Designing for sustainable mobility in India’s “smart” cities
EMBARQ India Director Madhav Pai spoke at the Smart Cities Summit on ‘Five Principles for Mobility in Smart Cities.’ The summit, held on August 22 and 23 in Mumbai, was attended by over 300 people, including government officials, urban development and transport professionals, corporations, and other practitioners.
Smart cities to be built across India
The summit is part of a national movement to accommodate rapid urbanization through building “smart” cities across India. According to a McKinsey study, India’s urban population is expected to grow from 340 million to 590 million people between 2008 and 2030. In response to this rapid urbanization, Prime Minister Narendra Modi says he will build 100 smart cities across the country. “Smart” cities typically use information technology to anticipate and address urban problems. As Prime Minister Modi said in a speech last June, "Cities in the past were built on riverbanks. They are now built along highways. But in the future, they will be built based on availability of optical fiber networks and next-generation infrastructure."
Smart cities are becoming more common around the world, with projects currently underway in countries like South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, and China. China announced it will invest ¥50 billion (USD$ 8 billion) in smart city technology this year, while Prime Minister Modi recently announced a USD$ 1.2 billion investment in India’s smart cities over the next year. Additional funding is expected to come from foreign and private investors. For example, Singapore Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam offered to build one smart city in India when he visited earlier this year, while British Chancellor George Osborne announced a £1 billion (USD$ 1.6 billion) line of credit to help British companies invest in Indian infrastructure.
The Smart Cities Summit was held as a forum for multiple stakeholders from the public and private sectors to meet, network, and discuss a cohesive approach to achieve sustainable urban development. The summit convened experts from fields such as urban planning, mobility, water, electricity, waste disposal, energy, safety, security, governance, and economic development in order to debate the opportunities, challenges, and solutions towards creating new and smart urban systems with optimal use of existing resources.
Ensuring sustainable mobility in smart cities
Pai spoke durings the mobility session, alongside fellow panelists from AECOM, Serco, Veolia, KPIT, and Larsen & Toubro Construction (L&T ECC). His presentation focused on how mobility plays an integral role in the planning and development of a smart city. While smart technology can help improve sustainable transport, technology alone cannot ensure sustainable mobility. Instead, Pai describes some of the key policy elements of successful sustainable mobility. For cities to truly be “smart,” planners must use these strategies to emphasize moving people, not cars.
“A smart city designs safe roads… [that] are no wider than 30 meters and do not allow for vehicular speeds higher than 30 km per hour [19 miles per hour],” he said. “In addition, by implementing high quality, bus-based mass transit, cities allow for commuters to move faster, in a sustainable manner, and with higher levels of safety.”
He also described the importance of transport demand management and integrated transport strategies: “Parking must be priced, and must be off the street. Free, on street parking, as is the case in many cities, not only takes up valuable road space, but also encourages private vehicle usage. In cities with multiple modes of public transit services, fares should be integrated and cashless transactions promoted via ‘smart-cards’ and such devices so as to encourage ease of access and transfer between modes. Lastly, cities should have performance standards in order to measure the effectiveness of their mobility systems. These performance indicators should be based on the number of road fatalities, air pollution, average travel time, and mode shares.”
While older cities can be retrofitted to become smart cities, in many cases, smart cities will be built entirely from scratch. This allows planners to anticipate and address potential urban challenges without being locked-in by existing infrastructure, giving them the opportunity to design cities around sustainable mobility strategies that have been shown to improve quality of life in cities worldwide.
Other topics of discussion at the summit included Smart Buildings, Smart Utility, Smart Energy, Smart Governance, and Economic Development.