7 Billion People – Can the World’s Roads Support This Population?

In the past month, the world’s population surpassed 7 billion people. Celebrations were underway to commemorate this new height in population, however, what are the impacts on the world’s infrastructure?

In 2010, the largest US cities experienced an average 6 hours of ‘rush hour’ daily. Many of the most heavily populated cities are already encountering overcrowding on public transit, increased pollution levels, and longer traffic delays.

Cities have been accommodating growth, but the population is now growing on a steeper trajectory. According to the Texas Transportation Institute’s 2011 Mobility Report, US cities are already having problems implementing projects to accommodate greater populations. Major projects and funding can take 10 to 15 years to develop and by then, the population size could’ve outgrown the original plans. In order to decrease lead time, optimizing current infrastructures would provide a great starting solution.

Strategies for Accommodating Growth

To manage additional growth and vehicles, regions can look to add capacity and increase the efficiency of existing infrastructure. Utilizing both strategies would be advantageous in decreasing delays, however, adding capacity is not always possible due to space limitations or inability to sacrifice green/public spaces. Many urban communities value green space and municipalities are reluctant to encroach upon these areas. Also, many downtown cores simply do not physically have space to expand.

It seems that the most efficient solution is to improve existing infrastructure. Regions can improve and optimize traffic flow by completing studies and analyzing the results to understand the current and future needs of the traffic landscape. Relevant data to understand traffic flow can come from such studies as an Intersection Count, an Origin-Destination study, a Travel Time study, or a Roundabout Count.

For traffic engineers and planners, understanding the flow, travel patterns and volume of traffic within cities, especially those that are quickly growing, is valuable. In providing this information to city decision makers, they can make appropriate changes to the current infrastructure processes which can aid in efficiently improving current traffic management and wisely investing in future projects.  It also provides the comparative data needed to balance the transportation needs and projects with other regional initiatives whether those are other infrastructure projects or other programs.

The Importance of Accurate Data

Arming decision makers with quantitative data that is easy to get and accurate quickly sets a strong foundation for large-scale traffic improvement projects worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Miovision’s video and web-based technologies replace many conventional data collection methods and help reduce the cost of collecting, analyzing, and reporting accurate traffic data. This data then can be analyzed to understand how to optimize traffic congestion, minimize environmental impacts and improve overall road safety.

Funding Options within North America

For organizations that require additional funding, there are many government grant options. The Government of Canada provides a number of funding through the Economic Action Plan and Infrastructure Canada Department. Its objective is to provide flexible and effective funding support to provincial, territorial, municipal, private sector and not-for-profit infrastructure projects. A few funds to review: Canada Strategic Infrastructure Fund, Infrastructure Canada Program and Public Transit Fund. There are also a number of options available through individual provinces with the provincial Ministry of Infrastructure.

The US Government also provides grants, specifically through the DOT Federal Highway Administration Agency. Additional information for all US grants is available at www.grants.gov. This website provides all of the grants available through the US Government and contains a wide array of options. Since it covers so much information, it would be best to allocate some research time to find the most applicable grants for your initiatives.