By Anil Ahuja, chicagobusiness.com
President-elect Trump has touted his trillion-dollar infrastructure plan to upgrade our nation’s roads and bridges during his time in office. But cities like Chicago must not merely continue repairing existing failing infrastructure that will be useless in a couple years. Given the opportunity to reinforce and invest in infrastructure, Chicago needs to focus on smart infrastructure, to prepare roads and public transportation for the future of technology and to invest in green infrastructure strategies.
By investing in advanced traffic management systems, or ATMS, for example, officials could ensure the city is prepared for the future and will not soon be outdated. Chicago ATMS could centralize traffic management of 400 miles of streets, 300 bridges, 300 traffic lights, 300,000 streetlights, red light enforcement cameras and more. ATMS can collect data to create detour options, lane reconfigurations and light sequencing to cut down on traffic. They could help Chicago prepare for the next generation of shared, electric, automated and connected vehicles.
Another example is the CTA, the second-largest public transportation system in the country. Chicago already has a diverse public transportation system, but the system must be updated to handle the future of mobility. The system must be upgraded to have the capability to communicate vehicle to vehicle or vehicle to individual. In Chicago, much more could be done within the overall integration of road and rail passenger transport networks to make these kinds of interactions possible.
A third example—Chicago’s successful green infrastructure strategies—are already underway, such as the stormwater ordinance, the green roof initiative and the green alleys program. These programs have proven that they work: There’s less water flowing in and out of our overburdened sewer system, and energy use is down. The implementation of green roofs and permeable pavement has provided the capacity to capture over 85 million gallons of stormwater each year. By continuing to invest in these green infrastructure strategies, the city can transform into a smart place to live.
While many think improving a country’s transportation system solely means building new roads or repairing aging infrastructures, the future of transportation lies not only in concrete and steel but also increasingly in using IT. By preparing Chicago’s roads and public transportation for the upcoming shift to smarter cars and public transportation, and investing in green infrastructure strategies, the city can lead the way in smart city advancement and sustainability.