Our own Monali Shah attended Smart Cities NY last week – and we got the chance to ask her about data, infrastructure planning, and transportation modes in future cities.
Monali Shah is Director of Intelligent Transportation at HERE – who was invited to speak on a variety of topics at Smart Cities NY 2018. I had the chance to sit with her to discuss what HERE is bringing to the table for city planning, and how location intelligence is going to impact city residents.
HERE is working with Mastercard to build and grow City Possible. Can you tell us more about that partnership?
“City Possible is an initiative from Mastercard – it’s a collaborative approach between cities and the private sector, where we are coming together to define some of the core needs of cities – focused around things like inclusion, data and mobility.
“Smart Cities NY has brought global cities together, not just U.S. There are people here from Prague, Sydney, Medellin and other cities to talk about the challenges they have and the share solutions they have implemented. We explore what we can work on together that can benefit citizens using approaches and policies from the public sector and technology and solutions that we can bring from the private sector.”
If I’m a city planner, what are the biggest issues I’m facing in future infrastructure?
“If you’re a Mayor, you have so much on your plate – job creation, education, public safety and so on. But, transportation is really a fundamental concern if people can’t get to the place where they work, or access to healthcare, or to schools. We heard the mayors of Chicago and NYC talk about transportation being the lifeblood of a city. Many cities in the U.S. have legacy designs such that not everyone has equal access to transportation.
“What’s good, I think, is that now there is a recognition that communities are suffering because their residents are cut off from modes of transit, and city planners are looking for intelligent ways to solve that. It’s a topic that is at the forefront of the conversation this week. We want to explore how we can put data to work to fix these problems.”
In that regard, how can cities plan smarter?
“There are a few different ways that data plays a part. In the past, city investment decisions would often be political decisions, and that’s not traditionally helped communities in need.
“So now we’re bringing real time traffic data, and historical data to the table. You can use the data and actually analyse what is happening. You can see the patterns and you can quantify the impact. Where are the biggest choke points in the city? What are the negative impacts of those choke points? Where are there transportation desserts?
And you can look at this over time and assess where to apply improvements. If you have limited dollars, we have to look at prioritizing where those dollars go to make the deepest impact – and they can make decisions using data.”
What’s the next step after the planning has been done?
“When states or cities are doing projects, they have to plan for how things are going to function during that project. An example is the North Carolina Department of Transportation. They used our traffic data during a highway construction project to confirm if their traffic routes were performing the way they had planned – or – while it was happening, did they need to make adjustments?
“So now they can measure the performance while the project is happening – and this is in real time. The last part is after a project is done. With historical data, you can look at what the conditions were before, and what are the conditions after. You can tell a real story of how that investment made an impact, and what difference it made for that community.”
You mentioned inclusion and mobility – how can data impact those?
“One of the interesting opportunities we have is in the area is democratizing data. Cities and states are required to provide transit services and paratransit – and in general the cost is very high, and the performance is not always great.
“So if we have a network of assets and users, and this data becomes accessible in an open system, then those services can operate more efficiently. But it also allows smaller transit companies to get involved. Say that a cab company has vehicles that are in an area, and they’re not picking up any fares. If the city has a system that tells them that rides are needed, and cabs aren’t being used, they could potentially access the cab to give someone a ride, and get them where they’re going. The city provides better service, and the cab company lowers what would be a loss.
“There are other examples of this kind of data sharing to create efficiency, but we’re really talking far out now.
There are all these separate modes, separate options for transit. We’re working on helping cities leverage all their options across all these different assets to provide mobility services to citizens, and we’re working hard to bring those solutions to efforts like City Possible.”