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New report: Smart mobility for a 21st century America

January 4, 2011

Investing in technology and innovation will help solve the nation's most critical transportation problems, according to a new report co-authored by four leading transportation organizations including UMTRI's SMART initiative.

The report, Smart Mobility for a 21st Century America, shows why improving efficiency through technology is critical as our population grows and ages, budgets tighten and consumer preferences shift. The report was co-authored by Transportation for America, the Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITS America), the Association for Commuter Transportation (ACT), and Sustainable Mobility and Accessibility Research and Transformation (SMART).

The report was released recently in conjunction with the IBM Smarter Transportation Virtual Forum, which brought together experts from across the public sector, private industry and academia to discuss urban mobility and the growing need for technology solutions to the nation's transportation, economic, and environmental challenges.

"Investing in the next generation transportation infrastructure makes sense. It connects and optimizes new transportation technologies, services, modes, and design, offering Americans more livability, sustainability, and hip factor for less money. It also lays the foundation for leadership, major business opportunity and green job creation in the emerging global New Mobility industry," said Susan Zielinski, Managing Director of SMART, which is based at the University of Michigan (U-M) Transportation Research Institute.

While improvements to vehicles and cleaner fuels are the most talked-about technological innovations, many smart technologies are being deployed today to improve system efficiency and reduce travel delays, provide more convenient access to transportation alternatives, and even customize routes based on real-time traffic conditions and individual travel preferences to keep people and businesses moving on schedule. The paper groups these innovations into five categories:

  • Making transportation systems more efficient and cost-effective
  • Providing more travel options and multimodal connectivity
  • Providing travelers with real-time, accurate transportation system information
  • Making pricing and payments more convenient and efficient
  • Avoiding unnecessary trips and time wasted in traffic

The report contains a series of case studies that demonstrate how these technologies have already been applied to real-world transportation challenges. The report also offers policy recommendations as Congress and the Obama Administration consider a comprehensive transportation bill. These include providing incentives and dedicated funding for states and regions to adopt smart technology solutions to make the system more efficient, offering competitive grants to stimulate innovation, and having the federal government play a role in disseminating the latest research and best practices.