Climate change, air quality, digitalisation, multimodality, equity – cities worldwide are facing numerous challenges in mobility and transportation. How are they addressing those challenges and meeting the needs of their citizens and economies? These are the questions the City Moonshot initiative by ERTICO – ITS Europe explored. The results of this global survey were summarized in a comprehensive report with the aim to support cities in the current mobility (r)evolution. So, let’s take a closer look at the most pressing topics cities see in terms of mobility and how smart software solutions and PTV expertise can help tackling them.
What is the City Moonshot?
ERTICO, a community of public and private stakeholders in the mobility sector, started the City Moonshot in 2020 to gather and share information on the needs, challenges and solutions of cities worldwide to shape and improve their mobility ecosystems. Three major topics were selected to serve as a focus of the research:
- Sustainability (climate change and air quality)
2. Data sharing
3. Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS)
“As far as we know, the City Moonshot is a unique initiative, whereby in the first phase we spoke with more than 150 cities and their senior representatives on topics of sustainability and air quality, data sharing and Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS)”, explains Joost Vantomme, CEO of ERTICO.
Sustainability (climate change and air quality)
Mobility has always been an important driver of progress. The continuous and efficient flow of people and goods is a central lifeline of every city. But growing urbanization and demand for mobility also have some severe negative side effects. 61 % of the surveyed cities indicated traffic congestion as their primary challenge in terms of mobility, followed by pollution and noise (51%).
If we look at the key priorities on the other hand it is not surprising that city authorities named improving the public transport system (79%) and air quality (68%), followed by decarbonizing city mobility (68%). And all of this needs to be done in an equitable manner.
Powerful tools: Transportation modelling and simulation
Transportation modelling and simulation are powerful tools to tackle these challenges and shaping cities according to these key priorities. They help city and transportation planners to understand the entire mobility ecosystem with all modes of transport, run though different measures and possible scenarios and thus, develop advanced and future-proofed transportation strategies and solutions.
The Estonian capital Tallin – often named as a smart city role model – uses a transportation model in PTV Visum to analyze both traffic and public transport issues, predict mobility needs and improve urban and mobility planning.
Transportation models empower city planners to take the right decision towards a more sustainable and efficient, safer and equitable mobility system. Let’s examine how exactly models help with the challenges and goals outlined in the Moonshot initiative.
Challenge 1: Congestion
Intelligent traffic management is one of the best formular here. Future-oriented cities like Taichung, Vienna, York, or Rome already rely on PTV’s real-time solution which combines innovative machine learning techniques with proven dynamic traffic modeling. PTV Optima helps operators to make reliable traffic forecasts up to 60 minutes in advance and identify the best scenarios to manage congestion, road closures and construction sites. Smart traffic management enables operators to quickly react to changing condition. This can prevent or mitigate traffic jams and congested roads.
Adaptive signal control plays an important role here too. The city of Taipei is for example using PTV Balance, software solution that continually optimizes the traffic lights, to improve traffic flow and to keep emissions and vehicle delays at a minimum.
Challenge 2: Pollution & Noise
Lockdown periods in the first phase of the pandemic have given us a glimpse of how cities could look like with less traffic – clear skies, birds singing instead of cars honking, people cycling or sitting in terrasse cafés. To shape this kind of livable environment and achieve the green change in mobility, cities are rethinking their infrastructure. The reallocation of public space in favor of pedestrians, cyclists, and public transport, made it to the agenda of many authorities. In the Moonshot initiative, additional bicycle lanes (85%) and investments in public transport (75%) are among the most frequently mentioned actions cities are currently taking to address climate emergency.
Holistic approaches to achieving the shift away from cars towards a sustainable future are described in SUMPS – Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans. SUMPS are integrated plans with a citizen-centric equity focus and include all relevant forms of mobility, with an increased focus on sustainable and active modes such as cycling, walking and walking to transit. They require people to be active, which are good for public health as well. PTV Group’s consultants support cities in developing these plans – currently for example the German City of Frankfurt am Main.
But here again transportation models come into play. They allow planners and officials to think outside the box, to estimate the social, environmental, and economic impacts of planned infrastructure measures, and to make the best decisions. Another example is the planning of EV infrastructure. The research project Charge in UK used a sophisticated model in PTV Visum to understand how EV uptake might develop in the next 30 years, and identify the best locations for charging infrastructure. The Charge project tackled an additional critical issue: the capacity of the electricity networks. Overlaying the transport model with electricity capacity data made it possible to understand where supply and demand mismatches need further investigation.
Key Priority 1: Improving public transport
An attractive public transport system is, and will often be, the backbone of sustainable urban mobility.
Transportation modelling and simulation enables operators to design reliable transit services which optimally serve diverse passenger’s needs. Various public transport lines, vehicle types, timetables and routes can be modelled. Switching to e-bus fleets, for example is a major investment for public transit operators, which should be well planned. With the help of modelling software, different planning issues can be precisely analyzed and tested as early as possible.
The city of Madrid uses PTV Visum to analyzes and estimates passenger flows and travel demand, and ensure efficient operations and a high-quality service. Network Rail in the UK adopted a station capacity planning tool based on PTV technology to analyze detailed passenger movements within their stations. Santiago, the capital of Chile, used PTV software to plan two new metro lines to give residents additional transportation choices and reduce mobility inequality.
Key priority 2: Air quality
The Moonshot interviews found that air quality is measured in the vast majority of urban areas (133 out of 150 cities). In response to the question of “How is your city encouraging behavioral change to help achieve air quality improvements?”, 84% of the city authorities name incentivizing walking and cycling as well as public transport improvement measures.
To support cities in improving air quality and reduce traffic-related emissions, PTV Group joined forces with Bosch. Their know-how in measuring, modeling, and analyzing air quality data was brought together with PTV’s expertise in traffic planning and simulation. Precise emissions data by Bosch is available in the traffic simulation software PTV Vissim, allowing city and traffic planners to immediately see how different traffic measures, such as adapted signal control, will affect vehicle emissions and air quality.
Data is the key resource of our time: It’s intelligent us is the fundament for every smart city. This is especially true in mobility – not only for new technologies such as autonomous driving, but also to understand and manage the increasingly complex mobility ecosystem for a diverse set of needs and stakeholders.
The results of the Moonshot survey showed that a majority of city representatives believe that data sharing brings benefits. 95% of them stated that they believe that sharing transport data can help them reach their objectives and overcome the challenges they face. This is a view that we share at PTV Group, and so therefore we are one of the partners of the German Mobility Data space.
The smart use of mobility data offers many possibilities in understanding, managing, and regulating mobility. According to the Moonshot report, 86% of the interviewed cities collect data on the number of vehicles traveling on certain roads. A majority (78%) also collect the number of passengers on public transport, as well as average road speeds (70%) and number of bicycle rides (69%).
Analyzing this kind of data enables cities to evaluate existing infrastructure, forecast future demand for travel, and examine planned mobility investments and policies. With interactive dashboards and 3D maps, the innovative online tool PTV Visum Publisher empowers users to analyze and visualize model results to understand and evaluate a wide range of different scenarios in mobility planning. The attractive visualizations facilitate clear and vivid communication of mobility ideas to stakeholders, decision-makers, and the public.
Mobility as a Service (Maas)
The last key topic highlighted by the Moonshot report is Mobility as a Service, or simply MaaS. About half of the transportation and mobility professionals interviewed for the survey confirmed that their cities have, or are developing, such on-demand services which integrate various forms of transportation. 70% of the cities also believe that Maas plays a role in delivering a significant change in modal split toward more active and environmental modes. A majority agrees, that expanding transportation networks under Maas should fall under the responsibility of a mix of public authorities and the private sector. Numerous of our studies, for example in Oslo or Gothenburg, confirm this view. Maas needs a coordinated framework to ensure an integrated, efficient, and sustainable system.
Here, too, transportation modelling and simulation are used. PTV tools allow pre-evaluation of the impact, opportunities, and risks of the new modes of mobility and give clarity on how to integrate the new modes with the existing ones.