Technology is the new democracy for the urban planning: in Conversation with Tiffanie Yamashita

Technology is the new democracy for the urban planning: in Conversation with Tiffanie Yamashita

Tiffanie Yamashita is an urban systems engineer and collaborate with Systematica from 8 consecutive years. She started as an intern for her final-year program at the Université Technologique de Compiègne, gradually gained confidence and today she is one of the five Project Managers guiding Systematica’s most complex assignments worldwide. The multidisciplinary approach of her degree allowed her to keep a holistic vision to tackle urban issues within a specific consultancy field such as the transport planning and mobility engineering.

The advisory activities of Systematica have the aim to develop planning and design strategies to promote sustainable way of moving while caring about the urban and architectural quality of the projects. The role with Tiffanie’s team is to develop analytical studies that support arguments to defend strategic design solutions with evidence-based in a communicative way, in order to help their clients in their decision-making process.

Q: What are the main mobility challenges in your area of interest?

TY: The richness of my work comes from the great variety of projects I work on, depending on their nature, scale and the socio-geographical contexts; a variety that comes along shades of mobility challenges we need to deal with in our everyday work. The type of client is the first discriminant: the public authorities have (or should have) as their main target the acceptance of the project by the locals and the functionality of the new development while for the private developer, the approval from the public authorities is a must and aspires for a successful project, also investment-wise. The consultancy activity should keep in mind those variables and propose solutions that could be implemented realistically. The main challenge in mobility planning in new developments is how much to push for the shift in mobility habits – find the right balance to support the transition towards sustainable way of moving.

Q: What is in your opinion the role of technology in planning the cities and neighbourhoods of tomorrow? How much we should depend on them and how can we future proof our cities against continuous changes?

TY: Technology is the new democracy for the urban planning. The use of Big Data makes accessible valuable information on people’s movements in a scale and frequency that would be too expensive to conduct with traditional surveys, especially for small-medium cities. The speed with which Big Data could deliver the information makes it easier to assess the efficiency / impact of pilot projects and to adjust them to respond better to the population’s needs. When technologies regard infrastructures and devices, they are not only a tool for observation but they actually influence the way people move. In this context, the key changers are the size of the devices (smaller), the energy they consume (more & more electric), the service type (shared, free-floating, etc.) and the level of autonomy (AV).  As highlighted in the other industries, when it comes to technologies, the evolution has an exponential trend and the prediction is highly variable. To accommodates for the future technologies and make them accessible and integrated in the neighbourhoods of tomorrow, cities should plan for flexibility which means more space for all modes of transport: better balance between soft modes and space for vehicles and better use of current provisions by sharing the existing assets.

Q: Considering the growing concerns over climate change, how important is the role of transport planners to ensure a sustainable and low impact design? what would be the main solutions to encourage the shift towards the non-motorised and sustainable modes of transport in developments and cities?

TY: Literature and global estimates point out that transport is one of the sectors that has the greatest impact on the carbon footprint, thus transport planners have definitely a role to play to help the shift toward sustainable modes of transport at every scale. Encouraging the shift from the individual and private modes to collective and shared modes of moving should be the base principle for new developments and planning cities. The transport planners can influence the paradigm at different levels:

  • Provide alternative mobility solutions competitive to traditional transport modes by implementing new services or new connections. The effort is put on the soft mobility and MAAS network to make the connections among different modes the smoothest possible;

  • Make the trips by private and motorised modes less convenient. This can be achieved with a set of strategies such as reducing the parking availability, introducing slow-speed zones, shared streets and pedestrian areas.

  • Reduce the need to travel (far). The essence of the concept of the 15-min cities held in the fact that cities are planned to have all necessary services at walking /cycling distance creating dynamic neighbourhoods, well served by soft mode infrastructure.