New IBM Research Reveals Critical Gap for Managing Congestion Problems in Cities Worldwide

Call for Smarter Transportation Solutions To Promote Greater Municipal Mobility

Select a topic or year

STOCKHOLM - 23 Sep 2009: An IBM (NYSE: IBM) research report announced here today at the ITS World Conference shows that as the world becomes more urbanized -- with 70 percent of the population living in cities by the year 2050 -- a number of cities are struggling to keep pace with increased traffic and congestion problems accompanying urban growth. The report shows that transport has emerged as an urgent priority for municipal planners who need to improve traffic flow in order to promote cleaner, less congested cities.

Population densities are on the rise as the world becomes more urban. Last year for the first time in history, the majority of the world's people lived in cities, according to the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations. Cities everywhere are battling with stressed transportation networks -- the result of an increase in demand and an inability to build sufficient infrastructure to cope with these challenges.  

These conditions are choking countries and cities around the world: China currently has 20 million cars on the road with predicted growth to 140 million in 2020. In addition, the cost of congestion across the U.S. transportation system nears $200 billion each year, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. In Europe, with around 300 million drivers, traffic congestion costs the EU 1% of its GDP - around euro100 billion - each year. 

According to the new study, Intelligent Transport: How Cities Can Improve Mobility, as cities grow in economic importance in the global economy, they compete to attract commerce and employment opportunities, and the effectiveness of a city's transport system has a significant impact on a city's attractiveness to both prospective investors and employees.  

IBM conducted in-depth research in more than 50 developed and developing world cities followed by in depth interviews with senior transport officials in sixteen selected cities around the world revealing that although cities face unique transportation challenges, their leaders share common ambitions. Most favor the increased use of enhanced public mass transit systems and other alternatives to private vehicles. In addition, most leaders interviewed agree that infrastructure investments are necessary to build more effective transport systems. However, the constraints of tight capital budgets are driving an increased focus on the need to better manage transport demand and supply through deploying technology-based intelligent transport systems (ITS). 

Virtually every city in IBM's study is developing a vision and strategy to improve mobility, typically by changing modal shares and delivering improved transport services. In addition, nearly all of the city leaders interviewed highlighted the importance of ITS in addressing their transport challenges. Intelligent transport systems can include integrated fare management, enhanced customer relationship management, traffic prediction, improved traffic management, traveler information, and road user charging. Such smarter systems apply advanced technologies to collect more and better data, analyze it more intelligently and connect it through more effective networks. The result is more efficient, effective and targeted services for citizens on the move. 

The majority of cities are at an early stage in understanding and realizing the full potential of ITS. There are significant gaps between the progress of the typical city and the leaders. 

To close that gap, the IBM report cites five mandates for smarter municipalities:

"Clearing congestion and improving how people and goods are moved cross-town and cross-region are critical, not only to address quality of life and a cleaner environment," said Jamie Houghton, Global Leader Intelligent Transport Systems, IBM. "They are critical to economic viability and sustainability for municipalities world wide. IBM's study shows transport problems can be solved with advanced thinking, strategic planning and integrated execution." 

Stockholm Increases Services, Decreases Congestion

One of the cities the study looked at in greater detail is Stockholm, which has implemented several global leading practices in smart transportation. Stockholm aims to be the world's most accessible capital and views its transportation system as an important part of reaching this goal. The city is well known for its congestion tax, which drove a 25 percent reduction in car use and 14 percent reduction in emissions from road traffic. In keeping with best practices around integrating service delivery across transport modes, Stockholm implemented the tax as part of a holistic transport plan that also increased bus services and park-and-ride facilities and uses an integrated ticketing system that links the major modes of transport. 

About the Intelligent Transport Study

Intelligent Transport research was conducted by the IBM Institute for Business Value in 57 cities, with a focus on a range of economic indicators and an evaluation of their transport systems. Structured interviews with senior transport and city officials were conducted in fifteen cities, selected to represent a geographical spread and varying stages of economic development and maturity in transport infrastructures and intelligent transport systems. These cities are located in the following countries: Australia, Chile, China, Egypt, Italy, India, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, Singapore, Sweden, Taiwan and the United Kingdom. 

The report, Intelligent Transport, can be found here (


Related XML feeds
Topics XML feeds
News of interest to IBM investors
Chemistry, computer science, electrical engineering, materials and mathematical sciences, physics and services science
Smarter Planet
Images related to IBM's Smarter Planet initiative
Travel & Transportation
News about IBM solutions for the travel and transportation industries