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Here at TechCrunch, we often spend our time discovering and reporting on the next new thing in mobility, from autonomous drones and electric air taxis to self-driving trucks and even paper batteries. This technology could, in theory, someday help people and goods get from point A to point B, but much of it is just theory. Hope. promise. A flashy demonstration that leaves a good impression on VC investors.
That’s why we took a closer look at the technology that’s helping us navigate cities today. Although some of them may not be glamorous, transportation is often practical.
We take a closer look at the technology that will help move two US cities, Miami and New York City, in 2023, as well as some other standout innovations.
How to use on-demand transportation in Miami
Miami has been working with transportation technology company Via to implement on-demand transportation since 2020. The service, previously known as GO Connect, was launched during the COVID-19 pandemic as a first-mile and last-mile solution, bridging the gap between regions. It is inhabited by people and is a major transportation hub. Three years later, Miami-Dade rebranded the service MetroConnect, adopted it into its broader public transportation network, and added four new service zones.
Within a month of its rebrand and expansion, MetroConnect completed 69% more rides and saw a 70% increase in ridership, according to Via. The company also notes that since its inception, MetroConnect has increased access to jobs by more than 57% within a 45-minute commute by connecting passengers to transit hubs, with two-thirds of those traveling by car. The answer is that it cannot be done.
Carlos Cruz Casas, chief innovation officer for the City of Miami’s Department of Transportation and Public Works, told TechCrunch that MetroConnect is contributing to an increase in public transit ridership, which has declined during the COVID-19 pandemic. Told.
“There is no substitute for a well-run fixed route service,” Cruz Casas said. “We actually found that the best marketing tool to get people back to transit was frequency.”
While expanding MetroConnect’s on-demand microtransit, the city also worked with one of Via’s planning products to optimize its bus network. The city leveraged Remix, a transportation planning technology acquired by Via in 2021, to better plan its bus network. The plan, which took effect in November, included realigning 99 bus routes to create a high-frequency corridor network.
“We went from five heavily used aisles to more than 20. For us, that means running every seven and a half, 10, 15 minutes. All day every day.” Cruz-Casas said. “That said, Miami-Dade County is larger than some states. We can’t provide that frequency everywhere. That’s where on-demand transit comes in.”
Eventually, Via plans to add vehicles from unmanned technology company May Mobility to its MetroConnect fleet in Miami. May Mobility and Via recently announced a partnership to provide passenger-only, on-demand microtransit service at a retirement community in Sun City, Arizona. So far, May’s style has been to tread carefully, so we don’t expect to see a widespread launch in Miami for some time.
Cruz-Casas also noted that Miami is working with Via on a fully intermodal travel planning solution between fixed routes and on-demand services. Miami’s transportation department has partnered with a company called Swiftly to provide big data analytics and more accurate real-time information to the GO app.
“I’m a big fan of technology that allows for real-time feedback, because it makes me feel empowered to make decisions and I’m much more likely to use public transport when I have accurate, real-time information. Because it makes you feel comfortable,” Cruz Casas said.
Bringing New York City’s subway system into the 21st century
New York City’s iconic subway system is over 100 years old. Most of today’s subway investments are focused on modernizing century-old systems to meet the needs and expectations of customers living in a high-tech age.
As part of this effort, we are reducing friction when driving. Anyone who’s ever ridden the New York City subway knows that frustrating feeling of swiping your MetroCard and rushing through the turnstiles in a rush to board the train, only to run into a stationary metal bar directly. And you know that strangely nostalgic feeling. Either you’re not swiping correctly, or worse, your fare isn’t good enough.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is phasing out MetroCards in favor of the OMNY system, a contactless, open-loop payment system. Passengers can quickly and easily pay for their subway fares and pass through the turnstiles with a tap of their credit or debit card or mobile phone (if they have a digital wallet). For people who don’t have a bank account and need to pay with cash, the MTA is introducing the OMNY Card, which can be accessed at vending machines throughout the city.
“Up to 50% or more of subway riders and a significant percentage of bus riders use tap-and-go in some way,” MTA President of Construction and Development Jamie Torres Springer told TechCrunch. “And it’s actually even better. 70% of the riders who currently have access to OMNY do.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, MTA ridership has declined by about 5%. According to Torres Springer, the number of users of the service is currently about 80% of its pre-COVID-19 level.
“What’s very interesting is that while we’ve seen a rebound in ridership over the past year or so, the entire recovery has been with OMNY, and MetroCard users have been flat,” he said. “This means we are bringing people back to the system and attracting new passengers through convenience.”
A complete phaseout of MetroCard will not occur until all MTA users have easy access to the OMNY payment platform.
Another typical New York City subway experience is when the train suddenly stops in a tunnel during your commute. And it doesn’t move. The conductor’s voice crackles over the loudspeaker and I think I hear something about a signal failure. When I check my cell phone, there is no signal. No need to send a text message to let your boss know you’re late. All you can do is pray for movement.
The MTA is working to reduce such experiences, and we’ll get to that in a moment, but perhaps a short-term stopgap in such cases is to add cell phone service to all subway stations and tunnels. The MTA’s plan is to introduce The city signed a contract with Boldyn, formerly Transit Wireless, to build cell signals in all subway tunnels in 2022. They are now installed at stations throughout the city, and can pass through many tunnels as long as they are not very long.
Operations in the tunnel will aid in trip planning, and the city is working to ensure better real-time information through communications-based train control (CBTC). CBTC uses communication between trains and track equipment to manage traffic.
Torres Springer said, “Now we know exactly where the trains are at all times, so we can move them closer together and run them faster.” Line 7’s punctuality has increased from 68% to 91%. He pointed out that the speed had improved from Route 8. % to 14% after technology implementation.
CBTC is not an entirely new technology. Although he was first hired nearly 30 years ago, the MTA is increasing its adoption. The agency is investing $6.7 billion of a total $55 billion five-year program into CBTC improvements, with five lines currently under construction and plans to build two more “larger and longer lines.” The MTA is working with telecommunications providers Siemens, Thales and Hitachi to make the signals work.
The city’s governing body is also working to implement predictive maintenance for New York City’s subways, but Torres-Springer said that’s difficult because there are more than 6 million individual assets in the system.
“We’ve been around for 100 years. A lot of information about assets is hidden away in someone’s notebook in a store somewhere,” he said. “First, we need to get the inventory. Once we do that, we can really take advantage of predictive maintenance analysis tools.”
Many other companies, some working on frontier technologies, helped move people and cargo from point A to point B in 2023. Here are some notable companies.
Alphabet Inc.’s self-driving car company Waymo has made significant progress this year, especially in Phoenix. Waymo doubled its Waymo One service area in May, connecting downtown Phoenix with the East Valley and adding Scottsdale. His Waymo service area around the Phoenix area is currently more than 225 square miles. And after launching self-driving airport services to the general public in December 2022, Waymo began curbside pickup at airports this month. In October, Waymo also partnered with Uber to bring Waymo drivers to its ride-hailing app in Phoenix.
Jumping out of the US, Israeli traffic management startup NoTraffic has teamed up with Nvidia and Rogers Communications to build a 5G-connected, AI-enabled traffic management solution at the University of British Columbia in 2023. NoTraffic, which he raised $50 million earlier this year, offers the following services: Hardware and software that turns intersections into smart intersections that can manage traffic flow based on real-time data.
UBC provided the perfect urban microcosm to test the effects of this combined technology solution on traffic flow. The city’s campus not only sees thousands of commuters every day, but also plenty of pedestrians and cyclists. According to NoTraffic, car and pedestrian wait times were reduced by a total of 1,000 days in one year. Carbon emissions will be reduced by several tons, and the economic impact is estimated to be more than $100,000.
Meanwhile, in the Netherlands, another Israeli startup, travel planning app Moovit, has partnered with Arriva, which operates train and bus services in the country. Together, they launched glimble, a white-label app powered by his Moovit that helps users plan, pay, and ride on public transit operators, shared transit, or micromobility providers across the country.
Through glimble, Moovit brings together official and crowdsourced information from all transport operators in the Netherlands, including options for buses, trains, trams, metro, ferries, taxis, Uber, car sharing, scooters, bikes, etc. to calculate the best route for each itinerary. The app is also available in 45 languages, making it accessible to tourists and immigrants.
Around London, a startup called Route Reports is mapping tracks to help trains run on time and safely. From autumn to winter, fallen leaves and ice on the tracks can make the track slippery, so drivers should drive carefully. This results in delays and service cancellations, which means Transport for London ends up offering less frequent services during the colder months, says Connell McLaughlin, CEO of Route Report. . In the worst case scenario, the train may encounter an unexpected situation and be unable to stop, resulting in a collision.
Network Rail, the infrastructure manager for most of the UK’s rail network, worked with Route Reports to map slippery spots around London in real-time using data transmitted by passenger trains. Route Reports has also installed sensors on Network Rail’s special vehicles, which use high-pressure water jets to remove leaf residue, so they can also track the progress of the process. McLaughlin says these interventions have reduced his adhesion reporting time from four hours to seconds.
We look forward to technological advances in the mobility field this year as well. May your 2024 be filled with on-time trains and buses, access to first- and last-mile transportation, dynamic traffic lights, and faster and safer travel.