Infrastructure is a system. When the system is failing, we need to treat the cause not just address the symptoms. A new symptom now getting attention is online shopping and how it affects infrastructure. That is a premise put forth in the latest Slate article: Department of Transportation Says Your Online Shopping is Clogging America’s Roads and the associated Beyond Traffic Report.
From the article: “The growth of urban areas in the U.S. also poses a problem—demand for freight in these major population centers is set to explode, particularly as the U.S. population increases to 390 million by 2045. (That’s 70 million more Americans than today.) Even now, the “last mile” of freight movement—transporting the product from a freight hub to its final destination—is often highly inefficient, resulting in delays and congestion.”
From the report: “Traffic to and from ports and other major freight centers can increase traffic on local roads and affect neighboring communities through noise and air pollution.”
It is clear that the issue stated in the Slate article hits on a key point that also was part of the Making the Grade Report. Clearly, changes are needed across the infrastructure industry and must be supported by new thinking, approaches and policies among government, financiers and community participants if we are to re-imagine it for future generations.
The key is to start with integrated infrastructure planning. We must start by empowering planners to envision and model the data-informed city as an integrated framework of infrastructure systems. It is important to keep in mind that infrastructure, must be planned and designed for where the city is going and not extended the same solutions originated in where it came from.
Revolutionary advances in machine-to-machine (M2M) and vehicle to vehicle (V2V) communication technology (such as radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, cameras, embedded sensors, and Intelligent Transportation systems) have given us an unprecedented opportunity to accelerate improvements in vital services such as the product delivery mentioned in the article and how it can integrate with regular vehicular traffic without impacting either.
Cars and other vehicles as well as online shopping are not going anywhere any time soon so rather than treating these as separate competing systems, we need to start by thinking that going forward they are integrated infrastructure systems and look to planning, designing and constructing them as such to enhance the synergies between them.
By approaching integration of all infrastructure systems holistically and involving communities of interest in the planning and development process, innovation is stimulated and more good ideas come to light.
Download the Making the Grade Report Out here.