2018 in Review: City Trends, Policies and Conversations

2018 was an eventful year with discussions, policy actions and urban investments impacting critical themes in city development, urban planning, and sustainable urbanization. While some topics and trends, such as the scurry by cities for Amazon HQ2 will remain as the most memorable events of the year, other budding innovations in city functioning, investment and management have set the stage for promising outcomes in 2019. Some of such trends include: the scooter invasion, retail rejuvenation, re-greening, as well as stark realities of declining national ridership in public transit and the spike in climate change related natural disasters. Although an active year, 2018 becomes even more vivid when examined using a reverse lens, highlighting the various city development, urban planning and city management issues and conversations that were started during the year.

This is exactly what we have done with our 2018 review. By analyzing Twitter data, we have curated the top urban planning, urban design and city management related conversations involving urban stakeholders (organizations, institutions, city governments, individuals). A review of online community discussions led us to a compilation of the most frequently occurring topics as well as topics attracting the most engagement. While Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn are all online platforms where urban issues are constantly discussed, we chose Twitter due to its high traffic pull and ability to quickly generate engagement on a variety of topics with contributions from a diverse audience. Our sample of organizations includes Planetizen, Next City and WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, who led in sheer number of posts. Other organizations in our sample include the American Planning Association, the NewUrbanism, the Urban Land Institute, among others.

An ever present topic, housing received the most coverage in our sample. Transit, community, and bikes were the next most covered topics in 2018. California, New York, Chicago, Seattle, Florida, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Detroit, Atlanta, and Virginia were the top ten places mentioned in 2018 in our sample.


Out of the top mentioned technologies in 2018, crypto and autonomous vehicles were the top terms mentioned in Tweets registering positive sentiment, while Airbnb received the most negative coverage. Airbnb was the subject of many journal publications as well in 2018, a number of them focusing on Airbnb globally. Some include “Airbnb and the rent gap: Gentrification through the sharing economy,” “Urban Transformations as an Indicator of Unsustainability in the P2P Mass Tourism Phenomenon: The Airbnb Case in Spain through Three Case Studies,” and “Urban Development and Tourism in Japanese Cities.”

Bikes and buses were the top mentioned modes of transportation among our sample in 2018, the latter of which being mentioned most positively among all modes of transportation topics, followed by “pedestrian” and “rail.”

Despite the issues arising from their emergence in 2018, scooters received significant positive coverage, averaging out to sentiment scores slightly below “rail” and “cars,” but higher than both “ride-hailing”, “metro,” “subway,” and “airport.” In fact, out of all topics regarding modes of transportation, “airport” received the lowest average sentiment across Tweets in our sample.


Cities across America continued to spearhead urban planning, climate change, resiliency and sustainability projects in 2018, a trend which is reflected in the visualization above. Although “President” and “Congress” both received a high number of mentions across our sample of organizations on Twitter, “Mayor” was the most frequently mentioned government role in 2018, receiving significant coverage from Smart Cities Dive, the Urban Design Forum, and Next City.

Finally, our team thought we would offer a quick take on posting to maximize likes and retweets in the urban planning and development Twitter community. Below is a scatter plot depicting average subjectivity of a Tweet versus the sum of its likes and retweets by term and posting organization.

Looking at topics in 2018 that recorded the engagement in terms of likes and retweets; words like “smart”, “community”, “congestion”, “health” and “poverty” stand out among others.

Feel free to explore these visualizations yourself by clicking terms in the legend to view how the term fared in likes and retweets in 2018 across our sample of Twitter channels.

Source: Medium Corporation

This article is culled from daily press coverage from around the world. It is posted on the Urban Gateway by way of keeping all users informed about matters of interest. The opinion expressed in this article is that of the author and in no way reflects the opinion of UN-Habitat.