As we enter an age when humanity’s impacts become dominant in shaping our world – cities provide the biggest opportunity to enhance people’s lives – and the biggest challenge. Cities are the canvas on which much of our collective futures will be drawn.

How cities are planned, designed, serviced, governed and financed is material to our happiness and prosperity, and the health of our society, and the natural systems on which all life depends.

While most attention is focused on the comparison of cities today – how livable, competitive or resilient they are – we have turned our lens to the future and explored how cities are identifying and responding to the challenges they will face in the coming two decades, and beyond.

A Tale of Our Cities – 2018 WSP Global Cities Index provides insights about how cities are preparing for a future shaped by the major urban transitions of our day: urbanization; density and growth; digital disruption; emerging mobility; evolving utilities models and a changing climate.

We have drawn on some of our 43,600 engineers, planners, scientists and consultants to undertake a qualitative assessment of strategic land use, infrastructure and technology planning frameworks and benchmark the results, for our cities around world. The assessments have been completed by WSP professionals that live and work in the respective cities.

Our research is intended to help government decision and policy-makers, captains of industry, financiers, academia and other professionals be future-focused and challenge the status quo, by leveraging the best-practice policies and initiatives that are being deployed around the world.

We look forward to being your partner on the journey to creating equitable, resilient and connected cities, where families and friends can thrive.


President and Chief Executive Officer

2018 RANKINGS Select a city to view the full profile.


In 1947, only two years after World War II ended and Denmark had been liberated, the Copenhagen Finger Plan was adopted to set the future direction for the Danish capital. The palm of a hand represented central Copenhagen and the five fingers were the areas of growth. This included an emphasis on green space across the metropolis consisting of recreational facilities (including sports grounds), forests, grassland and agricultural land.

More than 60 years later, the benefits a city can derive from long-term planning are evident, especially when it comes to placemaking. Today, Copenhagen is a leading city when evaluated on the metrics of Public Realm, Urban Green Space, Social Infrastructure, and Pedestrians and Cycling, and for these reasons it is considered as one of the most livable cities in the world.

What is clear is that the long-term vision from mid-century planners has left a truly extraordinary city, catering to the modern needs of its residents in ways those planners could barely have dreamt. The underpinnings of today’s most competitive cities were laid in decades’ past, by visionaries able to see beyond their immediate horizons.

What this suggests is that visionary planning can prepare a city for success, even in the face of extreme uncertainty and change. It plays a critical role in good amenity, services, and economic infrastructure and risk management. As with all plans, the political will, administrative capability and most importantly, financing, are necessary to implement them. At the very least good plans, with clear goals and pathways to fulfil them, give cities a yardstick by which they can measure their progress.

What follows is a snapshot of some of the cities’ strategic planning, those that focus on the long-term, short-term, or a mixture of both and what their priorities are.

City Shaping Priorities

From the research that was undertaken, the issues that demand cities’ attention the most are housing, both the cost and availability, followed by public transport.

Climate change, is also growing in importance. Even among cities where planning for climate change is not a leading priority, most have a blueprint to reduce their Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. With a few exceptions, all have set a target, ranging from the extremely ambitious to the conservative.

Government Alignment and Financing

WSP’s research reveals cities are acutely aware of the issues that impact on their livability, both now and into the future. On their journey of change, sometimes cities are challenged to fulfil their plans as they try to obtain political support and alignment from various tiers of government. Also, in the cities where residents can vote, change must often negotiate community sentiment.

Financing projects is another critical part of city development and innovative solutions are being embraced. Less than a mile southwest of New York City’s Times Square on the Hudson River, millions of square feet of office, residential, and commercial space is being developed – one of the largest private real estate projects in American history. It’s being underpinned by the principle that regulatory change or infrastructure investment can generate large increases in the land value. Also, benefiting the project was the first addition to the city’s subway in 26 years, extending the line to the new 34th Street–Hudson Yards Station. Innovative financing for projects like these see that much of the up-front capital to pay for the public investments can come from bonds, which are repaid through revenues tied to the increase in land value and other sources.

Similar funding models are being explored by most global cities including London, where a new Property Sales Levy is being actively promoted.

Long-Term Thinking

Cities with long-term strategic plans include Auckland, Seoul, Sydney, Melbourne, Stockholm and London. In Auckland, forecasts to a little beyond 2040 suggest it will be home to more than one third of the country’s population. The city planning authority believes it will cope with this growth and is committed to making Auckland a special place that is renowned for its lifestyle and environment. It has a plan to dovetail with this ambition, the Auckland Plan 2050, which has four key directions including providing public space and places that are “inclusive, accessible and contribute to urban living” and improving housing availability. On climate change, Auckland wants to reduce emissions by 40 per cent by 2040 and has devised a Low Carbon Strategic Action Plan to achieve this.

Housing and Public Transit are Top of Mind

For several cities in the United Kingdom (UK), housing and public transport dominate their long-term thinking. The New London Plan (drafted in December 2017), estimates the likely population growth to 2041 and maps out a strategic housing target of 65,000 homes a year by then (increased from 49,000 in the adopted London Plan). With London boasting some of the most expensive real estate in the world, the plan includes a target for half of all new homes to be “genuinely affordable”.

The same plan also has a green space strategy, as well as education and childcare facilities.

Manchester is also prioritising housing, with a 15-year strategy to build 227,000 new homes in the city, 20 per cent of them “affordable”. For Edinburgh, there is a strong focus on transport that is laid out in its Transport 2030 Vision. By 2030 and if funding is secured, Edinburgh could have one of the greenest, healthiest and most accessible public transport systems in northern Europe.

While there is a notable difference between Organization for Economic Cooperation (OECD) cities and emerging cities, they share similar housing challenges. Delhi with its Delhi Masterplan 2021 has a vision of being a world-class city and will need to build a staggering 2.4 million new homes by 2021 to accommodate the projected population growth.

New York City has a plan to build and preserve 300,000 units of affordable housing between 2014 and 2026. During the past seven years, New York has delivered 15,000 new housing units annually, on average, while the population has grown by more than 60,000 a year. The outcome signals what many cities are experiencing; demand is outstripping supply.

The Swedish capital, Stockholm, is home to 2.4 million people and is expected to grow to 3.2 million by 2035. The city takes a long-term view with its Regional Development Plan for the Stockholm Region 2050, which was ratified in June 2018. Housing has become a social challenge with Stockholm regularly ranking among the most expensive cities in Europe.

Stockholm differs from some other cities that we assessed, in that its housing market is highly regulated as part of Sweden’s national approach to this issue. Approximately 22 per cent of the city’s housing is municipality-owned rental units, for which there are long queues due to affordability. Private rents are equally regulated and legally prohibited from being higher. The end-result is, buying is expensive because demand far exceeds supply. On the rental front, they can be very high on the secondary market, which impacts most on young people, students, immigrants and people moving from other parts of Sweden.

To tackle the issue the city has set housing targets by region and district, in the current development plan, which estimates that 140,000 new homes will be built by 2030. The plan focuses on creating coherent urban growth, tying together districts as well as densifying inner-city areas.

Calgary is home to 1.2 million people and the third largest city in Canada. Much of its focus is on shorter-term planning. The City of Calgary’s Action Plan (2015-2018) looks to increase affordable and accessible housing options: the Calgary Municipal Development Plan (2009) emphasizes sustainable local communities; the Foundation for Home is a corporate affordable housing strategy that identifies six objectives and actions from 2016 to 2025; while the Capital Budget 2019-2022 Action Plan recommends a variety of built forms. Various other plans focusing on public realm, include the Calgary Metropolitan Plan, the Complete Streets Guide, the Transit Friendly Design Guide, the Design Guidelines for Subdivision Servicing, Residential Street Design Policy and Street Capacity Guidelines and a section of the Transportation Plan which specifically drills down on designing multi-modal streets.

The Municipal Development Plan includes policies that emphasize pedestrian-friendly streetscape design and outlines design principles for sustainable streetscapes in the Streetscape Guide. It also presents policies that deal with creating connected plazas and squares. The Major Activity Centers section includes policies that deal with the creation of successful public plazas and “key gathering areas”. The Rivers Community District Revitalization Plan was created in conjunction with an environmental remediation strategy and a flood protection initiative by the city.

In Australia, Sydney and Melbourne have long-term ambitions. Continued strong population growth is expected in Sydney, especially west of Parramatta, prompting the Greater Sydney Commission (GSC) to take a long-term view of metropolitan planning aligned with infrastructure planning to handle it. The draft regional plan for Greater Sydney has been concurrently developed with the metropolitan transport plan, Future Transport 2056, and the State Infrastructure Strategy. In addition, several strategic planning documents for the harbor city’s future integrated transport system have been developed by state agencies and the GSC. Local councils have also added their strategic plans.

In Melbourne, the overarching planning document dealing with housing is Plan Melbourne 2017-2050. A key recommendation is for Melbourne to provide housing choices in locations close to jobs and services, which is challenging in a city that continues to grow east and west, with 50 new suburbs added since 2006 and with more to follow.

Seoul, which accommodates half of South Korea’s population has had a strategic planning approach for the medium-term, since 1990. Since that year, the Seoul Metropolitan Government has issued periodic City Development Plans as the highest level of framework for the following 20 years. The fourth plan, issued in 2014 and looking out to 2030, has a broad framework covering social, economic, environment/energy, transportation/infrastructure, culture and welfare.

In Toronto, Metrolinx, an agency of the Government of Ontario was established, to improve the coordination and integration of all modes of transport in Greater Toronto and Hamilton, and it has been a resounding success. The first Regional Transportation Plan was developed in 2008 to develop a series of major transportation projects. Its success has resulted in Metrolinx publishing a vision for Toronto’s transportation system for the next 25 years. On the other side of the continent, in Vancouver, the Regional Transportation Strategy has been extended to 2040. Vancouver has also established a mobility group to explore future transport options and update regional transport strategies.

Adapting to a Changing Climate

In emerging cities, such as Colombia’s capital, Bogotá, they too are looking ahead with a District Development Plan, Bogotá Best For All. Getting the city council’s seal of approval in 2016, it prioritizes physical and technological infrastructure in health, schooling and transport. On GHG emissions, it has prepared the District Plan for Risk Management and Climate Change for Bogotá 2015-2050. There is good intent in this bio-diverse rich city and hope to meet the needs of the swelling population.

Brisbane, has a plan, Brisbane. Clean, Green, Sustainable 2017-2031, with its goals to reduce GHG emissions statewide 30 per cent by 2030 and to zero by 2050. This is ambitious considering coal remains the primary energy source. Australia is on a winding path to new policy for energy, with the Federal and State governments seeking policy that will better control electricity pricing and ensure on-going stability of the system.

In Beijing, there are directives for industry to reduce emissions but no overall plan. Dubai aims to provide seven per cent of its energy through renewable sources by 2020 with increased targets to 2050.

Seattle, which heads our Index, has also set 2050 as the date to be carbon neutral, a goal common to all major West Coast cities. Its Climate Action Plan provides long-term planning direction and guidance for climate protection and adaptation efforts through to 2030. Adopted in June 2013, the plan focuses on city actions that reduce GHG emissions and support vibrant neighbourhoods, economic prosperity and social equity. Actions are focused on areas of greatest need and impact: transportation, building energy and waste.

Planning Our Future Cities

Plans are critical. They not only give city administrations a blueprint for how they want their cities to develop, but they also provide citizens with an opportunity to better understand the issues their cities face and to have a voice about how to potentially resolve them. As demonstrated by Copenhagen and many of the other cities included in this research, having a clearly articulated vision with ambitious goals can result in world-class globally competitive cities that people are happy to call home, today and for future generations.

Moving forward, city authorities will need to adopt a community engagement approach that is bespoke to local needs if we are to create extraordinary places where our citizens want to live.

From the 24 metropolises included in our research, New York City leads the way with Amenity, the city performing well on most of the metrics. New York City’s considerable investments in parks and public spaces, and increased street space for pedestrians and bicycles, are paying dividends for the city in making it far more liveable.

In addition, waterfront areas that were once devoted to port and industrial uses are finding new leases on life as parks and walkways. These include the Hudson and East River waterfronts, Governors Island and the Gateway National Park. The High Line Park, built on an unused elevated freight rail line, has established a new standard for innovation in park design. The massive Fresh Kills Landfill is becoming a park.

During the past 10 years, the city has planted more than one million trees in its parks, on its streets and on private land, increasing its urban forest area by more than 20 per cent. These trees provide several benefits, including improving air quality, reducing urban temperatures, and sequestering carbon dioxide, while also mitigating stormwater runoff.

New York City’s 2010 Green Infrastructure Plan has resulted in the construction of more than 4,000 green infrastructure assets, including rain gardens (bio-swales) and green roofs, reducing stormwater runoff and combined sewer overflow events.

Pedestrians and Cycling

Copenhagen also performs well in Amenity, particularly on Pedestrians and Cycling. Stockholm, San Francisco, New York City and Edinburgh are also standing tall on their commitments to foot and pedal power.

The Danish capital, Copenhagen is strongly committed to cyclists and pedestrians, having invested CAD200 million during the past decade, and since 2015, has commissioned the building of 16 bridges (half now opened) encouraging further adoption of walking or cycling in a city already leading on active transport.

So too, is Stockholm. Cycling is the active transport of choice for many Stockholmers, especially in spring and summer. The city has set itself the ambitious goal of increasing bicycle traffic from five per cent to 20 per cent by 2030, and has put in place a regional cycle plan that includes a review of what should be done and the estimated cost. Part of the plan is for 850 kilometers of dedicated bicycle paths to be built.

Public Realm and Urban Green Space

There are six others cities which perform well on half of the metrics for Amenity: Seattle, Stockholm, Toronto, Montréal, Vancouver and Singapore. The Southeast Asian giant, Singapore, continues to invest in amenities while other cities, specifically in Australia and Canada, rely more on natural amenities to carry them forward.

Vancouver, which sits on Canada’s western seaboard just north of the USA border, shines by delivering good Public Realm. A well-designed and well-planned public realm plays an important role in shaping communities. In Vancouver, plazas, publicly accessible urban waterfronts and walkable streetscapes, enhance the city’s livability and neighbourhood character, which in turn helps to attract and retain talent, and foster economic growth.

The city’s streetscapes and vibrant public spaces are created using various frameworks and plans including, Streetscape Design Guidelines, Street Restoration Manual and the Complete Streets Policy Framework and Related By-Law Changes, as well as The Places for People Downtown Program, Plaza Stewardship Strategy and Transport 2040. Additionally, the Transit-Oriented Communities Design Guidelines were developed to improve placemaking around public transit in the Metro Vancouver area.

Vancouver’s bustling waterfront is one of its greatest assets. In recent years, regional and local municipalities sought to consolidate economic goals with sustainability, resilience and residents’ wellbeing ambitions. The Port Metro Vancouver Land Use Plan outlines a 20-year framework for the development of port lands that is designed to be responsive to business and market needs, while balancing those interests with the protection of the natural and physical environments. In March, the city released the State of the Waterfront Report which sets targets and performance indicators for different areas of focus in waterfront development: working, living, access to nature, ecosystems and transportation.

Equally as important to livability is Urban Green Space and from the cities included in this research, these lead by example: Stockholm, Toronto, Copenhagen, Brisbane and Calgary.

Two other notable observations about Public Realm and Urban Green Space are: cities from emerging economies need to leverage living space as a premium; and cities performing well on this metric are often surrounded by natural assets.

Parking Provisions

Montréal tops the list on the metric of Parking Provisions followed by Copenhagen. The parking policy that Montréal has developed aims to redefine dedicated space by considering the environmental impact of on-street and off-street parking (urban heat island), and the willingness of citizens to reduce their private vehicle dependency.

The policy features various innovations including, sustainable mobility poles, new pricing, public transport service harmonization, dedicated parking spaces for a bike-sharing service and real-time information system integration, to name a few.

In Copenhagen, motorists can pay for parking at one of the 1,600 solar-powered parking machines or by using a smartphone app that allows for additional time to be purchased. There are four color-coded parking zones in Copenhagen, decreasing in price per zone when moving away from the city center.

Copenhagen has also experimented with other smart-parking initiatives including multiuse parking spaces in busy areas where a street carpark is available only for cyclists to use between 7:00am to 5:00pm, and between 5:00pm to 7:00pm is available for car parking only. The city is also developing a smart parking app to help motorists find available parking spaces.

Water Treatment and Distribution

Of the four cities that lead in Water Treatment and Distribution in this Index, two are in Asia – Beijing and Singapore – and two are in North America – New York City and Seattle.

New York City takes top position with a water supply system that is one of the most sophisticated in the world, supplying the city with almost four trillion liters of water daily from the Catskill Mountains, which is hundreds of kilometers away. There is heavy investment to preserve land in the watershed to ensure development does not impair water quality.

The Seattle water system supplies about 530 million liters of water a day to about 1.4 million people. The system relies on two big regional watersheds, the Cedar and Tolt, which are also home to wildlife and salmon. The 36,680-hectare Cedar Watershed, about 56 kilometers southeast of Seattle, supports a diverse ecosystem and provides about 70 per cent of the drinking water. The rest comes from the foothills of the Cascades in east King County.

With semi-arid Beijing having a population of more than 20 million, addressing the water supply issue is a priority. In 2016, the government restricted Beijing’s total water use to 4.3 trillion liters, a massive cut of 20 to 30 per cent. On the supply side, the Beijing Municipal Government has embarked on a three-year action plan to accelerate the sewage treatment of a black river, and to discover potential sources of renewable water. Up to 1,081 kilometres of sewage pipeline will be built or replaced, 14 sewage treatment plants will be upgraded or relocated into parks, and 472 kilometres of recycled water pipeline and 27 recycled water treatment plants will be constructed. It’s a significant policy achievement.

In Singapore, the water demand is about 1.63 billion liters a day, with homes consuming 45 per cent and the non-domestic sector taking the rest. By 2060, Singapore's total water demand could almost double, with the non-domestic sector accounting for about 70 per cent. By then, reclaimed water (NEWater) and desalination will meet up to 85 per cent of Singapore’s demand.

The sewerage network collects used water from domestic and non-domestic (e.g. industrial or commercial) sources. Used water is channeled through a combination of gravity sewers and pumping stations to the water reclamation plants, where it is treated in accordance with international standards. Part of this treated used water, which is safe enough to be returned to nature, is sent to a separate treatment system in the NEWater plants. The remainder is discharged to the sea.

Driven by increasing water demand, rising operational costs, manpower constraints and new challenges such as climate change, the Public Utilities Board (PUB), the Singaporean Statutory Board of the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources responsible for ensuring a sustainable and efficient water supply, are leveraging digital solutions and smart technologies to strengthen their operational resilience, productivity, safety and security. PUB is exploring two key innovations for remote water quality monitoring, the Remote Micro-Invertebrate Detector and the Autonomous Boat.

From the cities included in our research, Singapore outperforms other cities for Services, on most of the key metrics. San Francisco, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Seoul and Beijing also demonstrate leadership in the future provision of Services.


As highlighted in the Planning insights of this Index, much of the cities’ focus is on public housing.

One city that achieves a lofty score for Housing is Singapore. The city state, which sits on the Equator, has made good and affordable housing a priority, with the Housing Development Board responsible for building affordable homes and transforming towns to create value and quality living. Singapore enjoys a well-organised government with a clear mandate for implementing improvements. This is noticeable in how they’ve delivered housing.

Singapore’s aim, set out in the January 2013 Land Use Plan, is to build up to 700,000 new homes by 2030 to meet predicted population growth. Of these, almost 200,000 are already in the pipeline. Many of the remaining 500,000 homes will be in new towns and housing estates, infill sites in existing towns, land freed up by the redevelopment of old estates, and vacant land within and on the fringe of the city center. The speed of constructing new homes will depend on actual demand. Existing towns will be rejuvenated through government-funded development programs.

Copenhagen, Edinburgh and Vancouver, also have robust Housing programs in place.

The demand for housing in Copenhagen is rising as 200 people move to the city each week from other cities in Denmark and overseas. Copenhagen is a highly desirable city for property investment and development, and 25 per cent of all new real estate investments are foreign.

In 2013, the city began construction of an additional 2.5 million square meters of housing and three million square meters for business, as a pre-emptive measure to cope with the forecast population growth. At present, an average 61 per cent of household disposable income in Copenhagen is spent on housing. Only 20 per cent of housing units in the Danish capital are owner-occupied, and there is an even split of private rentals, cooperative housing and social housing.

Copenhagen Municipality has recently introduced a mandate that one quarter of all new housing developments must have an area allocated for affordable housing. Several nearby municipalities are also adopting this concept.

In Edinburgh, the housing strategy which was published this year, acknowledges the forecast long-term population increase (nearly 17 per cent by 2035) and pledges CAD5.2 billion towards housing development in the city. It includes a commitment to building 50,000 affordable houses by 2020.

Turning to Vancouver, the Metro Vancouver Regional District (Metro Vancouver), is a body governing an area that includes 21 municipalities, including the City of Vancouver, the most populous city within the regional boundaries. Metro Vancouver developed a Regional Affordable Housing Strategy which provides a list of recommended actions for municipal members and provincial and federal governments. Metro 2040 provides the overall growth management framework for the region and for the Regional Affordable Housing Strategy. It brings together regional land use and transportation planning, and directs growth to urban centers and Frequent Transit Development Areas (FTDAs).

The city also benefits from the Metro Vancouver Housing Corporation, a non-profit organization that provides affordable housing for low and middle-income households.

Public Transit

Similar to Housing, Public Transit demands major capital expenditure, with cities often needing to convince federal/state/provincial governments and/or private investors of the merits of projects.

Of the cities included in our research, Singapore, Beijing, Seoul, Copenhagen and Stockholm perform well on the metric of Public Transit.

Cities that are highly livable emphasize walkability and tend to have extensive, affordable and high quality public transport that connects people to jobs, schools and amenities in an efficient and reliable way. In Singapore, travel needs are largely met by trains and buses.

The rail network in Singapore is the backbone of its public transport system. The Circle Line was opened in 2011 to connect people in the east, west and north without passing through the busy interchanges in the city center. The Downtown Line, opened in stages from 2013 to 2017, serves to improve connectivity for commuters in the northwest and east. The Thomson Line primarily serves the population in the north and will be opened in stages from next year to 2021. With the introduction of these lines, as well as the Eastern Region Line, Tuas West Extension and North-South Line Extension, the rail network will increase by about 100 kilometers to 280 kilometers by 2021.

By 2030, the rail network will further extend to include the Cross Island Line, Jurong Region Line, Circle Line Stage 6, North East Line extension and the Downtown Line extension.

Moving to bustling Beijing, the city’s five-year plan includes the expansion of its subway transit network. Construction of four subway lines will begin this year and two railway lines will be completed. Building of the S6 Line, which links Beijing with Baizhou, ZhangJiaKou, TangShan, BinHai and ShijiaZhuang is also a priority.

Beijing already has 12 transport hubs where passengers can change from subway to bus or vice versa. Three new hubs are being built at Science City, Wangjing West subway station and Tonzhou district, of which the latter will cover 70 hectares and be the biggest in China.

Since 2006, all transport modes have used a contactless ticketing systems and soon a new system will be implemented that will enable passengers to download a mobile app, which scans QR codes.

Seoul is in the process of preparing transport policies that focus on encouraging pedestrian, cycle and public transport through active traffic demand management and human-centered infrastructure supply (securing space for pedestrian, cycles and public transport).

The Seoul Metropolitan railway system is comprised of 22 regional, metro and light rail lines. At present, Metro 9 and the Shinbundang Line are being extended and the light rail Sillim Line is being built, and eight new light rail lines are planned.

Since the introduction of exclusive median bus lanes in the early 2000s, the system has expanded by about 15 kilometers a year, mainly on roads with heavy traffic congestion. Today, some 119 kilometers of exclusive median bus lanes operate, providing fast and safe bus services, and connecting major arterial. By 2026, the system will be extended to 214 kilometers of bus lanes.

Seoul also has plans to expand its metropolitan transfer centers and park-and-ride.

In 2017, the newly built Gyeonggang bullet train line linked Incheon Airport to the port city of Gangneung, crossed the north of the country from coast to coast and connected Seoul to Pyeongchang, the Winter Olympics venue. It is now possible to travel by train from Seoul to South Korea’s other big cities in three hours.

In Copenhagen, commuting from the outskirts of the city and getting around the CBD has been made easier by a combination of public transport and cycling. Citizens also benefit from a national regulation which mandated for all new office buildings to be located within 600 meters from a railway station.

A second metro route with 17 stations is due to open in 2019 and further extensions are also underway. Looking ahead to 2024, a 28-kilometer light rail line in northern Copenhagen will connect six local train lines and numerous bus routes.

All trains, metros and ferries in Copenhagen allow cyclists to take their bicycles along for the ride. It is free to take your bicycle on the train and there are at least two dedicated carriages fitted with parking rakes for bikes.

Moving across the Nordics to Stockholm, the city is in an exciting development phase in which many parts of the infrastructure system are being rebuilt, including expanding the subway system with 11 additional stations. Rail transport via the subway remains the backbone of Stockholm’s urban infrastructure and explains why the city has a high patronage rate; about 70 per cent of all journeys occur during peak hours. Policy makers have also successfully implemented congestion charging in the city and on major thoroughfares.

The present long-term masterplan (2014-25) calls for a focus on the development of regional infrastructure to improve connections to neighbouring regions. High-speed rail connecting Stockholm to Gothenburg and Malmö is being planned. Other capacity-increasing rail and infrastructure projects are under way, such as the Bypass Stockholm, which reroutes traffic from the major freeway passing through the city. By 2035, an estimated 140,000 vehicles a day will use the bypass.

Future Mobility Services

Based on our assessment, the top five performers for Future Mobility Services are San Francisco, Singapore, Beijing, London and Stockholm.

San Francisco has many point-to-point services, including electric scooters, mopeds and bikes. There is a permit process in place and pilot programs allowing the city to examine the data collected by the service providers. Also, app-based on-demand services, as well as ride-share and car-share services, are everywhere, so much so that ride-share usership is potentially threatening public transport patronage. The widespread use of ride-share services combined with the car sharing services also reduces the need for car ownership.

In Singapore, 12 per cent of land is set aside for roads and transport infrastructure. With a growing population and more than one million vehicles on the road, the challenge lies in optimizing the use of limited space.

Beeline is a demand-driven, shared transit experiment by GovTech and the Land Transport Authority (LTA). It is an open, cloud-based smart mobility platform developed to provide data-driven shuttle bus services for commuters. The platform enables commuters to book a seat on buses that are provided by private operators. In March 2017, Grab, a private technology company offering ride-hailing transport services, launched a shuttle service in collaboration with GovSec. This new service, called Grab Shuttle, is powered by Beeline.

Through separate partnership agreements with the LTA, Delphi Automotive Systems and nuTonomy, trials are being undertaken for shared autonomous mobility on-demand concepts. If the trials are successful, the projects will be developed into full-scale mobility solutions and Singaporeans will enjoy more comfort and convenience on their journeys, especially for first-and-last-mile and intra-city travel.

Beijing’s private sector offers point to point, on-demand, ride-share and car-share services under policies decided by the government. Since 2016, the Beijing Traffic Commission has managed the internet booking of taxis. Last year, the Ministry of Transport, and the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development issued a joint guidance policy about the sustainable development of mini car rentals. In 2016, the popularity of bicycle sharing was in full swing, with the total number of bicycles reaching 2.35 million.

From the city that leads on this Index, Seattle, is at the cutting edge of the smart city era. It boasts a robust technology ecosystem that includes the University of Washington’s eScience Institute Program and various data-driven companies like Microsoft, Socrata, INRIX and Zillow, working collaboratively on smart city initiatives, such as an adaptive traffic light system to help reduce congestion by detecting vehicles.

In London, trial smart bus routes have led to SmartRide, a point-to-point hybrid bus and taxi service. The potential of demand-responsive buses is also being investigated, with four routes currently being trialed. Uber already provides ride-share services and Daimler AG and Via will follow suit to provide ride-share shuttles in the city. Many car club companies operate in London and by 2025, the Car Club Coalition aims to have secured one million members through the implementation of the London Car Club Strategy.

Other good examples are from Sweden, as usage of cycle-sharing continues to grow in Stockholm. Car-sharing is another booming industry with several companies now operating in the city. As well as taking more cars off the roads, it is an inexpensive alternative for those who only want a car for single occasions. Point-to-point and on-demand services are also on the rise.

Mobility as a Service (MaaS) plays a role in many cities. It formalizes the shared mobility offer by commercializing it for either personal travel or the shipment of goods. A particular trip can take advantage of one or more of the above shared mobility options to produce a seamless journey experience. A wide range of on-demand services are on offer, across the range shown above, with the exact options dependent on location, origin and destination. Trips are usually planned and booked via digital apps and similar, with costs that are either pay-as-you-go or bundled.

MaaS models work best where there is already a wide range of transport modes, where data access is relatively open, where operators offer contactless sales or e-ticketing, and where they are open to third parties selling their services.

Future Mobility Technology

Four cities lead on the metric of Future Mobility Technology (Singapore, San Francisco, Stockholm and Beijing). In Singapore, the LTA has signed agreements with companies to develop solutions for autonomous truck platooning to transport containers from one port terminal to another, as well as having issued a request for information for the development of self-driving utility vehicles for waste collection and road sweeping.

Trials for autonomous mobility on-demand services were launched and these comprise a fleet of shared self-driving shuttles or pods that commuters will be able to book through their smartphones to bring them in air-conditioned comfort from their doorstep to the train station or other neighbourhood amenities. This provides for a more comfortable option for first-and-last-mile connectivity and brings greater mobility to the elderly and other commuters who may have difficulty in taking present day public transport. In addition, a 3.5-year project is underway to develop and trial autonomous buses with the possibility of being deployed to serve fixed and scheduled services for intra- and inter-city travel.

Stateside in San Francisco, policy and strategy surrounding connected and autonomous vehicles is set by the state. A trial of an autonomous shuttle is underway at Treasure Island, an artificial island in San Francisco Bay. The City Fleet Zero Emission Vehicle Ordinance mandates the electrification of the city’s light duty passenger sedan fleet by 2022, and the EV Readiness Ordinance mandates all new parking spaces must be able to support electric vehicle charging. The citywide Electric Mobility Strategy, which is focused on electrification of private vehicles, will lay out a vision for reducing adverse impacts of private transport and identify pilots, programs, policies and partnerships to help create a zero-emission transport sector.

In Stockholm, a project called, eRoad Arlanda, will be seen as a world leader in allowing electric vehicles to recharge as they drive. In addition, several moves have been made to promote electrification, among them the Vattenfall AB “inCharge” initiative in collaboration with several companies to make charging of electrical vehicles more available to the public.

The number of electric cars in Stockholm is increasing, as well as the charging infrastructure. The City Council has voted to execute a ban, expected to be implemented in 2020, on some fuels in inner-city areas to improve air quality. The major bus distributor of public transport in Stockholm is investigating the possibility of most of their fleet becoming electric. This could be in place by 2026, when the current traffic agreement will be renegotiated.

In 2017, the Beijing Government began implementing a policy that requires electric vehicle charging facilities every five kilometers. The minimum ratio of charging facilities to total parking spaces is 1:4 for new office buildings, 1:5 for commercial buildings and community car parks, 1:1 for residential development, and 3:20 for other public buildings such as hospitals, schools and cultural facilities. In March 2018, Beijing released its first road test license for driverless cars.

Technology Connectivity and Infrastructure

Moving into the technology sphere and the metric of Connectivity and Infrastructure, five cities performed very well including, Montréal, Seattle, Vancouver, Seoul and Calgary.

In 2016, Montréal was named Intelligent Community of the Year by the Intelligent Community Forum. It was recognized for its innovative use of information and communications technologies to create economic prosperity by addressing social issues and enhancing quality of life, in part by improving transportation and mobility. Montréal created the Smart and Digital City Office in 2014 and has initiated 70 projects through the 2015-2017 Montréal, Smart and Digital City Action Plan. Already recognized for its vitality in the field of digital technologies, the city aims to become a world leader among smart and digital cities.

In the mid-1990s, Seattle regularly studied and assessed the state of broadband services and infrastructure. In 1996, it installed 550 miles of fiber, although much of this cable remains unused, and some of it is leased to private companies. Seattle leverages several Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) with telecommunication providers including Xfinity, CenturyLink and Wave, to explore opportunities for improved internet access for citizens.

Due to the exclusive federal jurisdiction over wired and wireless telecommunications in Canada, Metro Vancouver has a limited role in influencing outcomes. However, the City of Surrey, which is a part of Metro Vancouver, has laid the groundwork to thrive in the new age of digital connectivity. By the end of this year, fiber infrastructure will bring broadband speeds to 90 per cent of businesses and homes in Surrey and connect the city to broadband networks eastward across Canada and southwards down the Cascadia Innovation Corridor, all the way to California. The City of Surrey is aiming to become a Metro Vancouver digital service hub.

Looking at Asia and specifically, Seoul, we see a leading player in smart industries and their infrastructure related to communications services is well-established. South Korea has 21 million high-speed internet connections and 64.3 million wireless communication service devices in the hands of subscribers. Considering it has a population of 51 million, the level of communications technology usage is healthy.

In Calgary, the city has progressively developed fiber network strategies to ensure essential digital connectivity and improved digital access to the city’s services. Its Digital Strategy was developed to serve as a long-term plan for how it can leverage digital platforms to connect, communicate and engage with each other, with citizens and with other levels of government. A nonprofit technology agency, Cybera, has developed a Digital Infrastructure Report for the province of Alberta that provides a detailed review of Alberta’s current network connectivity, data center resources, high-performance and cloud computing resources, cybersecurity awareness and protection measures, data management policies and procedures. The report also outlines an overall review of digital infrastructure in the province.

Open Data

For the metric of Open Data, Washington DC, Mexico City, Stockholm and Calgary lead on this Index.

In Washington DC, the Office of the Chief Technology Officer, via its Comprehensive Plan, has created goals and programs to continually improve its digital infrastructure (wireless networks, fiber optics and broadband telecommunications) citywide. The district sees accessible digital connectivity as important to residents and businesses, as well as being critical for economic development. There has also been an emphasis on equity by making a major effort to provide network availability to citizens in low socio-economic communities.

Logistics and Freight Productivity

Drilling down on an important component of economic growth, we shine a spotlight on the cities that led on Logistics and Freight Productivity (Beijing, Seattle, Washington DC, Copenhagen, Dubai and Sydney).

Seattle’s Freight Master Plan (FMP), adopted in 2016, was developed to address the characteristics, needs and impacts of freight mobility. The Duwamish Manufacturing/Industrial Center (MIC) and the Ballard-Interbay Northend MIC account for more than 64,000 jobs, which is 15 per cent of all jobs in Seattle. A network of marine terminals, railroads and rail spurs, roadways, and airports serve the MICs.

A big proportion of the freight industry is reliant on the road network to transport goods. In 2011, 68.5 per cent of freight tonnage and 80.7 per cent of freight-related revenue in Washington was carried by truck. Nearly half of all goods exported from Seattle region ports originate in Washington. Most of these goods travel to the ports via truck (44.2 per cent) or rail (41.6 per cent). The remaining 14.2 per cent corresponds to pipeline, barge or ship, and mainly reflects crude petroleum activity. With so much of the Seattle economy reliant upon truck movements, roadway infrastructure is critical to the local, regional, and state economy.

In the USA capital, Washington DC’s 2017 District Department of Transportation (DDOT) Freight Plan provides recommendations and performance metrics for freight infrastructure and logistics. Many of the ongoing and short-term projects in this plan are funded through DDOT and FAST Act freight funds. Freight in Washington DC is transported via highway, rail and air, with highways being the dominant mode. Highways connect freight to rail and air freight hubs in and around the city. While DDOT’s plan mentions these multimodal connections, it does not have plans for creating a multimodal freight hub.

Several projects in Washington DC address the National Gateway project’s goals to remove tunnel and other overhead clearance restrictions to allow double-stack train movements between the Mid-Atlantic and the Midwest. The District Freight Plan recommends conducting a pilot off-peak delivery program in which deliveries can only be made between 7:00pm and 6:00am, to help reduce traffic congestion and delays associated with freight deliveries.

Copenhagen is the preferred hub for logistics and supply chain management across many industries. It offers big cargo and logistics parks with direct access to highway, railway and sea transport to the rest of Denmark, the Nordics, Germany and the rest of continental Europe. The Copenhagen-Malmo Port is the largest hub for new cars in the Nordics and the Baltic Sea region.

Approximately 58 per cent of goods going in and out of Copenhagen, are transported by road and 10 per cent of all global trade is transported by Danish shipping companies. Copenhagen Airport provides the perfect gateway for transport and logistics to Scandinavia, the Baltic Sea region and Northern Europe, with next day delivery access to about 100 million affluent consumers. Freight giants such as DHL Express, UPS, TNT, PostNord and FedEx, all use Greater Copenhagen as their logistics hub.

Large investments in cross-border freight connections are being prioritized, including the CAD13.5 billion Fehmarn Belt Fixed Link between Denmark and Germany. This will be the most advanced and longest immersed tunnel in the world, cutting freight journeys by as much as 160 kilometers. Other projects being studied include the three kilometer Helsingborg-Helsingor crossing to replace traffic ferries between Denmark and Sweden, and an extended metro from Copenhagen to Malmo to relieve road traffic on the Oresund Bridge.

In the Middle East, Dubai has a coherent policy and good global connectivity, which undoubtedly helps the city serve as a natural gateway between Europe and the Far East. Jebel Ali port and the associated free zone is capable of handling approximately 15 million twenty foot equivalent units (containers) per year. The introduction of free zones has also facilitated market growth by easing the regulatory standards and making Dubai an even more attractive option for companies and investors.

In Australia, Sydney established a high-performance motorway orbital (Westlink M7) in 2005 bypassing the central business district, and it continues to develop plans for an outer orbital (M9) motorway. An inland rail freight corridor is being planned to take loads away from the heavily populated coast while introducing multimodal interchanges. A City Deal identifies two future multimodal interchanges within the Western Sydney Plan.

Moving to the United Kingdom’s north, Manchester, is a focal point of the Northern Powerhouse Initiative. Launched in 2015, it aims to redress the economic imbalance between the north and south by showcasing what the north offers across myriad industries and services. In January 2018, the Initiative got fresh impetus with the launch of a campaign to boost the region’s global appeal, with China as the main focus.

Global Connectivity

Several cities ranked highly for Global Connectivity, specifically, Beijing, Melbourne, Singapore and Mexico City. With robust growth forecast for Melbourne, planning is well advanced on projects to improve its air and sea gateways. The curfew-free Melbourne Airport provides benefits to available capacity, and planning is underway to develop a third runway. At the Port of Melbourne, capacity is being expanded to meet the increasing number of units/containers that will utilise the port.

Mexico City is building a new airport in the city’s north-east that will be six times larger than the current one. It will have three runways in its first stage. Even today’s airport boasts the most traffic in Latin America, being used by 30 airlines, of which 23 are international, flying to more than 50 destinations. Last year, international passenger traffic rose 10.3 per cent, closely followed by 8.5 per cent at the domestic level. During the past five years, passenger traffic through Mexico City grew by nine per cent compared with 4.3 per cent globally.

London also has good global connectivity and it will improve as the expansion plans for Heathrow’s Airport (Third Runway) are implemented.

Fixed Internet: Speeds and Feeds and
Mobile Internet: Wi-Fi, 5G and Narrowband IoT

The cities that lead on the provision of powerful fixed internet services are Toronto, Vancouver, Montréal and Calgary, with Seoul carrying the flag for Asia.

Canadian cities dominate this space because some years ago, the federal government in Ottawa recognized that modern telecommunications services are fundamental to its future economic prosperity, global competitiveness, social development and democratic discourse, and the private sector responded. The primary providers – Rogers, Bell and TELUS – as well as Shaw, Videotron, SaskTel, Freedom Mobile and Cogeco, have mature networks on fiber and/or mobile, and are continuing to invest heavily in their infrastructure.

A similar story can be told about the city which leads for the provision of mobile internet services, Dubai. The city invested heavily in the development of these services and as a result, citizens and visitors enjoy average mobile download speeds of 53 Mbps (compared to the global average of 23 Mbps) and readily available Wi-Fi. Dubai will also adopt 5G, which will provide between 1-to-10 Gbps and enable large-scale adoption of internet-enabled devices connecting globally via the Internet of Things (IoT).

As part of our research, we considered two high-risk areas for cities that are preparing for the future – Climate Change and Power Generation and Distribution – both require government alignment, buy-in from industry, well-articulated policy and achievable targets.

Climate Change

The cities that demonstrate leadership in Climate Change are Vancouver, Stockholm, San Francisco, Toronto and Washington DC.

Vancouver leads the Climate Change metric, followed by San Francisco, Toronto and Stockholm. Vancouver’s The Greenest City Action Plan is an ambitious strategy to stay at the leading edge of urban sustainability, with a set of measurable and attainable targets. The action plan outlines 10 goals and has three areas of focus: Zero Carbon, Zero Waste and Healthy Ecosystems. Some of the targets are to reduce community-based GHG emissions by 33 per cent from 2007 levels by 2020, to require all buildings constructed from 2020 onward to be carbon neutral in operations, to increase sustainable modes’ share of transportation to more than half and to reduce energy use and GHG emissions in existing buildings by 20 per cent over 2007 levels.

In Stockholm, carbon neutrality is a focus area of the regional development plan. The city regularly ranks as one of the greenest cities in the world. It has adopted a strategy to become fossil-fuel free by 2040, which sets out the path, as well as targets for 2020 and 2030, including a fossil-free municipal organization by 2030. The city council voted to implement a ban on certain fuels in inner-city areas to improve air quality. The ban implementation is expected by 2020.

San Francisco has also been on the forefront with Climate Change, having an in-depth climate action strategy that includes direct risk and transitional risk. These risks are addressed in planning frameworks with strategies for sustainability and resilience. The direct risks assessed are sea level rise, flooding, heat waves, water and energy supply interruption, transportation breakdown, property damage and ecosystem risks – a comprehensive approach. The city has already taken big steps to reduce its total carbon footprint via more efficient buildings, less waste and cleaner transportation, with an 80 per cent reduction target set for 2050.

Power Generation and Distribution

San Francisco, Edinburgh, New York, Vancouver and Washington DC all have strong policies in place for the future provision of power generation and distribution.

Edinburgh’s Sustainable Energy Action Plan includes targets of 30 per cent of overall energy demand met by renewables by 2020 and 100 per cent of gross electricity demand from renewables by 2020.

Several renewable projects are being funded, including the Edinburgh Community Solar Cooperative Solar PV project.

Work in smart grids includes the Smart Meter Street program that aims to trial smart meters to demonstrate how energy can be saved. The first phase of this program is funded.

The council has established Energy for Edinburgh, an energy services company that will be charged with delivery of major energy initiatives included in the Sustainable Energy Action Plan.

In New York City, the power supply is among the least carbon-intensive in the USA. It includes nuclear and hydro generation, which accounts for half its needs. Con Edison serves the private market, and New York Power Authority has a role in suppling public sector buildings. The city and Con Edison have supported state level initiatives to improve energy efficiency, increase renewable energy and reduce GHG emissions. The New York Power Authority and Con Edison are leaders in smart grid infrastructure. By 2022, five million more smart meters will be installed. Offshore wind is another source that will be a contributor to New York City’s power grid in the future.

Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney have experienced some policy uncertainty during the past decade. Specifically, policy uncertainty on climate change mitigation has led to an under-investment in new generation infrastructure to replace aging power stations, although Australia is well on track to meet its Renewable Energy Target obligations of 33,000 GWh by 2020.

The Brisbane City Council’s Plan: Brisbane. Clean, Green, Sustainable 2017-2031, highlights key initiatives for the city. The Queensland State Government is addressing clean energy through its Powering Queensland Plan that includes a target to achieve 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030, to reduce emissions and act on climate change, create new jobs and diversify the state’s economy. Queensland is also looking at new policy around waste, thereby potentially encouraging other forms of energy generation from waste.

The Melbourne and Sydney City Councils have commissioned major studies and developed subsequent strategies to address GHG reductions. Melbourne City Council (MCC) has gone a little further in linking its targets to meet or exceed the minimum 1.5 degrees Celsius science-based target from the Paris Climate Change Agreement. MCC has also been investing directly through its Melbourne Renewable Energy Project to purchase power from a windfarm development in Victoria. The Victorian Government also has an auction process in place to purchase more renewable energy through the Victorian Renewable Energy Auction Scheme (VREAS) program.


A Tale of Our Cities assesses what cities are planning and enabling to be built and the physical fabric on which future social and economic activity will play out.

It comprises two components:

The city assessments are focused on four themes which shape the built environment.

Underpinning each theme are the key metrics that were assessed and scores applied, one-to-10 (1 = poor / 10 = outstanding). The subjective scoring approach is based on evidence of forward looking policies, initiatives and funding, as outlined in the city plans.





Public Realm
Urban Green Space
Social Infrastructure
Climate Change
Infrastructure: Public Transit
Logistics & Freight Productiviy
Global Connectiviy
Infrastructure: Pedestrians & Cycling
Built Form: Parking Provisions
Future Mobility: Services
Future Mobility: Technology

Connectivity & Infrastructure
Fixed Internet: Speeds & Feeds
Mobile Internet: Wi-Fi, 5G, Narrowband IoT
Open Data
Information & Data Security
Planning & Policy
Power Generation & Distribution
Water Treatment & Distribution
Waste Management

The key metric scores are averaged to achieve a total theme score out of 10. The theme scores are averaged to achieve a total city score out of 40.

The cities that are included in this Index are ones that WSP has a strong local footprint in.

Part two of this Index tells a tale by numbers, with statistics sourced from The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).

Population & Demography



“Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”


In this part of the Index, we share trends on cities' preparedness for growth, in terms of population and GDP, based on data sourced from The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).

About the Data

City definition: The (EIU) uses the concept of metropolitan area rather than the official administrative boundaries for the city-level calculations. This provides a consistency of definition and a more relevant measure by accounting for the total market potential of the urban agglomeration. In contrast, an administrative boundary can, in some cases, not give a representative picture of the economic city. Whenever available, an official definition of the metropolitan area is used, while checking that the official definition corresponds to EIU’s internal criteria: the metropolitan area encompasses the city core and its contiguous urban surroundings. When no official metropolitan area definition can be identified, the EIU uses alternative sources of information such as population density to help define the metropolitan city. EIU makes every effort to provide a standard definition of cities and their boundaries so that direct comparisons can be made between cities both nationally and internationally.

In New York City, for example, the administrative boundaries (the five boroughs) have an estimated population of 8.6 million for 2017, whereas in the definition used by EIU, the population is 20.48 million for 2018, including the contiguous urban agglomeration stretching into areas such as Newark, New Jersey and Long Island.

Data availability is a significant issue when compiling data, particularly at city-level. Where necessary, EIU has interpolated and estimated data, for example, based on assumptions of similar patterns or population structures using information at a higher administrative level and where data are available.

Demographic Projections: Where reliable official projections consistent with the EIU concept of the metropolitan area are available, that is used. The EIU also uses a variety of methods to estimate figures, such as breaking down a larger unit for which data is available into smaller units, and using historical relationships to calibrate the definition of a city to whatever units are available in official statistics (in some cases these are smaller units, in other cases they are larger). The EIU analysts also use their specialist city and country knowledge to inform these ratios. Gender and age distribution is similarly projected from harmonizing the available historic information for different geographic levels and calibrating to the cities projection.

GDP: City-level GDP is rarely accurately measured in official statistics, and so needs to be estimated; typically, this is based on GDP of its surrounding administrative division such as state, province, or nation (in the case of a small country). The EIU evaluates a city’s level of economic development in comparison to its surrounding geographic divisions and develop a city GDP multiplier. The multiplier is then applied to national GDP forecast to obtain the city GDP forecast. The multiplier is updated whenever new city level data becomes available.

Livability: The EIU livability survey assesses which locations around the world provide the best or the worst living conditions. Each factor in a city is rated as acceptable, tolerable, uncomfortable, undesirable or intolerable. The ratings for terrorism, petty crime, violent crime and civil unrest are assessed by EIU city experts using a scale of one-to-five. Where possible these will be based on quantitative and verifiable data points. For example, the petty crime measure refers to minor activities, such as theft where no physical harm comes to the victim. A rating of one would apply to cities where crime rates are low enough for stealing, etc. to occur on an extremely rare occasion (e.g. Singapore). A rating of five would apply to cities where such activities are everyday and commonplace (e.g. Caracas).

Sources: Data sources for the EIU are derived from National Statistics Offices, National Bureaus of Statistics, World Bank International Comparison Program, Statistics Korea and Department of Budget, Accounting and Statistics of Taipei City Government, and the 2017 Livability Report data.

Copyright © 2018 The Economist Intelligence Unit.

Select a city to view its statistics.

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


Kate Volcov

David Symons

Andrew Lynn

Jonathan Dickinson

Kitty Chiu

Fredrik Bergstrom

Pedro Cadima

Darren Chan