Road congestion: Can your city really afford to do nothing?

Fri, 2015-02-20 06:00 -- Liz Enbysk

Reports indicate road congestion is costing the United States economy upwards of $100 billion a year in wasted fuel and time. A study from the Harvard Center for Risk Assessment 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 2020.

Multiply those grim statistics by the number of countries around the world that face similar traffic woes and that's a lot of economic dysfunction – and a lot of unnecessary loss of life.

And there are a lot of ways to fix it. In the Council's Smart Cities Readiness Guide and on this website, you'll find numerous case studies that showcase how cities have solved – or greatly reduced –  road congestion. For example:

  • Bustling Bucheon City in western Korea is using intelligent video analytics to provide real-time traffic information to drivers, including emergency responders, as well as conduct traffic surveillance and improve city roads. Using the Smart Vision Suite Traffic Extension and other solutions from Council Lead Partner IBM, Bucheon City increased its traffic data collection speed by over 1,200%.
  • Bilbao leaders wanted to make their city in Northern Spain a better place to live by promoting public transport, more efficient urban freight improvement, and by making traffic and mobility data available to citizens. With the EcoTrafiX solution from Council Lead Partner Schneider Electric, Bilbao is able to increase collaboration between agencies and improve situational awareness to enable more efficient traffic management.
  • Fast-growing Phoenix, Arizona embarked on a project in 2010 to reduce both travel times for commuters and operational expenses. A wireless communications solution from Council Associate Partner ABB's Tropos subsidiary helped Phoenix meet its objective of an Intelligent Transportation System that could handle multiple applications. The wireless mesh network includes traffic cameras and radios that provide communications to traffic signals enabling better traffic management.

Pop-up buses and other innovations
An IBM blog points to some out-of-the-box thinking on fixing the road congestion that plagues so many cities. For instance:

  • Pop-up buses from start-up Bridj are changing the transportation mix in Boston. Using a smartphone, customers enter where they are, where they want to go and when they want to leave. Bridj picks its customers up in private minibuses using a series of data points to design dynamic routes the company hopes will reduce the time, cost and inconvenience of commuting.
  • Two-person jet-like transport pods that travel on rails through a magnetic levitation technology is the idea behind skyTran, a NASA Space Act company based in Mountain View, California. The company's computer-controlled Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) system will get its first demonstration on the grounds of Israel Aerospace Industries, which is headquartered in Lod, Israel.

Related topics…
Cisco video: The Internet of Everything – the Last Traffic Jam
Microsoft video: Transforming Public Transportation in Kathmandu
Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre case study: Prioritizing the Implementation of Audible Pedestrian Crosswalks