The Role of Citizens in Smart and Connected Transportation

The involvement of citizens is increasingly becoming important in urban and transportation planning. Transportation providers should have a better understanding about what citizens want and should be able to precisely meet their individual needs. In this article, David E Pickeral, an executive, senior analyst and industry advisor in smart and connected transportation explains what citizens can expect in regard to the transformation taking place in smart and connected mobility and how they can best influence the future development to meet their individual needs.

Demand-based services like car sharing, bike sharing, ride sharing etc. rose because citizens were dissatisfied with the quality, value and convenience they were getting from conventional mobility services. This was driven by understanding and following the user demand rather than creating the demand.

Moving forward, this is going to be the paradigm in terms of how transportation services will be provided to the general public – bottom up approach (user requirements and needs) rather than a top down approach (strategic objectives) and that will drive a very precise change.

Smart and connected transport to make traveling seamless and efficient

Urbanization is probably the single biggest challenge city and transportation planners are facing. As urbanization is growing rapidly, cities are facing the challenge of meeting rising demands of the users to provide efficient mobility with limited infrastructure capacity. Transportation planners should develop the plan based on the identification of the user needs rather than based on city strategic perspectives. The bottom up approach offers a system which can encourage citizen participation.

It is the idea of breaking down the silos between various transportation modes and other assets. Cities should provide a better connectivity between modes, so that people have multiple different ways of getting from point A to B sensitive to their time and be able to do that very seamlessly using mobile devices and ICT (Information and Communications Technology). Transportation is going to be like a retail and entertainment.

Because of predictive analytics, big data and Internet of Things, the system is providing a constant flow of data allowing changes in real-time from weather patterns to accommodating transportation around events such as football match etc.

The more data that is collected helps for real-time situations and a greater data archive systems will effectively start to learn and be able to better predict even 5 or 10 years from now based on the way city is growing and the transportation needs are changing, thus enabling to do much more precise planning and responding to the changing demographics in terms of age, religion and gender etc.

Another biggest challenge is car ownership. In the past few years, car ownership has dropped, particularly in Europe and the United States and this trend is mainly visible in younger generation. They no longer aspire to rely to purchase, register, insure and maintain their own personal cars, rather than access public transport, shared cars and bikes, depending on real-time information, booking and payment for these other modal choices on their mobile devices.

So far, there hasn’t been a lot of information or data sharing between various modes of transport. Once planners provide a seamless environment where cars, transit and even pedestrians start sharing information about where they go and what they do will make traveling between various modes seamless.

In the near future, there will be one mobile transportation account which will basically allow users to pay for all mobility services from parking, public transit to tolls using this account rather than having to pay separately to multiple municipal or private vendors. Probably, at the end of every month, users may get a monthly statement.

So, convenience, seamless connectivity, accessibility and cost-effectiveness set the higher degree of efficiency trim-down to the level of individual consumers.

Role of transportation in the future of sustainable urban development

From a sustainability perspective, what has to really change with regards to urban transportation is the notion that the user needs can be met by building additional infrastructure, for example adding more trams, metros, physical assets like vehicles etc. This is not really sustainable because the ability to maintain from a cost perspective is very limited.

However, there have been exceptions like Beijing where they demolished certain parts of the city to make room for new high-rises due to Olympics or Abu Dhabi where there are essentially building a new city next to the old one rather than modernize. Obviously, in the United States, Canada, Europe and the rest of the world, it is not practical to tear down cities that are thousands of years old and replace them with the new infrastructure.

The need is going to be understanding the usage and optimizing the existing infrastructure accordingly. The idea is to have a user-centered rather than an asset-centered transportation.

How can the general public best influence the future mobility development

Because of big data, analytics and social media, citizens have much more of a stake in deciding what developments or services they want to have and they have a lot more influence than they ever had in the past in influencing how transportation networks are deployed. In the near future, the general public will automatically generate vast amounts of data which will be used by everyone from bus drivers to city planners which will further help for the future transport planning.

Younger generation are voluntarily providing information to the extent that people consent to participate to their level of comfort in social networking, providing feedbacks and participating in surveys etc. So, providing such structured and unstructured data is key.

Planners will receive a lot of anonymous demographic data just from the way people use their mobility services. This will happen automatically, whether the general public is aware of it or not, but the ability of the general public to actually provide input through surveys or unstructured data will be increased.

It is going to provide ROI (Return on Investment) to people who provide feedback whether they are asked or given a forum to discuss via social media for decision-makers to listen to their customers in terms of what they want. People will be increasingly presented with individual choices in setting up their transit accounts, their rider or user profiles, locations, costs etc. and they will be able to micro-tailor and customize across all modes of transport.

Smart and connected mobility will eventually improve the efficiency of the transportation system and with the help of data and analytics, transportation planners will be able to redistribute demand across various modes, routes and time.

How do you think city and transportation planners can involve citizens in the future transportation planning? Are there any measures or programs that are already existing in your city? Share your opinions in the comment section.

Please note that this article expresses the opinions of the author and does not reflect the views of Move Forward.