Use tech­nol­ogy to ease con­ges­tion

Auck­land should copy other cities and use in­te­grated trans­port app

The New Zealand Herald - - Editorial & Letters - Con­tri­bu­tions are wel­come and should be 700-800 words. Send your sub­mis­sion to di­a­logue@nzher­ald.co.nz. Text may be edited and used in dig­i­tal for­mats as well as on pa­per. Econ­o­mist’s Har­vard Busi­ness Re­view’s Mark Thomas leads a smart cities en­ter­prise b

Since 2016, res­i­dents of Helsinki (a third the size of Auck­land) have been us­ing what’s called the Net­flix of trans­port to get around their city. Trav­ellers use an app, called Whim, to plan and pay for their jour­ney on pub­lic trans­port, taxis, bikes, share op­er­a­tors and rental cars.

Vi­enna, a lit­tle big­ger than Auck­land, be­gan test­ing its ver­sion of the same in­te­grated trans­port mo­bil­ity app, which they called Smile, in late 2014. Two years ago a pri­vate com­pany trans­formed it into the WienMo­bil Lab app and to­day Vi­enna cit­i­zens also have one place to go for their com­plete jour­ney.

There’s a name for th­ese trans­port de­vel­op­ments: Mo­bil­ity as a Ser­vice, or MaaS, a dig­i­tal plat­form that brings to­gether trip plan­ning, tick­et­ing and pay­ment for all trans­port modes, pub­lic and pri­vate, into one ap­pli­ca­tion.

It’s a dom­i­nant in­ter­na­tional trend as new tech­nol­ogy cre­ates much greater in­te­gra­tion pos­si­bil­i­ties. But you will find no ref­er­ence to it in the re­cently re­leased $28 bil­lion, 48-page Auck­land Trans­port Align­ment Project (Atap) up­date. There is also lit­tle men­tion of the trans­for­ma­tional ben­e­fits of tech­nol­ogy.

MaaS is re­ferred to in the Draft Re­gional Land Trans­port Plan for Auck­land re­leased a few days af­ter the Atap up­date, but is con­sid­ered just an “op­por­tu­nity”. Re­mark­ably, in the pro­posed 10-year plan for trans­port in Auck­land, MaaS and new tech­nol­ogy scarcely get a page.

Mo­bil­ity as a Ser­vice is such a sig­nif­i­cant de­vel­op­ment the MaaS Al­liance, a pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ship, has been cre­ated within the Euro­pean Union to fully de­ploy new tech­nol­ogy ap­proaches through­out Europe.

Auck­land’s land trans­port plan does, how­ever, clearly de­scribe the prob­lem. De­spite record growth in pub­lic trans­port, up 31 per from 2014 to 2017, kilo­me­tres trav­elled have also in­creased by 13 per cent over a sim­i­lar pe­riod. This may be why nei­ther the Trans­port Min­is­ter nor the mayor gave any de­tail about the ex­pected con­ges­tion re­duc­tion af­ter Atap’s $28b is spent.

Hap­pily, the land trans­port plan obliged. Its anal­y­sis shows even with ma­jor in­vest­ment, by 2046 morn­ing and af­ter­noon peak con­ges­tion will de­te­ri­o­rate by 29 per cent and in­ter-peak by 38 per cent. It is even worse news for freight con­ges­tion, which will in­crease by 50 per cent.

Tech­nol­ogy is un­der­weighted in Auck­land’s trans­port plans partly be­cause of the iron­i­cally ti­tled tech­nol­ogy re­port pre­pared un­der the pre­vi­ous Gov­ern­ment for Atap ver­sion 1 in mid-2016. It con­cluded, de­spite the grow­ing in­ter­na­tional con­sen­sus trans­port will be dis­rupted by new tech­nolo­gies (Uber launched in Auck­land two years ear­lier), there was a high de­gree of un­cer­tainty about them. This lack of con­fi­dence seems to per­sist un­der this Gov­ern­ment.

This at­ti­tude is in con­trast to cities like Vi­enna and Cal­gary, both above Auck­land on the most live­able cities list and that have tech­nol­ogy at the heart of their trans­port plans.

Next door in Aus­tralia, the Fu­ture Trans­port New South Wales plan re­leased in March has Mo­bil­ity as a Ser­vice and new tech­nol­ogy at its foun­da­tion be­cause, as the plan states, the next 40 years will see more tech­nol­ogy-led trans­for­ma­tion than the past two cen­turies.

Yet Kiwi tech­nol­ogy in­no­va­tion in other ar­eas is tak­ing off. In last year’s

dig­i­tal evo­lu­tion in­dex, New Zealand was one of only five coun­tries in the Stand Out cat­e­gory — a lit­tle be­low Sin­ga­pore.

Stand Out coun­tries are highly dig­i­tally ad­vanced and are lead­ers in driv­ing in­no­va­tion. This may be true of Fisher & Paykel, Rocket Lab and Xero, but it’s not true of trans­port plan­ning.

The Gov­ern­ment and Auck­land Trans­port (AT) need to in­vest con­fi­dently and quickly in the new trans­port tech­nol­ogy our com­peti­tor cities have adopted. AT should pro­duce a final land trans­port plan that con­tains Auck­land’s ver­sion of Trans­port NSW’s vi­sion that the fu­ture of mo­bil­ity is cus­tomer-fo­cused, data-en­abled and dy­namic.

Auck­land (and New Zealand’s) trans­port strat­egy should be reframed around Mo­bil­ity as a Ser­vice. Auck­land Trans­port should al­low a provider to im­ple­ment an in­te­grated trans­port app (if it can’t do it it­self).

Trans­port data should be openly shared with all trans­port providers to im­prove plan­ning and boost col­lab­o­ra­tion. Gov­ern­ment agen­cies should fast-track freight com­pa­nies’ move to block chain (a pub­lic trans­ac­tion sys­tem) to help re­duce freight con­ges­tion.

Net­flix will not be the end of on­line en­ter­tain­ment and Auck­land’s first MaaS ap­pli­ca­tion won’t end its trans­port trou­bles. But by be­ing much more open to the changes tech­nol­ogy is bring­ing us, we can be bet­ter pre­pared to trans­port our­selves to a less con­gested fu­ture.

Photo / Alan Gib­son

Auck­land’s land trans­port plan shows that by 2046 peak con­ges­tion will de­cline by 29 per cent and in­ter-peak by 38 per cent.

Mark Thomas com­ment

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