A new working paper from the Coalition for Urban Transitions on connected urban growth and transforming urban mobility says forming partnerships that allow cities to use the distinctive features of new mobility services to improve their transportation systems is critical to creating affording, accessible and sustainable public transportation. Integrating electric, on-demand minibuses; subsidized shared rides, and trip-planning and ticketing apps into mass transit systems and public transport will provide convenient and flexible transportation but also create wider economic and environmental benefits for urban residents.
According to a 2014 UN report, 54% of the world’s population lives in urban areas, and will increase to 66% by 2050. Another 2.5 billion people will be living in urban populations by 2050, and 90 % of that increase will be in Asia and Africa.
Shannon Bouton, Chief Operating Officer, McKinsey Center for Business and Environment and one of the lead researchers of the paper said that the way people live and move in cities is changing.
“The fact that companies in every region of the world are developing new mobility apps and services reflects the fact that urban dwellers everywhere want and need more convenient, flexible, and budget-friendly transportation options,” said Bouton.
The report noted that more than 70 cities are already partnering with new private mobility services and addressing challenges public transit systems face and more than half of new mobility start-ups fall into the shared mobility category like mass transit and bicycle sharing, and 63% of those are based in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
The city of Linz in Austria is one of those towns that has changed its public transit system by connecting all of its light rail trams, buses, ticketing machines and stations to an Internet of Things (IoT) in partnership with Cisco. Through real-time data analytics, Linz increased transportation efficiency and improved the rider experience while reducing energy consumption by 10 percent and carbon dioxide output by more than 490 tons.
As part of the transformation, Linz turned their 60 light-rail trams and 180 buses into free public Wi-Fi hotspots. On average, more than 24,000 unique users connect to the Wi-Fi each month, generating more than 4,000 GB of wireless traffic per month.
“The city started by just connecting one light-rail tram to the IoT in 2015 and then turning it into a free public Wi-Fi hotspot as part of the initial test pilot project. As they experienced success, they have over time expanded the connected transportation project so that all 60 of the light-rail trams are now connected,” said Barry Einsig, Cisco Global Transportation Executive. “Within just the past couple months, the city has now also connected an all-new fleet of 180 buses and also turned them into Wi-Fi hotspots.”
The city said they were able to capture more than 500 data sets from each tram and bus in real-time. The data sets were mostly telematics data including real-time data on the health of the equipment and trams themselves including indicators like the temperature of the equipment, whether or not the electricity powering the tram was stable and the operational health of the equipment. The data helped them optimize equipment health and start predictive maintenance procedures which didn’t exist before.
On the human front, Linz took the real-time data of the braking and acceleration behavior of each tram driver and used analytics to see how they could optimize their driving. Using that data, they gave courses that taught drivers how to make their braking and acceleration more efficient. The city says that 12% of the electricity powering the light-rail trams comes from fossil fuels, so by making braking and acceleration more efficient, the city estimates that CO2 emissions have been reduced by 490 tons since the initial pilot began.
The city also connected more than 400 ticketing machines with IoT-enabled sensors for predictive maintenance. This enabled Linz to make proactive repairs and eliminate downtime entirely according to Einsig.
“By connecting all the ticketing machines throughout the city to the network, workers are now able to manage them all from the control center,” said Einsig. “They can, for example, update the interface on any or all ticketing machines anywhere in the city from their control center whenever needed. Sensors on the ticketing machines notify workers if they are malfunctioning, have been tampered with or when preventative maintenance is needed.”
In the past, if a ticketing machine wasn’t working correctly, the Linz transportation department didn’t know until someone complained about it. Workers spent hours going to each machine to investigate and potentially had to spend more time going back once they determined the problem, to get the appropriate tools necessary to fix it. Now, because all of the ticket machines are connected to Linz’s IoT platform and have sensors communicate the situation, workers are prepared with the right equipment before they go to a machine. Since the project began, there has been zero downtime of any ticketing machine.
“While many of today’s large, metropolitan areas are still in the pilot phase of their connected transportation and smart city projects, Linz is already miles ahead in the race to digital transformation,” said Einsig. “Linz set out to become the most innovative city in Austria but has proven itself to be one of the most innovative in the world – showing the power of not only connecting transportation infrastructures but also using the data they collect to drive new efficiencies. Other cities should look to Linz as an example of how the Internet of Things can improve the way we travel, and even make the world safer and more sustainable.”
According to Einsig, Linz’s connected transportation IoT initiative has been so successful that the city is now rolling-out additional plans to become the most innovative “smart city” in the region.
Correction: This post has been updated to reflect the correct data on CO2 output from 98 tons to 490 tons.