Mobility of persons and goods is highly related to economic activity and growth. For the last 200 years, economy is quickly growing, creating attracting poles in cities forecasted to grow from today’s over 50% to 70% of the global population living in megacities by 2050. With several episodes of traffic restrictions due to high pollution levels in main cities worldwide, governments are already considering transportation-related emissions as the cause of 50% of pollution-related deaths. EU Commission is already considering the application of fines to France, Spain, Italy, Germany and UK.
Air quality is a relevant challenge for sustainability and transportation-related emissions are estimated to participate in 21% of total emissions in Europe with a worldwide global rate of 17% that continue to increase. Obviously, exhausted gases from vehicles have dangerous effects on humans, due both to harmful nitrogen and sulfur combinations and particles (PM2.5, PM10), that are accumulating in dense smog due to weather conditions.
Modal shift and traffic management are key pieces in order to achieve the required reductions. Additionally, economic consequences of human deaths and related costs of ambient air pollution are estimated in a yearly 478,000 deaths and USD 1.7 trillion cost in OECD countries in 2010, 50% of them, close to USD 1 trillion was due to transportation emissions. Outdoor air pollution contributes to about 40,000 early deaths a year in the UK. Transport is a main source for air quality problems.
Identifying the problem, measuring conditions
Several pollution types are directly related to transportation, mostly gas emissions and noise. Both types are prejudicial for quality of life in megacities. Internet-of-Things, simple COx/NOx/PM, ambient noise sensors and existing communication networks can provide valuable information. Combined with available traffic data into the existing ATMS, enabling fine tuning of actions that can be required. Modeling can provide short-term forecast for decision making.
Optimizing traffic flow
Traffic flow optimization is a key aspect for the last years, as part of emissions reduction actions. Here are important ones worth highlighting:
Signals Adaptive algorithms are already applied, with demonstrated results when congestion is close to its higher values, but traffic sensing requirements limits applicability to selected areas and cities, mostly due to the required maintenance of the high number of sensors.
More traditional green wave adjustments, also with online recalculation, in high-traffic arterials provide efficient congestion management from mid to high saturation, providing as possible continued traffic flows on arterials at known speeds. Both indirect speed control and larger bandwidths provide significant results in emissions, delays and stops.
Parking guidance appears nowadays as a needed complementary solution, studies show that up to 20% of city-center traffic is gathering for parking spaces, and even more in over-saturated older cities, with low speeds and irregular driving behavior. By leveraging collected occupancy data with active utilization using Smart Parking solutions, impactful positive results can be achieved in cities such as reduced congestion caused by parking, vehicle hours travelled, gasoline spent in search of parking space resulting in a reduced carbon footprint.
Limiting traffic in city centers is also a commonly used approach, in several “flavors”, as residential areas, with pedestrians centers, congestion charging as even/odd plate control , together with enforcement policies.
Low Emission Zones
A typical strategy commonly used, is to introduce Low Emission Zones. Only lesser polluting vehicles or those below a certain weight may be permitted to enter certain geographically defined areas. Low Emission Zones are able to recognize all vehicle categories. Any size of Low Emission Zones can be monitored. ANPR (automatic number plate recognition) camera technology combined with a back office provides a cost-efficient electronic enforcement of Low Emission Zones. Vehicle details, such as registration number, owner, make, model and emissions class, can be used.
In Bologna, the absolute traffic number was reduced by up to 31%. Particle matter emissions were reduced by 47%. In all cases, basic capabilities are required, and must be available from monitoring, control and management systems.
Shifting from reactive to proactive response, in management and operation, is already a key aspect for efficiency and less-intrusive actions, mostly enabled by forecasting or non-usual conditions detection.
Promoting modal-shift and inter-modality
But managing traffic is only part of the equation for emissions reduction in transportation, and doesn’t provide expected results if not complemented by a strategic plan on all other mobility stakeholders. Public transit and alternative media are key players to maintain mobility.
Solutions allowing cities to set-up an ecosystem for the deployment of integrated mobility services, leveraging existing capacities in several aspects are now available. With the integrated mobility platform at the heart of the Mobility-as-a-Service ecosystem, travelers are linked to mobility offerings providing them with more efficient, affordable, accessible and green mobility options.
Let’s be user-centric…
Citizenship is the real user for mobility initiatives and being user-centric is a must. Networking, information-sharing and public services are key. Almost everything is available and accessible on a smartphone. Social networks have already turned into alternative service providers, from well-known Uber to parking sharing, turning each individual into a potential provider. Most of the available apps and services related to traffic already provide clear benefits on emissions as they already tend to optimize trips, avoid private cars usage (Uber, bike/car rental) and recirculation or enable easier public transit usage, including online ticket buying.
Transportation is a key aspect of economic activity and also the origin of pollution mostly concentrated in cities. With a high effort on innovation for efficient transport media and inter-modality worldwide, Transportation Management is one of the key players for sustainable mobility, leveraging newer technologies to improve analysis, processes, information dissemination and even reinventing how humans and goods move during their daily activities. ◆