John Geraci is founder of DIYcity, which I blogged here. He’s a guest blogger at O’Reilly Radar and just posted an article there titled The Future of Our Cities: Open, Crowdsourced, and Participatory

I live near a city (San Francisco), but not in one. Yet what Geraci envisions could well apply to many counties and townships, also, where populations depend on common transportation systems and utilities. Where solutions can’t be funded in the forms insisted upon by government agencies, tech-savvy citizens can collaborate on hacking better-than-nothing solutions.

Geraci cites a potential example for New York City:

Take for example the case of the New York City MTA, which currently operates at a budget deficit of $1.2 billion, and has been trying and failing for almost 20 years to implement a realtime tracking system for the city’s buses, at a cost of millions. As the MTA sees it, their two options are 1. pay for a gigantic, centralized, monolithic tracking system or 2. don’t have bus tracking. (And with their current budget shortfall, it seems like option 2 is the only real choice for them). What if, instead, they entertained the idea of implementing an open bus tracking system, one that relied to some extent on aggregated individual input from bus riders? What if they then crowdsourced ideas on how best to do this? And finally, what if they cooperated with the people who came forward with ideas, to make it easy for them to implement them?

Where I live in Marin County, it was citizen action that instigated the preservation of hundreds of thousands of acres as open space and parkland; it was not government taking the initiative. That mostly happened in the pre-Internet days. Now that we’ve got the Net and there’s more talent, creativity and freedom in the civic sector than in government, it’s time that citizens once again take the lead in building tools and solving problems for their localities.