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3D aerial images and data for transport planning

Nov 2018

This is the third in a three-part blog series exploring how new 3D geocontent is changing the way infrastructure gets built in modern cities.

Nov 2018

Above: Brisbane Airport captured on 3 November, 2018. Work on the airport's second runway began in 2012, and is set to open in 2020.

Navigating to the holy grail of a liveable city

The holy grail of urban planners and governments is the so-called “smart city” that’s on the lips of every futurist with a LinkedIn account. But the path to that utopia of connectedness, sustainability, and livability can be strewn with obstacles, not the least of which is starting the planning process with outmoded, incomplete, or poor quality location intelligence.
To understand how current geospatial information underpins smart city planning, we need to take a step back and look at the overall picture of our future cities. Smart and Resilient Cities lists geospatial technology as one of the six essential technologies for creating a smart city, and the fifth Cities in Motion Index names nine dimensions that are the most important factors for a smart and sustainable city: economy, social cohesion, human capital, environment, governance, urban planning, technology, international outreach, and mobility and transportation.
Why is public transport such a priority for transforming cities? Sustainability and livability, as well as opening up development corridors and opportunities, can only be achieved with the evolution of public transport. Billions are now being spent on projects such as the Melbourne and Sydney metro rail lines, Canberra light rail, and extensions to the Sydney and Gold Coast tram networks; however, a recent report found that compared to transport initiatives in cities such as Hong Kong, Chennai, and London, these are still “catch up” projects.
The historic under-investment in public transport in Australian cities means we have to invest more innovation and expenditure to move ahead in world terms. A recent Infrastructure Australia report makes clear recommendations:
  • A rapid increase in the delivery of high quality, higher density housing. The report found that each of our cities will need to deliver about 500,000 to 700,000 additional dwellings over the next 15 to 20 years.
  • Timetable-free, “turn up and go” train and bus services – similar to New York, Singapore, London, and Berlin.
  • Addressing an imbalance between the inner and outer suburbs of our cities by delivering infrastructure to the outskirts of urban areas.
  • Governments and regulators who are responsive to emerging technologies and ensure regulatory settings maximise opportunities to increase productivity.
We are already seeing how transformative transport initiatives might positively impact Australian cities. Game-changing projects like the proposed VIC Rail Loop would carry 400,000 passengers a day and take 200,000 cars off major roads. So what’s the difference between an expensive transport upgrade, and a truly innovative transport project? To answer that, we need to consider what factors make a transit system integral to a smart city.

How does improved public transport create more liveable cities?

As Gustavo Petro, Colombian economist, is widely quoted as saying, “A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use public transportation.”
Improved mobility equates to expanded opportunity
  • Improved efficiency in public transport moves more people, addressing the needs of an expanding population.
  • Expanded transit networks equate to less travel time and less bottleneck. It’s possible to enjoy a better quality of life when you’re not spending two (essentially wasted) hours a day commuting in a car. Wifi-enabled trains and buses also allow the work day to start on the way to the office.
  • Easier, more accessible mobility should encourage people to have fewer cars per household and will also increase access for those unable or unwilling to drive.
  • Residents in outer suburbs will have increased access to work opportunities, and the housing boom around new transit stations will help control urban sprawl.
Less traffic begets cities that are more environmentally friendly, with deeper social integration
  • With improved public transport, cities can introduce measures such as traffic exclusion zones and congestion taxes, or tolls to control vehicular traffic. London, Rome, and Chennai are all examples of cities that have led the way with these measures.
  • Innovations such as green buses, electric charging stations for bicycles and bicycle lanes, public wifi, and real-time transport status updates mean that people will more frequently be out and about in the city, creating a better sense of community and livability. Importantly, fewer vehicles means more public space, fresher air, freer movement, and more green space, as well as the ability to achieve greater density and ecological sustainability in working and living.
  • Welcoming public spaces can be created, enabling more community events, pedestrian and shopping precincts, entertainment zones, and spaces for citizens to mingle and relax.

By understanding the criteria for a transformative transit project, we can better understand the geospatial data requirements that enable such initiatives.

Efficient, effective transport planning is much more feasible with access to wide-scale, current 3D reality models of Australia’s urban and regional areas.
  • Better insights earlier in the process: Being able to visualise the wider context of everything surrounding the proposed project site means plans and designs can take into account the realities of the existing built environment, and create realistic predictive outcomes.
  • Scenario evaluation to envision the impact of development on the wider city: With an accurate 3D reality model, multiple solutions can be visualised, considered, and modelled to explore a range of possibilities.
  • Easy data sharing with all stakeholders, including non-technical team members and the broader community, ensures a common data environment and seamless communication across all stages of a major project.
  • Regularly refreshed data enables agile responsiveness to changing demands as the project evolves and the surrounding environment changes, saving time and money on corrective or retrospective work.
The new Redcliffe Station in Perth, captured on 23 September, 2018. The $1.86 billion Forrestfield-Airport Link will deliver a new rail service to the eastern suburbs of Perth — with three new stations at Redcliffe, Airport Central, and Forrestfield.

Winning over the community with a realistic representation of project plans is critical to avoiding project delays or future disputes.

Local government areas (LGAs) and community leaders in successful smart cities engage their communities from the ground up. The transformation process necessarily involves major construction projects, expenditure of public funds, and upheaval in the lives of residents. If the future benefits aren’t fully explained and understood, and community feedback is not addressed, projects will stall. 3D representations — a so-called “digital twin” — of current and projected plans are an invaluable tool for community engagement, bringing future projects to life to encourage enthusiasm and participation in changes that require community support — including potential homeowner displacement, disrupted transit service, increased fares or tolls, etc.
History shows that Australians are likely to respond well to innovation that’s carefully introduced at the LGA and community level. ABS figures show that 86% of Australians have internet in the home — although work is still needed to connect those in remote areas. Importantly for the future, 97% of households with children under 15 have internet access. With such good saturation and uptake, LGAs and other stakeholders can utilise this to deliver interconnectivity and access to services, strengthen and facilitate social networks and education networks , enhance community and take full advantage of future innovations.
The Australian Government’s 2030 goals set in their voluntary national review are realistic and achievable, if all levels of governance and the private sector are involved. Bridging the digital divide, particularly in regional areas, is essential if citizens are to be included as our cities change. Government at the federal, state, and local levels, in consultation with an engaged population, can and will drive change if they meet the challenges head on and adopt progressive technologies to drive the adoption of and success of their most transformative projects.
Choosing the right tools to future-proof your major project and its impact on the urban environment is an important part of the digital infrastructure process. Learn more about Nearmap 3D, and view more 3D fly-throughs on our YouTube channel.
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