W hat can we do about our transportation challenges? How do we prepare our transportation infrastructure to support our needs in the future?

These are just some of the questions addressed in a report from the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) titled Beyond Traffic 2045. The report is the result of two years of research and touches on a wide range of trends that will affect the U.S. transportation system in the decades to come, including emerging technologies, population growth, economic opportunities, and freight shipping.

There are many challenges, but cities in the U.S. and around the world are addressing them head-on to reduce congestion, become more efficient, and create value through smart solutions.

Smart cities and smart transportation often go hand in hand.

Urban areas are growing. There will be 70 million more people in the U.S. by 2045, with many residing in urban areas. Traffic congestion, already a problem in big cities, will only get worse. Besides frustrating commuters and visitors, congestion results in high costs. In fact, congestion delays and lost fuel costs $160 billion a year, according to the Beyond Traffic 2045 report.

Traffic management is one key element in reducing congestion. Sensors, cameras, and mobile applications make it possible to develop an integrated traffic management system, like the one used by the state of Utah. Traffic and road conditions can be monitored, pavement repair needs can be identified, signals can be adjusted to improve traffic flow, and travelers can be alerted of backups, delays, and alternate routes via signage and mobile devices.

Parking is another transportation challenge. More cars lead to more parking headaches. Some cities, like the City of San Diego, are implementing smart solutions to help alleviate the problem. The city plans to install 3,200 smart sensors as part of a project to replace 14,000 streetlights with more energy efficient LED lights. The sensors will help create an IoT platform that the city hopes to use to “optimize parking and traffic, enhance pedestrian safety, and track air quality” using real-time data and analytics. Savings from the streetlight replacements alone, which will come from the energy efficiency of the LED lighting as well as smart controls like automated dimming and brightening, are expected to be $2.4 million a year.

Smart solutions, like those at the Living Lab in Dallas, can make cities more attractive to residents and visitors and increase the use of public transportation. More efficient lighting reduces carbon emissions. Sensors can track atmospheric conditions, pollutants, and allergens as well as temperature and humidity. Kiosks can help residents and visitors shop and travel more efficiently with better information about public transit options and schedules. And onboard video can make public transportation options safer and more appealing.

Some cities, like Columbus, OH, see great opportunities in smart transportation solutions. The city won the Smart City Challenge in 2016. In their winning proposal, Columbus officials outlined a plan that would leverage smart solutions to improve economic opportunities and quality of life for all residents.

According to Mayor Andrew J. Ginther, “Transportation is not just about roads, transit, and ride sharing. It’s about how people access opportunity. And how they live.”

Smart transportation and smart cities rely on innovative technology and data analytics. Transportation agencies need to record, aggregate, and manage an increasing amount of data from cameras and sensors. From reducing congestion and enhancing safety to supporting new modes of transportation like driverless vehicles, smart solutions are making a difference in cities today and are vital to building the transportation infrastructure we need for tomorrow.

To learn more about how cities are modernizing their approach to transportation surveillance, view the Smart Storage for Smart Cities infographic.

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