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TRANSPORTATION: Planning for Smart Cities
An article by Dr. A S Narasimha Murthy, TE Transportation Planning Section Manager, UAE


To meet traffic challenges, authorities all over the world are applying information technology to transportation infrastructure. Dr. A S Narasimha Murthy, TE Transportation Planning Section Manager, UAE writes on the need to adopt new concepts of transportation planning elements to achieve sustainable transportation:

The current realization by Urban/Transportation Planners is that steps are required to make neighborhoods and urban areas a better place to live, work, play and provide access to all modes of transportation. New concepts consider inclusive transportation plans with interdependent components leading to innovative use of resources leading to long term sustainability. Some of the major objectives and goals that could be achieved are the following:

• Renewable energy sources (solar, natural gas, etc.)

• Use of green development principles (less wastage of resources)

• Improving quality of life and reducing health risks (less travel and less stress)

• Developing both inclusive and active transportation (healthy environment)

• Environmentally friendly atmosphere (less pollution)

• Renewable and innovative waste management techniques (reusable of materials)

• Developing permanent economic bases (long term economic benefits)

• Developing sense of community, resources and meeting cultural needs (socially strong)

The application of Smart Technology to Smart City requires the collection of large digital data for the purposes of analysis, review and implementation to make the system efficient. This could be achieved through the issue of “Smart Cards” for the collection of digital data. For example the installation of Permanent Traffic Counters (PTCs) will be required at both entry and exit points to the city. This data collected using PTC’s will help to determine the pattern of traffic flow to the city. The data could be used to update various elements such as the signal timings, parking, providing amenities, safety and security issues and projecting growth potential.

By providing Smart Cards to residents and businesspeople, it will be possible to distinguish and analyze who are the residents and visitors and to better understand the pattern of flow into the city. Also the collected data can used for marketing purposes to show the percentage of visitors compared to the residents using the commercial and office establishments.

The economic success of the city depends on attracting residents, entrepreneurs and visitors to the project site on a regular basis.

The installation of permanent traffic data collection instruments at the entry and exit point for a Smart City will allow adjusting the signal timings to make traffic flow more efficient and reduce delays. This will decrease pollution and energy loss. Also the daily data helps determining the parking needs of the community and shopping centers. The future of traffic monitoring for traffic management centers and cities will be through Drones and the latest in this innovation is called ARGUS-IS, a drone vision system that monitors, archives and controls traffic flows (including bikes and pedestrians). Visible solar operated speed detection signs will warn motorists if they exceed limits. The speed radar warning will warn commuters about speeding and provide safety for pedestrians. Several of the monitors come with alerts for drivers.

One of the main objectives of a Smart City should be to achieve 50% plus trips through alternative modes such as the public transit, metro, buses, bicycle, walking and other modes and attempt to reduce the use of private cars. To encourage use of alternative modes and discourage use of private cars, it will be necessary to provide Smart Bicycle Racks. Typically the smart bicycle racks requires the users to pay a very nominal fee to lease or rent a bike for a specific time of use from the “smart racks.” The same has also been extended to cars: they could be leased or rented for the few hours of use. The smart cards issued can facilitate this.

A solar LED light system can save energy and maintenance costs and assists the city’s green program. Changeable or variable message signs (CMS/VMS) can be used for the status of the roadway, speed, construction areas, and directions and incidents data. They can also be used to warn vehicles to take alternative routes, limit travel roads, and warn of duration and location parking or closure of roads. An advanced smart parking management and monitoring system can allow people to book a particular spot for parking before arriving at the site. In addition to this, the Ultrasonic Detector is widely used in central parking systems. On successful detection, the detector relays information to display LEDs in the various sections of the parking lots updating the number of vacant spaces. The LED indicator device is fixed on the roof of the parking on each bay and it shows if the space is occupied (red) not-occupied (green) in the parking area.


 Today technology is available to send SMS message to car owners to alert them of expiring parking meter. It allows to pay the fine through smart phones. Parking Guidance Management Software (PGMS) is a web based application that displays a virtual map of the parking lot. It updates the status of each parking bay as soon as it is occupied or vacant.

To achieve the objective of a sustainable community and to develop the most modern smart city, it is essential to provide preferred “free” parking for zero emission vehicles. A small traffic management center should be set up in all Smart Cities to monitor traffic movements, improve mobility through detection of incidents, attend emergency needs, safety of community and enforce local rules and regulations. The signal operations technology is rapidly changing with advanced software and algorithms developed specifically to eliminate delay at intersections. Miovision, a Company in Canada envisions full automated intersections in the future. Technology apart, education and enforcement should also be part of the equation to maintain the economy and order in future cities.