Across the globe, many urban centres are investing time and resources in becoming a smart city. Government and private businesses are working together—with the help of digital technology—to build cities that are more liveable, workable and sustainable. Enabled by the expansion of big data, we are seeing cities boost their efficiency and productivity, all the while creating safer and more accessible services for residents. It might seem daunting to figure out how to contribute or where to start, but even small changes can make a city smarter.
If strong transit systems are the backbone of a smart city, then at the core of this movement are smart mobility solutions. Urban centres are increasingly using digital and mobile technology in order to integrate public transit, improve infrastructure, reduce traffic congestion and pollution and increase mobility for people of all age groups and demographics. There are a number of steps any city can take to maximize their mobility efficiency as they transition to a smart city. Below, we’ve put together four steps to help you get started.
Step 1: Remember the Big Picture
The first step to shaping a smarter city is to remember the bigger picture. In other words, the focus shouldn’t be on the technology itself, but on the priorities or outcomes that the technology can support. For example, Los Angeles didn’t install smart street lighting because it was the latest trend, but because it saves the city energy, money, provides a quicker alert system when a light goes out and allows the city to funnel its surplus power to newly-installed electric vehicle charging stations. Accordingly, target the goal you would like to achieve and then look at the data and technology that will help produce your desired outcome. Prioritizing goals over gear will ensure that you are actually addressing a priority issue.
Step 2: Leverage the Power of Data
The second step in shaping a smart city is to ensure that you are utilizing the power of data to help address your priority goals. In Seoul, transit officials used phone data from residents travelling at night to determine where night bus service was most needed. The transit changes they implemented as a result reduced the costs of unused transit lines, increased access for residents and reduced air pollution. The widespread use of smartphones means there’s already a lot of existing data that can help cities improve their transit systems.
Step 3: Think Integration
Another item to keep in mind when taking steps to make any city smarter is user-centric design and integration. The experience of your user—be they a resident, worker or business owner—should be prioritized. For example, car and ride sharing services that increase user mobility and reduce traffic congestion can use in-vehicle technologies to communicate with the personal devices of drivers, while mobile apps that integrate with passenger smartphones can increase user-friendliness. An intentional focus on user-centric design can thus increase the overall adaptability—and success—of a solution.
Step 4: Prioritize Accessibility
Accessibility remains a critical factor when creating a smart city, as giving residents improved access to their surroundings is the ultimate goal of any municipal transportation initiative. Many sharing economy solutions that may appear to compete with more traditional businesses can actually work to increase demand overall. For instance, a rise in car and ride sharing systems in an urban centre can also increase customer demand for taxi and paratransit services. As more residents choose not to own a car due to the increase in accessible mobility options and integrated technology, the demand for all of these integrated services goes up.
Framing solutions in this way can reduce costs for residents, the city and businesses; reduce congestion and pollution; increase civic participation; and create more efficient transit and mobility systems.
Whether you’re an urban planner, transportation officer, or municipal decision-maker, applying smart concepts to your initiatives can open the door to higher efficiency in the long run. For more information on how mobile transportation apps can help your city run smoother, book a demo or contact us.
Image: Shutterstock / Danila Shtantsov