Digital infrastructure in cities is that series of elements that are crucial when it comes to adapting its urban management to a predominantly digital environment. - JaCZhou

Digital infrastructure in cities is that series of elements that are crucial when it comes to adapting its urban management to a predominantly digital environment.


As an outcome of the Smart Cities Movement, Digital infrastructure is thought to provide great hope toward a more connected and livable urban environment. However, with the advent of new technologies, such as AI, MaaS, and digital twin models, these aspirations are coming closer to reality. What’s more, digital infrastructure is promising to deliver better outcomes related to the sustainable urban mobility planning process, or SUMPs.

Digital Infrastructure

Digital infrastructure in cities is that series of elements that are crucial when it comes to adapting its urban management to a predominantly digital environment. Consolidated thanks to an integration plan, this infrastructure provides support for all aspects of urban management, providing significant competitive advantages, such as cost savings, process automation. or knowledge acquisition.

Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans

A Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan is a strategic plan designed to satisfy the mobility needs of people and businesses in cities and their surroundings for a better quality of life. It builds on existing planning practices and takes due consideration of integration, participation, and evaluation principles. The need for more sustainable and integrative planning processes as a way of dealing with the complexity of urban mobility has been widely recognized since 2013, and new approaches to urban mobility planning are emerging rapidly in an ever-changing urban mobility climate. Due to people’s willingness to adopt new modes of transport (for example, electric scooters, Mobility as a Service (MaaS), and shared transport), the urban mobility dialogue is constantly evolving — and the support available for practitioners needs to adapt, too.

MaaS as a Digital Infrastructure Example

MaaS as a Digital Infrastructure example is a vision that offers ubiquitous, decentralized, multi-city urban mobility. What differentiates this from standard MaaS is not a particular implementation of MaaS sponsored by an organization. Instead, the marketplace provides a base digital infrastructure for any player to provide mobility services, or to offer those services directly to consumers via an app. The Digital Infrastructure thus accommodates and enables all the previous approaches (private, hybrid, public) with subscription or pay-as-you-go models.

Sustainable Urban Mobility Planning & Future Mobility Trends

We are in the process of witnessing transformations in urban mobility that will change the very fabric of cities and movement for decades to come, and which will require investments in digital infrastructure and sustainable urban mobility planning to better anticipate. Three aspects that are to see realignments include public transport, micromobility, and teleworking.

1. Public Transport

Public transport, to remain relevant and return to its central role in moving the greatest number of passengers in urban settings will need to ensure sufficient social distancing space on buses and trains and be reconfigured accordingly. Also, adequate hand sanitization and frequent station and rolling stock cleaning procedures will need to be actively implemented to entice passengers back.

2. Shared Mobility

Shared Mobility, including micromobility, car share, ride share, and ride-hail are all critical components of the urban mobility ecosystem. While each individual mode (and MSP) will respond to and be affected differently by the crisis, a return to normalcy means better understanding the long-term commercial viability of each scheme. It has even been discussed (in other articles) that cities subsidize the future operations of micromobility to fill in the gap for the retreat by VC-backed startups. That is a questionable proposal, and just an example of how different models will need to be tested to appropriately scale in the urban context.

3. Teleworking

Teleworking, which is currently being utilized by many companies during the crisis to manage communications and regular work, will become more commonplace in the future. As managers realize that many tasks do not require a typical “bricks and mortar” presence in front of a desk or in a cubicle, the daily peak/off-peak rhythm of commuters in cities will be realigned post crisis. We may see different peaks of traffic movement in cities throughout the day, redistribution of street and public transport networks, and a general shift away from single car usage during specific time periods. The mobility shift will be fluid and may not be able to be measured in the short term, but one of the causes could be attributed to a higher percentage of teleworking.

Where Digital Infrastructure Will Take Us

As we can see in this journey, digital infrastructure has evolved and matured to encompass COVID-era trends in urban mobility, and the sustainable urban mobility planning process. As in the example of MaaS, this transformation can be seen starting with a simple, city based, white label app that you can download on your smartphone and evolving to a public funded layer of digital infrastructure. This digital layer is considered a common good and enables regional and public authority to align with investments in physical infrastructure, as well as set policy goals for sustainable urban mobility at the local, regional, and national levels. Therefore, digital infrastructure has become a key component for planners, policymakers, and authorities to achieve more sustainable outcomes by subsidizing and investing in solutions that promote multimodality and behavioral change.

This article was originally published by Urban AI

About the author
Scott Shepard

Scott Shepard

Head of Policy & Government Affairs, Drover.Ai

Head of Policy & Government Affairs, Drover.Ai

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