The ease of getting from point A to point B, the effective movement of goods and services, and the flexibility and integration of different modes of transportation are key aspects of mobility today and are integral to the success of our cities. However, traffic congestion, aging infrastructure and rapid urbanization are intensifying the need for radical mobility solutions.
So how can cities address these issues to ensure a more sustainable, safe and brighter future? In 2015, the Obama Administration launched the Smart Cities Initiative to jump-start innovating thinking and establish our nation’s first fully integrated cities. A Smart City is a connected city — one that integrates Big Data, relies on smart sensors, embraces collaboration and serves as a roadmap for future trends in infrastructure. It will alleviate traffic congestion, drive economic growth and improve the quality of city services. Arcadis has identified three key technologies that will change the face of transportation in the 21st century and help cities remain competitive and sustainable by taking mobility to the next level.
Each day, more than 1,100 injuries result from distracted driving. On top of that, the average American loses more than 40 hours a year stuck in traffic. These are major issues that impact our lives daily and with the population continuing to expand, these issues will only get worse unless action is taken. The emergence of automation has given our cities hope. Car manufacturers are developing connected and autonomous vehicles – meaning cars will be able to gauge its surroundings and adjust the speed and route depending on traffic flow, resulting in decreased motor vehicle accidents and more efficient travel. With industry experts estimating 2040 as when these vehicles will be on our roads, many cities are looking into utilizing managed lanes – lanes that operationally change depending on traffic conditions – as an interim step into developing the infrastructure necessary for a fully driverless future.
Autonomy has also been linked to efficiencies, particularly in the ports industry, where safety and efficient processing of inbound and outbound shipments drive the global economy. Ports all over the world are becoming more interested in automated stacking cranes, gantry cranes and auto-transport vehicles which improve human safety, provide for maximum yard space usage and increase productivity, further adding to businesses’ bottom-lines.
The digital age of the internet has propelled our society forward. We are able to get in touch with family and friends and access data at any time of day. As we become more reliant on these technologies, the need for streamlined connectivity will be paramount. Transit authorities recognize the importance of ensuring that riders remain connected while commuting on subways and rail. Some of the leading agencies are installing underground broadband communication systems that support WiFi connectivity, and are modernizing amenities to encourage ridership, improve safety and security, and deliver an overall improved experience.
The digitization age also gives cities the opportunity to leverage Big Data – large amounts of information that can be analyzed to view patterns and trends – in a strategic way to help prioritize and improve infrastructure based on communities’ needs. However, this reliance also puts us at risk. As cyber-attacks continue to be commonplace, cities must invest in digital security measures to protect critical infrastructure and the privacy of citizens.
Transit centers can serve as a driving force for growth, investment and culture in our cities. The facilities in and around it make the area a destination in itself, and can provide an appealing ripple effect on the prosperity of, and investment in, the surrounding area. Therefore new transit-hubs cannot be developed in isolation and must be integral to the area and locals they serve. Cities should benchmark their journey during the planning process in order to develop a successful rewarding city-center.
Further, to increase ridership, improve the customer experience and save on costs, transit agencies are looking into streamlined open fare payment systems. In other words, using existing merchant cards (and even apps such as Apple Pay) rather than developing original fare cards that are expensive to maintain and don’t speak to other systems. By utilizing existing merchant payment programs, riders can potentially use one form of payment for all their travel needs, whether through subway, bus, rail or Uber. Agencies are also installing Passenger Information Systems at kiosks that communicate arrival and departure information at convenient points for ease of travel.
Cities are analyzing the increasingly large amounts of data generated through these mobility trends to plan and adapt mobility solutions and predict future needs. Visualization, modeling, databases, assessments, Big Data and the Internet of Things can be leveraged to alleviate congestion, manage assets in a more holistic way, and improve our infrastructure and our quality of life, helping to ensure a stronger, smarter future.
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