Ten smart transport solutions

11 August 2015

The Smart Transport Forum, held in Auckland last week, brought together key players from across the transport spectrum to discuss smart solutions to some of NZ’s transport challenges. Here’s a snapshot of our 10 takeaway learnings.

A big shift is currently underway in New Zealand transport, with new ways of moving around cities emerging. Some of the new trends include millennials driving less than older generations; investment in cycling infrastructure; greater public pressure; the rise of car-sharing; innovation in biofuels; expansion of charging stations for electric vehicles; and smart data collection to facilitate evidence-based decision making.

Yet there’s a long road ahead: Auckland ranks near the bottom of international cities for transportation and infrastructure, according to a PWC report released last month and our transport fleet is almost entirely reliant on fossil fuels.

The Smart Transport Forum brought together leading representatives from the transportation sector including planners, businesses, analysts, academics, consultants and NGOs to discuss the way forward.

Ten themes emerged with potential solutions:

1. Put people first.
Transport involves humanising the city and bringing it alive. If we want to create liveable cities we need to prioritise people first, followed by public transport, then cycling and lastly cars.

 2. Collaboration is crucial.
To make directional change fast we need to work together. This includes collaborations between the public and private sector (including small and large businesses), the community, researchers and NGOs. [The Sustainable Business Network is helping facilitate partnerships through a series of projects and we’d love you to get involved.]

 3. We need to integrate.
Integration of systems, data, people, modes of transport and fares is needed for smart transport systems. We need cohesive, holistic planning.

 4. Embrace change.
The rate of change is exponential and unprecedented. Driverless cars (autonomous cars), for example, were first road tested only three years ago, yet according to Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, we are likely to see them become a public reality in only a matter of a few months.

Other changes include the emergence of a number of car-sharing and ride-sharing initiatives, which in New Zealand include Cityhop, YourDrive, Uber and MyCarYourRental. Examples overseas include zipcar.com, ride.com, carmacarpool.com, Lyft, split.us, bridj.com and ridescout.com.

The way we think about cars is changing rapidly: according to research by Zipcar in the US, millennials and city dwellers would rather give up their car than their mobile phone. There are currently more than six million car share members worldwide and this number is predicted to rise to 25 million by 2020.

 5. Don’t be afraid to fail.
Innovating involves taking bold steps into the unknown, often encountering failure before succeeding. Keep persevering and don’t be afraid to forge new partnerships.

 6. Don’t reinvent the wheel.
Many cities elsewhere in the world have already experienced change, such as the introduction of bike-sharing schemes in Chicago and the integration of bike lanes with car lanes in one of the busiest streets in the US, Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C. We can learn from these experiences, positive and negative, while planning future transport in New Zealand.

 7. Communication is essential for success.
Experience shows that effective public communication of new initiatives is critical to their uptake, including for electric vehicles (to reduce ‘range anxiety’, for example), uptake of biofuels (watch this great video from Gull with an alternative angle on story-telling to maximise public engagement) and car-sharing. In London, the successful introduction of car-sharing and electric vehicles was greatly facilitated by investing in communication and public education.

8. Data can help bring about behaviour change.
Smart data collection is enabling planners to make informed decisions that put the user first. Qrious’ research into the movement of mobile phones to and from Auckland Airport is enabling planners to make evidence-based decisions on transport, and Uber’s investment in data analysis is behind the creation of a user-friendly app.

 9. There’s no silver bullet.
There’s no one solution. Transport is multi-disciplinary, requiring a mix of solutions tailored to individual cities.

 10. “If you build it they will come.”
City and transportation cultures develop over time and can be changed. Through ‘induced demand’ it’s possible to bring about change: for example, by building bike lanes people will cycle more; by building public transport lanes and infrastructure people will use them.

The keynote speaker at the Smart Transport Forum, Gabe Klein (pioneer of bike and car-sharing in the US and former transport lead in Chicago and Washington D.C.), was interviewed on Radio NZ’s Nine to Noon programme the morning after the event. Listen to the audio to learn more about his suggestions for solutions, based on his experience in the US.

You can view photos from the Smart Transport Forum on our Facebook page.

If you’d like to find out more about city living and transport, check out this video from Collectively: ‘It’s smart to be dense’.

Find out more about SBN’s projects on smart transport. If you’d like to find out more or get involved, please contact Rachel Brown: rachel@sustainable.org.nz