about: areas of special focus
In pursuit of our overarching goals, SMART has identified five “themes” that fill unaddressed gaps; guide and inform the program’s collaborative research, pilot projects, and education activities; and represent SMART’s unique, paradigm-shifting approach to sustainable urban transportation (see Figure 2). Elements of these solution sets were introduced by SMART in a 2006 article entitled “New Mobility: The Next Generation of Sustainable Urban Transportation,” in the Bridge Magazine of the National Academy of Engineers (and since reprinted in the magazine of the Australian Academy of Engineers). See http://www.nae.edu/nae/bridgecom.nsf/weblinks/MKEZ-6WHPJK?OpenDocument
1. Systems Integration: Connecting the Dots.
A variety of tools and approaches has been developed to support the analysis and modeling of complex urban transportation systems. At least three types of complementary systems analysis (top-down, bottom-up, and simulations) can be applied to transportation and accessibility.
Top-down analyses generally start with self-generated variables or hypotheses and develop a causal-loop diagram using software that highlights patterns, dynamics, and possible intervention points. Once a basic analysis is complete, more in-depth data gathering and modeling can be done.
Bottom-up, or agent-based, models, are computer-based models that use empirical and theoretical data to represent interactions among a range of components, environments, and processes in a system, revealing their influence on the overall behavior of the system. Ethnographic research can also be applied to transportation as a bottom-up research tool. By giving subjects documentation tools (e.g., cameras) over a fixed period of time, patterns of behavior can be observed without interference by researchers.
Simulations and scenario-building software can draw from and build upon both top-down and bottom-up analyses. Simulations graphically depict and manipulate transportation and other urban dynamics to inform decision making and identify opportunities for innovation. MetroQuest (2006) is a good example of an effective urban-transportation simulation tool.
With the support of the National Science Foundation, SMART is developing a report on future research directions related to systems-based approaches to sustainable transportation. (see Research)
A Practical Realization of Systems Integration as Solution: New Mobility Hubs
Where the problems (and related analysis) are complex, solutions must also be multi-faceted and sophisticated. SMART is working to link a growing range of service, product, technology, and design options and innovations that can be brought together to support seamless, door-to-door sustainable transportation.
New Mobility hub networks exemplify seamless door to door solutions that support a personalized, customized, connected portfolio of transportation services, products, technologies and design, much like our personalized tele-communications portfolios that connect i-pod, laptop, desktop, Google, cell phone, etc. A New Mobility Hub network is a series of ubiquitous hubs, or transfer points around a city where connections can be made easily from one mode or service to another seamlessly. For example one might arrive at a vibrant hub on a bus or train having reserved a car share vehicle with one’s cell phone-based traveler information and fare payment technology. Quickly and conveniently one can gain access to the car-share vehicle at the hub, transfer to the car share vehicle as needed, and drop it off at another hub. At that subsequent hub, one might pick up a bike share vehicle or decide to stay at the hub and use the satellite office, or pick the children up from daycare, or browse in a book store.
SMART works with Ford Motor Company and a range of private sector and public sector partners on New Mobility hub network pilot development in a number of cities. (see Projects)
2. The Accessibility Paradigm: Getting Ends and Means Straight.
Current transportation systems emphasize mobility, getting from A to B at the highest speed possible. Yet transportation is a derived demand – a means to an end. Often we treat it as if it were an end in itself, and as a result, we evaluate a range of land-use and transportation policies-- including road widening, travel demand management and land use planning in terms of their capacity to speed up traffic. If, on the other hand, our goal is to provide accessibility to needs and destinations, a wider range of solution possibilities becomes available and favors social and environmental sustainability. Mobility is one way to achieve access to needs and destinations. However we can also achieve accessibility through smart land use and urban design, bringing needs and destinations closer (proximity) or by reducing or replacing trips altogether through tele-work, tele-banking, tele-shopping, tele-education, etc. (technology). An accessible city increases our range of options and allows us to meet more needs within a given time and budget on any given day.
With the support of the Environmental Protection Agency, the University of Michigan Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute (GESI) and the Federal Highway Administration Office of Acquisition and Management, and M-CASTL (the Michigan Center for Advancing Safe Transportation throughout the Lifespan) SMART is working to develop an Accessibility Index that supports and informs the accessibility-based paradigm and related policy suites. (Link to Accessibility Proposal summary).
3. Supporting the Emergence of a Vital New Mobility Industry: New Roles for the Private Sector in Sustainable Urban Transportation.
As we move from half to two thirds of the world living in urbanized regions, there is an enormous, yet untapped market for integrated urban transportation innovation (including New Mobility Hubs). Innovating for the next generation of sustainable urban transportation goes beyond the traditional transportation sector to engage a wider range of industries including telecommunications, real estate, logistics, finance, as well as design of new services, products, and technologies, and the links between them (see Figure 6 below). New Mobility Industry development, an approach conceived by Toronto’s “Moving the Economy” and further developed by SMART, observes and fosters an emerging role for a broad range of corporations and entrepreneurial enterprises in sustainable urban transportation innovation, both for local application and for export. This approach engages the private sector at the innovation stage, moving from Public Private Partnership (PPP) to Public Private Innovation (PPI).
SMART is having an impact as a “link tank” -- identifying and fostering innovation partnerships for New Mobility Industry development in pilot cities in the US, India, Brazil, and South Africa. For example, in his November 13, 2007 Wege Lecture at the U-M, William Clay Ford, Jr., chairman of Ford Motor Company, acknowledged the role of SMART/CARSS and its new mobility industry development model as a major influence on his thinking and Ford’s strategic planning for developing sustainable transportation, especially in India, Brazil and South Africa. (See the video webstream at http://www.snre.umich.edu/node/54)
4. The Socio-Cultural Context: Values, Aspirations, and Making Sustainable Transportation Hip and Attractive.
It is commonly accepted and supported by research that the personal automobile represents more to people than getting from point A to point B. It ties deeply to notions of culture, status, aspiration, and identity. And as the world urbanizes and gains increasing access to global media, the desire for motorized transportation rises exponentially both individually and politically. However notions of status and aspiration vary by culture. For example whereas in general in North America driving one’s own car is considered desirable, in some other countries being driven around by someone else is preferred as an indicator of status or wealth. So in stewarding a transition to sustainable urban transportation, it is essential to understand the underlying social and cultural significance of various transportation modes and practices both in order to design optimal, culture-specific systems, and to develop effective and compelling communication and marketing that reorients status and aspiration towards integrated sustainable urban mobility – “making sustainable transportation Hip and Attractive.” SMART is interested in the social and cultural foundations of transportation with a view to new system design and innovative approaches to promoting and marketing sustainable urban transportation adoption.
5. Building Capacity for Now and for the Next Generation.
A systems, accessibility-based approach to sustainable urban transportation calls for new knowledge and skills related to a range of disciplines including business, planning and architecture, systems thinking, public policy, engineering, psychology, information and telecommunications studies, environmental science, social and cultural studies, and more. Through its NSF-supported Learning Community, SMART works to develop collaborative research, professional and public sector knowledge and exchange networks, and academic programs that support sustainable urban transportation understanding, innovation, and implementation. In this way SMART invests in transforming the capacity and perspective of the next generation of thinkers and doers in sustainable transportation.