Sustainable and smooth urban mobility requires a systemic approach

Urban mobility is one of the most baffling challenges for cities all over the world. Demographic change and urban population expansion are putting pressure into cities saturated public transport infrastructures. At the same time, people are becoming increasingly aware that transportation is one of the biggest cause of greenhouse gas emissions, in addition to deteriorating the living conditions inside the cities.

The continuous growth of these concerns require cities to develop new strategies for public transportation. They need to find a balanced urban mobility system that takes into account ecological issues without sacrificing citizen’s comfort. The current applied solutions of adding new capacity and multi-modal means of transport to match the rising demand, is neither an efficient nor a sustainable answer in the mid and long term, however innovative and ecological the new means of transport are.

In order to achieve a real smart public transportation eco-system, that is both sustainable and smooth, cities need to adopt a holistic approach. A global coordination and real-time optimization in public transportation is not only essential it’s also cost effective. Take for example the Transport Coordination Centre (TTC) set up in London during the 2012 Olympic Games. Its goals were to facilitate active sharing of information and coordinate incident response procedures between multi-modal transport providers, existing Traffic Control Centres in London, Games Organisers and their stakeholders. According to Arup/Transport for London (Transport Coordination Centre Evaluation, December 2012) if the TCC were to be permanently implanted GB £ 4.4 million could be saved in London only. The TTC is a human materialization of the principle of cloud technology applied to urban mobility.

Cloud-based technologies, like intelligent transportation management platforms, enable such global real-time coordination and optimization of the multi-modal urban mobility system at a much larger, if not global scale, accelerated pace and more efficiently. For instance, Cloud solutions enables real-time data sharing and analytics between operators, vehicles and users. Operators are able to adjust in real time their transport capacity, adapting to the highly variable demand for transport in and out of the urban area. An active fleet management platform optimizes the fluidity of traffic, removes congestion issues and thus air pollution hotspots. The resilience peculiar to cloud solutions enables transport operator to increase both the reliability and the availability of their applications. Thanks to Cloud-based technologies, in addition to being sustainable, the public transportation network adapts itself to its users and not the other way around.

Finally, Cloud-based technologies are software, not hardware, and allow consumption of computing resources in a utility-like manner, thus reducing the need for physical infrastructures and their associated high investment costs.

Cloud-based technologies applied to mobility, are leading the way to solve the growth of both urban population and ecological concern. An innovative systemic approach to public transportation, enabled by Cloud-based solutions, removes the tension between sustainability, a requisite for city institutions, and quality of services for the demanding citizen. Public transport operators need to have a global vision of the environment they’re working with in order to optimize it as a whole while citizens need to have a real-time awareness of the solutions available to complete their trip. As opposed to their current focus on sustainable “hardware” transport means and infrastructures, Cities need to understand that the smart urban mobility solutions are mostly cloud-based software technologies. Cloud-based technology is the answer to make Smart cities a reality.

Author of the article

Raphaël Gindrat, BestMile