Courtesy Devjohnson, Wikimedia Commons
With more than 5,000 miles of international border, the U.S. walks a daily tightrope between the need for security and the ability to move goods and people as freely as possible within the parameters of smart immigration policy. In the transportation world, we are actively working to develop and implement technologies to move cross-border traffic more efficiently while ensuring secure borders.
If you’ve crossed the Peace Bridge between Ontario, Canada and Buffalo, N.Y., or any of the dozens of borders stops around our country, you’ve seen intelligent transportation systems (ITS) in action. License plate readers check vehicles and talk to other security systems to highlight potential threats while reducing border wait times.
Between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, lasers measure wait times and provide that information to border officials. The Ambassador Bridge that connects these two cities is the biggest international crossing in North America in terms of trade volume, and more than 25% of all merchandise trade between the U.S. and Canada crosses the bridge.
You may remember the dramatic infrared video of Boston Marathon bomber suspect Dzokhar Tsarnaev hiding in a covered boat. Police were able to locate him and determine his positioning and the approximate severity of his wounds before moving in, quite possibly saving lives in the process. The thermal imaging equipment they used was developed by FLIR, an ITS America member and industry leader actively involved in producing technology that can identify threats not only at border crossings, but also along America’s shoreline and in its ports.
US-Mexico barrier at Nogales, Ariz. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Gordon Hyde via Wikimedia Commons
Another innovation leader, Qvision, uses the latest video technology to provide drivers with real-time border traffic information through websites like BorderTraffic.com while also upgrading surveillance for border patrol agencies and traffic management capabilities for state transportation departments.
The Texas A&M Transportation Institute, a research leader in the ITS community and ITS America Board member, is working with federal customs and border security officials to develop new concepts for strengthening border security while making cross-border transportation and goods movement more efficient. One of their ideas is the development of a freight shuttle that would carry goods across the border en masse, providing added security while also reducing traffic, vehicle emissions and infrastructure deterioration.
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At ITS America, we are working to encourage greater collaboration between the public and private sectors to come up with new technology solutions to our nation’s transportation challenges. State and local governments are increasingly looking to create an ecosystem, where good ideas can bubble up while reducing the development cycle and risk aversion that has hampered entrepreneurism in the past. And, the private sector and research communities are proving every day that they can provide innovative solutions to the challenges facing our nation.
These public-private partnership efforts are critical for fostering innovation and advancing solutions that will not only strengthen our borders, but also create a safer, more efficient and cost-effective transportation system on which to build a more prosperous future.
ITS partnerships on border security and more will be on display later this year at the 21st World Congress on Intelligent Transport Systems, happening in Detroit from Sept. 7 to 11, 2014. Visit www.itsworldcongress.org to learn more and make plans to join us later this year in the Motor City.
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The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority’s Regional (commuter) Rail system was inherited from the Pennsylvania and Reading Railroads and the infrastructure in many sections of the system has been serving the Philadelphia area for more than 100 years. Fifteen years ago, overhead catenary system (OCS) failures were a common occurrence on SEPTA Regional Rail, a result of fatigue cracks and wear. The all too common OCS failures were frustrating for SEPTA customers who occasionally found it difficult to depend on train service for their travels and for SEPTA, whose crews were constantly working to repair and maintain the system.
London is one of the grand cities of the world and in the midst of the cycling revolution. Led by the city’s transport organization – Transport for London, but supported by more fundamental changes in the city’s society, economy and perceptions of lifestyle and mobility, cycling is “on a roll”!
Tech-enabled ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft already appear to be acting as a complement to public transit. Uber analyzed its Los Angeles trip data to in this light. Over the course of a month, Uber found that 22 percent of trips taken near Metro stations took place during rush hour (between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday). This data could be telling us that people are using Uber like they might use bikeshare, as a last-mile and first-mile connection to transit.
Driverless cars have been in the news for quite some time. Last September, I speculated in PC 360, an insurance trade magazine, that insurance premiums for autos could decrease by as much as 40% over the next five years as autonomous cars made travel much safer. I increased my estimate to a 75% decrease in insurance premiums by extending the timeline to 15 years. When I wrote those two articles, I remember thinking how much of a personal paradigm shift was needed to accept a driverless car as safe. Now, it appears that driverless buses are in the near future as well.
What do transit authorities like SEPTA, MBTA, MTA and BART have in common other than transporting thousands, even millions of riders every day? All were recently ranked as four of the U.S.’s 500 “Best Employers” by Forbes magazine.
SEPTA, MBTA, MTA and BART were among 25 organizations included in Forbes’ “Transportation & Logistics” category, along with Southwest Airlines, Amtrak, CSX, Union Pacific and Greyhound. In fact, SEPTA (#33) and MBTA (#49) placed higher than Apple (#55) and SEPTA was the highest ranked company in Pennsylvania.