Digital Disruption: Smart mobility solutions to make urban transport more efficient

Smart mobility solutions to make urban transport more efficient

Urban transportation in the country is facing a range of challenges including po­llution, poor road safety and parking and traffic congestion, pointing to an urgent need for the transformation of urban mobility via cleaner technologies. One of the fundamental infrastructure elements of the Smart Cities Mission is efficient urban mobility and public transport. Higher reliance on information, communication and technology will complement urban transformation and improve the quality of governance and public services. Digital disruptions such as mobility, internet of things, cloud and big data are the key enablers for the creation of smart cities.

Smart mobility initiatives

Smart mobility involves creating connected transport systems that offer both flexibility and efficiency. A number of smart mobility soluti­o-ns ensuring last-mile connectivity such as public bicycle sharing (PBS), smart parking systems and smart cards are being developed.

Cities such as Bhopal, Pune, Mysuru and Jaipur have already launched PBS systems to provide seamless app-based access to vehicl­es for last-mile transport. Mysore Smart City Limited, in collaboration with Green Whee­ls Fleet Management Private Limited, develop­ed a smart PBS system called “‘TrinTrin” across 52 hubs of the city. A central control centre has been set up for controlling and monitoring the system along with a website and a mobile app for enquiries and registration. The sy­stem has seen massive acceptance in My­suru. Of the total public transport users, arou­nd 30 per vcent have shifted from motorised modes to the PBS system. The system has been able to provide a convenient and carbon-free way of commuting, besides ensuring better air quality.

In order to enhance customer convenience and simplify the fare collection system, several smart cities have introduced or are planning to introduce innovative fare collection mechanisms, including the use of bank cards and mo­bile wallets for payment, along with QR code-based ticketing. In this direction, Smart City Ah­medabad Development Limited deployed the country’s first indigenously developed automa­tic fare collection (AFC) system based on the One Nation One Card model. The card dra­ws its basis from the National Common Mobility Card (NCMC) model.

Further, in order to showcase the entire NCMC ecosystem for digital fare collection, the AFC system has been deployed by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) at a few stations for field trial purposes. These cards are issued by various banks on a debit/credit/prepaid ca­rds platform and the user may use this single card for payments across all segments including me­tro, bus, suburban railways, toll, par­ki­ng, sm­a­rt city and retail. The value on the card supports offline transactions too. The service area feature of this card supports operator-specific applications as well. Similar AFC systems have been deployed at the Bengaluru metro and the Surat bus rapid transit system (BRTS).

The smart cities are also adopting passenger information systems (PIS) that provide real-time information to passengers using a public transport system. The Indore Smart City has implemented an automatic vehicle location system, an automatic fare collection system and an automatic PIS across its entire city bus infrastructure to make public transit more reliable, user friendly, efficient, secure and economical for commuters. The Ahmedabad BRTS also has a PIS with GPS and a centralised control room.

Another technological solution that has gained traction in the smart mobility sphere is the asset management system for the road net­work. It is a technical-cum-operational me­th­od for managing, directing and controlling road ma­in­tenance resources, in a scientific manner, for optimum benefits to the city. In a first-of-its-kind initiative, Pune Smart City Limited conceived the idea of road asset management system (RAMS) for providing a GIS-based decision support system to the Pune Municipal Corpo­ration (PMC) to make crucial decisions about the prioritisation of roads for repair and maintenance work and planning of new development. The RAMS project involved data collection for the entire PMC road network, development of a web-based road as­set management system soft­ware as well as its deployment.

To overcome the challenges of increasing traffic, cities have started deploying intelligent traffic management systems (ITMS) and adaptive traffic control systems to optimise the traffic flow and detect violators. One such city is Bho­pal, where an ITMS has been deployed in as­sociation with the city’s traffic police department. The ICT-based system offers a dashboard, through which the traffic department is able to detect red light violators, vehicle overspeeding, and lack of helmets and triple-riding cases on two-wheelers.

As part of the ITMS, surveillance cameras, red light violation detection (RLVD) systems and other internet of things-enabled solutions have been deployed at several intersections. Nagpur Smart and Sustainable City Development Cor­poration Limited has deployed automatic number plate recognition and RLVD systems across 120 traffic junctions in the city to track and record licence plates of any type of vehicle, as well as detect red light or stop line violation at intersections. In conjunction, nearly 1,300 ca­meras have been deployed to monitor vehicle movement and detect suspect vehicles sim­ultaneously. For catching violations, integrated e-challan/e-ticket management software has been assimilated with the RTO database to fetch the details of the (violating) vehicle, after which, e-challan can be issued. The e-challan also maintains a record of all payments, both received and pending. The solution provides the police a bird’s eye view of the traffic junctions and roads in the city from the command and control centre.

Another important aspect of smart mobility is the availability of smart parking systems. In th­is regard, Amaravati Smart and Sustainable City Corporation Limited developed a smart parking system for dealing with the city’s traffic snarls. As part of the e-parking system, the us­er is required to download the “Park in Slot” app from the Google Play Store to avail of the service. The vehicle driver can search for park­ing slots available near their stoppage in the city (with the aid of inbuilt maps). The parking place can be selected using the same app. To avail of the service, the fee can be paid through a debit card, credit card, or an online payment system. The local administration registered better fee collection after the project was rolled out. The smart parking system provided an opportunity to avoid lapses. The system was introduced with the cooperation of Smart Parking India Private Limited.

Recognising the congestion on roads along with poorly managed parking systems in the city, the Greater Chennai Corporation along with Chennai Smart City Limited embarked on the implementation of an IT-supported parking management system, which allows citizens to interact with the parking system through different media such as SMS, mobile app and a dedicated website.

An adaptive traffic signal system is yet another solution that is being adopted by cities to deal with the increasing traffic woes. Bhubaneswar Smart City Limited has installed the adaptive traffic signal system at 50 junctions in Bhubaneswar, after the system was implemented on a pilot basis at five locations and showed desirable results. The system has improved the travel time reliability by progressively moving vehicles through otherwise congested intersections. The entire traffic signal control network is operated on solar energy generated from composite solar panels fitted on the signals. There are firm plans to integrate the adaptive traffic signal control with the master system integrator, which will help in coordinating all ICT-based interventions in the city.

In sum

Smart transport and mobility is a major cornerstone of smart city project plans. Smart mobility solutions can go a long way in improving the efficiency of the system and redistributing demand across modes, routes and time. This, in turn, can result in smarter use of the existing resources, cost savings and reduced pollution levels, thereby improving the quality of life in the city.