New transportation technologies, smartphones, and mobile apps are changing the mobility landscape. The past few decades have seen the rise of near real-time data for consumer travel choices, the creation of new transportation companies and services like rideshare that are directly attributable to big data and smartphones, and new ways to manage transportation systems.
With traffic congestion in the Capital Region projected to increase more than 150 percent from 2015 levels by 2040,1 these technological advances could provide much-needed solutions—improving the ease with which consumers interact with various transportation providers, encouraging more efficient use of the region’s transportation systems, and decreasing congestion. However, if not managed well, new technologies could also exacerbate the region’s existing challenges—complicating the consumer experience, discouraging efficient use of the transportation system, increasing inequitable access for certain groups, and adding to congestion woes.
The Capital Region should leverage new technologies to encourage more efficient use of its transportation system, improve the consumer experience, and provide a more equitable and accessible tech-enabled future for all consumers in the Capital Region.
Capital Region Performance
The ability of the region’s residents to travel easily across city, county, and state lines on a daily basis directly impacts the functioning of the regional economy. Each day, about 50 percent of all commuters—2.4 million people—in the Capital Region cross county lines to get to their place of work.2 Almost one in five of the region’s commuters travel across state borders to access jobs.3 While fuel is the main energy source today, data is quickly becoming the fuel driving transformations in the mobility sector.
Data and its management represent the new fuel of the region’s transportation system. For example, real-time information from smartphones provides Google and other mapping services the ability to accurately estimate trip arrival times and chart trips around crashes and severe congestion. This would not be possible without the ability to access real-time data and make use of it instantly. The possibilities to improve transport options by leveraging data are quickly growing. By 2020, the data generated by a consumer is expected to grow from a high of 700 megabytes of data per day to 1.5 gigabytes of data per day4—the equivalent of more than 6,700 200-page books.5 Delays or restrictions on data sharing could inhibit consumers, public agencies, and private transportation companies from accessing the best available information to inform their decisions.
Individual jurisdictions in the Capital Region are leading the way on integrating mobility innovations, but coordination across jurisdictional boundaries to scale and integrate these at the regional level is limited. For example, common trip planning and payment platforms are not yet available in the Capital Region. While the Washington metro area’s SmarTrip farecard allows consumers to pay for trips on the other transit agencies in the metro area, none of the region’s farecards currently function in Richmond or Baltimore—or with Amtrak, Virginia Railway Express (VRE), bikeshare, or private rideshare operations. This lack of integration across jurisdictional lines and all trip options creates confusion for consumers and undermines the potential benefits of new technologies.
Integrated mobility platforms can greatly improve the consumer experience and attract new riders—in part by speeding up transit trips. Transit consumers paying with a mobile phone take roughly two seconds to board—a bit faster than a smart card and much faster than the approximately six seconds needed to pay with cash.6 These seemingly small differences add up: On average, 20 percent of the time spent on a bus trip is spent waiting for others to pay and board.7 Offboard payments, in which public transportation consumers complete their ticket purchase before boarding a transit vehicle, further reduce travel time and can increase speeds an additional 10 percent.8 These improvements, along with integrated ticketing systems across transit options, have increased public transportation ridership from 5 to 20 percent in peer regions throughout the world.9
A regionally coordinated smart traffic signal system—which adjusts traffic signals in response to real-time roadway conditions and movement of priority vehicles such as buses or ambulances—could also significantly reduce congestion. At a cost of $50 million, Maryland is creating 14 smart signal corridors on heavily traveled state routes.10 Early results have achieved a 13 percent reduction in drive times along routes in Harford County.11 Pittsburgh’s implementation of smart traffic signal technology at more than 50 intersections in the city has reduced travel time by 25 percent at these intersections and lowered vehicle idling time by more than 40 percent.12
While the Capital Region is still a few years away from widespread adoption of full autonomous vehicles (AVs) on the roadways, Maryland, the District, and Virginia differ in their approach to allowing the testing of full AVs on their roads. Debate remains on when driverless cars and drone deliveries will be fully operational and integrated into our daily mobility services, but few doubt that these new technologies will have a transformative impact on our transportation system. The Capital Region’s ability to collaborate on how these technologies are implemented will directly impact the extent to which the Capital Region can properly manage their emergence and reap the benefits from them. Jurisdictions within the Capital Region should work together to establish the foundation to maximize the potential benefit of AV technology, while minimizing its negative impacts.
- Build a cross-jurisdiction Capital Region data management system to power all technology actions and improve regional mobility
- Enable the creation of Integrated Mobility platforms for all public and private mobility options
- Deploy regionally coordinated smart traffic signals to reduce vehicle congestion and speed up bus travel
- Establish a coordinated autonomous vehicle (AV) strategy for the Capital Region
- UMD analysis of the Chesapeake Bay Megaregion Model.
- Partnership analysis of U.S. Census American Community Survey.
- “Each autonomous car will one day generate more data than thousands of people.” Mashable, August 2016. https://mashable.com/2016/08/17/intel-autonomous-car-data/#aNcDYjfYQqq9.
- Partnership analysis using disk drive space values.
- “It Starts with a Single App.” The Economist. https://www.economist.com/ international/2016/09/29/it-starts-with-a-single-app.
- “Metrobus Studies.” PlanItMetro. https://planitmetro.com/metrobus-studies.
- Block-Schachter, David, Joe Sullivan, Tom Rousakis and Jon Godsmark. “AFC 2.0 Systems Integrator Contract.” Powerpoint Presentation for MBTA Fiscal Management and Control Board, November 2017. https://cdn.mbta.com/sites/default/files/fmcb-meeting-docs/2017/november/2017-11-20-fmcb-afc2.pdf
- The Benefits of Simplified and Integrated Ticketing in Public Transport. London: Booz & Co., 2011. http://www.urbantransportgroup.org/resources/types/reports/benefits-simplified-and-integrated-ticketing-public-transport.
- “Governor Larry Hogan Announces Next Phase of Traffic Relief Plan for Major Regional Corridors.” Office of Governor Larry Hogan, October 2017. https://governor.maryland.gov/2017/10/25/governor-larry-hogan-announces-next-phase-of-traffic-relief-plan-for-major-regional-corridors/
- “Pittsburgh’s AI Traffic Signals Will Make Driving Less Boring.” IEEE Spectrum, October 2016. https://spectrum.ieee.org/cars-that-think/robotics/artificial-intelligence/pittsburgh-smart-traffic-signals-will-make-driving-less-boring