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Smarter transportation case studies — innovation from around the world

7 Oct 2010 | Posted by | 0 Comments |

When a resource is scarce, the first step is always to make sure that you’re using that resource to its fullest. A quick glance at a congested road, a street with no parking or a jam-packed rush hour train might tell you that there’s no excess capacity going unused, but is that really true? While we continue to push for a greater investment in transportation overall to expand options for all Americans, are there ways to better use the resources that we’ve already got?

Our new report on smarter mobility released today 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.

Many of these smart transportation solutions are already fueling innovation throughout the country, through both the public and private sector. These 14 case studies from around the U.S. and the world demonstrate the community benefits smart mobility solutions are giving regions, cities, and businesses. You can read all of these examples immediately by downloading the full report, but for those of you who find a 38-page report a little intimidating, we’re going to publish the case studies as a series so you can get them in bite-sized chunks one day at a time. Check back each day for a new story.

These 14 examples are classified into five broad areas of innovation, which can be identified with the colored banners at the top of each page to help quickly see what kind of innovation this case study demonstrates.

1. Making transportation systems more efficient. Ensuring that the resources we’ve already invested in are fully utilized is the first step. Already, many regions use digital technologies to collect information about highway networks and manage the flow on and off of major road facilities. For example, by controlling “ramp meters” and synchronizing traffic lights, Minneapolis-St. Paul was able to increase freeway volume nine percent and increase peak period throughput 14 percent.

In Detroit, Michigan, advanced traveler information systems, highway advisory radio, ramp metering, and variable message signs increased average vehicle speeds by 5.4 mph, decreased trip times by 4.6 minutes, and reduced commuter delay by 22 percent. Technologies that pre-empt traffic signals can also improve travel times for bus rapid transit and light rail. More broadly, IT systems are beginning to integrate transportation networks and services.

2. Providing more travel options. Before the Internet, providing services to help people share cars or rides was cumbersome, if not impossible. Now, on-line databases can be used to match riders to van pools and car pools, and to support car-sharing and bicycle-sharing services that allow one person access to a variety of cars or bikes any time of the day or night.

These allow for on-demand reservation of the vehicle type needed, at just the moment they are needed. In the Denver metropolitan area, vanpools offer an alternative to driving for groups of commuters who live and work near each other, and who travel more than 15 miles to work. Vanpooling also allows an opportunity to save money by splitting a low monthly fare.

3. Providing travelers with better, more accurate, and more connected information. The more information people have, the more efficiently they can plan their travel and choose and connect the modes and services and routes that best suit their circumstances. Computerized vehicle tracking and information delivery can let public transportation riders know in real time — via electronic signs, smart phones or other means — exactly when to expect their bus or train.

Users of the Advanced Traveler Information Service in the Washington, DC region were able to reduce the frequency of early and late arrivals by 56 and 52 percent, respectively. Bicyclists too can use personal technology to find safe and efficient bike routes in unfamiliar places, and to connect up with a wider range of transportation options door-to-door.

4. Making pricing and payments more convenient and efficient. When resources are scarce or in high demand, pricing is one of the best ways to allocate their use. This is true of parking, where smart meters can vary prices by demand to always keep a minimum of spaces vacant, and collect fees using a wide variety of payment media. Variable tolls can help to regulate the flow on freeway lanes. The New Jersey Turnpike Authority reports that their EZ Pass system reduces toll station traffic delay by 85 percent.

Electronic benefit cards can be a convenient way for low-income people to pay for a variety of subsidized goods, including public transportation, with a single card or their phone.

5. Reducing trips and traffic. Sometimes the smartest trip is the one not taken. A growing number of Americans use technology to work from a variety of remote locations, allowing them to shift their commutes to times when there is less traffic or avoid traveling to an office altogether. Employers at the national retailer Best Buy famously increased company savings by letting employees set their own hours and decide when, where, and how to get their jobs done. An infinite variety of work arrangements are now available to many Americans, who may use more than one in any given week.

Eliminating trips is not only limited to work. You can now access banks, shopping, medicine, and education services online or over the phone, which can help us do things without going out the door. Smart technology helps users make wise choices about when, where, how and whether to travel.


Read the full series here: Smart Transportation Case Studies

No Comments

  1. Mr. Kim Gyr

    13 years ago

    No one has yet seriously considered how we can provide transportation, food and energy for our children’s children…through the Year 10,000 if we run out of petroleum within the next 5 – 40 years. Yet, we still have the glut of energy provided by petroleum to plan and build the revolutionary infrastructure that will be required. Please view my suggestions at http://www.greenmillennium.eu