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Smart Cities Transportation

What You Will Learn

Smart Cities Transportation Foundations

In this tutorial we refer to transportation as any and every system that moves people around a city. Think of a city’s streets, vehicles, railways, subways, buses, bicycles, streetcars, ferries and so on. All play an essential role in the hustle and bustle of today’s cities in commuting to work, running errands, attending classes, enjoying a night out, shipping and receiving products, delivering pizzas. We rely on the vast web of transportation networks in our cities. We trust that they will get us where we need to be in an efficient, safe manner for a reasonable price.

But that’s not always the case. Transportation networks in cities around the world struggle with serious problems, like congestion. A recent study calculated that traffic congestion in 2019 wasted $121 billion in the United States alone in time, fuel and money. Another study predicts that emissions from vehicles idling in traffic jams will result in 1,600 premature deaths and $13 billion in “total social costs” in the U.S. by 2025.

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Of course it’s not a problem the U.S. faces alone. A 2020 Congestion Index comparing congestion levels in 2020 versus 2019 in 161 cities across five continents ranked the top 10 most congested cities as:

  1. Moscow
  2. Istanbul
  3. Warsaw
  4. Marseille
  5. Palermo
  6. Los Angeles
  7. Sydney
  8. Stuttgart
  9. Paris
  10. Rome

Fortunately, there are a lot of ways cities can fix traffic congestion by deploying ICT, as you’ll read about in the sections that follow.

The promise of smart transportation and the reality of city congestion means that this market subsector is growing rapidly. A 2019 study by MarketsAndMarkets found that global spending on smart transportation initiatives will quadruple to more than $102 billion in 2025 from almost $27 billion in 2020.

As you explore this tutorial you’ll discover there are four targets that cities need to achieve to put smart transportation into high gear. We’ll also briefly discuss how the universal targets apply to transportation. But first, a quick look at transportation dependencies and then we’ll highlight the incredible benefits in livability, workability and sustainability that smart transportation networks provide.

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Dependencies in Smart Cities Transportation

Improving transportation infrastructure and services are a high priority for many cities. As they plan improvements they will want to be cognizant of the interdependencies between transportation systems and energy and communications systems as well as the built environment. The connection between transportation and the built environment is straightforward – roads, rails and ports are typically essential components of a smart transportation system – but can also represent massive construction investments.

Beyond cost considerations, the various modes of transport all require power and communications to function properly within a smart transportation environment – especially true as cities move to electrified light rail or buses and set up recharging infrastructure for electric vehicles.

Future Public Transport - Next Generation Transportation System

Benefits of Smart Transportation

In the highlights that follow you’ll get a better understanding of how smart transportation improves a city’s livability, workability and sustainability:


Reducing traffic and congestion

Advanced analytics and instrumentation can provide cities with the information they need to minimize congestion. Traffic lights can be synchronized and adjusted for optimal traffic flow. In-vehicle collision-avoidance systems can take action to prevent congestion-causing accidents. Incident detention and notification systems can analyze information from cameras and vehicles to detect traffic problems, alert drivers and suggest alternative routes. Parking can be made more efficient through instrumentation and mobile apps.

Reducing trip time

With the help of analytics and ICT, traveler information systems and realtime route planning can plot multi-modal routes for travelers. Smart city transportation networks direct people when and where to switch from a bus to the subway, for example, to arrive at destinations at the lowest cost or fastest time. And traffic and weather alerts can be delivered via smartphone applications to
alleviate commute times.

Empowering people with choice and control

Smart transportation gives people the power to make better transportation decisions. In smart cities, multi-modal fare cards are used to pay for all forms of city transportation or parking. And data gathering instrumentation and open data policies empower them with their own transportation information. People create ridesharing apps to optimally pair passengers and drivers, neighborhood-specific parking and traffic maps, apps that publish wait times for parking lots and so on.

Improving public safety

Smart transportation has a strong link to public safety. First responders require mobility to perform their lifesaving work, and ICT can make their jobs easier by optimizing traffic lights when necessary and empowering them to see potential traffic snarls in real time so they can select the most efficient travel routes.


Increasing cities’ competitive advantage

The quality of cities’ transportation infrastructure is a major factor in business and industry investment decisions. Business and industry often depend on reliable employee travel and/ or transport of goods. Transportation networks that offer reliability are sought out.

Becoming more attractive to talent

Professionals, like businesses, consider mobility when deciding where to locate. Cities with efficient transport will see their businesses thrive, thereby increasing the tax and employment base.


Reducing pollution from transportation

Pollution is a problem in both the developed and developing worlds, and transportation is a major contributor. Smart technologies and practices can significantly reduce transportation’s environmental impact. Traffic management creates a more efficient road network and reduces travel time, reducing vehicle emissions. And smart public transit is easier and more convenient, attracting more riders and reducing reliance on automobiles. Smart cities also encourage the use of electric vehicles by example, choosing them whenever possible for their own fleets and providing charging stations in public buildings.

Improving transportation budgets

Cities spend billions on their public transportation systems, and yet they are often inefficient, with a capacity not in line with demand. Smart technologies unleash the savings and efficiency potential of transportation investments. For example, information from embedded smart devices can be analyzed to determine subway system expansion needs with respect to highest transit priority, future demand needs – and then servicing that demand at the lowest cost.

Additionally, analytics can make the most out of expensive transportation assets. Sensors and monitors can report on the actual condition of infrastructure so that operators can make better decisions, servicing equipment based on actual condition and not on a guess. This kind of asset management can squeeze many extra years of use from an investment, and all without compromising equipment or passenger safety.

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Instrumentation and control

As we turn to the transportation targets, this first one highlights the many types of smart devices that help cities monitor and control traffic – roadway sensors, smart streetlights and GPS devices to name just a few.

Implement optimal devices and other instrumentation for all transportation modes

Deploying the right devices in the right places — covering all modes of transport — provides the data smart cities use to analyze traffic in real time. In some cases, optimal instrumentation may mean a smart device for every vehicle, for instance, a GPS tracker for every bus. In other cases, it may mean a smart device “every so often.” For example, a roadway sensor placed every so often as needed to provide a picture of traffic on city highways and byways. Gathering and analyzing data from all modes of transportation within a city enables multimodal optimization.


The data collected from a city’s smart transportation network often impacts more than just transportation operators. A fire crew racing to an apartment blaze will want to know about a blocking accident so they can take an alternate route. Likewise, long waits at a city ferry terminal may be something the communications office needs to know in real time so they can alert the traveling public.

Connect devices with citywide, multi-service communications

It’s not enough to embed smart devices throughout a transportation network. The data the devices gather needs to be channeled through a citywide communications system so it can be analyzed and acted upon.

Panasonic and the Colorado Department of Transportation Transform the Future of Transportation


Cities can rarely afford an out-with-the-old, in-with-the-new overhaul of their transportation systems, much as they might want to. The targets in this section highlight some of the ways cites can make sure they’re making decisions today that will bode well into the future.

Adhere to open standards

Insisting on open standards will increase choice and decrease costs, as products can be mixed and matched from different vendors.

Use open integration architectures and loosely coupled interfaces

Cities that adopt open integration architectures make it much easier and simpler to share data between applications.

Prioritize the use of legacy investments

As you well know, transportation systems can be a huge investment and most cities can ill-afford to scrap equipment that still has lifetime value. So as cities add intelligence to their transportation network, it makes sense to use existing equipment and systems whenever possible to avoid unnecessary spending and stranding assets.

Enable multi-channel access to an integrated customer transportation account

One goal of a smart transportation system is to encourage people to use it – so making it incredibly convenient will be a big factor. A couple ways smart cities can do that is to enable people to 1) pay for all city transportation services with a single account and 2) enable access to this account through multiple channels integrated fare cards, cell phones, websites, on-vehicle transponders, etc.

A single account covering multiple modes of transportation and offering multiple channels of access lowers barriers to mass use. Increased usage boosts efficiency and revenue and decreases road congestion. Although it is unlikely a city can integrate all modes of transport at once, it’s a goal worth working toward.

Security and privacy

The security and privacy concerns that apply to other city infrastructures are equally important in the realm of public transportation.

Publish privacy rules

As we mentioned in the last section, transit authorities are moving to single account payment systems, which will generate data that can track where an individual has been and when. Some transit systems also use video surveillance for security purposes. Those are just two reasons why publishing privacy rules will help cities get in front of a potential consumer backlash.

Create a security framework

One of the realities of life today is that a driver never knows who’s hopping on a bus or what’s in the backpack he’s carrying. And what about the package left behind on a subway seat? A security framework mitigates risk by taking a proactive approach and using ICT technologies to identify and address threats before they can cause damage.

Implement cybersecurity

Smart transportation systems collect all manner of data that could make them vulnerable to cyber attack – from smart card payment information to ridership details. Having strong cybersecurity measures in place will help ward off trouble.

Data management

With smart sensors, smart payment systems, GPS and all the other intelligent devices that are gathering data as part of a smart transportation system, the city and its residents are all better off when there’s a plan for managing it.

Create and adhere to a citywide data management, transparency and sharing policy

Citywide data management plans make it easier to enforce the privacy and security best practices discussed in the last section. But they also can help improve data accuracy and lower costs by eliminating unnecessary duplication.

Computing resources

Transportation systems involve a lot of data, a lot of logistics, and a lot of detail that ICT can help cities get under control. The targets below illustrate some of the ways they can do that.

Consider a cloud computing framework

A cloud computing framework enables the scalability of systems, reduces costs and improves reliability.

Use an open innovation platform

A lot of cities are seeing amazing results with open innovation platforms that empower developers to create apps that city residents can use. Smart parking apps, for instance, are very popular. Apps that people can use to sync up with bus and train schedules are too.

Have access to a central GIS

City decisionmaking capabilities are greatly improved with a central GIS. A transit system, for instance, can see efficiency gains through more intelligent scheduling and routing.

Have access to comprehensive network and device management

To manage the large, scattered deployments of smart devices across the transportation infrastructure, smart cities rely on comprehensive device management programs that improve security and resiliency, deliver cost savings and enforce compliance with city data management, security and privacy policies.


No surprise that analytics can have a major impact in a transportation network. This section includes some new targets that reveal how.

Achieve full situational awareness

Using the smart devices deployed across various transportation modes, smart cities use analytics to provide their transportation managers with a complete operating picture. This increases the reliability and resiliency of the infrastructure, and allows for the quickest possible incident response time. Full situational awareness also enables dynamic, multi-modal disaster and recovery plans.

Achieve multi-modal operational optimization for transportation

When it comes to optimizing transportation operations, the goal is to make sure the optimization takes place across all modes, in or near real-time depending on circumstances. Cities that optimize transport modes individually limit the returns on their technology investments, since a change or incident in one mode will likely impact another. An example is a problem that shuts down a subway line, sending a big influx of riders to the closest bus.

There are many ways that multi-modal optimization improves transit operations, including:

Improved mobility

Travel is as fast, efficient and safe as possible. Traffic lights are optimized to eliminate structural traffic problems. Or to find the best compromise to allow streetcars to pass with minimum delays for auto traffic. Likewise, data analysis might suggest a new bus route along a particularly crowded transit corridor. Or a smartphone app could alert drivers to the best route, sending them around congestion and accidents. Improved mobility is important to residents, of course, but is also critical for businesses that move people or goods around a city.

Cost savings

In addition to the cost benefits of reduced congestion, multi-modal transport optimization brings cost benefits to cities through more efficient energy usage and improved customer experience. (As noted earlier, the better the experience the more willing people are to use public transportation.) In some scenarios, system optimization can reduce costs through shared infrastructure – especially ICT resources – and by getting more out of existing infrastructure. It can also defer or delay the need for new roadways or additional buses by optimizing the use of what the city has in place already


Multi-modal transport optimization can be a tool that smart cities use to accomplish specific transportation goals. If pollution is a major problem, then a city can effectively optimize its transport system to promote bus use over private car use, and subway use over bus use. Or if a city suffers from rush-hour bus congestion, it can optimize its transport system to increase subway use during that time.

Achieve asset optimization

The goal is to ensure a city can extract maximum value from its transportation infrastructure and instrumentation investments. This includes calculating precisely which transportation assets should be replaced or repaired and when to achieve maximum return on investment.

Pursue predictive analytics

The importance of using analytics to predict when elements of transportation infrastructure are close to failure can’t be overstated. Consider the value of predictive maintenance, for example, in relation to the integrity of critical infrastructures such as bridges and highways. Not only can predictive maintenance save money, but it can also save lives.

Enable dynamic, demand-based pricing

Smart cities have systems in place to use dynamic, demand-based pricing as a tool to influence customer behavior. As cities better understand people’s transportation behavior through instrumentation and analytics, they can influence that behavior by changing prices throughout the day to accomplish their transportation goals.

For example, a city with crippling morning smog can analyze vehicle use at that time and tailor parking prices for vehicles based on distance traveled. Or a city with high road congestion can toll the road with variable pricing and/or alter its bus and subway pricing in targeted areas to reduce traffic. Cities have different transportation circumstances and priorities, and different political operating environments, so the use of dynamic pricing to influence behavior is likely to differ from city to city.

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