Urban transportation in the country is currently facing multiple challenges such as pollution, traffic congestion, poor road safety and parking, pointing to an alarming need for transformation of urban mobility via cleaner technologies. One of the core infrastructure elements of the Smart Cities Mission (SCM) is efficient urban mobility and public transport. The mission identifies three key points for efficient urban mobility – smart parking, intelligent traffic management and integrated multimodal transport.
Smart mobility involves creating connected transport systems that offer both flexibility and efficiency. Many innovative projects ensuring last-mile connectivity, such as public bicycle sharing (PBS) in Bhopal, Pune, Mysuru and Jaipur have been implemented to provide seamless app-based access to vehicles for last-mile transport. In 2017, Bhopal Smart City Development Corporation Limited introduced a PBS system as a safer, more economical, healthier and eco-friendly mode of transport, at a cost of Rs 70 million. In December 2017, Pune Smart City Development Corporation Limited also launched a PBS system – Pune Cycle Plan – in association with private firms such as Zoomcar and Ofo.
Another smart solution being adopted by the smart cities is the use of smart cards. These cards facilitate seamless movement across various modes of transportation through a single card for payment of tickets and tolls. In August 2018, the Delhi government launched a common mobility card ONE that can be used for both metro and bus travel. In November 2019, ONE was also awarded the Best Intelligent Transport System Project by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs at 12th Urban Mobility India Conference and Exhibition. The Delhi government is also planning to launch a common application that will let passengers plan multimodal trips using buses and the metro to get around the city.
The smart cities are also adopting passenger information systems (PIS) that provide real-time information to passengers using a public transport system. The Chandigarh Transport Undertaking has developed a mobile application which enables commuters to track long route buses in real time and know the estimated time of arrival by using smart phones. It has also embedded an automatic vehicle location system and PIS on the buses.
A noteworthy deployment of smart mobility solutions is the smart parking system, which provides information related to the available parking lots through a publicly displayed electronic sign board. The multi-level parking spaces have benefits such as minimal land use, easy entry and exit, multi-sensors and safety devices offer low operating and maintenance expenses. In December 2018, iRAM Technologies secured orders to deploy on- and off-street smart parking solutions at 87 parking sites in Bhubaneswar, 42 in Kanpur and 33 in Nashik under the SCM. Visakhapatnam is also planning to introduce a smart parking mobile application.
The integrated traffic management system (ITMS) has made traffic management more efficient by providing greater information to the authorities to proactively manage traffic, enhance traffic discipline and increase road safety. Bhopal has deployed an ITMS in association with the city’s traffic police department. Nagpur has also implemented an ITMS to manage its traffic load by installing about 4,000 CCTV cameras, and automatic number-plate recognition and red light violation systems to detect traffic violators.
Key upcoming projects
A number of projects are in the pipeline for the smart mobility segment under the mission. The city of Solapur in Maharashtra has the highest upcoming investment of Rs 9.76 billion for the development of 140 bus queue shelters, construction of bus depots and commercial complexes, and junction improvements with CCTV and ITS systems for 16 junctions. It also has an upcoming project focusing on non-motorised transport, by redesigning 126 km of street sections at a cost of Rs 2.68 billion. Bhubaneswar and Thane are also involved in the development of railway station multimodal hubs at an investment of Rs 8.45 billion and Rs 2.67 billion respectively. Among the local area development being undertaken at Huballi-Dharwad in Karnataka, there is an upcoming investment of Rs 3.16 billion on the development of transport terminal hub with Wi-Fi-enabled services. Bengaluru also an upcoming investments of Rs 2.33 billion for ensuring integrated mobility Shivajinagar bus station and creating vibrant spaces at the Russel market precinct.
The way forward
Smart mobility solutions go a long way in improving efficiency of the system and redistributing demand across modes, routes and time, thereby resulting in a smarter use of resources, cost savings and reduced pollution. It provides seamless city transport with smooth synchronisation between the different modes of transport, and a customised user experiences. Its adoption helps in providing a higher quality of life in the city.