Mobility is now a major focus of local infrastructure planning. It is a critical component of almost everything public officials want and need to accomplish. Many of the objectives cannot be accomplished, however, without the inclusion of new technology designed to deliver efficiency, safety, equity, and sustainability.
Mobility projects currently in development have many common components, including bus rapid transit, light rail, and active transportation. New forms of technology are recurring features in multimodal mobility planning documents. On-demand transit software, assistive technologies for trip planning, intelligent transportation systems, and enhanced intersection signalization are components that are included in upcoming projects.
Federal money has been programmed to usher in a new vision of transportation in America. An annual sum of $100 million will be awarded through the federal government’s Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation (SMART) program to pilot smart technologies. That funding is scheduled to last through 2026 and the program will begin allocating funding for projects in 2023 within the coming weeks.
Funded Mobility Projects
The 2023 Consolidated Appropriations Act includes billions more for public transit, passenger and freight rail, and mobility in general. Millions of that sum will support efforts to innovate mobility in northern Texas.
Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) secured two earmarks to help spearhead regional mobility innovations. An earmark of $2.82 million will allow DART to upgrade the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system that it relies on to manage passenger rail services — one of the foundations of regional mobility in the area. Another $2.5 million earmarked for DART will help fund a proposed intermodal transit hub along the transit system’s Silver Line. Plans for the intermodal hub will be designed to improve regional mobility by featuring on-demand transit service, which provides passengers with a solution to “last mile” gaps between DART stations and their final destinations.
Mobility innovations are a staple of regional transportation planning in the state of Virginia. A $96 million project in Arlington County will create a second entrance to the East Falls Church Metrorail Station as a springboard for much broader multimodal improvements. The project will expand the number of buses in service, create a network of multiuse trails connecting to the station, and improve signalization at nearby intersections. The technology components will include new automation systems for several of the county’s most congested intersections. Equipment installations could begin as early as 2023.
A project in the city of Alexandria, Va., has allocated $6.2 million for mobility technology and $145 million for construction. Technology enhancements will include real-time informational signs at bus stops, transit speed enhancements, and a new fare collection system. During the construction phase, which could begin in late 2023, the city will expand its existing bus garage. This project will allow the city to manage an expanding fleet of electric buses more efficiently.
In San Rafael, Calif., a $60 million project will be launched to relocate the city’s transit center. This is necessary to address forecasted challenges to pedestrian safety and traffic congestion. The San Rafael Transit Center’s current location prohibits any possibility of expanding mobility services. A much larger facility with enough room to accommodate future expansions of the district’s bus fleet is required. The new transit center will also deliver bike parking, bike storage, new ADA-compliant restrooms, new cyclist paths, and designated rideshare and shuttle access points.
Officials in Princeton, N.J., have announced a $190 million project with a $100 million allocation for transitway improvements to one of Princeton’s prominent transportation corridors. The project will target the city’s Dinky Corridor and enhancements will include mobility hubs with technology improvements, as well as active transportation components. These improvements will include technology that provides real-time information services, EV charging stations, and improved stormwater management infrastructure.
An underground bus hub is proposed for Charlotte, N.C., and the project’s cost has been placed at $89 million. City officials approved the underground bus hub to replace an outdated transit center that will present challenges to local mobility. The new facility will allow the local transit system to shift its focus to a major economic development district in the city. The sub-surface hub proposed for the Uptown district will be integrated into plans for street-level retail offerings and provide more advanced passenger safety features.
These types of projects are in planning stages throughout the country. They are a result of massive funding available to improve mobility, provide more safety and support technology enhancements for transit operations throughout America.