Transportation Infrastructure will shape the future of cities – says Gazel Anthoine, CEO of Connecthings
This op-ed article was published on January 6, 2017 in Smart & Resilient Cities.
Building Smart Cities in 2017 will begin with Transportation Infrastructure.
The smart city concept is not a new one. The main attraction at the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair was the General Motors Pavilion’s Futurama ride that ferried visitors past incredibly detailed models, accompanied by the narrator’s welcome “and now, we have arrived at this wonder world of 1960.” Of course, because GM was the sponsor, the focus was on transportation. But if the entries to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s 2016 Smart Cities Challenge are any indication, modernizing our cities’ transportation infrastructures will be the primary focus of urban planners in 2017.
GM’s Futurama ride showed a future with multiple lanes of asphalt connecting cities and rural areas, and city streets teeming with cars. Sounds quaint today, but in 1939, that would have seemed like something out of a science fiction novel.
“You have to understand that the audience had never even considered a future like this,” Dan Howland editor of the Journal of Ride Theory, told Wired magazine back in 2007. “There wasn’t an interstate freeway system in 1939. Not many people owned a car. They staggered out of the fair like a cargo cult and built an imperfect version of this incredible vision.”
Today, that grand vision of vehicles moving freely and efficiently down wide open highways and city avenues has devolved into mile after mile of traffic congestion and pollution. Modernizing our mass transportation systems is one of the primary obstacles urban planners face, and the U.S. has fallen behind much of the world.
Juniper Research’s “Worldwide Smart Cities: Energy, Transport & Lighting 2016-2021” report ranks the world’s top smart cities. 60 percent are in Europe thanks to innovations in reducing congestion and energy consumption. Singapore earned the top ranking due to its application of smart mobility policies and technology, particularly its fixed and cellular broadband services, city apps and strong open data policy.
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