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Smart Transport from a politician’s perspective – part IV

This is the fourth in a series of blogs by Dr Stephen Ladyman on the subject of ‘smart transport’ written from ‘a politician’s’ 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.

Funding the smart city agenda

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 can deliver real benefits that citizens will appreciate and elected officials will support.

Funding the smart city agenda

You’ve followed my advice and now the politicians are convinced. They can see that a transport-led smart city agenda could be a vote winner. But is it affordable?

Your first step should be to engage with the Finance Director. What sort of budget might be available?

In my experience, technologists are often baffled to discover that local authority finances are broken down into capital and revenue, and seldom can you separate one from to the other, but the FD will soon put you right when you walk in with a proposal that doesn’t recognise the constraints he or she has to work under.

Which is why it’s best to engage with the finance team at an early stage in your planning.

Solving the funding conundrum

Is your Council revenue-rich and capital-poor or capital-poor and revenue-rich?

Or, more likely, capital-poor and revenue-poor? In any event, the realities of public finance today are that you will need to be pretty creative if you want to put a credible plan together.

What about potential external support? The Future Cities Catapult Fund has already awarded significant funding to a few lucky cities so it’s worth monitoring the Catapult for future opportunities to bid for help.

Then there is the EU Horizon 2020 project. Check out here for details. Horizon 2020 will distribute €80billion between 2014 and 2020 on projects that will contribute to Europe’s global competitiveness and innovative smart city initiatives could fit the bill very well – so talk to your local University or potential private sector partners, such as Clearview Traffic, to see if you could develop a project together.

You then have a financial choice to make before you can start planning, and the FD is probably the person who can advise.

If you have capital to spend then you may want to buy equipment for your intelligent mobility project outright; traffic flow detectors, parking occupancy devices, environmental sensors and the like have traditionally been purchased by local authorities or road operators. Today, however, there is an alternative.

There is another way

Clearview Traffic can deploy the hardware that your intelligent mobility scheme requires, and provide you with ‘data as a service’ instead.

This will free you from the burden of hardware maintenance and finding the ‘up front’ the capital cost. It also means that you don’t have to purchase those pieces of kit that are only needed for the short-term validation of your traffic or pollution models.

If you can identify revenue savings that might flow from your intelligent mobility strategy, for example a lower overall cost of public transport as a result of reduced congestion and bus prioritisation, then these savings might pay for the cost of using ‘data as a service’.

Likewise, increased income from advertising included on ‘apps’, increased park and ride revenue, additional car park revenues or fees paid by people using your systems to book parking spaces, will also contribute to the cost.

Finally, the factor that you will need to emphasise when the political leadership reviews the cost of your plans is that the journey to a genuine, intelligent mobility component of your Smart City can be as slow or as fast as the money allows.

Once you have decided how the different information streams will be integrated and turned into useable information, using platforms such as Clearview Traffic’s Insight technology, you can start your journey with the information streams that you already have in place and, as you will see from my next blog, there will probably be more of these than you suspect before you start looking for them.

Then you can add new functionality year-by-year as you identify the need and find the funding.

The only question now is – what’s stopping you?

If you’d like to find out more about Clearview Traffic’s road traffic data solutions, traffic data collection, road safety solutions, intelligent road studs and traffic management systems, please feel free to contact us here.

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