New report shows how smart technology can ease traffic congestion, improve transportation options and strengthen global competitivenessOctober 7, 2010
By Stephen Lee Davis
|Download Smart Mobility for a 21st Century America (1.8mb PDF)
|Case studies here and abroad showcase how savvy investment in the upcoming federal transportation bill can help the U.S. save money while reclaiming economic competitiveness
A new report from four leading transportation organizations demonstrates how existing and emerging technologies can squeeze more capacity from over-burdened highways, help commuters avoid traffic delays and expand and improve transportation options, all while saving money and creating jobs.
“Smart Mobility for a 21st Century America” shows why improving efficiency through technology is critical as our population grows and ages, budgets tighten and consumer preferences shift. The report was co-authored by Transportation for America, the Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITS America), the Association for Commuter Transportation (ACT) and the University of Michigan SMART Initiative.
With President Obama’s support for a $50 billion down payment for infrastructure and the real prospect that Congress will move forward on a comprehensive, multi-year transportation bill in the upcoming session, the paper makes the case for investing in technology and innovation to help solve our nation’s most critical transportation problems.
The new report was released today in conjunction with the IBM Smarter Transportation Virtual Forum, which brought together experts from across the public sector, private industry and academia to discuss urban mobility and the growing need for technology solutions to the nation’s transportation, economic and environmental challenges.
“We have a unique opportunity to shape the direction of transportation policy for years to come, which is why this report is so important,” said Transportation for America Director James Corless. “We can harness technology and tap America’s creative potential to get a better bang for our buck and ensure the transportation options Americans rely on are available and affordable in the coming decades.”
“As public agencies are being asked to do more with less, investing in smart technology is critical for improving system efficiency, optimizing the public’s return on investment, and creating a more connected transportation network,” said ITS America President and CEO Scott Belcher. “Congress and President Obama have the opportunity next year to put the U.S. back on the road to global competitiveness and economic prosperity by investing in a more intelligent 21st century transportation system.”
Studies have shown that intelligent transportation systems (ITS) and other smart technologies are cost effective and quick to deploy, with solutions like synchronized and adaptive traffic signals yielding a $40 return in time and fuel savings for every $1 invested while also reducing CO2 emissions up to 22 percent and travel delays by 25 percent or more. The Government Accountability Office found the benefit-cost ratio of a nationwide real-time traffic information system to be 25 to 1, with a $1.2 billion investment returning more than $30 billion in safety, mobility and environmental benefits.
In addition, researchers from the London School of Economics and the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation found that investing in ITS creates a network effect throughout the economy and stimulates job creation across multiple sectors, including green jobs, high-tech, automotive, information technology, electronics, and other industries.
While improvements to vehicles and cleaner fuels are the most talked-about technological innovations, many smart technologies are being deployed today to improve system efficiency and reduce travel delays, provide more convenient access to transportation alternatives, and even customize routes based on real-time traffic conditions and individual travel preferences to keep people and businesses moving on schedule. The paper groups these innovations into five categories:
- Making transportation systems more efficient and cost-effective
- Providing more travel options and multimodal connectivity
- Providing travelers with real-time, accurate transportation system information
- Making pricing and payments more convenient and efficient
- Avoiding unnecessary trips and time wasted in traffic
“It is critical for the future of our nation’s transportation policy to foster projects and programs that collect and disseminate information to the public in a timely and easily accessible fashion,” said Brian Shaw, President of ACT. “The result is a transportation system that is safer and provides more options for system users.”
“Investing in next generation transportation infrastructure makes sense. It connects and optimizes new transportation technologies, services, modes, and design, offering Americans more livability, sustainability, and hip factor for less money. It also lays the foundation for leadership, major business opportunity, and green job creation in the emerging global New Mobility industry,” said Sue Zielinski, Managing Director of SMART at the University of Michigan.
The report contains a series of case studies that demonstrate how these technologies have already been applied to real-world transportation challenges. The report also offers policy recommendations as Congress and the Obama Administration consider a comprehensive transportation bill. These include providing incentives and dedicated funding for states and regions to adopt smart technology solutions to make system more efficient, offering competitive grants to stimulate innovation, and having the federal government play a role in disseminating the latest research and best practices.
You can download the full report and read it cover to cover now, but we will be publishing the case studies as a series here on the blog over the next 2 weeks if you’d like to read about these innovations in smaller bite-sized chunks. Look for the first story later today.