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Smart Transport from a politician’s perspective – Part I

Dr Ladyman speaking about road safety

This is the first of a series of blogs by Dr Stephen Ladyman on the subject of ‘smart transport’ written from ‘a politicians’ perspective. Politicians need solutions to the real problems faced by citizens and need those solutions to be affordable, scalable and likely to win the approval of local people.

Stephen was an IT Manager before becoming an MP and ultimately the Minister of State for Transport, and he will use these blogs in the weeks ahead to show how smart transport systems can deliver real benefits that citizens will appreciate and elected officials will support.

Funding versus ROI in the ‘Smart City’ agenda

Those of us who love technology or have a professional interest in the ‘smart city’ agenda can sometimes wish that technological elegance was sufficient justification for the investment of public funds but, most of us, will concede that funding decisions must be based on a ‘business case’ that shows a return on investment.

What we sometimes forget, however, is that if we want sign off for smart city projects they also have to deliver political benefits.

Why is that important? Because towns and cities are led by elected politicians and ultimately it is those elected politicians that will be held accountable for using public funds to promote the smart city agenda. If technology can be used to deliver a benefit that the public will notice then elected officials can reap a political reward and will want to support such schemes.

There is nothing cynical or improper about this. Each of us tries to deliver work that our bosses will appreciate and avoid mistakes that might get us fired.

Politicians are no different, their bosses are the citizens they serve and, unlike most of us, they have to re-interview for their job every four years.

Smart solutions for more seamless commuting

Transport is uniquely positioned to deliver ‘smart solutions’ that offer benefits that citizens appreciate and politicians will want to back. If we can make the morning commute quicker or more comfortable, or make journey times more consistent, then those are immediate benefits that can reap a political reward.

The public, however, are fickle. They will ‘bank’ those journey improvements and quickly forget that their elected representative went out on a limb to get them delivered.

But if they can be enticed each day to actively engage with tools that can deliver further benefits, then each day they can be reminded that those benefits came about because a politician made a positive choice.

Technology at the heart of the city

If an ‘app’ using real time data is offered to allow the daily commuter to choose between various modalities on the basis of which is flowing most freely on a particular morning, then citizens will actively use that app – and its branding can be used to remind them who provided the technological infrastructure that made it possible.

If a citizen making a journey into a city centre for a meeting can enter a destination postcode into a smart phone and not only be told where the nearest car park is, but book and reserve a space before leaving home, then they will want to use that system and can be reminded who facilitated it.

The underlying technology for smart transport systems is available today from the Clearview Traffic Group.

But remember this when designing projects – whilst transport and technology professionals will need to make the case for such systems and will be responsible for design, build and operation, it is politicians who will be held responsible for them, and who must make the decision to build them in the first place.

Smart transport systems that don’t just inform citizens but also engage and empower them will deliver clear political benefits, and win the backing of your civic leadership.

Part Two of Dr Ladyman’s article will follow on the CVT blog next week.

To find out more about Clearview Traffic’s work in line with the Smart Cities concept, please visit here.

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