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COVER FEATURE Thinking Cities


How can a city such as London (right), with its mix of historic and new buildings, be labelled a truly thinking city when compared to a largely brand new metropolis like Dubai (far right)?


WE KNOW WHERE YOU ARE And that’s what Thinking Cities are all about, and the fact that we now can gather an awful lot of information from sen- sors across the city, and from smart phones constantly run- ning apps and reporting position, speed, requirements but also to reach people who are now constantly connected and make suggestions about how they might alter their plans if there is an unexpected change to the norm. One of the challenges of the initiative is that all cities are


different. For example, your approach will have to be differ- ent in London, with a road system up to a thousand years old and sewers and underground trains which have been around a hundred and 50 years, and Dubai, a city that can count the age of most of its infrastructure on one person’s fingers and toes. In one, it’s all about adding technology because the infrastructure has a limit, while in a developing city you can build new infrastructure with smartness included. “If there’s a car involved, a toll involved, a car share scheme,


a parking lot or a transit ride, by aggregating all those into a central environment travellers have a more convenient expe- rience and authorities and agencies have the ability to really measure and understand how the limited capacity they have available is being utilised and to plan better for future use,” says Silver. There certainly is not a one-size-fits-all solution. So


many factors come into play, as TRL’s Denis Naberezhnykh explains, “even with cycle hire scheme, which is considered to be a low-technology solution, in a thinking city it can be a very intelligent solution where a bicycle can be tracked, we can have real-time understanding of their distribution and each one can be identified. BUT the layout of the actual city needs to be taken into account because for some there might be an overall change in elevation between two points and we’ll find a gathering of bikes on one side of the city because people want to cycle downhill”. PTV’s Humanes insists that there is at least one thing all


major cities do have in common. “Most cities will have devel- oped transport models that are a very detailed representation of the network and this is why we believe that this knowl- edge is essential, you can’t solely do it on statistical informa- tion because you need to understand your network and the


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operators know the network better than anybody but they aren’t necessarily able to predict what is going to happen in the future,” he says. “Technologically it has become easier to get access to networks because smart phones now have navi- gational maps but most cities around the world have devel- oped transportation models for the purpose of planning and this is exactly why we came up with this concept which is based upon what people already have.” Patrik Anderson from Axis says that’s not the only time


when personal choice comes into play: “We also want to feel safe and secure”, he says. “If we don’t, it’s likely we’ll choose another mode of transit or we stay in our own homes, or wherever we are. So at the basis, there’s safety and security”. “The focus on behavioural economics and understand-


ing the consumer is absolutely critical”, says Simon. “There has been a temptation in the past to take a very engineering- driven approach but consumers are fickle things and they don’t always act as rational economic agents in a process, and we’ve seen this through the energy systems where they have smart metering. When you assume that having provided better information, then consumers will make different deci- sions but it’s not always the case”.


LESSONS TO BE LEARNED Indeed. How many times have we seen people continue to drive towards a traffic problem even when they know it’s there? Variable pricing of rail tickets, for example, have some effect on the number of people travelling at peak times, but the trains are still full. So the lesson from smart metering is that telling people


about their energy consumption will lead to a fall in energy use, but once it’s at a point the person is happy with, the reduction tails off even though there is still more gain to be had. Something for the planners to consider when building their predictions of how things will turn out. Naberezhnykh is certainly looking at smart metering as a


way of predicting how road pricing might affect traffic levels. “Essentially we’re looking at demand in real time and we are looking at being able to charge the user for use of a certain resource based on the demand per each customer”. “What we want to do is give the traffic control centre


thinkinghighways.com Vol 8 No 3 North America


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