As the world became urbanized, cities, and the movement of people and goods within them, are more critical to the future of citizens and national, regional and urban economies. Often traffic congestion rises with urbanization and dampens prosperity by slowing citizens’ movement, wasting their time and resources, and obstructing municipal services such as public safety and maintenance. Traffic congestion in the United States in 2009, for instance, cost commuters 4.8 billion hours of travel delay, at an estimated value of $US 115 billion in opportunity cost and fuel costs. Urban traffic congestion also brings broader societal impacts, such as greater pollution and carbon dioxide emissions, micro-climate change and urban heat islands, and increases in respiratory illnesses and lost productivity.
On an individual level, commuters around the world feel the pain of traffic congestion. Across the Asia- Pacific region, forty percent of commuters are frustrated with traffic during their daily commutes, while thirty-one percent in Europe-Middle East-Africa, and twentythree percent in the Americas share that frustration. From Beijing to Moscow, New Delhi to Mexico City, Johannesburg to Toronto, commuters claim traffic has increased their stress levels and made them angry, and even caused them to cancel trips when faced with the prospect of being stuck in traffic.
Congestion happens when the loadof travellers exceeds the capacity of the systems to effectively carry them. In cities, commuters often choose to use roadways for individual transportation because getting in a car is more convenient and reliable than taking a bus or the subway, and in some cities it can be a less expensive option, all of which causes chronic traffic congestion. Congestion can also be episodic, particularly in smaller cities, when road closures, weather, and events (e.g., parades, sporting events) cause the roadways to back up.
Urban traffic planners and transportation system operators are working to alleviate congestion and improve the movement of people,
goods and vehicles. Their goal is to maintain a high level of operational efficiency in the transportation system, be able to identify and respond to incidents, and ideally predict and prevent them. Demand management strategies are increasingly used to reduce traffic loads on roadways, or to redistribute traffic congestion across the network. Balancing a system with a finite capacity against variable traffic volumes requires a robust transportation strategy and decision support tools. Importantly, these management systems and tools should be able to scale to enable cities with large or small budgets to deploy them.
City leaders realize the value of a robust transportation strategy and are increasingly turning to intelligent transportation systems (ITS) to help them realize their visions of smoothly running, intelligent multimodal transportation networks1. ITSs are a marriage of the physical transportation infrastructure with a digital (IT) infrastructure to implement demand management strategies. When they are
deployed using a deliberate, framed approach, they can be crucial tools to enable city leaders to improve the lives their citizens and the prosperity of businesses in their cities.
Traffic Management in Smart Cities
The problem of traffic congestion is symptomatic of a larger set of issues affecting cities around the world. In mature market cities aging power, water and transportation networks are unable to accommodate the demand placed on them, while infrastructures serving cities in emerging growth markets are straining under the pressures of rapid urbanization. Changing population demographics are challenging education, healthcare and social service agencies to meet new needs, while man-made and natural threats stretch public safety and first responders’ abilities.
City and regional leaders around the world are facing the sobering realities of meeting these intense demands and are seeking ways
to address them. The complex web of interdependency between government domains within a city, which extends to the surrounding
municipalities, blurs traditional political and bureaucratic borders. Fragmented approaches to metropolitan governance issues such
as transportation, restrain overall growth, whereas an integrated approach may help drive growth. Some municipal governments are
taking this opportunity to innovate to transform their capabilities in a more integrated fashion. They are aiming to make their cities smarter, more agile and better positioned to grow. Transportation, because of its interdependence with most other aspects of a city, would benefit from a governance approach that is integrated with these other domains, as above showing illustrated.
An integrated, intelligent approach to transportation can benefit a broad spectrum of cities. In mature market cities, this approach can be used to organize and coordinate established systems and assets. The goals of implementing the approach in these cities would be to dramatically improve operational efficiency and commuter experiences. Moreover, it could lay out a strategic roadmap to extending the benefits of an intelligent system to adjacent communities and link the urban hubs into a regional or national transportation network.
Municipal governments in emerging market countries, on the other hand, have an opportunity to implement an integrated approach to achieve a goal of modernizing their operational models. In developing cities, the approach can be used as a means to optimize even basic transportation assets (e.g., bicycle inventory and management). It can also be a strategic foundation to plan for growth, helping to avoid the problems experienced by mature market cities. China’s outlook on enhancing the capabilities of its urban communities is an example of this thinking. One of the central policy directions of China’s Twelfth Five-Year Plan is to innovate some of its government systems to be more integrated and improve the services delivered. The Plan sets a specific goal to create an integrated traffic and transportation system, and accelerate the construction of integrated traffic hubs, using advanced equipment and information technology.
Whether applied to mature or growth market cities, advanced traffic and transportation management systems can be used to deliver a
higher level of service to commuters. Integrating an ITS into collaborative municipal government, shared transportation information will drive intelligence, policy, and action across bureaucratic boundaries.
Implementing Integrated Intelligent Urban Transportation
The cornerstone of an integrated strategy that includes transportation is an ITS collecting and processing transportation system data, and sharing it with other city departments. The ITS can provide managers with a city-wide visibility across the entire transportation network, and the city services that depend on it, to improve incident response.
When combined with analysis capabilities, the ITS can evaluate traffic patterns and predict the arrivals of public transit, to help alleviate congestion and improve commuter satisfaction. When it is integrated with a centralized platform equipped with decision support and collaboration capabilities, it enables cross-agency communication and collaboration for incident response and infrastructure maintenance, and can support scenario planning in anticipation of natural disasters and other events.
A highly agile ITS platform can be deployed to fit the variety of business models, addressing the wide range of needs encountered in the real world of cities. For larger cities, it can be deployed as an on-premise solution to give transportation authority managers complete
flexibility over its configuration and operation. For medium sized cities or for regional transportation authorities, it can be deployed as a
shared service arrangement so that many jurisdictions can collaborate on traffic management across a broad metropolitan area. For smaller cities or cities with modest transportation departments, a cloud-enabled platform can deliver ITS as a service (aaS). This option also gives a transportation authority the ability to scale up the scope and functionality of the product as a city’s needs change.
Combining an ITS with a centralized platform represents step forward in integrating traffic management and decision-support with other city services. City managers can gain a powerful, city-wide view of traffic, and importantly, how traffic can impact other city operations and services. Transportation authorities gain the ability to analyze traffic in real-time, evaluate the implications of traffic conditions, and thereby better manage the flow of traffic in a city. This in turn can help reduce commute times, improve the commuter experience, reduce pollution, and direct emergency response and public safety teams to protect the safety and security of
Even as an integrated ITS solution helps city managers and transportation authorities understand historic and real-time traffic, adding a traffic prediction module extends their vision into the future to proactively manage traffic. This enhances the value of an integrated intelligent urban transportation strategy by helping them determine the potential impact of traffic patterns on other operations and services, such as bus routing, emergency dispatch and special events.
Other uses for predictive traffic insight would include:
- Traffic planning to aid simulations and scenario-generation exercises
- Modeling dynamic pricing and congestion pricing schemes, as well as incorporating predictions of commuter traffic levels in responseto various tariff levels
- Route guidance and traveler information applications to enhance planning based on predicted travel speeds for given dates and times
Building an Integrated, Intelligent Transportation System
Forward-looking city leaders are increasingly using ITS solutions as part of an integrated approach to meeting the complex transportation of a modern city. Often they are starting with roadway traffic as the foundation for a wider, multi-modal strategy. An integrated, intelligent transportation system built into a city’s broader management strategy provides a range of benefits. City authorities taking this path should consider following a framework approach to guide planning and implementation.
The approach starts with preparing for an integrated intelligent transportation system by capturing, managing, and analyzing a city’s
roadway and traffic data so that managers can gain a clear, consistent real-time view of traffic. This gives managers the ability to leverage critical information to understand and optimize traffic operations, and get stronger performance and an improved return from existing traffic infrastructure.
Next, information from other city service areas and departments that are dependent on the roadways, and from commuters themselves, is integrated into the system to extend a transportation manager’s view. This increases situational awareness that helps managers to anticipate problems across the entire transportation network, and to understand how changes in the system impact its operation and that of other city services.
By coordinating the key processes and assets across the system, scheduling can be optimized and some incident responses can be
automated based on identified patterns. This also helps a city improve the bottom-line performance of the transportation network by
increasing the efficiency of the infrastructure. An ITS can also help gather insight into commuter experience and system usage, which
can be used to develop processes and services for commuters, such as electronic pricing and payment.
Finally, the ITS can be extended to other transportation modes, such as light rail and subways, to optimize the capacity of a city’s entire transportation system. New services, such as weather prediction, road management and road user charging can be built on the ITS to increase the top line performance of the system. Moreover, deep analysis on the system data can help managers understand specific causes and effects of congestion across the multimodal system, and can help guide targeted infrastructure investments for capital planning. Importantly, the extended capabilities can also assist the city in scenario and contingency planning to coordinate responses to events and disasters.
The organizational value derived from an integrated intelligent transportation system is illustrated in Figure 2. Beginning with preparing a city for more efficient transportation operations by collecting and processing roadway data, traffic and some emergency situations can be effectively managed. As information and data from more sources is gathered, integrated with
the roadway data, and processed, the scale of things that can be done with the resulting intelligence increases. By extending the capabilities of the transportation management system even more, the amount of value produced for a city’s operations continues to increase.
Cities of all sizes continue to grow and traffic congestion must be managed to decrease transportation inefficiency and the costs it
carries. Integrated Intelligent Urban Transportation strategies are becoming vital tools to help cities address rising congestion and the associated costs to society. Urban transportation managers and city leaders should consider developing and implementing them if they are:
- Planning transportation demand management (TDM) strategies to shape travel demand patterns;
- Facing changing demographics, with increasing numbers of drivers, or citizens who need accessible transportation options;
- Designing growth models that strengthen development in the urban core, while diversifying the make-up of the suburbs;
- Seeking ways to meet sustainability benchmarks, including reducing emissions targets by giving commuters more travel options
- Challenged with transforming their existing transit systems to become self-sustaining through lowering operational costs and boosting revenue streams.
At the same time that an ITS can dramatically improve traffic management, it can also enable stronger governance when it is integrated with other intelligent service management systems. The vision of the Smart City relies on a tightly integrated service management and delivery strategy. Using a comprehensive decision and governance support platform, and integrating transportation management and prediction modules with it, urban leaders can relieve traffic congestion and enable prosperity in their cities.
This article is condensed version of a white paper authored by Frost & Sullivan and sponsored by IBM. That paper may be obtained from the author or from IBM.
(Brian Cotton is a vice president at Frost & Sullivan, where he leads the firm’s global Growth Consulting practice in the IT and telecoms vertical. His involvement in smart cities started in 2006 and he’s been advising public sector, IT, energy and cleantech clients on the topic ever since.)