SWARCO | Improving our air quality
As the spread of COVID-19 has brought much of our country to a halt and commuters are staying at home where possible, they’ve been looking at the changes to the quality of our air during this period to see what lessons could be learnt.
One side effect of restricted travel and the UK staying at home is what appears to be a significant reduction in Nitrous Oxides in our air which if inhaled regularly or if harmful levels build-up then can cause harm to our health.
One of the contributing factors to poor air quality and Nitrous Oxides in the air is road transport, including petrol and diesel vehicle emissions. As an industry we can help to remedy that by introducing several smaller steps that can make a big difference in maintaining low air pollution.
Many cities and car parks already have dynamic signage to indicate if they have space availability. Although this makes navigation easier for drivers as it allows them to make informed decisions, why not guide drivers to available spaces throughout the city? This could shorten journeys considerably, advising drivers of their nearest available car park and space availability, whilst reducing emissions and creating a more enjoyable journey for the driver.
Once inside the car park, guiding drivers to the nearest available parking space reducing idling time and the number of particulates released into the enclosed space and to possible pedestrians nearby.
Intelligent, dynamic signs such as Variable Message Signs (VMS) can also interface to live pollution monitoring maps and divert drivers away from heavily polluted areas and routes. This distributes the traffic and prevents the harmful build-up that causes serious health issues. Levels can become particularly harmful at peak times, when congestion is also at its highest. You can incentivise drivers to take these diversions with journey time information, showing them that the less congested alternative routes may also be quicker.
As we are being encouraged to make the transition to electric vehicles it is imperative that the necessary infrastructure is also available to the public. The UK government has set the deadline of 2035 to end the sale of diesel and petrol vehicles and aims to have enough charging points available so that a driver is never more than 30 miles away from one. If this isn’t possible and ‘range anxiety’ continues to be an issue, then this will be an incredibly difficult transition to make.
Park & Ride and Public Transport priority
Park & Ride is a solution that many large towns and cities have implemented over the years. It means visitors from more rural areas can get to you but can leave the cars at a safe location on the outskirts of the city, not contributing to the city centre congestion or vehicle emissions.
One way to incentivise users of schemes such as Park & Ride and to take public transport is to prioritise public transport through cities. This has the possibility to not only increase the efficiency of urban traffic management but to better handle ever-growing traffic volumes and consequently make journeys via these travel modes quicker and more convenient. It also results in less vehicles on the road, reducing pollution levels.
However, if a Park & Ride facility isn’t convenient or well signposted then you run the risk of only adding to the issue, with drivers continuing journeys into city centres and empty buses from the schemes continuing to run. Guiding drivers to Park & Ride facilities or advising drivers that have come from afar of the public transport available once they arrive in the city could lead to a large uptake in use and reduce the number of vehicles on the roads. This can be combined with parking guidance to offer further convenience to drivers.
Cloud-based monitoring systems
In today’s modern world it’s important to ensure that highways infrastructure can work harmoniously with modern day smart technology to work efficiently. SWARCO MyCity is just one example of how this could be done.
MyCity is SWARCO‘s new modular Traffic Management Platform. The platform is available as on-premise or as a Cloud-Based solution operated by SWARCO 24/7.
The web-based, modular setup of the platform means you can tailor the system to have only the functionality you need, with the flexibility to add-in additional functionality later. With a user-friendly interface user don’t need any specific software skills in order to use the system and it can be accessed anywhere, any time on mobile as well as desktop. Highways departments have the functionality of a ‘traditional’ traffic management system, with the ability to carry out tasks such as manage traffic controllers and junction timings, check capacities of car parks and monitor journey times as well as monitor pollution levels and electric vehicle charger status.