Paris, like all cities today, is facing new challenges: energy transition, sustainable mobility, new standards of living, and more. In order to take on these challenges, the City has to address them with agility and consciousness. The Paris Smart City 2020 project is a combination of of solutions that aim to do just that.
In 2014, the City of Paris announced that it would invest €1 billion in smart city projects through the year 2020. From centralized remote management of the City's boiler rooms to the creation of a 3D map, the projects are diverse and, at times, very futuristic.
What distinguishes Paris from other cities addressing similar issues is the methodology used to achieve this goal. The local government created an open innovation platform, arguing that the intelligence of the city comes from its people, as well as from the collaboration between individuals, startups, and historical partners. And it seems Parisians are genuinely interested in getting involved—the platform has already counted hundreds of contributions.
One of the most popular and thorny questions in the Paris 2020 project is about the place of cars in the city.
In January 2013, after months of virulent debate, Paris’s River Seine quayside (the left bank) was closed to cars. The 30,000 drivers that used to take this road to cross the City quickly had to completely rethink the way they moved. Some reports show that this decision encouraged drivers to change their habits and take public transportation or riding their bike instead of driving, decreasing the total traffic in Paris by 2%.
The process was not an easy one—the French right-wing party, the Medef (the largest employer federation in France), and the associations working to defend drivers rights were strongly against the project. But most Parisians now think that closing the left bank was a good decision, and support a new project to close the right bank of the River Seine.
This is the kind of support Paris government will need for the Place de la Nation renovation project, whose main goal is also to close several lanes of traffic.
Will Parisians support the Place de la Nation closure?
The Place de la Nation is a large, circular plaza in the eastern part of Paris. Wide, traffic-heavy streets divide the plaza into a series of traffic islands. In the middle of the central traffic circle stands “The Triumph of the Republic”, a large bronze monument erected to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution. For years, the Place de la Nation has been abandoned by pedestrians—except during strikes, which happen pretty often in France.
Parisians are demanding, but also creative. To involve them in these game-changing projects, the City of Paris is running a year-long analysis with Cisco, using Placemeter technology. Since December 2015, using a set of temporary cameras that count people anonymously, Placemeter has been measuring how many people are walking and biking in the plaza, where cars are going, even how many retirees are playing pétanque.
Placemeter will work with the city to start testing different scenarios, such as what happens if the streets are closed in a certain location for a month, or if benches and chairs are moved to another place, or if bike lanes expand.
"We're providing the City of Paris with a dynamic tool to experiment with streetscape redesign, or placemaking, in an agile way, for the first time. They’ll be able to avoid spending tens of millions of euros on projects that haven't been tested before," says Martin, who's in charge of Placemeter development in Europe.
To make sure all Parisians and civic-minded people can stay involved, two touchscreens have been set up in the plaza to share all the data in real time. It’s also accessible on ParisData, the open data portal of the City of Paris. Developers, students, retailers, and urban planners all get direct and real-time access to the plaza’s data, to create, elaborate, and contribute.
50% more space for pedestrians in Place de la Nation
The goal of the Plaza Renovation Project is to “give more space to those who want to live in a peaceful city, with less cars and less stress” said Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris, when she announced the renovation of 7 major plazas in Paris (Bastille, Fêtes, Gambetta, Italie, Madeleine, Nation and Panthéon) in June 2015.
For Place de la Nation, that means—traffic be damned—a huge central park, a flower market, more crosswalks and additional, moveable, and recycled urban furniture.
This initial project is aimed at re-engaging Parisians with the plaza. With the help of the Placemeter data, touchscreens, and the ParisData portal, the new Place de la Nation will be designed by the Parisians themselves.
These Parisians are currently leading a new protest movement called Nuit Debout, where people occupy plazas at night to discuss social and political issues. It seems the slogan “Let’s Reinvent Our Plaza” is already in motion!
Let’s hope that the new Place de la Nation will soon, once again, welcome Parisians and their social, artistic, and green activities.
Placemeter helps cities understand the way citizens move. The data allows governments to allocate funds to the right projects and demonstrate the positive impact of renovations and revitilizations.
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