What Cities Do We Want

Within 30 years 9 in 10 Americans will live in cities. Are the cities prepared?

08/10/2021
5 minutes
Adam Petrek

Cities are the future. This is not just a bumper sticker; it’s a fact. Already 55% of the world population lives in cities, and the number keeps growing. By 2050, 68% of the world population will live in urban areas as three million people move into cities every week.

Presently, Northern America is the leader in the urban population. In the United States, already 82.7% of people live in cities. By 2050, the number should grow to 89.2%.

Why Is Everyone Moving To Cities

Better job markets and higher wages are the obvious reasons, but there is much more. Cities offer the best schools and thus the best education. There is entertainment that caters to everyone’s tastes. Cities tend to offer the best medical care, the most developed public transportation, and social safety nets. The high cultural diversity provides a place for all. There are plenty of reasons, but which matter the most to people? It would be a fair guess that the main reason for the growing population in cities is financial security.

As it turns out, the primary reason people live in cities is a desire for a better life. The finances are a part of it, but it is just a fraction. Human and social factors often outweigh money and work factors. It is only after people move into the city that the monetary part begins to really matter.

Based on Mercer’s report, only one of the top four factors is monetary. The clear winner is the overall satisfaction with life. The second is their safety, security, and lack of violence. The total income comes in third place, followed by the proximity to family and friends ranking as fourth.

A Long Task List

Adapting to the growing population in cities is not an easy task. It creates an urgent need for housing, better transportation, and infrastructure to accommodate the ever-increasing hunger for electricity. Furthermore, cities need to provide their citizens with jobs and basic services. Ensure that everybody has access to health care and education. The cities will have to focus on the vulnerable groups to make sure they have access to their basic needs and live in a safe environment.

The cities won’t succeed if they are only reactive. With the growing population, the issues to tackle will multiply. The cities need to become proactive and prepare for this growth as fast as they can. They need to quickly become more citizen-centric and listen to their residents’ feedback to meet their needs.

As it turns out, the biggest difference between cities’ performance and worker’s expectations is in the safety of their cities and cities’ infrastructure.

People's Expectations Vs. City Performance (Source)

Though some of the factors are in the hands of employers, most of them, especially the most critical ones, can be improved by the city.

The bad water and air quality are already big issues. Much of the infrastructure in many cities remains the same as 100 years ago, so there is no surprise that most of it is decaying. In the U.S., up to 50% of water leaks before it even reaches its destination. Seven million people die each year because of bad air quality, and 1.5 million are killed by cars. Cities have to install new technology to ensure that the cities are livable. In most cases, they end up saving lives and money as well as the planet.

We need to make our cities safer and improve transportation as a whole – from traffic and public transport down to bicycles and pedestrians. Cities also really need to turn their attention to air and water quality. Ensure easy access to healthcare and reduce citizens’ stress and anxiety levels.

The Responsibility

Cities need to become more connected with their citizens and work together on solutions. People are streaming into cities, and a big portion of responsibility falls onto mayors and their teams to provide the best conditions for the newcomers.

Based on Mercer’s report, workers put the most responsibility for addressing systemic issues on their city government, with the federal government coming a close second. They put much less responsibility on society and individuals.

People's Perception of the Responsibility for the Performance of a City (Source)

The truth is that improving the quality of life in cities shouldn’t be the sole responsibility of any one group. Cities need to work together with companies and communicate with citizens to get them involved and excited for the potential of their city. Together we can successfully tackle all systemic issues.

Keep Up The Good Work

By 2050, a significant majority of the human race will live in cities. We need to be ready to provide a good quality of life for everybody. We need to ensure that the city experience is distributed evenly. It’s in the cities’ best interest that every citizen has the opportunity to succeed in our urban environments. There are various problems to tackle, but there are many solutions. It’s time for cities to become citizen-centric, listen to citizens, and work together. Cities have raised more people out of poverty than anything else. Let’s keep up the good work.

Cities are our future. We need to communicate, cooperate and become proactive rather than reactive. If we ignore even the small issues now, they might grow too big to handle as the city grows. As Lincoln said:

The best way to predict the future is to create it.

Here at Simplicity, we aim to provide the best communication channel between the city and its residents. Let’s work together on a better future for all.