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The importance of connected transport in building smart cities

The adoption of digital technologies in the public transport sector is rapidly increasing worldwide. This includes the implementation of high-capacity transit communication networks that enable connected vehicles, smart stations, and data-driven transit operations. These networks facilitate intelligent applications that enhance the efficiency, affordability, and safety of public transport for both operators and passengers. In the post-pandemic era, authorities are keen to recover ridership, and leveraging these technologies effectively can help meet the pressing need for improved public transit systems. 

Connected transport serves as a crucial foundation for smart communities. Modern public transport systems should do more than simply transport passengers. They should contribute to cities' environmental sustainability by reducing reliance on private cars and meeting passengers' expectations. In this context, connected transport is shaping the future of mobility. 

A recent report from the World Bank emphasizes the significance of a seamless public transport experience. It describes the availability of 5G network connectivity as a revolutionary opportunity for urban mobility, enabling cities to improve public operations, introduce dynamic transport planning, and generate increased revenue through higher public transport usage. 

Residents recognize the value of this opportunity. According to Boldyn Network's Connectivity Outlook Report, over 90% of passengers consider continuous mobile coverage above and below ground as a characteristic of a world-class city. Likewise, 93% support government investment in wireless and fiber optic networks for transport. 

Deploying the appropriate infrastructure for smart, connected transport is the first step toward creating a comprehensive network ecosystem that meets commuters' diverse needs. By fulfilling these needs, transportation usage can be maximized, resulting in more accessible cities with reduced vehicle congestion and enhanced economic and social opportunities for residents. 

Connected transport and real-time information offer numerous benefits to residents, city managers, and businesses in cities worldwide. Municipalities invested in smart cities are effectively addressing various urban challenges by utilizing real-time data from their transportation networks. 

For instance, Sunderland City Council in the UK is utilizing smart technology to tackle the economic costs of congestion. By leveraging data from their city-wide network, they can manage and predict traffic flow, enhance air quality, and improve road safety. Similar examples include San Francisco's Bay Area Rapid Transit District's digital network, New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority's public safety broadband network, and Transport for London's Underground mobile connectivity network. 

When real-time public transit information is combined with user-friendly apps, the possibilities for enhancing travel become extensive. Accurate and instantaneous information regarding vehicle arrival times, route congestion, and delays empowers passengers to make informed decisions about their commutes, including adjusting routes based on departure and arrival times. Smart parking apps can guide drivers to available spots, eliminating the time wasted on circling city blocks. 

Connected transport plays a pivotal role in meeting passenger expectations. Investment in smart cities aims to make urban living easier, safer, and more enjoyable, and connected transport is a key component in achieving this goal. It allows city managers to focus on meeting passenger expectations by employing digital technology that benefits both commuters and transport operators. 

Passengers have certain expectations that remain constant: safety, cleanliness, efficiency, and affordability. Additionally, the need to stay connected has become increasingly important, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the widespread adoption of remote work. The technology to address this need is readily available, supported by 5G network connectivity. 

Cities such as San Francisco, London, Toronto, New York, and Hong Kong are already reaping the benefits (and more) of connected transport. Public transport users in these cities can already enjoy or will soon experience onboard entertainment, information displays, smart ticketing, personalized services, and enhanced safety. These improvements result in more productive and enjoyable journeys for commuters, simplifying their lives. 

Safety is a top concern for passengers, with approximately 74% ranking it as their highest priority for public transport systems. Similarly, 68% express the desire for safety features related to connectivity, such as smart monitoring and surveillance systems that aid operators in managing hazards, intrusions, railway crossings, and passenger behavior. Real-time CCTV video analytics can detect and report issues like overcrowding, trespassing, and abnormal behavior. Furthermore, audio sensors can identify and send alerts for unexpected sounds such as breaking glass or distressed passengers. 

Enhancing operational safety begins with connected vehicles. Connectivity enables tracking of equipment performance and early identification of potential safety hazards, such as slow-closing doors, faulty brakes, or over-temperature axle bearings. Predictive maintenance measures, trend analyses, and real-time alerts help determine when proactive, preventative action should be taken, reducing costs and minimizing downtime. 

Efficiency expectations can be met through data-driven operations management. By utilizing the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI), predictive operational scenarios can optimize efficiency. These scenarios provide forecasts for staff and train schedules, station crowd management, and station layout planning. For passengers, interactive displays connected to real-time data sources offer easily accessible help points. Additionally, smart ticket systems linked to apps and biometric ticket barriers facilitate accurate and seamless fare calculation at entry and exit. 

As for affordability, the World Bank report expresses optimism that the operational efficiency of connected transport will attract more riders and revenue while reducing operating costs. Consequently, this could lead to reduced tariffs and increased affordability for low-income users. Improved monitoring and control systems for smart cards and the ability of public transport agencies to better target subsidies for public transport users are cited as potential benefits. 

Smart cities with connected and interconnected transport options create more convenient, efficient, sustainable, and safe local travel experiences. When these transport networks are combined with connected communities and venues, the foundations for a smart city are firmly established. This foundation enables dynamic networks across cities and spaces, fostering engaged and thriving communities. 

In our next blog in the "Building the Smart Cities of the Future" series, we will delve into connected venues and their role in constructing smart communities.