The Promise Of Smart Mobility

What is the potential for smart mobility to meet the challenges of urban mobility? In this article, you will read about how smart mobility can lead to more efficient use of transport infrastructure, and alter the way people use transport services by equipping them with more and better information.

Smart Mobility Products And Services

The technologies and services that enable smarter mobility have a range of capabilities that benefit travelers, service providers and urban planners alike. Many of these products rely on real time data to offer integrated information services (such as real time journey planning or command and control facilities).
Individual travelers and service providers are already taking advantage of smart technologies and services in many major cities, albeit on a piecemeal basis and in a marketplace largely formed of small private actors.

Who Benefits From Smart Mobility?
Illustrated by a few existing examples, this section outlines four key benefits available to the main potential user groups for smart mobility solutions:


1. Travelers: Enhancing the travel experience in urban areas and improving the reliability of journey times and costs for citizens and businesses, to create a more livable and humane city;

2. Transport operators: Balancing demand and supply to secure improved functionality, allow more efficient use of transport resources, promote alternative modes of travel and secure a more environmentally sustainable outcome for urban transport systems;

3. Urban planners: Improving future infrastructure planning and transport service provision on the basis of real and modeled data about traveler demand and behaviors;

4. City governments: Generating economic growth from the development of an economic sector focused on technology, data and information.

Together, these benefits contribute to the advancement of an urban sustainability agenda based on principles of functionality, ecology, humanity, politics and economics.

1. Citizens: Enhancing The User Experience

New citizen facing solutions are appearing that enable people to:
• access real time information about their journeys;
• share resources (cars, lifts, parking); and
• pay for multiple stages of a journey at once, without cash.
These services are helping people to manage their use of transport more effectively, and contributing towards better modal integration.

Real Time Journey Information
Information services have the potential to improve the traveler experience substantially:
• Users can select travel options based on personal preferences, such as cost or convenience.
• Travelers can re-gain control over their own journey time and make adaptive choices to avoid system failures.
• Overcrowding and congestion can be avoided, which improves traveler comfort.
• Travelers can make productive use of journey time by accessing online services as they travel.
Information also helps service providers to raise awareness about the range of alternative travel modes available, thereby promoting lower carbon and more active options to conscientious travelers. Awareness is recognized as a key driver of modal shift.

Sharing Resources

The popularity and effectiveness of resource sharing is already being demonstrated through the success of familiar car sharing and bicycle sharing initiatives internationally. Peer-to-peer lift sharing schemes based on social media platforms are becoming more widespread, for example Zimride linking intercity drivers with passengers in the United States, and BlaBlaCar in Europe.


Smart payment and ticketing services also contribute to the user experience and the convenience of sustainable travel decisions. Smart ticketing offers benefits in reduced queuing time for travelers and a more convenient way to hop from one mode to another.

Smart solutions are becoming widely adopted as the way to pay for multi-modal mass transit systems in many parts of the world. It is also becoming common to widen the use of smart cards to include electronic payments in retail outlets, thereby further embedding the ticketing solution as a convenient urban payment system.

2. Transport Operators: Balancing Transport Demand With Supply

Command and control centers have the capability to aggregate real time operational data from across the transport system, interpret current conditions and predict the future on the basis of past trends. These capabilities enable rapid response to sudden increased demand in the system and avoidance of excessive peaks.
For example, where severe congestion inhibits traffic flows along a road, command and control centers distribute advice about alternative routes to avoid backup of vehicles in the surrounding road network. Or, where a major event causes high demand for bus travel, command and control centers direct operators to increase capacity by adding more vehicles into the system.

As tools become more sophisticated, transport operators will be able to communicate predictive information to travelers, to influence passenger demand. A project in Paris is already seeking to use predictive modeling to give people better information about their journeys and influence their overall use of the system.

3. Urban Planners: Improving Planning Through Predictive Modeling

Planners have the opportunity to use the vast amounts of data generated by public and private actors to improve the planning and delivery of transport services and facilities to citizens, by using data to identify and address problems. The full range of opportunities available to planners is only beginning to be recognized, and is moving gradually from the research forum to become an integrated part of urban planning practice.
Mobile phones, parking sensors, congestion charging zones and smart card ticketing all yield valuable data about how and when people are moving around the city, and how these patterns are affected by variables like traffic, weather or public events. Supplemented by social media, aggregated data can also provide detail of citizens’ thoughts and feelings about places and experiences. Personal privacy is ensured through anonymization of the data, before it is made available for use.

The rise of new technologies and information based services in the mobility sector offers a range of valuable responses to the challenges of operational efficiency and personal travel demand in cities. Benefits can accrue to travelers, transport operators, urban planners and city governments, who together can enable improved system functionality, environmental sustainability, traveler experience and new economic value.

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