Mobility, Post-COVID Cities, and New Skills for Urbanists: Interview with John Rossant

10.11.2020, Anastasia Sukhoroslova

**John Rossant is the Founder and CEO of CoMotion. Not only does he lead the business processes behind this mobility-focused initiative but he also personally leads the CoMotion team. In addition to that, he is the Founder and Chairman of the NewCities Foundation, a major global non-profit institution dedicated to improving the quality of life and work in cities.** **John Rossant has worked with heads of state and government and leading CEOs from around the world and has been behind many changes in the global urban-related agenda over the last years.** **As an official media partner for the upcoming [CoMotion LA LIVE](, All Things Urban spoke with John Rossant about a professional pathway from a journalist to one of the leading experts in urbanism, his opinion on the future of mobility, and the best solutions for cities to recover after the current pandemic.** ***You started your career as a journalist. What made you change your professional pathway towards the urban environment and inspired you on your way?*** Around 15 years ago or so, I began to realize that the impact of digital technologies on cities would be huge - and would, in some sense, be the ‘next big thing”. At the time, I was in charge, among other things, of producing the World Economic Forum’s famous annual gathering in Davos, Switzerland. There was quite a lot of resistance to putting urban issues on the agenda in Davos at that time - which is what propelled me to launch a separate, multi-stakeholder institution with cities as its focus. ***In 2010 you founded the NewCities Foundation. In this past 10 years, a lot has changed in the global agenda and in our cities. What are the main changes that you have noticed in this field? What are the main points of focus for practitioners and theorists in urbanism now comparing to what they used to be?*** An excellent and complicated question! So much has happened on the urban landscape over the last decade. I think one of the most important things is that cities themselves, and by that I mean public sector leaders, are becoming more and more technologically educated and are able to collaborate with private sector players on a more equal footing. ***Throughout your career you have been actively involved in the global conversation about the future of our cities. Based on your experience and intuition, what are the most relevant skills for urbanists in the cities of the future?*** Apart from the obvious skills that all urbanists need to have - economics, land use management expertise, urban planning skills, etc etc - there are a whole number of new competencies, especially related to the massive use of data, that will be more and more important: artificial Intelligence, coding, gamification skills, 3D simulation, blockchain. ***The theme of this year’s CoMotionLA LIVE is ‘A New Deal for Mobility’. What is this new deal? And what are the key challenges of the mobility landscape today?*** Lurking everywhere in the background, of course, is the specter of COVID. For one, it has devastated city budgets everywhere and has created enormous challenges for transit agencies in cities across the country. If I have to see this in a positive light, I think there will now be a lot of pressure and incentives to create new and different models of public-private partnerships. I think this will be part of the ‘new deal’ for mobility. It’s time to get really creative. I am also heartened by the fact that COVID has not at all slowed down the white-hot pace of technological innovation in the new mobility field. ***Can mobility help cities recover after the current crisis? If so, what are the easiest 3 first steps for any cities to make it happen?*** Mobility can absolutely help cities recover! More efficient logistics — moving goods around a city — and improved transit can help kickstart local urban economies. - Make transit free, and make it a more compelling choice for people. - Start to rethink what streets are for. Until COVID, they have been completely monopolized by private cars. COVID has shown that dining and other kinds of entertainment can take place on the sidewalk and in the street — and I think that is a phenomenon that is here to stay. - Encourage active mobility! More dedicated bike lanes… ***How do you see the future of public transport in a new reality? Does it still have a future?*** It must have a future. A COVID recovery plan must help transit agencies to refinance and recapitalize. ***As a media source we can’t miss a chance to ask you this last question. Being a former journalist, what do you see as the main challenge for urbanism-focused media nowadays? What would be your best advice for the journalists covering urban issues today?*** One challenge is that ‘urban issues’ are incredibly broad — and cities are incredibly diversified. An issue about public transit in Nairobi, for example, have little relevance for those who look at zoning issues in San Francisco, or at inductive charging lanes for electric buses in Stockholm. Still, cities can and do and must learn from one another. In general, I think that most people want to read about problem-solving. __________________________________________________________________ *This interview was made as part of our partnership with [CoMotion LA LIVE](, our partner event. Use the code ATU20 to get a 20% discount at the checkout.*