Transportation and mobility – two of the most complex issues modern societies are confronted with today.
The combination of a growing population and the need to reduce personal car use is forcing authorities to find solutions which allow people to easily commute to and from the city.
Public servants have come up with lots of interesting ways to engage people in public transportation or other alternatives to using their own car. From city cards which offer discounts to regulations to eliminate personal car use in city centres – all of these schemes aim to reduce traffic congestion, greenhouse gas emissions and give citizens a better quality of both air and mobility.
These solutions focus mostly on problems inside the city so what course should be taken when looking at it from a wider perspective? How can we better connect cities so that it is easier to commute between?
Loop City brings together ten municipalities in a collaboration with the Capital Region of Denmark and the Danish state with the aim of creating a bridge between urban and green space – in order to give citizens a better quality of life. The following interview will give you an idea of what this project means in terms of implementation.
Ahead of Nordic Smart Cities – The City 2.0 we conducted an exclusive speaker interview with Anja Kraag, Program Director, Loop City about Transportation and Mobility.
Anja Kraag is the Programme Director of Loop City, coordinating strategic urban development for 10 municipalities in the greater Copenhagen area. Her job includes ideation and innovation, initiating new ideas which focus on best practice within both economic development, business development, urban planning and fundraising to ensure the ideas turn into projects in the municipalities.
What is Loop City bringing in addition compared to other intelligent transportation and mobility projects?
To answer this I would say it is bringing politicians across administrative borders together and you don’t see that in very many places. It is not a small Smart City project in one municipality, it is actually a collaboration between ten cities and the capital region of Denmark. Together with the Danish State we are organized in a unique manner and we try to see what we can do to make our area a very intelligent Smart City transportation hub and how we can make mobility work in other ways than it would with just 20 politicians in one municipality. LOOP CITY brings 200 representatives together and they all know that traffic problems doesn’t stop at municipality borders, so we work together to find the best solutions. I think that this is what the projects brings in addition – a unique form of organization.
What does LOOP CITY mean in the larger, European context?
From our point of view it means that investors will look our way because they know that we have a really good administration and we are easy to collaborate with. They also know the Greater Copenhagen is a good place to have a living lab and we do have the first living labs in Loop City already in the city of Albertslund, one of the ten municipalities in the collaboration. They are not working with mobility at the moment, they are working with smart lighting which is also one of the new big things in Europe. When you look at it in the European context, we are part of an EU project that is focusing on job creation in the digital sector. Everybody is looking our way to find out how we manage to collaborate so many of us together and I think that we are becoming a role model for how things can be done in an easier way. An important aspect is not to look just at what is happening in your city and realize that cooperation makes it so much easier, not so much for the people working at bringing people together to collaborate, because that is definitely not easy, but for the solutions, they become much more innovative and you get coherence.
What was most challenging since starting this project?
It takes a large amount of time to bring people onto the same page because when you talk about mobility in a Smart City project you can see it from many different points of view. But the project is developing and we are getting there.
What source of financing have you found most easy to access in the case of your project?
At the moment, when looking at the digital sector, we receive public funding as we are part of a European project. And we are currently applying for interactive projects regarding mobility, how to move people in a more intelligent way, and we expect to obtain public funding for that. When talking about Public Private Partnerships (PPP), we did at one point look into establishing a partnership with General Electric. They wanted to be a part of what we do because it would give them the opportunity to try new solutions along the 28 km long light rail, but currently we haven’t engaged in any PPP’s. That doesn’t mean that we are never going to do it, but we are going to use the next couple of months to see how we can get the best out of a potential partnership for both parties in a future collaboration.
How will the project transform the way people use transportation?
The ten cities are going to be connected by a light rail in 2023. That is what will bring them together and that is why they work so closely together towards a common goal. The light rail will have a digital infrastructure implemented as well as sensors and Wi-Fi for the 28 km project. I think it’s exactly the sense of the technology that is really going to be leading the project. That is also one of the projects that we do in the European context, trying to see how we can use open data in the public role that we have, how to make sure that we get more entrepreneurs using the open data in order to grow their companies and to make the city think more on its own.
What are the trends you started noticing along the way since the beginning of the project, concerning all areas you want to make an impact on?
In the smart mobility project we are going to be a part of the interaction and see which solutions are out there so that we can get more people stop using their own car. There is a lot of talk about Elon Musk and the Hyperloop project and driverless vehicles, we are not there yet but we are currently trying to look at driverless buses and maybe we will become a living lab. When we signed up to be a part of this conference we were supposed to have a pilot project on intelligent traffic communication in one of the cities, but due to different factors we are currently not as far ahead as we hoped we would be.