Smart cities and transport infrastructures

Laurent Carnis recently guest edited an article collection for the journal European Transport Research Review on the topic "Smart cities and transport infrastructures". Here he presents the highlights of these articles and how they advance the discussion of what the cities of the future should be.


Smart city is the object of an important and growing body of scientific literature. One result of that broad movement is the existence of numerous debates, different definitions of what a smart city is and its implications are.

Infrastructure is crucial for the operation of a smart city (lighting system, water distribution network, etc.). Moreover, transport infrastructure is placed at the chore of such smart city by making a smooth mobility of people and goods, especially with the possibility of regulating traffic congestion, providing up-dated and in time information for the public transportation user, developing green means of transportation (bike and car sharing for instance), etc. Consequently smart transport infrastructure and smart transport are a key component of the Smart City. And more knowledge is needed concerning that issue.

Smart transport and smart transport infrastructure contribute to the building and designing of a smart city by making it more valuable (with a better use of parking facilities), livable (less noisy, free of accidents, more respectful of environment at large), more connected (internet networked for using information from the users (for adapting the services and capacities to serve the customer) and for providing it to them (localization of road accident or incidents with public transportation) and more interconnected (stations becomes kinds of cities inside city).

A smart city initiate some changes in terms of governance for the city as it influences the cooperation among stakeholders acting in the transport field and modifies the nature and the intensity of relationships between them. Probably, the smart city will open new ways of cooperation among individuals, shaping a new face for democratic deliberation rules. Smart city brings with it a political project, implying many issues such as ideologies, urban planning, governance, coordination among actors, etc., which are to be fully understood and clearly assessed.

Six different papers constitute this article collection on “Smart cities and transport infrastructures.” The articles mainly cover the important issues related to smart city, smart transport and smart transport infrastructure. They constitute a modest contribution to the literature existing on that issue, but a true one with new findings and results issued from different fields of research.

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Collection highlights

Heddebaut and Di Ciommo’s contribution about Euraflandres constitutes a good example of smart city resting upon an intelligent planning and urbanism coupling transport facilities and other services provided to the population. It is a good illustration of interchange transport infrastructure, which became intertwined and conceived with other services and business facilities.

Li and Yu show how freight apps can reduce CO2 transport emission. Globally such apps make possible a better match between supply and demand of freight transport for interurban and urban freight transport. This article illustrates perfectly how smart a transport could be, especially by being greener and more respectful for the environment.

The use of the electric bikes can promote a smart velomobility, by making possible a “sustainable, active, and networked mode” of transport. The use of bikes could be good for the environment, but also from a health perspective. Arsenio and her coauthors examine the potential and barriers for the use of e-bikes by students and how it could be overcome.

Electric vehicles are also an important tool for reducing pollution and contribute to better air for cities and health for the citizen. However, road crash and other hazards bring new risks in terms of electric shocks for firefighters and people, battery leakage, fire in garage and vehicle under water. Stave and Carlson provide some interesting information related to that issue highlighting important stakes in terms of safety management and public policy.

Electric vehicles require also an appropriate charging infrastructure location, the topic investigated by Efthymiou and colleagues. The authors explain the different stakes related with the appropriate location of such charging stations. It is a crucial element for spreading the use of electric vehicles. Indeed, it requires the development of a specific network for loading the vehicle. It implies also some economic calculus and business plan.

Smart city rests upon heavily on the use of information. Smart city could be considered as a city of knowledge and information, which is emphasized by Ebendt and Tcheumadjeu’s paper, which tries to answer such a stake by proposing an approach through a dynamic location referencing. The use of information and knowledge requires first it is produced and valuable.

The takeaway

Smart city and smart transport infrastructure highlights many new issues and challenges for society at large. It requires a well-designed governance system and appropriate organizations and institutions. Cooperation among stakeholders appears as a crucial issue for having an efficient and effective smart transport system. The spreading of smart city raised also some important challenges in terms of justice and equity, but also some important economic choices in terms of huge investment, management and ownership of infrastructure. In a near future, there will be a large avenue and some new perspectives for new research for having a city and transport more efficient, more livable and more inclusive. This collection provides the first elements of a more important mosaic.

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One Comment

Margaret Negron

There is no clear-cut definition of “smart cities”, they are often described as cities that utilise ICT and other technologies to increase public benefit and improve the standard of living (further discussed in section below). Smart cities are highly dependent upon greater cooperation among citizens, business and the city, as well as other actors in the public sector.
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