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Putting People First - Transport System Solutions That Work For Everyone

July 11, 2017

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is a financial institution tasked with fostering economic growth and cooperation in the Asia and the Pacific region. Its goal is to help member countries in the region reduce poverty and improve the quality of life. ADB provides loans, technical assistance, grants, and equity investments to promote social and economic development. Founded in 1966, ADB has 67 members, 48 from within Asia and the Pacific and 19 outside. Japan and the United States are two of the largest contributors.

The past few years have seen rapid changes in the Asia and the Pacific region.ADB is being challenged to work "stronger, better and faster" by expanding its scale and improving its efficiency to meet the challenges outlined in Strategy 2020.

Several important milestones have been achieved through Strategy 2020:

Under the theme of "Building Together the Prosperity of Asia", the "50th ADB Annual Meeting Yokohama 2017" was held from May 4-7. During the meeting, a panel discussion focused on "The Role of Innovation in Sustainable Urban Public Transport". The following is a summary of this discussion.

NEC – Value Creation and the Smart City

Panel moderator Shinya Kukita, Chief Engineer, NEC, introduced the company's current focus on social value creation – finding social solutions that include the various activities found in a smart city. Sustainability and inclusive development is an important topic because of the increase in city populations. Cities are involved in the integration of various networks, not just telecommunications but also energy, things, materials and people.

Viewed as a whole, we see the different regions of the world, different types of cities in different stages of their evolution. But one commonality is traffic congestion, most particularly seen in Asia-Pacific areas.

Conventional thinking says that public transport will be the solution. Reality, however, often intrudes because public transport has its own issues, its own challenges and difficulties. This session is concerned with the benefits offered by public transport, its challenges and IT technological innovations.

Real Problems for Real People – Solutions through Policy Changes, Innovation and Technology

Anne Dowling is a transport expertise consultant working in program delivery, solution architecture and design for public transport technologies globally.

The history of innovation in public transport is usually centered in the major centers of Europe or North America. Over several decades, states Dowling, millions of investment dollars have gone into these areas, while for the most part, investment in Asia has been limited. Except for particularly modernized cities like Hong Kong or Singapore, the remaining areas of Asia should really be able to benefit from all the experience and know-how gained in the west.

Because people continually make choices about what kind of transportation to use, one issue for planners is trying to understand what these choices are based on. Decisions made by people have a cause and effect relationship related to issues of traffic, pollution and personal time lost. Reasons like "public transportation doesn't serve my community" or "riding packed trains is uncomfortable" or even "I don't know how to get around" are common. There are strong concerns, particularly from women, about safety and security. There are other issues of system reliability, whether someone can trust the system to get them to work on time.

These are real problems for real people. Solutions to these kinds of problems come through policy changes, innovation and technology. Policy change requires deployment of technology but it also requires support to be effective. Dowling further elaborates by describing issues of car taxes, restricting travel by physical location, toll implementation and enforcement for service level agreements. All of these are areas that need to be managed at a governmental level after which technology can be used advantageously.

Dowling gives examples of successful transport implementation that include London, Hong Kong and Singapore. London has implemented congestion pricing where people pay to bring their cars into the city, a policy that can have an effect on public transport choice. Singapore holds its bus operators accountable for service level agreements and meeting KPIs (e.g., are buses on time, is the passenger information correct). In Hong Kong, the MTR (Mass Transit Railway) has transit oriented development.

Dowling believes that while these innovations have been successful, they just can't be copied. There needs to be a careful analysis of what has been successful and why it has worked. Using a specific technology requires paying attention to the specific circumstances of each city or region.

Understanding the Complexities of Sustainable Transportation

Daniel A. Levine serves as Senior Officer for the Tokyo Development Learning Center Program, Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience Global Practice, World Bank Group. A partnership between the Japanese government and the World Bank, the focus is on learning from Japan and mobilizing expertise and know-how from Japan for operational projects.

One focus is the engagement eco center. This is critical for urban sustainable transportation because the focus is directly on working with cities. Japan's four partner cities are Yokohama, Toyama, Kita-Kyushu and Kobe. Each city is examined as a whole to fully understand the constraints surrounding transportation and urban development and to see how all the different sectors work together. After extensive research, clients are brought to Japan to learn directly from the experience gained by these cities. Levine believes that this is crucial to understanding the complexities surrounding urban sustainable transportation.

Smart city solutions and urban transportation solutions have some similarities as seen in the quality of the infrastructure investment structure that the World Bank and the government of Japan have put forward. There are some key elements that are vital for any BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) transportation project to be really sustainable. These include economic efficiency, particularly as related to lifecycle costing and environmental and social sustainability.

Levine says that the questions to ask have to do with application to universal design where everyone has access. Local and social contribution is a key driver for any transportation solution. Access to jobs is always a critical component. The amount of time it takes people to get access to jobs is a fundamental aspect to the level and quality of jobs they can access. Safety is another important factor in relation to traffic control systems and other intelligence solutions. In earthquake and typhoon-prone areas, resilience to natural disasters based on previous learning and accrued know-how is also of utmost importance.

BRT projects have been successful in many area of China where bus lines have been increased and new integrated managements systems capable of handling large amounts of data have been implemented. One takeaway from this kind of project is learning how best to partner around financing.

One project in the Philippines saw reductions in travel times, significant reductions in accidents and decreases in pollution emissions. In Ho Chi Minh City, a BRT system was built from scratch and there has been a big push to alternative energy buses using compressed natural gas. In Japan, BRT programs are looking at innovation around ICT, transportation and information management systems, priority systems, smart cards, ticketing and gate systems and security systems. Facial recognition* and gate systems are key elements. Smart cards can be real challenges for developing countries .This requires a comprehensive approach to actually put in the solution.

It is difficult to see the entire eco system around the city, says Levine, so we really are looking at the capital cost of urban transportation. Within Japan, there is a strong private sector around rail and systems but it's important to view a complete system where partnerships can be analyzed.

Using ITMS to Solve India's Vast Transportation Challenges

Shumpei Fujii heads NEC's transportation business unit in India. Since 2014, NEC has been working with four projects related to bus rapid transit lines as well as city buses, a total of 4,000 buses, and an ICT system.

India faces a myriad of challenges – a lot of ground realities. India today has around 100 bus operation public authorities and 150,000 public buses running daily. With daily ridership approaching 90 million, this is a remarkable number for a global economy. The number of BRT lines serving seven cities has a daily ridership of around 340,000. The World Bank and other government initiatives are planning 12 more BRT lines. Today many BRT lines are implementing ICT.

But in reality, says Fujii, there are vast challenges remaining for users, which means challenges facing government and operators. Problems abound over issues such as planning, ride discomfort, buses not arriving on time, routes that don't match customer location needs, overcrowding, difficulty of fare payment due to overcrowding and safety, particularly the concerns of female passengers.

Challenges for operators have to do with schedule distortion; when buses bunch up or when schedule gaps cause delays. Drivers skip stops. Operations are done manually. Planning is not efficient, routes are duplicated, and there are many instances of cash collection fraud. Fujii wryly relates that it's actually standard operation procedure for drivers to pocket the fares. Other difficult issues focus on bus maintenance, route planning, or personnel dispatch. Controlling thousands or even tens of thousands sitting on the ground is difficult at best. To reach solutions Fujii says there is a need for ground visualization and optimization.

ITMS (Integrated Transportation Management System) is used to collect data by putting devices in the systems; some for fare collection, others for tracking vehicles or incidents or planning personnel rosters. What is most important is the analytic metrics layer where data is gathered, thought about logically and developed into practical solutions. The goal is to eventually be able to contribute to an improvement scenario by enhancing the experience, handling fare revenue increases, optimizing schedules and visualizing KPIs.

There is a mobile app that gives users information on bus arrivals, current customer location and destination. Tickets can be purchased with the app and shown to the conductor – no cash required. NEC is responsible for some of the technology, for example, data analysis or a cashless system. Big data technology is utilized on revenues by routes and trip efficiency. Fujii states that these are important KPIs for the government because most bus fleets are privatized and visibility is required relevant to daily incidents and operator violations. This type of analysis can contribute to either increasing revenue or reducing cost by reducing crew numbers, reusing vehicles or optimizing the numbers of trips to increase efficiency for both revenue and cost.

Focusing on liveable cities – Towards sustainable transport

Amy S. P. Leung is the Deputy Director General and Chief Thematic Officer of Sustainable Development and Climate Change Department of ADB. The ADB’s strategy for supporting developing member countries is being guided by its Strategy 2020, which promotes inclusive economic and environmental sustainable growth and regional integration.

Since 2010, ADB’s transport operations have been guided by the Sustainable Transport Initiative (STI). This adopted sustainable transport as the overall focus for transport operations, defining sustainable transport as transport that is accessible, affordable, environment-friendly and safe. Through STI, ADB committed, Leung says, to building up our more sustainable types of transport operations over the period from 2010 to 2020. The focus is in new priority areas comprising urban transport, addressing climate change, cross-border transport and logistics, and road safety and social sustainability.

Leung also recognized that many development challenges require cross-sectoral solutions. For example, one of the Asia’s largest and most urgent needs is providing sustainable transport solutions for the region’s rapidly growing cities, but efforts to improve urban transport need to be integrated with urban planning. As Leung pointed out, holistic solutions that integrate transport and urban planning are required to achieve a more effective management of urban growth and ultimately more inclusive cities.

In this context, Leung cited a number of instruments that can be brought together to integrate urban spatial planning and urban transport, such as transit-oriented development, which combine mixed-use developments with high density residential and commercial areas based around mass transit corridors, with pedestrian and cycling facilities in order to achieve integration of urban spatial planning and urban transport.

Japanese Corporations Supporting the ADB

The ADB Annual Meeting showcased a wide range of technologies from Japanese corporations supporting development in Asia. NEC demonstrated its advanced security face recognition and walk-through authentication technologies. NEC also held a seminar featuring actual projects using IoT and AI.

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