Rethinking Transportation in Cities

Rethinking Transportation in Cities

Creating more livable cities through accessible public transportation
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Tuesday, February 3, 2015 - 11:00am

CAMPAIGN: Thought Leadership

CONTENT: Article

Peter Harris | UPS 

In previous posts, I’ve discussed the growing pains that come along with major urban development—congestion, air and noise pollution, etc.—as well as some of the creative solutions that cities have come up with to combat these issues.

One of the most effective ways for a city to decrease congestion and pollution—and become safer, more livable, and more attractive to those looking to move to the city—is a strong network of public transportation.

More and more often, city governments are implementing innovative solutions to improve local transit systems. Take Atlanta, where out-of-use railroad systems are being converted into park space and a new streetcar system is being created in an effort to ease the city’s infamous auto gridlock.

At the same time, the Beltline will drive economic development in the neighborhoods surrounding it and provide more green space for residents. (Read more about the project here.)

Transforming Urban Logistics

Other cities and states are also planning for improved transit systems. Though slowed by political controversy, California is starting to construct a high-speed rail network that will connect San Francisco and Los Angeles by 2028 and cut travel time between those two cities to under two hours.

Building transportation systems that connect areas—the way the Atlanta Beltline brings formerly disjointed neighborhoods together—has the power to transform the economic structure of a metropolitan region even as it transforms urban logistics.

Even small improvements to transportation systems, like the development of mobile applications that make subway commutes easier for New Yorkers, can encourage residents to drive less, which in turn alleviates road congestion, improves air quality, and boosts living conditions for everyone.

Of course, the rapid growth in urban populations can often outpace improvements to public transit and lead to more congestion on the roadways. Growing congestion can affect the way residents get around, as well as on the way food and goods are delivered to the city.

For truckers, rapid urbanization means more starting and stopping in traffic and denser street networks than ever before, requiring changes to commercial vehicle design and development.

According to this article from Fleet Owner, trucking manufacturers will need to focus on lowering the total cost of operation and achieving better fuel economy at slower speeds today and in the years ahead.

Integration the Logistics Network

Interestingly, when we talk about public transportation and all it can do to help overcome urban challenges in relation to the movement of people, there actually is an equivalent to this for goods transportation that can be just as effective – it’s called an integrated logistics network.

Think about what public transportation achieves and what makes it so efficient – it groups people together in single vehicles so that the impact per passenger (whether that impact be emissions, noise or congestion) is minimized.

Well-integrated logistics networks do the same for goods. The best of them operate globally on a huge scale.

And as well as these networks being inherently efficient, the organisations that run them tend to have the people and skills to be able push that efficiency to its limits with technologies like telematics, and to lead the way to go beyond efficiency into alternative fuels and innovative operating methods that reduce emissions, noise and congestion even further.

In the city that means technologies like electrification, which can work well for urban logistics because it is quiet and free of emissions at the vehicle, but also because the traditional disadvantages of electrification like limited range are of less relevance for confined city routes.

The swell of people moving to cities is changing the way people and goods move through them; this, in turn, will likely require a redesign of urban space—rail lines, roads—and the vehicles that try to navigate them. The city of tomorrow will be a dynamic place. goldbrown2

Click here to read the firstsecondthirdfourth and fifth articles in our series on The Future of Cities.


Peter Harris is UPS’s director of sustainability for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. He has been working for UPS for 23 years and held previous positions as UK Automotive Director as well as UK Industrial Engineering Director. He holds a Masters in Engineering from Cambridge University, UK and is a Chartered Engineer and Member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.