It’s hard to imagine life without cars or our expansive network of highways and country roads. These innovations and systems gave us the ability to work outside of our small communities. They made it possible to live in the country and work in the city. To drive from one end of the country to the other in just a few days. To transport massive amounts of goods and connect people all around the world. But while roads create so many advantages for our economy and livelihoods, they bring disadvantages as well.
If you’ve driven on any highway, in any city, you’ve seen some of these disadvantages: congestion, pollution, etc. But many of us don’t imagine a solution. We’ve accepted it as part of our lives. Fortunately, there’s a lot of room for improvement. City planners, legislators, and innovators are reimagining the future of mobility. These ideas are taking shape in projects like the Smart Mobility Framework.
What is Smart Mobility Framework?
The Smart Mobility Framework was once known as Smart Mobility 2010: A Call to Action for the New Decade. Caltrans prepared the framework, alongside the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), the Governor’s Office of Planning & Research, and the California Department of Housing & Community Development. The intent was to address both long and short term challenges of mobility with multi-modal programmatic actions. In other words, to form strategies to solve California’s long list of transportation issues.
They call the approach “smart mobility”. Ideally, it involves all roads within the state, as well as various plans, programs, and projects. This movement began with the state’s push for more environmentally conscious policies and efforts to reduce greenhouse gasses. The state implemented several mandates to encourage this push even further. In addition to reducing emissions in the transportation sector, the goal is to also enhance the state’s economy and livelihood of its citizens.
They focus on six principles to achieve this:
- Health and safety
- Social equity
- Environmental stewardship
- Economic bolstering
The framework also classifies towns, cities, and other areas in order to segment investments and planning. They determine this with characteristics like residential density, street network, and employment density. This analysis will take years and require several public meetings and the work of hundreds. But in the end, it should solve the many transportation problems California faces.
Urban Mobility Problems & City Mobility Solutions
Urban mobility is an issue in every state, but California’s enormous population and rapid growth has led to some exceptional challenges. The Smart Mobility Framework addresses many of the issues below and builds a guide for how to solve them.
Congestion is the first and most obvious issue. In southern California, particularly around Los Angeles, the traffic congestion is notorious. It leads to longer commutes, increased accidents, escalated fuel use, pollution, and frustration for those on the road. It’s an impact on livelihood and therefore an impact on the community at large. There are several causes:
- Increased personal vehicle use
- Poor traffic routing
- Urban design issues
- Antiquated city centers with smaller streets
- The inability to accommodate commuters
However, there are several viable solutions to these issues. The first is to restrict city centers to walking-only areas, offer scooter rentals, and create bike lanes. Cities may also adjust routes and stops for public transportation. Additionally, they can add smart traffic lights, HOV lanes, BRT systems, and begin metering on ramps.
Space is rarely used efficiently—especially in cities. Mainly because it’s incredibly difficult to anticipate growth and the needs of the future. This issue becomes even more complex if a plan for growth was never taken into account. Ideally, city planners would always be anticipating growth in their cities. However, it’s clear that’s not always the case. Old roads weren’t ready for big vehicles and increased populations. Elon Musk critiqued the idea that we’d all be able to cohesively live in a world of individualized transport. Instead, he believes that the most efficient system is fixed routing and public transport solutions. The increasing interest in mobility as a service (MaaS) may be the most viable solution.
The movement to reimagine urban mobility rose from the need to reduce greenhouse gasses. This is why it’s one of the main concerns of the Smart Mobility Framework. There is, however, a large misconception that greenhouse gases are the only concern when it comes to environmental impact. Instead, the concern is pollution as a whole. This includes the damage car and truck exhaust does to our health, water, and the surrounding environment. There are several solutions, but they’re likely years off. The solutions include more fuel-efficient vehicles, electric vehicles, automation of transportation, an exponential increase in public transportation, and MaaS.
All drivers understand that risk is a factor when commuting day in and day out. Fleet vehicles encounter these risks at greater numbers due to the nature of their industry. Accidents cost drivers and companies billions each year and claim thousands of lives. Although it’s possible that an increase in public transportation could have the same results, it’s unlikely. However, the cost of labor is generally high, contributing to your bus or train coming less frequently. Autonomous vehicles can reduce the number of accidents, decrease overall costs, and enhance pedestrian safety. By decreasing the total number of personal vehicles on the road, it leaves more space for bike lanes and larger sidewalks for pedestrians.
Other Urban Mobility Problems
There are dozens of problems with transportation in cities. Many are intertwined with each other and the aforementioned issues. They include:
- Parking difficulties
- Public transportation inadequecy
- Lack of bike lanes
- Loss of public space
- Noise pollution
- High maintenance costs
- Infrastructure costs
- Energy consumption
- Land footprint
- Freight distribution
- Dependence on automobiles
Luckily, the solutions for resolving these issues are the same. It depends entirely on reducing the dependence on private vehicles. Cities all over the world are finding ways to do this. They’re improving subway systems and routing for busses. They’re turning shopping areas and congested streets that have major parking issues into pedestrian-only areas. They’re increasing scooter, bike, and even segway rental choices for city-goers. Plus, they’re using telematics to streamline and optimize these options for the future.
Telematics systems provide real-time data of vehicle diagnostics, fuel consumption, and idling. They also offer route optimization, utilization reporting, and maintenance alerts. With smart integration, they can keep passengers informed of routes, schedules, ETAs, and alternate mobility options. Plus, telematics can improve safety with behavior monitoring. diagnostics, and alert emergency services in the event of an accident.
The transportation industry faces many challenges today, but telematics is quickly moving beyond trucking fleets and into public transportation. The solutions telematics offer are only beginning to come to light. Azuga is already looking to the future.
Learn more about what telematics can offer your fleet, at Azuga.