Planning for Transportation Delivery in the “Smart” Era

By Mr. Eric Rensel posted 04-06-2018 11:40 AM


I have the pleasure of moderating a panel titled “How do Emerging Technologies Impact the Way We Plan and Deliver Transportation?” at the upcoming North Carolina Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations (NCAMPO) conference in Durham from April 25-27. The panel will feature:

  • Jason Goldman, vice president of external affairs and stakeholder engagement, Intelligent Transportation Society of America
  • Robert Cook, AICP, secretary, Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization
  • Kevin Lacy, PE, CPM, state traffic engineer/director of mobility and safety, North Carolina Department of Transportation.

As you can imagine, the planning discussions around this topic have been engaging and are of interest to all ITE members. Here is a snapshot of what we discussed. If you can, I encourage you to come to NCAMPO to hear the full discussion.

What is the most important question facing planning organizations?

Robert Cook: Funding is a big question. Funding processes are typically set up to support concrete, asphalt, and steel projects. But should we be funding technology instead? Granted, technology needs to be updated and changes much more frequently than concrete, so it can be difficult to make that shift in mindset.

Jason Goldman: When? We know the move to smart cities is not a question of if, but when? Planners must conduct analysis now to find out when their customers will begin to give up single vehicle ownership in favor of shared ownership. How can we plan for the future when we don’t know what is coming?

Kevin Lacy: Yes, when will we get to that tipping point? In San Francisco, rideshares now account for about 20 percent of all the miles driven in the city, so I think some regions are getting closer to that tipping point. The “when” is sooner than we think.

What should MPOs be doing right now to plan for emerging technologies?

Robert Cook: We’ve hosted three workshops in Charlotte, a working group has formed made up of many stakeholders, including MPO, RPO, and NCDOT staff, elected officials, and representatives of the private sector, and we’re developing an action plan. I’d encourage planners to talk to neighboring MPOs and state DOTs.

Kevin Lacy: Look for incremental ways to implement change – we’re not talking about a one-day switchover to an entirely smart city. Think about very predictable routes like those around an airport – they could be a good fit for early adoption of connected and automated vehicles (CAV).

Anything you can say to those who haven’t embraced this movement?

Jason Goldman: The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that human choices and errors are linked to 94% of serious crashes and that 37,461 people died on U.S. roads in 2016. Therefore, we can have a better, safer future transformed by CAVs and other forms of intelligent mobility.

Robert Cook: There are many people in our community, like the elderly and the disabled, who have limited mobility. CAV will extend access to people who have a true need.

Kevin Lacy: We must address security concerns and there are other concurrent technologies in the adoption phase – like drones – that will also impact business and our clients. I’d rather have a hand in shaping the policies and the implementation of the technology, wouldn’t you?

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