Iowa City Begins Planning Ahead for Autonomous Vehicles

A recent report compiled by students at the University of Iowa’s School of Urban and Regional Planning gave several recommendations for how the city could better prepare for a future with automated vehicles.

by Mitchell Schmidt, The Gazette / June 10, 2019
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(TNS) — As automated vehicles edge nearer, Iowa City officials hope a newly released plan will help the community adapt to the new technology as it arises.

The recently published Iowa City Automated Vehicles Adaptation and Equity plan — completed by students in the University of Iowa’s School of Urban and Regional Planning — provides a look at how Iowa City could incorporate automated vehicles into the city’s transit offerings, while also exploring the effects of the growing use of various forms of transit.

Among the suggestions in the report are overhauling bus routes to incorporate automated door-to-door service for riders and requiring fewer parking spaces in new developments.

“We don’t know what automated vehicle technology is going to be in the future, necessarily, but there are things we can do now to start preparing for it,” said Travis Kraus, director of economic development and sustainability with the University of Iowa’s Office of Outreach and Engagement. “It’s reasonable to expect there are these changes coming down the road with automated vehicles.”

Officials with the city and the National Advanced Driving Simulator partnered in the study.

The report proposed policies for three focus areas — shared mobility, Iowa City Transit and parking and land use. The recommendations in each of those areas:

Shared mobility

  • Implement a pickup and drop-off management plan for downtown to regulate right of way for transportation network companies.
  • Create public-private partnerships for shared mobility — or a combination of vehicle, bicycle and other transportation options.
  • Redesign the city’s bus transit system to operate as a trunk and feeder system paired with neighborhood door-to-door automated vehicle shuttles feeding off dedicated trunk lines.
  • Implement an automated vehicle shuttle pilot program downtown.
  • Incorporate a ride-share voucher program to offer services for disadvantaged residents when transit is not in service.

Parking and land use

  • Create a residential parking permit program to address spillover parking challenges in neighborhoods near downtown.
  • Reduce the parking requirements for new construction.
  • Revise zoning and subdivision regulations to encourage active and shared mobility infrastructure in future residential and commercial developments.

UI student Hossain Mohiuddin, who worked on the plan and spent last summer as a management intern with the city, said the report could help Iowa City establish itself as a leader in communities preparing for automated vehicles.

“Through leveraging existing assets and addressing the current mobility challenges of residents, Iowa City can foster a more efficient transportation system that offers mobility options that allow all residents access to the myriad economic opportunities and amenities the city has to offer,” Mohiuddin said in an email.

To achieve these goals, which could take years to accomplish, the report recommends launching an automated vehicle commission. The commission would provide an open channel of communication for residents and officials.

Darian Nagle-Gamm, Iowa City director of transportation services, said the plan provides a reference for discussion on public planning and transportation.

“We don’t have a crystal ball, but we’re trying to do our best to stay on top of these rapid changes to make sure the city is prepared, whether from a capital infrastructure or policy perspective,” Nagle-Gamm said.

The full report can be found at outreach.uiowa.edu/projects/iowa-city-automated-vehicle-adaptation-and-equity-plan.

©2019 The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, Iowa). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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