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Caracas, September 8th 2011.- When it comes to urban planning, currently one of the biggest challenges is finding and setting in motion efficient transportation solutions for the big cities around the globe. How can this be accomplished?   

In massive urban conglomerates where millions of people move around every day, the transportation services required for mobilizing the masses become a focal point of concern for those in charge of planning and management.

Some of the wealthiest countries in the world, such as the United Arab Emirates (one of the main global oil exporters) are setting in motion the development of what we call “future” or “smart” cities. In these cities, transportation and mobility solutions are key elements that go together with the development of clean, environmentally sustainable technologies.

Abu Dhabi, for instance, is testing a smart urban transportation system that should be online next year. This computerized transportation network, PRT (Personal Rapid Transit), is based on the automated movement (no drivers involved) of small electrical vehicles called “podcars”.  

This example illustrates a case (a very advanced one) of the use of technology to manage urban spaces in a more efficient, sustainable way. The key challenge that these solutions need to address is the improvement of the citizens’ quality of life; cities are increasingly affected by growing population densities, and smart solutions are meant to create “smart” urban spaces for all citizens, under a model of sustainable development that respects the environment.   

During the last 20 years, the big capital cities in Latin America have tried several mass transportation systems whose common aim has been to mobilize enormous amounts of passengers in short times through efficient and safe routes. The planning tasks involved require a strong research and census component, necessary to determine which are the users’ common travel patterns, the hours of high traffic, the zones with the most incoming people and several other demographic indicators also basic for planning purposes.

However, these mega transportation solutions cannot be executed without the support of technology for the different processes involved.

The challenge for governments and enterprises dedicated to the development of these technologies lies in creating a true technological modernization of their mass transportation systems, so that they guarantee the safety of the users, while being sustainable and environmentally friendly. It goes beyond coverage and quality of service: it is necessary to have an adequate technological infrastructure with an effective operating model.

One of the most eagerly awaited and ambitious projects nowadays is the implementation of a Fare Collection and Transportation Management System in Cartagena, Colombia’s most important tourist and cultural district. The Colcard Consortium, formed by Smartmatic and its partner Dataprom, will be in charge of setting in motion the automated fare collection and fleet management system for Cartagena’s new Integrated Mass Transportation System, which will have an estimated lifetime of 18 years.

The service will operate in Cartagena and its surrounding municipalities. It will include an electronic fare collection mechanism based on the latest smartcard technology, ticket vending machines, a real-time management of the vehicle fleet, a control system for buses and an information system for the users. It is estimated that the service will begin to operate in 2012.  With this upgrade the transportation system in Cartagena “The Heroic”, a tourist destination par excellence in Colombia that greets visitors from all around the globe, the capital of Bolivar Department will be up to par with other major tourist and business destinations.

Some other successful projects around the world that set the standard are: Madrid, with a credit-purchase system; Argentina, which uses a single electronic ticket; Transantiago in Chile, with its bip! card, and Peru’s Integrated Fare system. These projects are the best example of the trend that is taking hold in the mass transportation systems of big cities, a trend that represents a great step forward in terms of improving the quality of life.  

Some benefits

  • Reduction of travel time and traffic congestion levels 
  • Decrease of environmental and noise pollution
  • Reduction of the time spent making change and purchasing tickets 
  • Increase in the safety of passengers by eliminating cash transactions 
  • Reduction in the validation time of payment methods, increasing the operational efficiency of the service
  • Increase of the quality of public transportation by minimizing the crowding of users that try to purchase tickets in the stations or inside the units

Implementing these automated fare collection system creates great benefits in security and comfort for the users. On a greater scale, they are an indispensable component for the efficiency of transit, since the passengers can access stations and buses more quickly, without standing in long lines to purchase a ticket. The automation of the fare collection process is therefore key; the governments of every big Latin American city should look into transportation solutions that include it, since they directly affect the Human Development Index and the quality of life of their constituents.

Original article in Computer World Venezuela