Arlington and New Mobility

This is a guest post by Lisa Nisenson of Greater Places, a web resource for all things city design and planning.  She also leads the New Mobilitiy group for Alta Planning and Design. Lisa received a SXSW pass from Arlington Economic Development and is sharing her experience and perspective with our readers. 
Arlington rightfully brags about its pioneering work on transportation: from designing transit oriented development hubs to becoming a national leader in biking and bicycle infrastructure. All of these investments have paid off not just in dollars, but health and livability. As technology becomes a bigger part of transportation, what’s Arlington’s leadership role linking transportation and economic development?
Here at SXSW, smart mobility is a huge topic focusing on technology’s role in moving people and goods faster, smarter and at less cost. Terms such as “mobility on-demand” and “mobility-as-a-service” describe a future of seamless transportation options. Here are a couple of top trends:
Microtransit: A neighborhood electric vehicle maker Ryde and Ford’s Chariot featured on-demand shuttle services at SXSW. They are similar to airport super shuttles – but for neighborhoods. Riders can summons a shuttle to share a ride, say to METRO. It’s unclear how the business model for this smaller version of transit works, but with driverless technology, the costs would come way down. Microtransit also raises two scenarios for Metro: shuttles can feed even more riders, but may also poach riders who skip the subway to travel straight to destinations.
Infrastructure: Roads, sidewalks and even bike paths of the future will play a role in both mobility and communications infrastructure.  The Kansas City-based firm Integrated Roadways is designing roads that can “talk” to cars, or in industry lingo, V2I (Vehicle to Infrastructure) technology. The idea is to supply the bandwidth needed to guide driverless fleets and for revenue collection based on road use (a vital topic as we struggle with inadequate funding mechanisms and aging infrastructure). For pedestrians, the sidewalk sensors can “talk” to oncoming cars, giving a virtual heads up. 
Virtual reality and Artificial Intelligence (AI) for Transportation –Headset makers and animators had a field day showing people how to visualize the future. Imagine this technology not only for visualizing transportation improvements, but also for building and green space proposals. One of the best applications for AI comes in the form of predictive maintenance for public works departments.  Imagine engineers’ ability to predict and fix potholes below the surface before they ever wreak havoc on our tires.  
What does this mean for Arlington? With technology coming fast, the community’s Digital Destiny series can extend its focus on transportation technology’s promise and pitfalls, as well as ways to maximize benefits while limiting risks.
But there are also reasons to keep doing the active transportation and transit we do best. For all the tech and transportation hoopla in Austin, I found the best ways to get around were the $1.25 bus from the airport, the B cycle bike share, and the original mobility on demand – walking.

Topic: BIG Update
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