequality, refocus the debate on concrete solutions, and empower local governments as leaders in the transition towards more inclusive growth.

On Thursday, June 16, the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program and the National League of Cities hosted an event to examine the rising inequality in cities and focused on concrete ways to address it. OECD Secretary-General Ángel Gurría offered remarks on this new initiative, and a panel discussion followed, featuring a discussion among cross-sectoral leaders implementing inclusive growth strategies across the country. NLC Deputy Executive Director Antoinette Samuel delivered closing remarks.

Paul Konz headshotAbout the Author: Paul Konz is the Senior Editor at the National League of Cities.

Why Good Hackers Make Good Citizens

As part of our efforts to promote professional development among city leaders, each week we’ll be featuring a new TED Talk focused on cities, community issues or local government. This week’s talk focuses on inspiring civic-minded hacker projects, and is presented by Catherine Bracy, the director of community organizing at Code for America.

Hacking is about more than mischief-making or political subversion. As Catherine Bracy describes in this spirited talk, it can be just as much a force for good as it is for evil. She spins through some inspiring civic-minded projects in Honolulu, Oakland and Mexico City — and makes a compelling case that we all have what it takes to get involved.

Paul Konz headshotAbout the Author: Paul Konz is the Senior Editor at the National League of Cities.

Does the Jail in Your City Contribute to Mass Incarceration?

Criminal justice data tools can help city leaders answer this question. Here’s how to access and use those tools.

(Getty Images)

The U.S. now has the highest rate of incarceration in the world – and local jails represent a huge, largely ignored portion of that increase. For each prisoner jailed, some cities even have to pay per diem to the counties in which they are located. (Getty Images)

The past two decades’ rapid rise in jail populations has come at great short- and long-term expense to cities, along with mixed effects at best in terms of public safety. City leaders, often joining forces with partners in county government, can reduce the overuse of jails to improve public safety and life outcomes for residents. The YEF Institute’s City Roles to Reduce the Overuse of Jails for Young Adults initiative seeks to support cities to take informed action to reduce the use of local jails for young adults.

City leaders seeking support to gather basic data about jail use can join a webinar at 3:00 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, June 22, 2016. The webinar will introduce the Vera Institute’s Incarceration Trends online tool, which is useful for identifying long-term trends in jail populations, and identify sources within the city for additional data. Register here.

National Trends

Incarceration rates rose dramatically over the past few decades, and the U.S. now has the highest rate of incarceration in the world. Local jails represent a huge, largely ignored portion of that increase. The nearly 12 million local jail admissions every year is almost 20 times the number of prison admissions.

(Infographic courtesy of

(Infographic courtesy of

Nationally, jails detain a disproportionate number of young adults, people of color, and people with substance use and mental health needs. For example, African Americans comprised 13 percent of the general population but 35 percent of the jail population. In addition, the number of women in jail has grown 14 times, compared to a four-fold growth among men.

Each local system contributes to these national trends and pays a price for over-incarceration. Small cities, in particular, may have paid a particularly high price. The Vera Institute of Justice’s new research revealed that small jurisdictions comprise the largest contributors to the massive increase in jail incarceration over the last decade.

Some cities have been able to successfully reduce jail populations – and understanding the data around your jail system can help your city achieve success as well.

National Trends Reflected in Smaller Communities

Understanding your local system’s data can help cities plan appropriate responses. Cities can start by answering these six questions about who is in their local jail. The YEF Institute’s initiative focuses on young adults because of the outsized impact jail has on the lives of young people, but these questions apply to everyone in jail.

  1. How has the county’s rate of incarceration changed over the last ten years?
  1. How many people has the city’s police department arrested and booked into jail in each of the past five years, specifically by age, race and ethnicity, gender, ward or neighborhood of arrest, and offense?
  1. Of the jail population, what shares represent: a) persons held pre-trial, b) persons held for violations of probation, and c) persons serving short sentences?
  1. How many people does the jail detain on each amount of cash bail, specifically by age, race and ethnicity, and offense?
  1. How many persons held in the jail have mental health or substance use needs?
  1. What share of local jail costs does the city bear, for instance, per bed night utilized or from the city’s capital budget?

City leaders can use the answers to these questions to inform new policies and practices about who should be arrested and taken to your jail and why. City leaders should also engage communities heavily impacted by incarceration to learn more before taking action.

About the Authors:

Laura FurrLaura E. Furr is the program manager for justice reform and youth engagement in NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families. Follow Laura on Twitter at@laura_furr and be reached at


Christian Henrichson is Research Director for the Center on Sentencing and Corrections at the Vera Institute of Justice.