Multimodal Transport System – Enabling Efficient Access From First To Last Mile In Smart Cities

Advantages of Multimodal Transport System

Consider a hypothetical situation where you need to reach the airport to catch a flight. Starting from your home, there are various modes that can help you reach the airport. But which one is the cheapest and fastest so that you can reach safely on time? This is when an integrated multimodal system can help you. How? Let’s find it out in depth!   

The multimodal transport system in simple language is a combined transport system that stitches each roadway, railway, airway and waterway to produce an integrated travel solution within a smart city. Nevertheless, it is not necessary for all types of transport systems to perform under a single contract. Even if a minimum of two modes is integrated, the system can be regarded as a multimodal transport system.

The idea of the multimodal system is advancing in some of the rapidly flourishing smart cities like London and Singapore where the transport authorities serve as unified public transport authorities to deliver seamless integration of multiple modes like metro, buses, light rail and taxis.

Recently, the UN-HABITAT Global Report on Human Settlements emphasised on the significance of multimodal integration and its contribution to enhancing the impression of mass transit and enabling sustainable urban mobility. Multimodal transport system including rapid bus transit, metro and light rail can get more convenient for the commuters when they are connected with each other. The impact can further augment when the connected mass transit is integrated with taxis and shared-mobility services such as walking, cycling, bike-sharing, and car-sharing, helping connect the first and the last mile.  

The Key Drivers

Integration of different modes of transport is possible through strong institutional framework like a unified metropolitan transportation authority. The unified authority enables planning, coordination, and execution.

In addition, data, technology and the private sector can be crucial drivers for the development of multimodal transport system. It is evident that multimodal trip planning applications and real-time commutation information systems have transformed the way people move within the cities. Hence, in this case, the role of major technology, organisations, application developers, data standards, and technological advancement in mobility sector becomes imperative. This fundamentally includes the introduction and development of integrated payment systems for multimodal trips by the use of smart cards. In other words, one smart card allows you to opt and pay for any mode of transport you like. This system is currently being deployed in over 250 smart cities including HongKong, Japan, London, and Singapore.

The Role Of Parking Systems In Multimodal Transport System

What Is The Role of Parking Systems In Multimodal Transport System?

Multimodal transport system can be further optimised when open parking data is incorporated in the new ecosystem. Needless to say, each vehicle trip starts and ends with parking. So, managing the parking system within the multimodal landscape can help regulate traffic in a city. Transit modes like buses, scooters, shared cars, bikes and autonomous vehicles (in the future) will require space to park. And so digitalised parking systems will have a bigger role to play. They will no longer be considered a fixed asset and but a flexible resource which can allow drivers to locate a parking spot by allocating data in real-time.

Be it garages, car parks, or multi-storey parks, each one of them forms an integral part of the multimodal transport system. For this car park equipment technology becomes important. Currently, many companies are working on developing car park technology. One such example is GP4P parking system which is deemed as the new generation parking system. The technology was developed by keeping the focus on maximising openness so that it could be easily integrated into third-party systems. It deploys a standardised application interface for the interconnection while the data interface enables two-way communication with other systems.

Furthermore, the data interface can also be used to exchange data between a multimodal transport gateway and a parking system. The data on empty parking spaces is the most important when it comes to the multimodal trsystem. Drivers can easily obtain information on the empty parking spaces present in different car parks through the digital application.

“Warehouse On Wheels” – Last Mile Delivery

Ford and Gnewt have entered a partnership to conduct a trial project called “warehouse on wheels” which is a digital delivery service in London.

Gnewt is a London-based company with the largest fully electric delivery fleet in the UK with over 70 electric vans. It has pioneered in sustainable doorstep delivery services by collaborating with leading e-commerce companies, logistics firms, and leading retailers. This has made it possible to deliver three million parcels a year to consumers and businesses in London alone.

So, in this trial project, the company’s job is to coordinate various modes of transport such as foot transport and bicycle couriers.

Whereas, Ford will use its own intelligent cloud-based, multimodal routing and logistics software called MoDe:Link that will manage everything involved in parcel delivery from the storehouse to doorstep. The software will help identify optimum places for van drivers to pull over near multiple drop-off points and fork over to last leg delivery.

When this trial is successful, it could help courier services, fleet managers, logistics and food delivery services to optimise processes and enhance the utilisation of van by saving time and money which will ultimately boost capacity.

While on the user end, it will improve customer experience by offering better delivery windows and decreasing the cost as well as the time period between the order and delivery. This will come true as vans will be able to make more trips back to the storehouse. Eventually, as the entire delivery process is optimised, it will contribute to less traffic on roads while reducing congestion, especially around important kerb space where delivery vehicles generally stop to load and unload.

According to Tom Thompson, project lead, Ford Mobility, the company’s goal is to retain bigger vehicles like delivery vans in low traffic environments where they can perform best. Further, he adds that “However, for the last mile of a journey into an urban area, where congestion and lack of parking can be a challenge, it makes sense to offload deliveries to more nimble, efficient and cost-effective modes of transport.”

Ford company is committed to overcoming urban mobility challenges related to the deliveries of goods and services. The company is doing this through innovation, technology and collaborations. The “warehouse on wheels” is a concept designed to be compatible with Ford vans and delivery vehicles from other manufacturers. The vans are positioned to be active delivery centres that will collect orders from a warehouse and then stop at a strategic location for a very short time. The locations are determined to be the most efficient for each shipment of orders.

Moreover, the software platform deployed in the trial phase will coordinate with nearby foot couriers, or with potential bicycle couriers and autonomous robots in the future – to address the last leg of each delivery.

These kinds of multimodal deliveries integrated with the “warehouse on wheels” concept will be capable of faster, cheaper and greater capacity than just serving through delivery vans. According to an estimation provided by Ford, one van and a team of four couriers on foot or bicycle could be used to deliver the same number of parcels as five individual vans when operating as a part of a multimodal modal network. This proves that the new multimodal delivery system is surely going to pave way for more efficient shipment services in London.

The multimodal transport system has the capability to overcome the first and the last mile challenges, increase accessibility for people living on the outskirts of the city and mitigate traffic and traffic-related issues that take place due to next day parcel delivery standard. This idea is rapidly catching momentum in smart cities around the world and is touted to be the smart mobility solution of the future.