Dubai is well known as a testing ground for future tech, and seen as a model for future living by many. Try telling that to anyone stuck in congestion on Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Road.
A major road artery running from Abu Dhabi to Ras Al-Khaimah, it’s a perennial flashpoint in Dubai, where car ownership is higher than both New York and London, according to 2015 figures from the Road and Transport Authority (RTA). Some of the congestion has been eased by the Dubai Metro, which saw over 191 million passenger journeys in 2016, up 12.7 million year-on-year. Few dispute there’s more to be done, however.
It’ll come as little surprise that Dubai is looking for solutions in a way only Dubai could.
Dubai is looking to attract another of Elon Musk’s concepts. Not owned by the serial entrepreneur (Musk open-sourced the idea), Virgin Hyperloop One aims to use magnetic levitation technology to transport pods along vacuum-sealed tubes at 700mph — not far shy the current land speed record.
The emirate has long been linked with the technology, with one route to Fujairah and another to Abu Dhabi mooted. The latter would cut the 102-mile journey to just 12 minutes.
In October, company CEO Rob Lloyd told local news that construction will begin in 2019 with testing to commence at production level in 2021. Lloyd had previously described Dubai as “our number one priority,” but more recently would not be drawn as to whether the UAE, Northern Europe or the US would be home to the first fully-functional hyperloop.
Contained to the UAE, a roll out would ameliorate inter-emirate travel, but if expanded, the effects could be profound. Hyperloop would enable Dubai travelers to skip the world’s third busiest airport and reach Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in a mere 62 minutes, for example.
According to recent research by the University of Virginia, all but a very select group of cities are struggling to figure out how to create jobs in a time when companies are less dependent on human beings and traditional industries face technology– and trade-driven disruption.
St. Louis is one of the metropolitan areas trying to establish an economy that can thrive in that new reality, and civic leaders, investors, entrepreneurs, financial institutions, and state and local government have banded together over the past several years to come up with a potential solution:
Building one of the country’s fastest growing startup scenes.
In the past several years, government, business, and community leaders in St. Louis have:
Created several thriving incubators that stretch from the city’s urban core (TRex, Cortex) to the region’s western suburbs (OPO Startups).
Founded Arch Grants, an organization that has distributed more than $6 million in equity-free funding to 114 startups, which in turn have created or retained more than 1,500 jobs and attracted $120 million in follow-on capital.
Established a $5 million early-stage seed fund to help startups survive the “Valley of Death.”
Received significant support from state and local government (including the Missouri Technology Corporation, the St. Louis Partnership, and the EDC Business and Community Partners).
Formed several thriving and unique venture funds.
Raised one of the few $100mm Series A funds outside of Silicon Valley.
Advanced the regional focus on bio- and life-sciences.
Developed several well-funded startup competitions, including the Ameren Accelerator Demo Day and the St. Charles County Demo Day.
Even Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has taken notice, making the city the first stop on his nationwide tour focused on reaching out to entrepreneurs and small business owners. The St. Louis innovation community has also made the city a serious contender for the world’s first Hyperloop, which would connect the metro area to Kansas City (home to another fast-growing tech community).
Job creation, follow-on capital, and the size of seed-funds aren’t the only ways to measure the success of the region’s startup scene. St. Louis was once the nation’s fourth largest city, and is the birthplace of some of America’s most successful companies. But the city fell on hard times during the latter half of the 20th century–and still faces significant challenges.
Those hard times and the city’s challenges are what make the startup scene even more important–and not because startups will cure every social and economic issue the region faces. Rather, the time, effort, and resources put into the startup scene show an aggressive effort by a community to take control of its destiny and begin building a new economy from the ground up by supporting local innovators.
It’s a lesson other cities and metropolitan areas should learn from.
While being selected for Amazon’s second headquarters is an opportunity nearly every city will always pursue (including St. Louis, which launched an aggressive media campaign that included articles in TechCrunch, The New York Times, and one I wrote in Inc.), a strong economy is sort of like the New England Patriots or any other sports dynasty:
It’s built on home-grown talent, not high-profile free agents.
While the early results are positive, the ultimate return on the city’s investment in startups is still years down the road. But that’s okay, because Silicon Valley was once just a collection of nerdy engineers working at companies housed in garages.
In other words, these things take time.
But in St. Louis, the startup scene is off to a good start.
If New York City and the surrounding areas want to continue growing, government must determine how to build a new subway extension in less than 100 years, according to the Regional Plan Association’s Fourth Regional Plan.
About a year after the opening of the Second Avenue subway’s first phase, the nonprofit association is publishing its plan Thursday, which includes proposals for eight new or extended subway lines to be built in the coming decades, as well as a unification of the region’s commuter rails — New Jersey Transit, Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North — under one system, called the Trans-Regional Express, or T-REX for short
The 95-year-old association publishes such a plan every several decades to set the tone for planning discussions over the future of the tristate area. Its new report, a massive 351-page document, spans all sorts of issues pressing the region.
The MTA runs one of the largest subway systems in the world, yet more than a third of all New Yorkers don’t live within walking distance of a subway or train station.
The plan association’s subway expansions — some new ideas, others old — focus on connecting several key transit deserts, specifically neighborhoods considered low-income but with high enough housing density to support the trains, including southeastern sections of the Bronx and Brooklyn as well as areas of central and northeast Queens.
These new subways would intend to cut down some of the longest commutes in the city and reach what are now more car-dependent areas of the outer boroughs.
“The thinking that if you stop the development from occurring you will stop the rents from increasing is a false argument,” said Tom Wright, association president, during a briefing with reporters earlier this week. “The point is you have to put protections in place for those people. On a regional basis, you have to increase supply.
“This is going to be one of the political challenges over the next five, ten years I think,” he continued. “It’s figuring out how to put protections in place so those communities feel like they can accept growth without being pushed out, and figure out how to make that growth happen in a balanced way.”
While the Second Avenue extension cost $4.5 billion, the plan association also recommends overhauling the construction process at nearly every level — from environmental review, to procurements to labor regulations — to save costs and make these projects more realistic.
The MTA declined to comment on the subject of subway extensions or new lines before the publication of the plan Thursday morning.
Here’s a breakdown of new service proposals by borough:
Second Avenue subway: Extend the Second Avenue line from 96th Street past its next planned terminus of 125th Street and Second Avenue, to Park Avenue and then westward along 125th Street to Broadway. The idea is that in the three miles of expansion, the subway would hit underserved sections of Harlem while connecting to seven subway lines at four stations.
7 Line extension: Extend the 7 train from its current terminus at 34th Street down to 14th Street and Eighth Avenue, where it would connect to the L, A, C and E lines.
Utica Avenue extension: Build a new subway under Utica Avenue, from Eastern Parkway to Flatbush Avenue, extending 4 train service by four miles.
Nostrand Avenue line extension: Build out the Nostrand Avenue line 2.7 miles south to Avenue Z, connecting 2 and 5 trains farther into Flatlands, Midwood, Marine Park and Sheepshead Bay.
Northern Boulevard line: Create a new 3.7-mile subway line running from 36th Street and Northern Boulevard to Willets Point, where it could either continue east to serve north Flushing and Mitchell-Linden or turn north to pass under Flushing Bay to College Point.
Jewel Avenue line: Build a 5.7-mile Jewel Avenue line that would branch off the Queens Boulevard line to the transit deserts of Pomonok and Fresh Meadows in central Queens.
Astoria line extension: Add a 0.8-mile extension to hook service closer to the East River at 21st Street and 20th Avenue. A new yard would be constructed on the northern side of Ditmars Boulevard along 20th Street.
Second Avenue extension: In addition to an expansion out west, the plan association calls for a northern expansion to the Grand Concourse at 149th Street to connect to the 2, 4 and 5 trains.