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National Transportation Strategies—2022 And Beyond: Part II

In a hyperconnected world powered by the IoT (Internet of Things), transportation planners and policymakers have access to unprecedented volumes of data. Let’s continue our deep dive into transportation and how the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, also known as the IIJA (Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act) has caused a renewed interest in modernizing transportation modes across the nation.

Today, planners and policymakers use advanced modeling and simulation capabilities to put this data to use to test new transportation solutions in digital environments that duplicate real-world conditions. For example, one city is using its Activity-Based Model and “sketch planning” tools to compare the benefits of road-widening to relieve traffic congestion with the benefits of other potential improvements, such as fast rail lines or light rail systems.

In San Diego, a regional planning commission, SANDAG (San Diego Assn. of Governments), has a far-reaching proposal on record. According to Deloitte, SANDAG has its “5 Big Moves” project:

  1. Leverage technology, sensors, and connectivity to change the way roads are used and managed.
  2. Develop a high-capacity, high-speed, high-frequency transit network, that includes new modes of transit and improvements to existing services.
  3. Introduce new mobility hubs, with a range of travel options, to address first- and last-mile challenges and to deliver a more seamless travel experience.
  4. Introduce flexible fleets of on-demand, shared, electric—and eventually, autonomous—vehicles that connect to transit within a mobility hub.
  5. Build an integrated platform called “Next OS” that will serve as “the brain of the entire transportation system.” Next OS—central to achieving systemwide optimization—will turn integrated data into insights that planners can use to better manage transportation systems and the movement of people and goods.

Ultimately, SANDAG hopes to create a more integrated, user-centered, accessible, and affordable transportation system that, in time, will supersede the car-centric model that has reigned since 1908. San Diego’s sweeping plan is underpinned by five transformative trends that Deloitte sees shaping the mobility agenda in 2022 and beyond.

The idea of MaaS has been in operation for a few years. Helsinki’s MaaS application, Whim, was one of the first mobility platforms to envision an integrated, multimodal future. Since 2016, Helsinki residents have used Whim to plan and pay for all modes of public and private transportation within the city—be it by train, taxi, bus, carshare, or bikeshare.

The RTD (Regional Transport District), which provides public transportation to eight counties in Colorado, including the city of Denver, recently partnered with the developers of the Transit app to simplify multimodal trip planning. Users can now plan trips across public and private mobility providers, including transit systems, ride-hailing companies, and bikeshare services. The app also integrates a ticketing platform that lets users make payments to multiple transport providers at once. 

Let’s not forget the oldest mode of transportation: walking. The IIJA nearly doubled funding for the TA (Transportation Alternatives) Set-Aside, to an average annual amount of $1.44 billion from 2022 through 2026. The TA Set-Aside program can be used for a variety of projects including pedestrian and bicycle facilities, recreational trails, Safe Routes to School projects, road safety assessments, community improvements such as historic preservation and vegetation management, and environmental mitigation related to stormwater and habitat connectivity.

The city of Pittsburgh has experimented with an AI-driven traffic light system that adapts to current conditions instead of following a preprogrammed pattern. Computer vision and radar enable the system to see vehicles coming from all directions. This traffic data powers a predictive model used to modify traffic signaling patterns in real time. The city initially installed this system at 50 intersections and plans to scale up to 150. The system has helped reduce travel time by 25%, braking by 30%, and idling by more than 40%.

Rather than using static time-of-day models, ATM (active traffic management) uses current and predicted traffic condition data to dynamically manage traffic and congestion on roads. In Seattle, the state of Washington has created smarter highway corridors that include ATM-based signage and variable speed limits to better manage incidents and maintenance of roads. On the Interstate-5 corridor where the system was implemented, the number of annual crashes fell from 434 to 296.

Highways aren’t the only roads impacted by the IIJA. Railroads, the original nationwide transportation modal, are scheduled to gain infrastructure funding, too. Over the next five years, that means greatly expanding existing Federal Railroad Admin., programs and creating new programs to enhance our nation’s rail network. The IIJA includes $102 billion in total rail funding, including $66 billion from advanced appropriations, and $36 billion in authorized funding.

The bill also makes the largest investment in passenger rail since the creation of Amtrak 50 years ago. U.S. passenger rail falls behind the rest of the world in reliability, speed, and coverage. China already has 22,000 miles of high-speed rail and is planning to double that by 2035. The legislation positions rail to play a central role in our nation’s transportation and economic future, investing $66 billion in additional rail funding to eliminate the Amtrak maintenance backlog, modernize the Northeast Corridor, and bring world-class rail service to areas outside the northeast and mid-Atlantic. 

Getting off the road and railroad, river and maritime traffic has gotten little notice when discussing infrastructure but shipping, domestic and international, is an important factor in boosting supply chain flexibility. For maritime, the IIJA invests more than $17 billion in port infrastructure and waterways with the primary aim of addressing needed repairs and maintenance backlogs, reducing congestion to strengthen supply chains and remove bottlenecks to expedite commerce, cutting emissions near ports by boosting electrification, and investing in other low-carbon technologies to reduce environmental impacts on neighboring communities. 

River traffic is also on the schedule. The Maritime Admin., or MARAD—part of the U.S. DOT—recently designated a new marine highway route, two new marine highway projects, and one project extension as part of the AMHP (America’s Marine Highway Program).

Since its inception in 2014, the AMHP has designated 54 marine highway projects, a planned service or expansion of an existing service on a designated marine highway route. A marine highway route is a navigable waterway, capable of transporting freight, located in the United States or its territories. In March, MARAD made nearly $25 million in grant funding available for the AMHP from the $1.2 trillion IIJA.

The new initiatives affect eight states: Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, California, and Oregon. The specifics of those awards are:

In 2021, about 41% of federal transportation and infrastructure spending was on highway transportation and 32% was on air travel. The remainder was for rail and mass transit (19%) and water (8%). Most transportation and infrastructure spending comes directly from state and local governments, which spent $191.1 billion on projects in 2019, excluding federal transfers. 

Air travel rebounded in 2021 but is below 2019 pre-pandemic levels, with the number of scheduled flights down 20% in the first eleven months of 2021. Public rail transit ridership in November 2021 was 79% higher than November 2020 levels. There are 618,456 bridges in the U.S. and their condition is improving. Conditions of urban interstates, mid-sized, and minor roads have improved since 2000. Train infrastructure is degrading. 

Transportation funding remained elevated in FY2021 after increasing 50% in FY2020 because of COVID-19 pandemic stimulus. About 81% of pandemic transportation stimulus funds were budgeted for air carriers, airports, and transit agencies.

The U.S. DOT’s FAA (Federal Aviation Admin.) will award $2.89 billion made available by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to 3,075 airports around the nation. The money can be invested in runways, taxiways, safety and sustainability projects, as well as terminal, airport-transit connections and roadway projects.

For example, the FAA will make available $20 million to modernize air traffic control towers at many small town and municipal airports. There are currently 156 airports with contract air traffic control towers eligible for this funding—places like Smyrna Airport, Tenn.; Richland, N.C.; and Medford, Ore. The FAA pays for air traffic controller services on a contract basis due to the amount of air traffic these airports have. While not as much traffic as some, these airports provide a critical connection for these communities.

Digital twins could be used to run simulations based on real conditions to improve air traffic management. For example, a software-enabled system called the AOPP (Airport Operations Performance Predictor) ingests a vast amount of historical and current air traffic data and uses advanced analytics to build thousands of scenario simulations. These simulations can help air traffic controllers address real problems on the ground, such as predicting on-time arrivals and departures, determining which flights and airlines to prioritize, managing resources in the event of emergencies, and more.

But digital twins are just one aspect of technology available for improving transportation and the construction of the necessary infrastructure. The target might well be smart transportation. Smart transportation refers to the use of several advanced technologies that aims to provide innovative services to different modes of transport. Smart transportation also enables users of different transportation modes to be more coordinated, better informed, and make safer use of transportation networks.

Smart transportation is a vertical application of the IoT, in which information and communication technologies are applied in the field of transport, such as car navigation, security CCTV systems, traffic signal control systems, parking guidance, etc. Smart transportation is considered very crucial for four major purposes, which include safety, environmental friendliness, productivity and efficiency, and better quality of life. predicts the global smart transportation market has increased significantly recently and projects that the market will rise tremendously in the 2022-2026 timeframe. The smart transportation market is expected to increase due to evolving mobility market, rapid urbanization, rising investments in smart cities, increasing penetration of the IoT, favorable government initiatives for developing smart transportation, etc. Yet the market faces some challenges such as high initial capital investment, cyber security threats in smart transportation, etc.

As in all things, the last two years under the threat of COVID-19 has caused a rethinking about technology and its value.  COVID-19 has made digital real for the infrastructure sector. In the past year, infrastructure players have renewed their efforts to digitize. KPMG, the global analysis firm, is seeing data, analytics, and new technologies being used to dramatically improve the planning cycle. Digital has become deeply embedded into the development of new assets and services. And infrastructure owners and operators are starting to build digital into their operations—from integrated asset management systems through to new payment systems.

Some of the more advanced infrastructure players are now exploring opportunities to collect and manage data across multiple assets and throughout their supply chains to create even more value. This is good news, but the industry could go further. This year, expect to see infrastructure players start to take a much longer-term and holistic view of digital—from integrating data from the back office through to the front office, through to engaging with users and customers to drive digital literacy, access, and acceptance.

The result should be more efficient use of the transportation funds available in the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. As research shows more advantages to electrification of the modes of transportation, and infrastructure design and engineering matches that with structural changes, transportation’s future will be a far cry from what Eisenhower experienced in 1919.

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