Tens of millions of people in cities as diverse as Jakarta, Bengaluru, Rio, Nairobi, Seoul, and Atlanta begin and end every workday fuming in traffic or piling onto overcrowded buses and trains. Improving the daily commute is critical to the quality of life.
By 2025, cities that deploy smart mobility applications could cut commuting times by 15–20 per cent on average, with some people enjoying even larger reductions. The potential associated with each application is highly variable, depending on each city’s density, existing transit infrastructure, and commuting patterns. In a city like New York, smart technologies save the average commuter almost 15 minutes a day. In a developing city with more grueling commutes, workers might gain 20 to 30 minutes every day.
In general, cities with extensive, well-used transit systems benefit from applications that streamline the experience for riders. Using digital signage or mobile apps to deliver real-time information about delays enables riders to adjust their routes on the fly. Installing IoT sensors on existing physical infrastructure can help crews perform predictive maintenance, fixing problems before they turn into breakdowns and delays. Collecting and analyzing data on public transit usage and traffic can also help cities make better decisions about modifying bus routes, installing traffic signals and turn lanes, adding bike lanes, and allocating infrastructure budgets.
Many urban transit systems, such as those in Houston and London, are starting to go ticketless with digital payment systems. Some are going a step further by offering flat-rate mobility subscriptions that cover multiple modes of transportation. Helsinki’s Whim mobile app, for instance, charges a monthly fee for unlimited use of any type of public transportation, plus a certain amount of taxi and ride-sharing use.
Applications that ease road congestion are more effective in cities where driving is prevalent or where buses are the primary mode of transit. Intelligent syncing of traffic signals could reduce average commutes by more than 5 per cent in developing cities where most people travel by bus. Real-time navigation alerts drivers to delays and helps them choose the fastest route. Smart parking apps point them directly to available spots, eliminating time spent fruitlessly circling city blocks. Moscow implemented a variety of intelligent traffic management tools, which it combined with major investment in public transit and new parking policies. Since 2010, a million more private cars have been added to its roads, but average travel speeds through the city are still up by 13 per cent.