By Jan Dolezal
I was thinking whether there are some frameworks for ranking and organizing different initiatives, for example those on the menu of PlaNYC (here). PlaNYC is not conveyed with costs (or benefits) and it’s only part of the overall approach of the City and State of New York so it’s hard to quantify the components, but here are some qualitative thoughts:
Hierarchy of Needs
One is a pyramid mirroring Maslow’s pyramid (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow’s_hierarchy_of_needs) with a similar pyramid for cities (e.g. you don’t care about energy efficiency if you don’t have energy. You don’t care about climate change if you don’t have housing…) On the bottom level, there are basic infrastructure needs (housing, transportation, water, energy). If this is not met, nobody will really care about what is higher. Above that initiatives that improve immediate quality of living, such as Air quality or Parks. Only when this is met, people might be thinking more about recreational Waterways and problems that are not troubling them directly such as Solid waste management. At the top of the pyramid is climate change that people will be more willing to address only when their lower needs are met.
This pyramid also demonstrates why cities in developed countries care more about the higher levels than in developing countries where even the lower levels are not met. We could place the PlaNYC (or KAEC or Tianjin or Dharavi) initiatives in such a pyramid.
Chain of Causality
Another simple framework would be simple causality (Several people mentioned catalysts, but we were going in circles as to what catalyzes what).
So for example efficient transportation is the cause and air quality is an effect. Climate Change is then effect of air quality.
Transportation -> Air quality -> Climate change
This relationship would allow us distinguish what is the goal and what is the way of getting to the goal, thereby allowing policy makers to make some linear choices. In turn this wold allow investors and entrepreneurs to better assess which cities will be more propitious for their capital or projects.