Shifting Smart City travel information systems to the Smart Region

Potter, Stephen and Valdez Juarez, Alan (2017). Shifting Smart City travel information systems to the Smart Region. In: Universities Transport Study Group Annual Conference, 4-6 Jan 2017, Dublin.


This discussion paper explores issues around how regional transport infrastructure provision might be transformed by integration with appropriate digital infrastructure. As MK:Smart, a three and a half year £16m smart city programme has moved to its conclusion, and its digital and virtual tools come into place, there has also come into place a major regional planning initiative in the form of the Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford corridor. This is now attracting major transport infrastructure funding. Yet the role of digital infrastructure in this substantial initiative appears to be entirely peripheral.

But whereas the National Infrastructure Commission report on the report Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford corridor only mentions digital infrastructures in passing, these have formed a major focus for a number of transport projects within the corridor itself, and are set to become a central element in transport strategy nationwide. A digital infrastructure perspective represents an entirely different approach to that of the traditional provision of physical infrastructure. Two examples of digital transport infrastructure are provided that are being developed by communities within the Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford corridor.

The first is at Milton Keynes within the £16m MK:Smart project. This involves the development of a city-wide transport information app based on real-time movements of people and vehicles. Called MotionMap, it goes beyond existing commercial sat nav systems, drawing on a variety of data feeds and a city-wide sensing network provided as part of the overall big data approach of MK:Smart. Big data information systems like MotionMap, in many ways, represent the digital successor to the earlier concept of Personalised Travel Plans which provide enhanced travel information through traditional means to households and to employees in workplaces. In addition, by providing the data platform to support new digital era services, such as demand responsive buses, shared cabs and autonomous pods, MotionMap could facilitate a range of new sustainable transport services, providing even further traffic reductions.

The second example is OneTRANSPORT, which seeks to standardise and commercialise transport data across Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Northamptonshire and Oxfordshire. The intention is to connect hundreds of siloed datasets so they can be used to create smart city transport applications for residents.

Such smart city transport initiatives could shift to the regional level, and the emerging concept of 5G connected and autonomous corridors suggests a way forward that could take conventional regional/corridor transport infrastructure approaches into the digital regime. A key unrealised potential is for digital infrastructure to manage the physical. For the Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford corridor this could be the key action that lifts this corridor into the digital age through a 5G corridor in which the digital infrastructure manages the physical infrastructure to provide an order of magnitude improvement in its productivity.

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