The so-called Paris Agreement, if ratified by the required 55 governments, will bring net worldwide emissions of greenhouse gases down to zero by the second half of this century, limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees and, quite possibly, saving the planet. It is a boldly ambitious proposal – to some it looks impossibly ambitious – but some of the tools that could make that ambition a reality, including innovative transport models developed by SYSTRA, could soon be available thanks to the EU-funded InSMART project.
InSMART (Integrative Smart City Planning), launched in 2013 and coming to completion this year, is a collaboration of four European cities – Évora in Portugal, Cesena in Italy, Nottingham in the United Kingdom and Trikala in Greece – and six technical partners, with SYSTRA as the lead partner on transport. The project aims to overcome one of the greatest obstacles to sustainable urban planning: the sheer complexity and interconnectedness of the modern city and its energy needs. The first step was to create an energy and emissions profile for everything from residential buildings and municipal spaces to water pumping stations, waste collection and treatment, street lighting, district heating networks and, of course, all transport modes. This extraordinary data collection exercise allowed the project team to build the most complete picture of real-life urban energy usage ever constructed, and provided the raw materials for developing forecasting models with the potential to be more accurate and detailed than anything that has been attempted before.
SYSTRA was tasked with delivering the transport ‘package’ of the overall project. This required an analysis of transport flows, energy use and emissions for each of the transport modes in the participating cities, along with the definition of scenarios to reduce energy use and carbon emissions without reducing travellers’ utility. To test the defined scenarios, an innovative modelling platform was created which represented a significant departure in transport forecasting in terms of environmental impact.
The modelling platform can be easily transferred to any other city or significant urban area. It will produce simple, low-cost modelling outputs for a range of emission types from carbon dioxide to particulate matter.
The emphasis was on the development of a ‘fit for purpose’ tool that required minimal input data and is simple to use, resulting in an extremely cost-efficient model that can be built on GIS mapping and basic land use data while still delivering truly useful outputs. The platform incorporates trip-end modelling that predicts demand on a zonal basis over a 24- hour period, based on details including population and job location. Mode choice, destination and route choice models provide movement matrices by vehicle type which, combined with data on average speed between zones, can generate accurate emissions forecasts.
The model was tested on a wide range of scenarios, forecasting for the years 2020 and 2030, (although the model can be run for any year up to 2050), exploring the impact on emissions of variables such as land use changes, parking and congestion charges, and improvements in vehicle efficiency over time. Some of the results were surprising, for example in Évora a projected reduction in speed limit from 50mph to 30mph on the roads surrounding the historic centre had the desired effects of encouraging more use of public transport, increasing road capacity and improving safety but, because cars are more fuel efficient at the higher speed, combined with slightly longer journey due to rerouting, the overall outcome was actually an increase in emissions.
Now that the hard work of data collection and platform-building is complete it remains, in the final year of the project, for each city to use the resources they have available to establish a targeted action plan for reducing emissions and increasing sustainability. InSMART should enable these cities to design an action plan that will be more practical, effective and evidence-based than any that has been possible before.
But the real impact of InSMART will not be limited to the environmental improvement of four medium-sized European cities, important though that is. The Paris Agreement on reduced emissions represents, in the eyes of many, a last-ditch attempt to put a stop to the environmental catastrophe of man-made climate change. The work done by SYSTRA and its partners has created tools and processes that can make the ambitions of Paris a reality, giving planners and policy makers the means to take their destiny into their own hands with confidence and without great cost. This should just be the start. Transport modellers are not usually in the business of saving the world, but if the lessons of InSMART are learned, we may at least – perhaps – have played a small part.
Matt Pollard, Senior Consultant, SYSTRA, and
Duncan Irons, Corporate Marketing Director, SYSTRA
Since opening in 1998, Hong Kong International Airport has won an enviable reputation for efficiency matched by first-class service quality. A key part of this success lies in the excellent transport links that allow 70 per cent of passengers to reach the airport via a convenient, inexpensive public transport network. At Smart City Modelling, Stephen Heritage will discuss how SYSTRA, along with its affiliate MVA?Asia, have partnered with the operator to analyse the airport’s success in handling passenger surface access and distribution, to forecast growth in demand in order to maximise efficiency in existing facilities, and to plan for expansion where needed.
Stephen Heritage will speak at Smart City Modelling: Modelling World Middle East on Thursday 25 February at 14.45, Conference Room 1.
Designing a transport preference survey that tells you genuinely useful and interesting things – rather than just confirming your prejudices – requires a delicate combination of art and science at the best of times. But when you are collecting data in a different culture, the problems can be amplified tenfold. SYSTRA’s Nick Benbow and Reza Mohammadi of Reza Mohammadi Consulting will discuss their experience of designing, piloting and running stated preference surveys in Nigeria, UAE and the UK; the pitfalls avoided and the lessons learned, both in the collection and the interpretation of data, and how modellers can ensure they get it right.
SYSTRA’s Nick Benbow will discuss how stated preference techniques vary throughout the world and its impact upon modelling, at Smart City Modelling: Modelling World Middle East, Thursday 25 February at 12.15 Conference Room 1.
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