Future prospects for the public transport network and urban mobility

FLOWS goes on site – extracts from the first conversation

‘Smart City: Materials, Technology & People’ is the title of the exhibition-event on the intelligent city held in Milan from 17 April to 12 May. It was an opportunity to reflect on sustainable and smart urban mobility. FLOWS arranged three discussions intended to explore this within the context through the words of the designers and experts called on to talk about their experience and take an international look at the city and tomorrow’s mobility.
An extract is given below of the first meeting
‘Intermodalità: prospettive future per la rete di trasporto pubblico e la mobilità cittadina’ (Intermodality – future prospects for the public transport network and urban mobility’) between Massimo Ciuffini, Mobility Area Co-ordinator of the Sustainable Development Foundation, Roberto Timo, Strategy Development Manager, Railway Technologies & Rolling Stock of NET Engineering S.p.A., and Christoph Von Nell, head of the Traffic Consulting Department of Spiekermann GmbH Consulting Engineers. Leonardo Previ, Chairman of Trivioquadrivio, chaired the event.

The design of a transport system in an urban context requires work that takes intermodality and flow design, among other things, into consideration. The meeting examined these two aspects through the system engineering approach. This enables special attention to be paid to the natural systems which will be their setting at the design stage of mobility systems and, as a result, the topic of sustainability. This is a particularly innovative and creative systemic approach which, starting from many engineering topics and also transport, city planning and social themes, is able to offer discussions with the contact people and maintain a long-term planning view.

A systemic view takes into consideration all the pieces of the complex design mosaic, including those that aren’t strictly technical, and allows control of the evolution of the design to be maintained, starting from the stage when ideas begin to take shape through to the search for the solutions maximising the benefits for the community, at the same time using tools of assistance for communicating planning to all the contact people in the system.

The analysis of an overall system requires the participation of different players who, with the designer, know and act on that system in different roles and functions (client/public administration, implementing party, stakeholders, etc.). The tools making the engineering project easy to understand and accessible not only to experts and technicians have to be found so that bodies with such different skills and natures can discuss complex topics effectively and find solutions essential for the success of the project. Recent technological innovations have enabled significant steps forward to be taken in this direction. The survey of the context and the reconstruction of the general knowledge framework through the Mobile Mapping System method is one of the most innovative tools used by system engineering. It makes the impact of the infrastructure easy to see, through 3D reproduction of the digital model of the environment where it will be positioned, and enables any problems that may arise during the work, whether technical or in relation to the user’s travel experience, to be shown in advance.

The travel experience is certainly another topic of great interest in the design of a transport system. This is an evolution in the design approach to the service and infrastructure, which is oriented towards a sustainable station and the user’s needs. The evolution of personal mobility, particularly automotive mobility, has to be considered to understand the reasons. The car was designed to fulfil the dream of continuity. Today, this dream meets particular difficulties, especially in urban contexts with a lack of car parks or congested traffic flows. Assuming that the end user’s need for continuity remains unchanged, different solutions have to be found to guarantee it, solutions that think from the perspective of system and greater sustainability.

There are two elements that allow this transformation to be implemented – first and foremost, modern infrastructure, designed to be intermodal from the very start, able to converse autonomously with the user and efficiently welcome the flows enlivening it. Secondly, and once again, the participation of players with different roles, able to implement policies that prepare townspeople to change their mindset on mobility habits, encouraging, as an alternative to private ones, the use of transport systems which, today, no longer include just public transport but also the opportunities offered, for example, by sharing mobility.

Cristoph Von Nell’s participation in the discussion enabled some interesting points on these topics to be heard. Von Nell worked with Spiekermann GmbH Consulting Engineers on the conception of an intermodal transport system for Cologne in which not only the connection and synchronisation of different transport systems was designed but, from the very beginning, attention was also paid to the user’s travel experience, offering the chance, for example, of planning and booking a journey directly from their smartphone. In addition, they also tried to imagine something more than merely offering the end user “the right transport at the right time”. Once again, the joint work of the designers and different players allowed shared planning of the places of interchange, making them especially effective from not only the engineering point of view (they are stations with a higher frequency of means of transport and positions for bike- and car-sharing) but also architecturally and functionally. The interchange stations were planned not only as efficient places but also to be attractive and accessible for townspeople and commuters.

The design of intermodality has been facilitated by the sharing of information among the different players. Understanding the logics behind users’ behaviour through the experience that the various bodies called into question have of them enables this to be oriented and the design of services for users to be improved.

Article by ‘Flows. Modelling mobility’