The largest, and by some measures the most passenger-friendly station in Europe, is in Leipzig, Germany, a cosmopolitan city of nearly 600,000 people in the Eastern German state of Saxony. Despite being lauded as the “new Berlin” and one of Germany’s fastest-growing cities, Leipzig’s global reputation is still catching up to its European one. I hadn’t heard much about it before my arrival there in October as part of a transatlantic delegation of experts studying the future of cities.
Walking through Leipzig’s retail and restaurant-adorned city center, you might easily overlook the fact that the city, roughly thirty years after German reunification, has a remarkable history of urban revival. The former industrial center, which lost nearly 20% of its population between 1988 and 1998, has been remade as an artistic, academic, and commercial hub.
Over several days there on bike tours, during meetings with city officials, and while speaking with local activists and entrepreneurs, I kept asking myself the question, “Would I want to live here?”
Freed from the constraints of the office since the beginning of the pandemic, many executives, entrepreneurs, and recent college graduates are asking themselves the same question about cities all over the globe.
What began with tech-obsessed myths about the death of San Francisco, the rise of Miami, and the exodus from cities, has become a fundamental disruption of the relationship between geography and the workplace. Cities have rebounded and the data shows that remote work isn’t going anywhere. Knowledge workers, who are increasingly demanding the ability to work from anywhere, will soon have a literal world of options of places to live.
From Leipzig to Lagos, cities that are serious about attracting the remote workforce of 2030 and beyond, need to start focusing on building better transportation systems, a dense and responsive housing supply, and investing in social infrastructure.
Invest in more transit options
Cities hoping to attract remote workers ought to invest in efficient, accessible, multi-modal and sustainable ways to move people around. It’s both desirable and profitable. The American Public Transportation Association projects that every $1 invested in public transit nets $4 in returns. “Ease of getting around” and “public transportation options” were among the primary factors young millennials considered when choosing a place to live, a 2013 study by the Transportation Research Board found.