Advances in real time data collection, flow modeling and Smartphone ownership have now made fully integrated public transport systems a reality.
Most of us are now experiencing serious problems with our current transport system. These issues are not mere annoyances they have significant effects on many aspects of our lives. High fuel prices, road tax, congestions charges, toll roads, car parks and insurance all stack up. We seem to pay more every year but commutes seem to get longer and less reliable.
Depressingly there does not seem to be a solution. Public transport systems are all very well but you still have to get from your home, school or office to the network and back again. It’s also true that no matter how extensive traditional public transport networks are; they cannot provide an efficient link for every possible journey. This has meant the average family has to use their car(s) every day and for many jobs a private car is still essential.
The Solution – In Theory!
What we need to do is expand our public transport network to include a personal vehicle; but not one that is inefficiently large and wastes its time all day in a car park. We need small, weather-proof, sharable vehicles to form the link between the fixed public transport systems provided by trains, trams, and buses and our journeys end.
For such a system to work there would have to be a lot of these sharable vehicles available backed up by a real time information system that users can tap into to find and book their nearest vehicle. Until a couple of years ago such a complex and integrated system was only theoretical. However in the last couple of years wide spread Smartphone use has provided the final piece of the jigsaw.
The Solution – In Practice
The city of Grenoble in France is partnering with Toyota in a three year trial of the world’s first city wide transport system that uses the latest technology to integrate all forms of transport. EDF Energy are also partnering in the trial to provide recharging points across the city for a fleet of car-share vehicles.
The technology system is called Ha:mo, or the Harmonious Mobility Network, and it has been designed by Toyota. Ha:mo NAVI provides traffic routing information, while Ha:mo RIDE is the electric car-sharing system.
Smartphone users can download the “CITÉ LIB by Ha:mo” app which allows drivers to check the location and availability of charged car-sharing vehicles, book them, and be guided along the best possible route to their destination using whatever combination of public and private transport requested by the user. The fleet of electrically powered car-shares is designed to eliminate the need for many people to bring their cars into the city center and to public transport hubs. The hope is that this will drastically reduce emissions and congestion and start to wean people off their reliance on a private car.
This is the first large scale trial of a fully integrated and technology lead transport system. The hope is that such a system will improve traffic flow, minimize emissions and make eco-friendly transportation readily available to everyone. The system will be run for a period of three years in which there will be a great deal of lessons learned and hurdles overcome. Early indications are that the technology works well but the areas that will need to be improved are public engagement and providing constant political support to these schemes even when local political affiliations change.