By Erica Zamensky, Black & Veatch, Smart Integrated Infrastructure
Year by year, the world’s population continues to evolve into metro sapiens. With growing urbanization, our dominant habitat is a high-density jungle with rivers of people, cars, busses, trolleys and trains meandering through the cityscape. Alongside the urban boom, pressure mounts within City Hall to provide efficient, sustainable transportation, which is at the core of livable cities. To do this, cities must tap their data-rich environment to build sustainable multi-modal transportation networks that increase citizen mobility, enhance the city experience and future-proof emission-free travel.
A seamless multi-modal transportation network creates more travel options on the same stretch of street. Citizens can walk, bike, bus and Uber their way across town, which improves citizen mobility and reduces traffic and associated greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Multi-modal networks also positively affect land use. Networks that enhance bike and walking paths, for example, increase foot-traffic, which can revive underused neighborhoods and bring more customers into retail and restaurant areas. Over time, land use and transportation harmonize. Newly established bike paths encourage citizens to leave their car keys at home. In turn, land uses shift to mirror new citizen habits. For example, a parking lot may morph into a bike-share lot or a shaded park for ambling residents to take five.
Through the Internet of Everything, mobile applications support multi-modal networks and enable cities to optimize use of transportation assets. Black & Veatch is helping cities integrate smart infrastructure, such as sensors and wired and wireless telecommunication networks, into their public transportation and city networks to establish a smart platform that enhances citizen-to-city engagement. Through this platform, travelers have mobile access to real-time transportation schedules and up-to-the-moment travel options. In addition, Wi-Fi on public transportation adds value to transit, enabling commuters to stay connected and productive, which may increase ridership.
As multi-modal systems and connectivity emphasize convenient and sustainable mobility, electrification of vehicles propels efficient urban transportation even further. Transportation accounts for 26% of total U.S. GHG emissions and up to 40% in cities. Cities are launching electric transit bus fleets to counter these choking air quality impacts. As they commission their electric transit fleets, cities like San Francisco are realizing benefits beyond improved air and energy independence: electric transit fleets are 29% cheaper to maintain than natural gas fleets and are just as reliable.
Multi-modal system planning ushers in new approaches to balance the in-flux of new technologies. Increased electric fleet and electric vehicle (EV) adoption underscores the need to consider the energy requirements of clean transportation. Black & Veatch supports cities and utilities to understand current and projected energy demand to stabilize the grid through innovative approaches to energy storage and demand response, leveraging smart EV charging and distributed energy resource management.
To future-proof evolving transportation systems, collaboration between cities and utilities ensures regional energy resilience as electric transportation adoption escalates. Least-regrets planning and smart infrastructure integration that considers transportation, energy and future smart city applications ensures a lasting, unified system.
With a focus in science, engineering and smart city technologies, Erica Zamensky’s body of work includes research/writing technical manuals and reports, white papers, congressional review technical summaries, issue papers and marketing materials. Erica’s technical and creative writing portfolio includes over 30 articles published in magazines and professional journals. Erica is a Senior Technical Writer in Black & Veatch’s Smart Integrated Infrastructure business.