Super Cities That Are Redefining Transportation

Super Cities That Are Redefining Transportation

In an age where technology is becoming more prominent in our everyday lives, there is an increased demand for Intelligent Mobility Solutions that aim to solve the issues of our urban environments along with providing seamless transit experiences that cater to the evolving needs of residents and improve their way of life. As we move toward a future where everything is connected, we’re seeing more governments around the globe who have accelerated their efforts to create robust transportation networks that are resilient enough to withstand the changing times, with the help of various private organizations and startups. In this article, we’ll explore some of the most prominent cities that are driving innovation in the sector through various projects, initiatives, and advancements in technology, forever revolutionizing the way we move. We’ll discuss advances in electric vehicles, autonomous cars, and shared mobility services, along with other cutting-edge technologies that are emerging on the market. 

Singapore – A Global Leader in Mobility Innovation

Singapore has an established reputation as being one of the most technologically advanced cities and its transport system is globally recognized for its high efficiency, convenience, and effectiveness. According to McKinsey’s Urban Transportation report, the city ranks as the top choice regarding availability, affordability, efficiency, convenience, and sustainability, excelling in each category. The city’s public transportation system is highly sophisticated and extensive while remaining affordable and accessible to the general public. It comprises modern buses, trains, and taxis, with each mode seamlessly integrated with other forms of transport through smart ticketing systems such as their well-known EZ-Link card. The convenience and flexibility of Singapore’s ticketing system serves as another outstanding feature of its public transport. The EZ-Link card incorporates modern ticketing features and can be used as a unified contactless stored-value card that can be topped up via the multifunctional EZ-Link App, allowing residents to earn and redeem reward points for all transactions made with the card.  

The city currently has one of the most extensive Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) systems in the world, with over 200 km of tracks and a total of 119 stations spanning through its territory. The system can carry over 3 million passengers daily and is often praised for its reliability and efficiency. The MRT system incorporates a set of innovative technologies that involve the use of automatic train control, intelligent signaling systems, and real-time passenger information displays that continuously offer information regarding all arrivals and departures. This provides commuters with real-time, actionable data, allowing them to plan their journeys better while also helping reduce overcrowding at transit stations. Furthermore, Singapore’s Land Transport Authority (LTA) is currently working on developing a system of predictive maintenance. They aim to establish an asset management system by integrating information collected from existing train lines, combining it into a single, unified database that would successfully predict any potential faults, enhance the system’s prevention capabilities, and determine an optimal maintenance scheme for fleets. 

Singapore is also highly invested in autonomous driving, emphasizing the introduction of driverless cars and drones to combat congestion and improve safety and mobility in densely populated regions. In 2016, the city-state successfully launched a pilot project for autonomous taxis which provides residents with the opportunity to hail self-driving taxis by using a specifically designed mobile app, at any time that’s convenient for the user. When it comes to security surveillance and crowd monitoring in transit, Singapore’s efforts to increase security by incorporating the latest technology available including the use of drones have yielded tremendous results in making transit vehicles and stations safer for everyone. Sustainability is also a very high priority for the city-state which has helped to reduce its carbon footprint and promote environmental stewardship by incorporating a variety of initiatives that involve the widespread application of renewable energy infrastructure, electric vehicle incentives, and the implementation of practices in transportation that promote sustainability. Environmentally friendly transportation options such as bike-sharing, car-sharing, and electric vehicles are prioritized as means of reducing traffic congestion, and emissions, while technology is used to enhance the flow of traffic and improve public transit networks.  

Amsterdam – A Modern Pioneer in Smart Technologies & Shared Mobility 

The Dutch capital stands as a prime example of a city that has transformed itself into a connected urban center that has leveraged technology as a tool to reduce energy consumption, enhance transportation, and create a smarter and more livable city for its residents. The city has long been praised for its efforts to effectively integrate cutting-edge solutions, promote collaboration among stakeholders, and place a strong emphasis on citizen engagement. In addition to striving for carbon neutrality by 2050, the city is heavily invested in smart mobility solutions such as e-bikes, electric cars, and autonomous vehicles, along with intelligent traffic control systems. Traffic congestion has been an ongoing problem for the city which is why authorities have been diligent in finding solutions that would assist residents in finding a parking space faster, along with reducing noise and air pollution, congestion, fuel usage, and decreasing time spent idling in traffic. Estimates show that nearly thirty percent of time spent in traffic in Amsterdam is due to residents being unable to find a parking space.  

With this in mind, smart traffic management has been a top priority for city leaders which is how innovative solutions such as Smart Flow came about. The IoT cloud-based platform effectively manages and monitors various sensors across the city, producing reports regarding the flow of traffic and the availability of parking. The pilot project has so far created a noticeable reduction in the average time spent in finding a parking spot bringing it down by over 43%. Another notable project aiming to reduce traffic in the city is Toogethr, an app that makes carpooling easier for residents by matching them with potential drivers based on the location of their working place and hours. The project has a goal of permanently taking 25,000 cars off the road, leading to lasting reductions in pollution and fuel usage along with achieving cost-savings in travel expenses. The project gained the public’s vote in becoming one of the winners of The Hague Innovators 2017 prize. 

In 2016, the city of Amsterdam made headlines by appointing the first bike mayor in the world in an attempt to ensure adherence to quality standards regarding the city’s biking infrastructure and other projects associated with its growth and development. Since the introduction of the position, Amsterdam’s bike mayor has contributed to the transformation of multiple transport policies regarding the emphasized preferences of pedestrians and cyclists over those of car users. The results have yielded an addition of 850 km (530 miles) of new dedicated bike lanes and the construction of the world’s largest underwater bike parking garage. Amsterdam has successfully paved the way for other cities struggling with a shortage of space and overpopulation as, despite its small size, its efforts to promote bikes as a viable alternative to cars in the future of urban transport have produced promising results for building better and greener cities. It’s estimated that in the future, cars will be banned from various parts of the city entirely and more pedestrian-friendly zones will appear along with eco-friendly modes of transit.  

Paris – A City That Promotes Innovation Through Human-centric Mobility Solutions 

The French capital has one of the most developed transport systems in Europe and is often ranked among the best cities for public transportation. The local government is highly committed to establishing a framework that focuses on pedestrian- and bicycle-centric programs to improve air quality in the city and alleviate traffic congestion and emissions. Various projects are underway to create infrastructure for non-motorized transport that is robust and sufficient in meeting the highest standards for passenger safety. The city is planning to further reinforce this by introducing more car-free zones and promoting public transportation. The capital has greatly emphasized preventing road accidents and making passenger safety a top priority for all of its public transport networks. According to data provided by the Association Prévention Routière, Paris has experienced a significant decline in traffic fatalities, with a drop of over 40 percent in the last decade.  

The Mayor of Paris – Anne Hidalgo has launched an initiative to help Parisians shift from their vehicles to more pedestrian and bicycle-friendly modes of transport. Several districts and streets in Paris have already adopted a car-free approach and it’s expected that this notion will continue in the future. An example of this is the River Seine quayside which is a prominent thoroughfare of over 2.4 km that became completely car-free back in 2016. The Parisian Capital has taken a dramatic leap towards sustainable urban mobility by implementing its highly regarded “Code de la Rue” initiative. This transformative policy places pedestrians at the forefront and encourages active mobility options such as walking and cycling. This transition is part of the city’s commitment to combating the effects of climate change along with reducing the pressing issue of car dependency and creating a better and more livable environment for its residents. In 2023, Paris was awarded the Sustainable Transport Award (STA) for its notable efforts in promoting innovation through accessible and active mobility.  

When it comes to safety in public transportation, this too stands as one of the major priorities of the RATP. The state-owned transport company has reinforced a variety of safety-oriented initiatives from metro track maintenance and replacement programs to having installed over 40,000 cameras, ensuring a tight grip on passenger safety both onboard transit vehicles and at stations. Another exemplary feature of the Parisian public network is an emphasis on user-friendly services, through the implementation of intelligent electronic services. There are over 2,400 available screens that provide real-time information to help Parisians and visitors with the navigation of the city’s multi-modal public transport network. The Grand Paris Express project is another large-scale project dedicated to the expansion of public transport networks to deliver high-class rapid transit to more than two million passengers every day. The project consists of plans to build four additional automated metro lines around the Capital and extend two existing lines, for another 200 kilometers. The first stations to open were scheduled for 2020, while the full deployment of the project is expected to take place by 2030. 

Hong Kong – The City With The Best Public Transport In The World 

Being among the most densely populated cities in Asia along with standing as a financial center that attracts a multitude of daily commuters, Hong Kong is faced with the challenge of providing reliable and efficient transportation for its 7.4 million inhabitants along with catering to over 58 million visitors annually. The city has a long-standing reputation for managing its transportation networks with unparalleled efficiency and adequacy and has done well in providing some of the best-in-class public and private transportation. The Special Administrative state is currently working on expanding its transport network along with addressing issues such as congestion and sustainability. According to available data, the Mass Transit Railway (MTR) network has quadrupled in length over the last 20 years and now is 231 kilometers long with a total of 91 stations. Additional expansion is expected to increase its length by an additional 25%, which would incorporate the building of new stations and lines. 

Hong Kong’s well-established transport system is rated among the best on a global scale when it comes to rail infrastructure, environmental impact, transit technologies, digitized services, and safety. According to the Urban Mobility Readiness Index from Oliver Wyman and the University of California, Hong Kong was rated as the city with the best public transport services in the world, taking in mind the volume of traffic, coverage, network density, efficiency, social impact, and quality of infrastructure. It’s reported that extensive public transit coverage makes it possible for about 43% of the population in active employment to be located within 500 meters of a transit stop, at any given time. 

Hong Kong’s MTR rapid-transit network consists of heavy rail, light rail, trams, buses, and ferries which accompany over 9.7 million passenger journeys every day. The backbone of public transit in Hong Kong is heavy rail, which accounts for 37 percent of all trips in the city, with the system being complemented by light rail in the Northwest New Territories and trams that operate mainly along the northern side of Hong Kong. Efficiency and reliability of service is another factor that makes Hong Kong’s public transit truly stand out, with trains running at intervals of a few minutes presenting an unfailing on-time arrival rate of over 99%. The city has also made a substantial effort when it comes to investing in modern technologies, with passenger-centric fares and an advanced ticketing system. The Octopus chip card enables seamless payments across multiple travel modes and stands as a noteworthy example of an innovative transit solution.  

Seoul – A City Driving Innovation Through Information Technologies & Electrification  

Seoul’s extensive bus network stands as an exemplary model for innovation and technology having made international news due to its efficient, economical, and modern nature. The city’s bus transit network is composed of self-driving buses, wireless charging technologies, and futuristic shelters that are creating a bright future for transportation in the capital. The city is often praised as having one of the most advanced and sophisticated transport systems in the world. The bus network has been fully integrated with the city’s existing subway system, and passengers can travel within the Seoul metropolitan area with one unified smart pass. Fares are extremely affordable starting at around $1 US, with seamless transfers to the subway or vice-versa, at no additional cost. Furthermore, Seoul’s government has taken a step toward sustainability in transit by initiating a pilot project for removing non-digital fares from over 170 of its 7,000 buses. If the program is a success, it’s estimated that only digital payments will be accepted across the whole network. 

A sterling example of the city’s interest in modern technologies is the rollout of ‘smart shelters’ which made international news due to its incredible features. In combination with conventional air-conditioning, heated seats, wireless charging stations, and Wi-Fi that’s free of charge, these so-called ‘shelters’ are also equipped with automatic doors that detect temperature, air filters, and ultra-violet lighting to help reduce the spread of germs. The modern huts incorporate the use of solar energy from panels that are installed, in combination with the built-in intelligence system which can swiftly react to various emergency events triggered by fire, smoke, or unusual behavior and can alert the police and emergency services. The remarkable convenience and efficiency of Seoul’s public transit system have been largely attributed to the Transport Operation and Information System (TOPIS). This system collects an extensive amount of data from multiple sources, including Bus Management Services, PTP systems, fare collection systems, transportation broadcasting systems, the police, and KoRoad, and applies it to oversee and manage all aspects of transportation in the city.  

Bus shelters are not the only places where cutting-edge technology is used as the city is preparing to welcome self-driving buses on its streets. The world’s first late-night self-driving bus has already made its debut on the streets of Seoul in 2023 and it’s expected that this trend will continue in the future. Self-driving buses will follow a predetermined course similar to that of a shuttle bus. Passengers will be able to hail the bus via an app and have it take them to their preferred destination along the bus route. Seoul’s future plans for transportation involve the creation of the world’s first 5G driverless vehicle network. The pilot version of this project is predicted to revolve around the use of a fleet of vehicles that will be tested in tunnels and other urban environments. The city’s efforts to innovate are further evident in its attempt to establish a wireless electric bus system. While wireless charging is nothing new to smartphone users, the Korean Government has spent the last decade developing charging technology for their electric transit vehicles. Roads that have been specially adapted to transfer power to Online Electric Vehicle (OLEV) buses will charge vehicles as they follow their route. The national government has since granted commercialization of the technology, and it’s widely expected that local governments will begin implementing it within a few years. 

Copenhagen – Leading The World In Sustainable Transportation 

Copenhagen has long been praised for its commitment to clean air through various green initiatives such as its ‘Project Air View,’  which presents a unique partnership between Google, university researchers, and the local government of Denmark’s capital. A designated Google Street View car cruised the streets of Copenhagen from 2018 to 2019 while being equipped with air quality measurement technology, collecting valuable data on pollutants in the city’s air. In the center of the city, visitors can also find Copenhagen’s Street Lab, a center for public-private partnerships where the latest cutting-edge smart and sustainable technologies are tested in real, urban conditions. The project aims to demonstrate the potential of these technologies and their value to citizens along with involving decision-makers and companies, drafting actionable strategies for scaling around the country and beyond.  

Denmark is also known as a global leader in promoting cycling culture, and its reputation is not just limited to residents preferring this mode of transport. Danish experts and innovators have greatly contributed to the development of various innovative solutions and technologies that enhance the experience of cycling and promote sustainable urban mobility. As a result, the Danish capital has experienced a tremendous increase in cycling over the last few decades. Their goal is to have over 50% of all daily trips made by residents, using only bikes, and achieve this by 2025. The results are more than evident as in 2018 the city managed to reach 49 percent of that goal. The backbone of a city designed for cycling is a network of highly prioritized and protected bike lanes. In Denmark, bike lanes are typically separated from both the pavement and the road by a curb. This helps protect residents when vehicle traffic is high, allowing all members of the public to use it, including mothers, children, and other vulnerable groups. Another prime example of mobility-related innovation in Copenhagen is its Intelligent Traffic Solutions (CITS). The platform incorporates a network of Wi-Fi access points that can geolocate WiFi-enabled devices on the streets without having to compromise privacy. Gathered data is used by officials to monitor traffic in real-time, and it has helped to design various transport-related tools and apps. The project aims to improve traffic flow in the city, reduce emissions, and increase safety for residents. 

The Metro System in Copenhagen has been voted “the world’s best metro” several times by various international metro rail professionals, having transported over a billion passengers since it first opened back in 2002. The system is based on a simple, functional, and yet compelling design philosophy that creates a calming environment for its users, depicting a stark contrast to other older and larger Metro systems in the world. Today, more than 300,000 passengers use the fully automated “M” trains, on four lines that seamlessly connect with other modes of transport in Copenhagen such as the many bike hubs, bus lines, and overground train stations. Although the trains themselves are considered small by some international standards, they’re incredibly frequent, running at about every two minutes for most of the day. The service has an impressive punctuality rate of 98.7% and it operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. 

Berlin – Europe’s Central Hub For Multimodal Transportation 

A recently published report from Juniper Research has positioned Berlin in the top spot as the leading Smart City in Europe for 2023. The city is often viewed as a place where traditional networks and services are elevated through the incorporation of digital solutions and initiatives that have a user-centric approach. According to the research, Berlin has progressed tremendously when it comes to improving and expanding its transport infrastructure and services, with its Mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) app Jelb serving as a prime example that successfully combines public and private transport. Furthermore, Berlin’s public transit system has an established reputation for being one of the most diverse networks with an abundance of multimodal transit options that are both affordable and easily accessible to the public. This is further reinforced by an integrated VBB app that makes using both public transport and shared mobility modes easy and convenient for residents of the city.  

Berlin has been heavily invested in numerous collaborative projects that aim to develop and test electromobility initiatives, more than any other part of the country which is probably why car ownership remains low and the general public prefers to use public transit. It’s currently estimated that there are over 100 active electromobility projects in the city with further initiatives exploring and integrating concepts such as digitalization and automatization. There are around 3,200 private and commercial electric vehicles in circulation in Berlin which is double what the figures were the year prior. The city has over 770 charging points that are accessible to the public along with 5 hydrogen fuel stations. One of the global leaders in transit technology – Via has confirmed the launch of the BVG Muva Project, a unique on-demand service for public transport that will expand access to efficient, equitable, and sustainable transportation in the German Capital. Connectivity has been a top priority for the town along with addressing issues for passengers needing barrier-free transportation. The Mini Shuttle Bus will connect passengers to various modes of public transportation while its ‘Elevator Replacement’ feature will effectively tackle the issue of inaccessibility at public transit stations. It’s predicted that these services will complement the existing public transport infrastructure in Berlin along with expanding its reach by filling in the gaps in transit where there is demand.  

Conclusion  

We’re certainly at a very unique point in time where advancements in technology have allowed for many new and exciting prospects to emerge, driving innovation in the mobility sector. While this is creating many changes and developments in our urban environments, it’s important to remember that a truly smart approach to mobility is one that takes into consideration both sustainable practices as well as how it impacts residents of those cities. The good news is that many global leaders in mobility innovation are working tirelessly to invent, establish, and implement precisely those kinds of practices that will ensure the preservation of our environment while increasing the quality of life for its inhabitants.