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Urban Development

Smarter roads for smarter mobility

MD Staff

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As transport technology progresses at breath-taking speed we tend to focus on how advanced and intelligent vehicles are getting.  However, of equal importance is the infrastructure that they travel on and where new technology can be used to make these roads more secure, safe, efficient and environmentally sound to support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

This is the subject that UNECE is now focusing on as part of the responsibilities of the Working Party on Road Transport (SC.1).  SC.1 works on the development and facilitation of international transport by road of both passengers and goods, helping to create simple harmonized transport rules and requirements.  The harmonization of intelligent infrastructure is a natural subject for these responsibilities, but has not yet received enough attention.  That changed this week when SC.1 held a special session which explored current practices, trends and perspectives in smart road infrastructure.

Smart road infrastructure can involve a number of factors, from using technology for better monitoring of movement, controlling traffic flow, updating travellers, or even communicating directly with cars to warn of a speed limit change.  It is as essential a part of the future of transport as smarter vehicles.

“Innovative new technology in transport is revolutionizing mobility, changing how people move, communicate, and pay for transport services, as well as how transport legislation is evolving,” said Mr. Yuwei Li, Director of UNECE’s Sustainable Transport Division, who emphasized the strong links with the work of SC.1.  “As countries make individual advancements in smart infrastructure, the technology may not be compatible with other countries in the region making international road travel more complicated, and also denying neighbouring countries of the chance to make greater advancements by moving forward together.”

Innovation in smart road infrastructure: a world of perspectives

A number of presentations highlighted new or ongoing projects focusing on using emerging technology for road infrastructure.  One of these focused on a project called Traffic Management as a Service from the City of Ghent, Belgium, co-financed by the European Regional and Development Fund through the Urban Innovative Actions Initiative. The project seeks to transform urban traffic control centres from giant immovable buildings which are difficult to update, into virtual traffic management services that are smarter and more accessible to the public.  Mr. Pieter Morlion, Project Manager of the city’s Traffic Control Centre, explained that virtual traffic management based on a central cloud-platform was being developed.

The platform integrated with a number of existing systems that hold information on real-time traffic patterns.  Currently existing systems such as Tom-Tom and Google maps may be familiar to most drivers, but modern traffic control centres find it difficult to constantly monitor or include data from these systems.  This new system would integrate local and global information sources and monitor them for anomalies. The advantage is that authorities will be able to access the platform and manage traffic instantly.  Additionally, citizens will be able to register with the system and, by providing their commuting routes and times, will be able to receive text updates when they might encounter an obstacle.

“By organizing traffic management as an online service, cities and countries around the globe can benefit from traffic management functionality just by subscribing to this service, without prior investments or installations,” said Mr. Morlion.  “They get immediately access to mobility data for their area and the tools to converse directly with citizens. I strongly believe that this will make the gap smaller between countries that have been investing for years in traffic management and, for example, developing countries.”

Additional presentations included an address from the Julius Baer bank on how new technology, regulation and changing lifestyles are rerouting energy expenditures and reshaping industries. Two alternative future scenarios of evolution or revolution of today’s trends were suggested based on population growth, a rising Asian middle class, urbanisation, fuel economy and electric mobility, autonomous driving and the sharing economy.

Hellastron (Hellenic Association of Toll Road Network) gave examples from the Aegean Motorway SA to demonstrate the continuous improvement in road infrastructure and services being provided to users. These improvements included developing a virtual traffic management centre and a National User Information System.

The Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment in the Netherlands shared how the country is embracing smart infrastructure with an emphasis on public/private partnerships and projects. The Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) provided insight into how their Smart Cities initiative came about.

The exploration of smart road infrastructure was also the chance to highlight the synergies between UNECE’s work on sustainable transport and housing and land management, as well as with initiatives undertaken by other UN organizations in this area, including the International Telecommunication Union.

SC.1 will include smart road infrastructure as a regular item on its agenda for future meetings so that all stakeholders may remain informed about emerging smart technologies for the planning of new, or upgrading of existing, road infrastructure.

Urban Development

Creating Smart Cities for Innovative Tourism Experiences

MD Staff

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The UNWTO Conference on City Breaks: Creating Innovative Tourism Experiences (15-16 October 2018) concluded today in Valladolid, Spain, with a call for cities to become smart tourism destinations, where tourism governance and the digital economy mesh together to offer travellers diverse and authentic experiences.

The conference brought together tourism leaders from the public and private sectors to analyse how to respond to the growing trend of city breaks as leisure experiences. They concluded that public-private partnerships, the inclusion of local communities and the creation of smart destinations are crucial for urban destinations to gain the knowledge and define the policies they need in order to respond to the new demands of hyper-connected and hyper-informed tourists.

“We must understand the evolution of tourists towards greater sustainability and inclusiveness, using new technological tools,” said Jaime Cabal, Deputy Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). “Creativity and innovation are needed when designing the experiences they are increasingly demanding.”

The Councillor for Culture and Tourism of Valladolid, Ana Maria Redondo, echoed this call, adding: “We need a better understanding of the fundamentals behind the current demand for city break experiences. Smart destination tools are our means to obtain this knowledge.”

The Deputy Director-General for Tourism Development and Sustainability of the Ministry of Tourism of Spain, Ruben Lopez Pulido, suggested that cities and all destinations change their models of tourism development to respond not only the most demanding tourists, but also to the rise of the digital and knowledge economy. “Being a smart destination is not just a label, but a process towards the comprehensive transformation of destinations, while always aiming at the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals,” he said.

Speakers at the conference included Dieter Hardt-Stremayr, President of European Cities Marketing and CEO of the Graz Tourism Office in Austria, who described what he considered key challenges for the growth of city breaks: transportation issues, seasonality, and the dispersion of tourism demand within a city and over time. “Our main challenge is to attract visitors to come right at this moment. To overcome it destination managers should focus on parts of the tourism offer that are ‘temporary’,” he concluded.

The main conclusions of the conference referred to urban tourism governance models. Participants highlighted that, with the growth of high-speed, low-cost transportation links that provide more and more visitors with access to city breaks, city destinations must respond by prioritizing investments that benefit residents and tourists alike.

They also concluded that with the technological advances that allow the creation of smart destinations, destination management organizations must shift their focus from only promoting the experiences available for tourists in cities, to managing urban tourism in all its complexity. For their part, tourism policy makers should use smart destination tools to study the impact of tourism on the profitability and sustainability of a city, and place the destination at the centre of policy changes. These conclusions will be taken into account in the UNWTO work plan on urban tourism.

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Urban Development

Melaka a model green city

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In the last five years, Melaka has made great strides toward building a sustainable, green city.

By 2020, the government-run 7248ha Melaka World Solar Valley aims to power most of the daily activities of manufacturers, housing developers, farmers and other stakeholders.

Recently, a public-private partnership installed 100,000 LED street lamps along the Alor-Gajah-Melaka Tengah-Jasin Highway, which will improve road safety and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

The urban landscape has also changed. Walkable neighbourhoods with mixed-use development have increased foot traffic and reduced car use.

The Melaka River, long a polluted backyard drainage canal, is now a popular gathering place and tourist attraction.

Melaka’s transformation is the result of meticulous planning, a comprehensive approach supported by government policies and projects, private sector engagement and citizen initiatives.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is proud to have worked with Melaka to develop its roadmap, the Green City Action Plan.

In addition to a technical assistance grant to underwrite the plan, which was completed in 2014, ADB also helped Melaka implement it, including by structuring bankable projects for solar energy and street lighting, setting up a database to track indicators in environment and economic growth, and conducting training in urban development, environment planning and knowledge sharing.

The Melaka projects are the first to be implemented under the Green Cities Initiative of the Indonesia-Malaysia-Thailand Growth Triangle (IMT-GT), an ADB-supported sub-regional cooperation programme focused on the development of 32 provinces in these three countries.

It aims to help states and provinces discover and use their relative comparative advantages to work together in the sub-region.

So far, four other cities – Songkhla and Hat Yai in Thailand; Medan and Batam in Indonesia – have developed similar plans.

A “green” city means an area that is resilient and inclusive, manages its natural resources well, promotes low carbon growth to remain competitive and improves the livelihoods of all citizens.

With each green city plan, countries are moving away from business-as-usual economic growth models to forge a clear, concise vision for a city’s future based on factors such as comprehensive analysis and consensus among key stakeholders.

These plans present a paradigm shift, where cities pursue integrated urban development and environmental planning as they make a transition to a cleaner, greener and more prosperous future.

The initiative is very relevant, because cities are the primary drivers of economic growth across countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), producing about 70% of the region’s gross domestic product.

Almost 300 million people in Asean already live in cities, and another 90 million people are expected to move in by 2030, pushing up the urban share of the population to nearly 45%.

Urbanisation is placing a growing environmental strain on cities, such as air, water and noise pollution, traffic congestion and inadequate solid waste management.

Tackling these challenges will require city governments to integrate social and environmental considerations into locally customised economic development plans.

It will require innovation, testing and application of new ideas, learning and sharing of lessons, and development of new approaches to emerging challenges.

The Green Cities Conference, to be held on Oct 1 in Melaka, will bring city leaders together to collaborate on green growth strategies.

It also seeks to continue to support the Green Cities Network established under the IMT-GT and the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asean Growth Area.

ADB strongly supports the network of Asean green cities, which serves as a platform for knowledge sharing.

Coinciding with the 25th anniversary of IMT-GT, the conference also provides a window for action following Melaka’s success in transforming into a green city.

It’s time now for policy makers to make their own Green City Action plans a reality. The implementation process requires strong coordination between multiple government agencies, the private sector and communities.

It will also require a management approach easily adaptable to project monitoring, data analysis and citizen feedback.

ADB stands ready to provide knowledge and financial support to further develop competitive, inclusive and green cities across Asean.

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Urban Development

Urban Tourism: We Need to Build Cities for Residents and Visitors

MD Staff

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At the 7th UNWTO Global Summit on Urban Tourism in Seoul, Republic of Korea (16-19 September), the Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Zurab Pololikashvili, laid out a vision looking to 2030 for urban tourism that contributes to sustainable and inclusive cities.

“A vision of urban tourism for 2030 needs to be inclusive, resilient, innovative and smart”, Mr. Pololikashvili said at the conference, which was held in partnership with the Seoul Metropolitan Government and engaged 900 participants from 50 countries in how to build cities for both residents and tourists.

Key amongst the conference conclusions was that technology and innovation will play a key role in this vision, but only if cities invest in the right infrastructure and skills, set an enabling regulatory framework and break the silos that exist among data sources. Speakers also stressed the role that tourists themselves play in respecting the local communities, traditions and values of cities.

The conference was opened by Park Wonsoon, Mayor of Seoul, who stressed that “Seoul has improved its tourism because we have been able to predict changes in tourism, technology, society and environment to follow trends and react appropriately to challenges”.

Do Jonghwan, Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism of the Republic of Korea, commended the summit for producing “an array of suggestions on cities’ function and role in tourism, the value and significance of cities to be shared with travellers, and how tourism can bring financial benefits with added values for residents.”

Memorable experiences were discussed at length as a major shift in motivation for tourists. “Tourism is a top sector in the experience economy, which is now becoming the transformational economy – cities, to be competitive, need to be authentic and provide transformational experiences,” said the conference’s keynote speaker B. Joseph Pine II, author of the best-seller ‘The Experience Economy’.

The conference stressed that tourism can and should contribute to the New Urban Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly Goal 11 on safe, resilient, inclusive and sustainable cities.

For that, participants called for tourism to be included in urban governance; led by cooperation among public, private sector and civil society; planned and managed considering local community needs and benefits; and smart in using technology and innovation to promote authentic experiences, monitor tourism impact and promote dispersal policies to spread benefits to the whole city and manage congestion. These four key areas of action will be taken forward to the 8th UNWTO Urban Tourism Summit, to be held in Astana, Kazakhstan in 2019.

On the occasion UNWTO released the report ‘‘Overtourism’? Understanding and managing urban tourism growth beyond perceptions’, produced in collaboration with the Centre of Expertise Leisure, Tourism & Hospitality (CELTH), Breda University of Applied Sciences, and the European Tourism Futures Institute (ETFI) of NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences. The report proposes eleven strategies and 68 measures to help understand and manage visitor growth in cities.

The 7th UNWTO Global Summit on Urban Tourism was organized by UNWTO and the Seoul Metropolitan Government with the support of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism of the Republic of Korea, the Korea Tourism Organization and the Seoul Tourism Organization.

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