Up until now, the private vehicle has been a major priority for transportation planners in many parts of the world. This historical focus on the movement of cars over the movement of people has given rise to a number of challenging transport problems that affect both public transit agencies and private transport providers. Rising populations, the proliferation of cheap and efficient vehicles and urban sprawl have all made moving people even more challenging in major cities. Today’s top three transport challenges—congestion, sprawl and cost—are complex, requiring responses that are both very strategic and creative.
Number one on the list is the most widespread and visible transportation challenge in the world. Congestion causes daily misery for many commuters in global cities. In the United States, people spend a combined 14.5 million hours every day stuck in traffic as they try to commute and transport goods. Congestion is also expensive. In a study of data collected from Britain, Germany and the United States, the total cost of congestion in 2017 was calculated at a staggering $461 billion, or $975 per person.
To solve the congestion problem, cities are taking a wide range of approaches. Some urban centres are turning to technological solutions to reduce congestion: Toronto, for example, is experimenting with smart traffic lights that use cameras to sense when lineups form and automatically adjust their frequency accordingly. Other cities are attempting to address the root of the congestion problem: too many cars. In Washington D.C. and Baltimore, officials have recently rolled out an app called Incentrip, which encourages users to take different modes of transportation by gamifying transportation. The app gives users points for taking alternative, greener modes of transportation such as a bus or bike. These points can then be spent on prizes like Amazon and iTunes gift cards.
Some cities are even looking at banning cars completely. The Norwegian city of Oslo, for instance, wants to ban all cars from the city center by the end of 2019. Madrid, Spain plans to ban cars from the 500-acre city centre by 2020, and will redesign roads to make them more pedestrian-friendly.
2. Urban Sprawl
Urban sprawl is a pattern of outwards development on the fringes of existing cities—with big implications for transport. The further cities spread outwards with low-density development, the more expensive and difficult it is for transit agencies to service areas. With few and inconvenient transit options, as well as long distances between residential and commercial zones, residents in these areas are prone to using personal cars to get around.
To respond to the challenge of providing efficient transit in suburban areas, many agencies are turning to integrated, multi-modal transportation to encourage commuters to leave their cars at home. The proliferation of ridesharing, ride hailing and bike sharing has also created new transportation opportunities in underserved areas. Now, commuters have more choices beyond driving a personal vehicle or taking a bus. An emerging range of sophisticated apps can plan entire trips by combining public and private transportation options: some even allow users to pay for their complete trips within the app, providing a similar level of convenience as a personal vehicle.
While convincing people—especially those living in outlying areas—to leave their cars at home isn’t easy, it’s heartening to see that viable alternatives to vehicle ownership are increasing. If large cities are to successfully tackle the issue of urban sprawl, multi-modal solutions that include a large number of transport options will be crucial.
3. Rising Transport Costs
When it comes to fleet management, both in the public and private sector, the cost of keeping fleets on the road is on the rise. Distracted driving is causing more accidents in places like North America and the United Kingdom, fuel costs are increasing and congestion delays are resulting in lost productivity. What opportunities exist to reduce fleet costs and make fleets more efficient?
First and foremost, overcoming high operation costs depends on an effective dispatch system. United Parcel Service (UPS) is an industry leader when it comes to leveraging data in their fleet management and dispatch system. UPS’ ORION system analyzes massive amounts of data to create routes that save the company fuel, money and time. While not everyone has access to such resources, a smart dispatch system is a prerequisite for efficient, modern fleets. On the more forward-thinking side, some fleet managers are already planning ahead for the arrival of autonomous vehicles (AVs) as a solution to soaring costs. By assisting humans in the driving equation, AVs have the potential to greatly reduce accidents, eliminating vehicle downtime and costly insurance settlements. AVs also hold the promise of reduced fuel consumption and maintenance downtime.
Cities throughout the world are facing some tough transportation challenges. Rising populations are only going to put increased pressure on transportation systems. Despite these obstacles, fleet managers have a wealth of tools at their disposal to plan for and respond to today’s urban transport landscape. DDS is committed to providing the tools needed to help fleet managers respond to these challenges now, and in the future.
Image: Shutterstock / Danila Shtantsov