Category Archives: LSE Cities

LSE Cities publishes new paper in the Journal of the British Academy

18 August 2019

LSE Cities has published a new paper titled “Understanding infrastructure interfaces: common ground for interdisciplinary urban research?”. This article was written by Jo Beall, Zegeye Cherenet, Liza Cirolia, Nuno de Cruz, Susan Parnell, and Philipp Rode as part of the Governing Infrastructure Interfaces research project. It is featured in the newest issue of the Journal of the British Academy, edited by Caroline Knowles under the theme Cities and Infrastructure in the Global South.

Click here to read the full paper.

From the abstract, “Urban development is a complex, multidimensional process that no single discipline can understand, explain or address adequately. In the case of infrastructure, different disciplines address specific issues—technical problems, social dynamics, political power—yet in reality these often intersect. This article documents the experience of analysing the governance of infrastructure interfaces through a multidisciplinary case study of transport and sanitation in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

LSE Cities welcomes two new visiting colleagues, Hannes Taubenböck and Tau Tavengwa

7 August 2019

Hannes Taubenböck from the German Remote Sensing Data Center (DFD) of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) will be at LSE Cities as a Visiting Associate for 2 months. Hannes is and has always been fascinated by cities, he aims at using Earth observation data in combination with other geo-data to generate new geo-spatial insights. At DLR, he heads the team “City & Society” with which he focuses on issues relating to global urbanisation. He also teaches as a Private lecturer at the Julius-Maximilians-University Würzburg.

Tau Tavengwa has rejoined LSE Cities as a Visiting Fellow for the next 2 years.  Tau is Co-Founder, Cityscapes Magazine/Cityscapes Collective, which presents nuanced stories of cities across the South and the people working, thinking, and fighting to make them more liveable and equitable. Tau is a 2018 Loeb Fellow at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design and currently a Research Fellow (2019-2021) at Max Planck Institute for Religious and Diversity Studies. In addition, Tau is currently focused on the establishment of CS.Praxis, a new platform to connect policymakers, activists, practitioners, and academics working on urban issues from across the global South. 

Short film: High density living in London

8 July 2019

Living in High Density in London Film. LSE Film and Audio

Residents of several high density housing developments in London talk about their homes in a new film highlighting research by LSE Cities and LSE London.

Historically, London has been a low-rise city of Victorian terrace houses. But most of the city’s new homes are flats in blocks and towers, often built at very high densities – which means at least 100 dwellings per hectare.

However, if the city is to accommodate a rapidly growing population without – as Mayor Sadiq Khan has promised – impinging on the Green Belt, new developments will have to incorporate more housing units per plot of land.

Despite dense new towers, courtyard blocks and riverside homes popping up across London, there has been little research asking residents themselves what works and what doesn’t.  

Since 2016 a team of LSE researchers has been investigating how residents experience living in high density housing in 14 developments in London.

Using online surveys, interviews and focus groups, the researchers asked residents what it is like to live in these developments physically, practically and socially. They also looked at who lives in these developments, why they are living there, residents’ day-to-day lives and how they feel about their communities and wider neighbourhoods.

The researchers are working with the GLA, residents, and built environment professionals to think about how their findings can be translated into specific recommendations for policy and practice.

Read more at the LSE London Density Project

The research was supported by the Greater London Authority.

LSE Cities to present Metropolitan Indicators project at International Seminar in Barcelona on 27 June

26 June 2019

Nuno F. da Cruz, the LSE Cities’ lead of the Metropolitan Indicators project, will present the results of this initiative at an international seminar entitled ‘Metropolitan Policies and Indicators of Social Cohesion’ in Barcelona. The event will take place at CIDOB, Barcelona Centre for International Affairs starting at 9.00am on Thursday, 27 June 2019.

Developed in partnership with Metropolis and the Metropolitan Area of Barcelona (AMB), the project established a set of 38 metropolitan indicators – including new and existing metrics – and collected the corresponding data for 58 metropolitan areas around the globe. In this seminar, the project team – including LSE Cities researcher Do Young Oh – will discuss the methodological steps taken to select the indicators and data sources; identify the boundaries for the targeted metropolitan areas; and build this comprehensive dataset. To emphasise the wider implications of the current state of empirical evidence on metropolitan areas, some of the data collected will also be showcased.

Following the event, LSE Cities will publish a working paper that summarises the research and discusses the ‘metropolitan scale’ and Metropolis will launch an online open database featuring all data collected for the Metropolitan Indicators project.

Reflections on the 2019 International Transport Forum Summit

12 June 2019

LSE Cities launches new paper at International Transport Forum Summit in Leipzig – but urban accessibility and bigger challenges of environmental sustainability remain largely absent from the high-level discussions.

By Catarina Heeckt, Policy Fellow at LSE Cities

Last month we formally launched our new paper , ‘National Transport Policy and Cities: Key policy interventions to drive compact and connected urban growth’ at the International Transport Forum Summit in Leipzig, Germany. The paper, written for the Coalition for Urban Transitions, highlights the five priority transport policy interventions that national governments can implement to make cities more accessible – either by leapfrogging car-centric development pathways, or by transitioning towards a more compact and connected future. While the event provided us with a fantastic platform to discuss our research on the key actions national governments should take to foster more low-carbon, compact and connected cities, it also highlighted that accessibility as an indispensable precondition for sustainable urban development has still not arrived in the ‘mainstream’ of national transport policy-making.

Overview of the most important national transport policy instruments and reforms for promoting compact and connected urban growth.

The International Transport Forum (ITF) Summit brings together government ministers from around the world to share policy perspectives with the private sector, the media, heads of international organisations, and thought leaders from civil society and academia. While calling it “the Davos of Transport” may be slightly hyperbolic, the event is nevertheless one of the largest gatherings of transport ministers globally. This year, around forty ministers along with more than 1000 delegates from 70 countries gathered in Leipzig to discuss how better transport connectivity can help integrate regions while enabling the achievement of economic, social, and environmental goals.

Creating dialogue between academia and policy-makers

Catarina Heeckt (Policy Fellow, LSE Cities) speaks about “Better Cities: The Role of National Transport Policy”, hosted by the LSE, at the Open Stage Café taking place during the International Transport Forums 2019 Summit in Leipzig, Germany, on 23 May 2019.

Ahead of the formal launch event, I was invited to discuss the findings of our new paper at the ITF Pre-Summit Research Day during a panel on Sustainable Transport Solutions. The objective of the Pre-Summit Research Day is to create dialogue between researchers and practitioners and ensure that important new findings in academia shape the policy debates taking place at the Summit. Researchers from around the world presented work ranging from the economic viability of electrifying old diesel buses in Latvia to the use of blockchain technology in new Mobility-as-a-Service offerings in Korea.

While the intention of linking research findings into high-level policy dialogues is laudable, I am not sure to what extent the conversations from that first day carried over into the main Summit. There were certainly some interested policy-makers that attended the event but I didn’t hear the more interesting or controversial debates from the pre-Summit Research Day resurface in a meaningful way during the events I attended during the main Summit.  

Connectivity for economic prosperity – but at what cost?

Philipp Rode (Executive Director of LSE Cities) makes a speech on “Better Cities: The Role of National Transport Policy”, hosted by the LSE, at the Open Stage Café during the International Transport Forum 2019 Summit in Leipzig, Germany, on 23 May 2019.

The three days of the official Summit consisted of more than 80 events around a wide range of topics linking to the official theme ‘Transport Connectivity for Regional Integration’. Alongside the public programme of panel discussions and presentations there were also many closed-door ministerial meetings and roundtables. Most of the more high-level public events, where transport ministers and other national officials took to the stage, were unsurprisingly dominated by soundbites and pre-prepared statements, although even these can at times be very telling. During the opening Plenary, for example, China’s Transport Minister Xiaopeng Li concluded that, “if you want to get rich, you need to build roads, and other types of infrastructure first.”

Closed Ministerial meeting of ITF member country ministers on Thursday, 23 May 2019

Throughout the Summit, the idea of connectivity as a key driver of economic prosperity was very much at the forefront of discussions, with wider questions of environmental sustainability often seemingly an afterthought. Even in dedicated sessions on decarbonising the transport sector, which accounts for a staggering 23% of global energy-related greenhouse gas emissions, techno-optimism prevailed. This contrasted starkly with the findings in the new ITF Transport Outlook Report launched at the Summit, which warned that transport CO2 emissions are projected to increase 60% by 2050 and only a dramatic shift to shared mobility will be able to curb this trend in urban areas.

Nevertheless, electrification, fleet optimisation, automation and other ‘tech-fixes’ dominated the conversation, with only occasional acknowledgements that these advances may be too little too late. In this context it was refreshing to hear voices such as Chilean Transport Minister Gloria Hutt Hesse reminding the audience and her fellow panellists that on a planet soon approaching 10 billion people, we have no choice but to reduce our use of space and learn to share – in transport and beyond.

Watch the Launch of “Better Cities: The Role of National Transport Policy” 

Urban mobility still not a clear national priority

Philipp Rode (Executive Director of LSE Cities and Associate Professorial Research Fellow, The London School of Economics and Political Science) at the ITF in Focus session on “Improving access in cities: Findings from Europe and Latin America.”

The other theme that was conspicuously underrepresented in the main programme was a focus on issues around urban mobility, which was only tackled centrally in a handful of sessions. Tellingly, the official Ministerial Declaration published at the end of the Summit, does not explicitly mention urban mobility and in fact the word ‘city’ and ‘urban’ only appear once in the entire document, even though the negative consequences of excessive movement are felt most acutely in urban areas. This aligns with a finding from our paper which shows that of the 189 transport policy interventions reviewed more than half are merely ‘urban-influencing’, meaning they do not specifically consider the unique context and needs of urban areas (e.g. fuel subsidies, national highway codes etc.). It also confirms yet again that despite much talk about the importance of integrated decision-making and a focus on national urban policies, the remit of most transport ministries remains very narrow and may inadvertently lead to policy choices that actually reduce accessibility in cities.

One session that did very concretely tackle the challenges of urban mobility was ‘Improving Access in Cities: findings from Europe and Latin America’ where Philipp Rode, Executive Director of LSE Cities, joined a panel to discuss the importance of establishing accessibility metrics as a central criterion in the decision-making processes around urban transport. 

“Improving access in cities: Findings from Europe and Latin America” panel at the International Transport Forum 2019 Summit.

Urban mobility challenges were also enthusiastically discussed during a range of engaging presentations at the Open Stage Café, which ran alongside the official programme and provided an opportunity for slightly more informal and innovative discussion and presentation formats. It was in this space that Philipp Rode and I formally launched our new paper on Thursday, 23 May.

Watch the panel on Improving access in cities Findings from Europe and Latin America

Confronting an inconvenient truth

What remained untouched throughout the Summit were the increasingly urgent questions around the viability of our prevailing economic model of endless growth; excessive resource consumption on a finite planet; and the glamorising of hypermobility as the ultimate symbol of advanced societies, all of which are fuelling the dramatic increase in freight and passenger transport demand we are witnessing around the world. Perhaps these tough conversations were inevitably going to be a tall order for the ‘Davos of Transport’. Nevertheless, a much stronger acknowledgment that the climate and ecological crisis we are confronting requires a complete rethink of transport policy and a frank acknowledgement of the price we pay for connectivity would have been welcome and timely.

As informative and engaging as the ITF Summit was in many respects, it still feels demoralising to attend an event of this calibre, and discover that the most pressing challenges are routinely sidestepped by global transport leaders. During the opening plenary, Young Tae Kim, Secretary-General of the ITF, stressed that “connecting people with each other is important for prosperity and peace.”  It’s a basic premise that is hard to argue with, and yet such statements ring a bit hollow given the existential threat climate change poses to both of these desirable global goods.

Online #ITF19 Conversations


23 May 2019 | Forbes | ‘Davos of Transport’ Convenes In Leipzig, Germany

“During a presentation by LSE Cities, an international center at the London School of Economics and Political Science, researchers Philipp Rode and Catarina Heeckt provided examples of how great disparities in integration  – or access  – can be in major cities. Maps of Atlanta and Berlin showed that less than 10 % of Atlanta’s residents take public transport, walk or cycle compared to more than 70 % of Berlin’s residents.

The findings were from a new paper launched at the summit that aims to provide a foundation for conversations about actions that cities can take to make them more accessible.”

03 June 2019 | Singapore Business Review | What Singapore got right in urban mobility

“So in some ways, it can roll out policies, or national policies that from the beginning are open policies. Most states really need to differentiate between urban policies, and then policies that concern their wider territory,” he [Dr. Philipp Rode] explained. The LSE Cities paper presented by Rode and Heeckt proposes that a smart transport policy plays a vital role to play in laying the foundation for better urban structures, boosting public transport use, making it safe and easy to walk or cycle, and discouraging private car use.

Ricky Burdett joins panel discussion for, Behind the Prize: Jurying the Mies Crown Hall Americas Prize

21 May 2019

On 12 June, Ricky Burdett, Director of LSE Cities and Urban Age, will join the event, Behind the Prize: Jurying the Mies Crown Hall Americas Prize, a panel discussion on his experience jurying the most recent Mies Crown Hall Americas Prize (MCHAP). MCHAP was founded by Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) College of Architecture to honor architectural excellence in the Americas and the panel will discuss how the judges decide who wins the award. The panel discussion with members of the 2018 MCHAP jury, will take place 12 June, 7:00 p.m at The Great Hall, Cooper Union, New York.

Ricky Burdett to speak at Milano Arch Week May 2019

Ricky Burdett, Director of LSE Cities and Urban Age, will be giving a lecture on ‘Shaping Cities in an Urban Age’ for the Triennale Milano Arch Week from May 21 – 26. Milano Arch Week is a week of lectures, conversations, workshops, and itineraries on the main challenges of contemporary urban transformations. Burdett’s lecture will be on 25 May from 19:30- 20:30 held in Triennale Milano / Palco Giardino, and will be introduced by Lorenza Baroncelli.

El País Semanal reviews LSE Cities’ book, ‘Shaping Cities in an Urban Age’

13 May 2019

On 10 May, Spanish newspaper El País Semanal reviewed LSE Cities’ book ‘Shaping Cities in an Urban Age’, edited by Ricky Burdett and Philipp Rode. Written by Anatxu Zabalbeascoa, the article provides a comprehensive overview of topics discussed in the book such as public space, transport and public health, and the sustainability of cities. Click here for the full article from El País Semanal, in Spanish.