Increasing mobility in cities with a data-driven approach
With mobility in cities under strain, citizens can play a major role in addressing problems if they can access the right data.
The pressure on mobility in cities is growing. A combination of factors is contributing to this, including population growth and evolving retail strategies.
Pressures on traffic
These days, it is simply not cost-effective for retailers to store goods in expensive city-center retail space, so deliveries happen more frequently. When added to the numbers of distribution companies fulfilling growing volumes of online orders, this significantly increases traffic density.
As citizens, we too play our part in these growing pressures. Many motorists choose to use their cars and park where it is easiest and most convenient for them instead of using alternative transport and parking options.
If data can be captured – about current traffic situations, parking availability and options for alternative transport modes – and then presented in a single, readily accessible view, this can enable citizens to make much better-informed choices to change their travel plans in real time. Of course, only a proportion of the population can decide not to travel or change their travel times – yet if there are 10% fewer cars are on the roads, congestion will be reduced to nearly zero.
Reducing traffic flows
Information based on real-time monitoring of traffic flow, traffic incidents, planned roadwork and external factors such as the weather means that citizens can take different decisions – even after their journey has started. This information should include predictions on the impact of incidents and updates for drivers on alternative routes and modes of traffic to prevent congestion.
Switching to an alternative mode of transport must be easy and comfortable, for example a single access card to pay for national rail, local rail, parking, shared bike use and so on, using either a bank or credit card or a city or transport card. Added-value services around the change in transport will encourage people to positively change their plans, such as valet parking, discounts on combination tickets for park & ride – even a parcel drop-off service or deposit boxes at the park & ride. The City of Poznan, for example, has issued over 320,000 city cards for residents to access public transport, together with other city services such as the library. The city card is a community card with a loyalty scheme, and a central element of mobility and city services.
While ‘smart’ parking solutions are part of many Smart City projects, reducing congestion is often best achieved by completely removing parking options, encouraging drivers to use park & ride or offering them other modes of good-quality transport. In Singapore, clean, low-cost public transport is always available, giving citizens options that are just as appealing as their own private transport.
Keeping a city mobile directly impacts air quality, so energy transition in transport is also important. While electronic vehicles don’t reduce congestion, they do cut environmental pollution. These require more charging stations to be available across cities which could also function as parking spaces. From a grid perspective, it is interesting to combine charging and generation by use of solar, for example.
With many new developments being tested, including autonomous vehicles, all investments planned in parking and road upgrade programs should be reconsidered. This needs to be done as part of a more integrated data-driven city vision and strategy – with the infrastructure and culture needed to exchange data and empower providers and citizens to make choices that improve daily life in the city.
You can read more about our vision for the Data-Driven City and how to harness data for the benefit of everyone in cities in our new opinion paper, MyCity: a Data-Driven City.