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Chicago Collaboration Looks to Redefine Modern Transportation

The Advanced Mobility Initiative Roadmap is an extension of the Advanced Mobility Initiative launched in April 2019. It will function as a guide for a three-year project to reimagine transportation.

A new effort to use innovation to address transit and transportation in urban areas will focus on establishing more seamless transitions from one transportation source to another, better management of freight and resident deliveries, and even the use of drones.

The project, known as the Advanced Mobility Initiative Roadmap, is an extension of the Advanced Mobility Initiative launched by City Tech Collaborative in Chicago in April 2019. The roadmap will function as a guide for the Advanced Mobility Initiative, a three-year project.

“Based on current global technology and transportation trends, the roadmap is a summary of addressable challenges to improve urban transportation systems and quality of life for residents,” said David Leopold, director of City Solutions at City Tech Collaborative.

The roadmap concept will focus on six “impact areas of urban mobility.” They include: multimodal connectivity; smart and improved infrastructure management; the adoption of drones and autonomous vehicle technologies; electric vehicles and other forms of electric mobility; better management of freight; and altogether improved public transit.

These six sectors are areas where City Tech “is focused on working with partners to develop innovative technology solutions with a global lens, ensuring the findings are applicable and scalable to other cities,” said Leopold.

The roadmap and Advanced Mobility Initiative aim to improve the Chicago transportation systems by working with civic and business partners across the city, including the Chicago Transit Authority, Shared-Use Mobility Center, Illinois Autonomous Vehicles Association and others, said Leopold.

Other collaborators will include organizations like the Argonne National Laboratory’s Center for Transportation Research, and private-sector companies like SpotHero and Via Transportation.

The Argonne National Laboratory has a number of transportation system models calibrated for the Chicago metro region, said Ann Schlenker, the director of the Center for Transportation at the laboratory.

“We plan to leverage this expertise with City Tech partners and the Department of Energy to provide insights on new mobility business models, new technologies and new services in the automated, connected, efficient and shared future of mobility,” Schlenker said in an email. “These research insights, as neutral, unbiased data and results, will be shared with sponsors and stakeholders widely to inform future transportation practices and policies.”

A number of cities have turned to greater creativity in the transportation arena, launching projects like on-demand micro-transit, the deployment of rentable electric scooters and bikes as well as electric car-share programs which allow users to rent by the minute via an app.

Shared electric mobility could offer some of the best opportunities to economically, sustainably and equitably serve transportation needs, said Brian Holland, program director for the Shared-Use Mobility Center, a nonprofit with offices in Chicago and Los Angeles. The Mobility Center, a partner on the Advanced Mobility Initiative project, works to accelerate the shift to new mobility options. The organization is leading about 25 pilots around the country.

“We’re starting to see some scale at this intersection between efficient, and electric, and equitable,” said Holland during a recent symposium titled The Next Urban Future, hosted by the nonprofit Meeting of the Minds in Sacramento, Calif.

In the coming weeks, City Tech will bring together industry officials for a series of workshops to develop mobility solutions. City Tech, along with the architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, will launch a Future Street Typologies Design Studio later this year to explore how cities can plan for the future — and increasingly, the present — by embracing new types of vehicles, technology and automation.

“Technology is dramatically changing the way we use our infrastructure. Technologists and urban designers must engage so we can shape the future city together,” said Chris Hall, SOM’s Urban Strategy Leader, in a statement.

Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.