While numerous cities have eagerly embraced the concept in the last several years — from New York City to rural towns in Xinjiang, China — the San Francisco Bay Area has positioned itself as a leader in this new wave of urbanism.
In the most recent showcase of the region's commitment to smart growth, the nine-county Bay Area has come together to devise the 'One Bay Area' initiative — an integrated long-range transportation and land-use/housing plan to support a growing economy, provide more housing and transportation choices, and reduce pollution.1
Effectively accommodating the region's growing population, which is expected to increase from 7 million inhabitants today to 9 million by 2040, has been a key driver of the project.2 However, according to the plan's developers, the explicit focus on sustainability can be directly linked to California's ambitious environmental goals, which aim to reduce GHG emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. These goals are enshrined in state law, which, through the Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act of 2008, require the Bay Area to eliminate GHG emissions from cars and light trucks by 7 percent per capita by 2020 and by 15 percent per capita by 2035.3
ICT has played a crucial role in facilitating these targets and contributing to smart urban development. For example, every parking space in San Francisco allows residents to monitor available spots through a mobile phone application, leading to reduced carbon emissions and congestion while also generating useful traffic data that can inform future development.4
Through its newest experiments with converted streetlights, San Francisco is also working toward a digitally integrated network of city operations and infrastructure in which services are organized around real-time data sharing. In one pilot currently underway, streetlights will be used to remotely read city-owned electric meters and transmit data from traffic lights and cameras. A second pilot will test 'adaptive lighting' that can be dimmed or brightened in response to sensors that register pedestrian activity or traffic volume.5