Albert-Seubers

Increasing mobility: A data-driven approach

Albert Seubers

Atos Director, Global Strategy Smart X

With mobility in cities under strain, citizens can play a major role in addressing problems if they have access to 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 replenishment deliveries must happen more frequently. When combined with the growing number of distribution companies fulfilling online orders, this significantly increases traffic density.

As citizens, we also play a 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.

Informing citizens

If data about current traffic situations, parking availability and alternative transport options can be captured and presented in a single, readily accessible view, it can enable citizens to make better-informed choices to change their travel plans in real time. Of course, only a proportion of the population has the luxury of deciding not to travel or changing their travel times — but only a 10% reduction in cars on the road will reduce congestion to nearly zero.

Reducing traffic flows

Information based on real-time monitoring of traffic flow, traffic incidents, planned road work and external factors like the weather means that citizens can take make informed decisions even after their journey has started. To prevent congestion, this information should include predictions on the impact of incidents, updates for drivers on alternative routes and modes of traffic. In addition, city authorities can give warning signs to drivers by making streetlights blink or change color when needed.

Switching to an alternative mode of transport must be easy and convenient — such as the ability to us a single bank card, credit card or city transport card to access and pay for national rail, local rail, parking, bicycle sharing, etc. Value-added services that support positive shifts in transport patterns will encourage beneficial behavior changes, 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 that enable residents to access public transport along with other city services such as the library. As such, the city card acts as a community card with
a loyalty scheme, a central element of mobility and city services.

Improving parking

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 lots or offering other modes of good-quality transport. In Singapore, clean, low-cost public transport is always available, giving citizens options 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 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 (including autonomous vehicles) being tested, all planned investments in parking and road upgrade programs should be reconsidered. They must become 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.

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