On Q: How are you and your city tackling air pollution?

With an increase of urban population, traffic is seen as one of the root causes to an air pollution problem that has become the fourth highest risk factors for premature deaths, causing 12,6 million deaths annually and costing the global economy US$5.7 trillion per year. On an average 60 to 65% of the CO2 pollution in cities is due to private cars. But just as traffic is seen as a major contributor to the severe air pollution problem we face, traffic and transport innovations and improvements are -and will be- among the major contributors to solve these challenges. Nations, cities, businesses and individuals are working harder than ever to make their communities and neighborhoods capable of reaching their potential as livable, healthy and desired habitats by investing in integrated mobility strategies and sustainable transportation solutions.

Integrated transportation:  For the many cities that already have a tremendous amount of transportation infrastructure, an emphasis on integrated mobility strategies is gaining attention. Not only do they see that effective transportation is a competitive advantage for their inhabitants and workers, they also see that many mobility solutions are relatively quick to implement, cost-effective, do not interfere with other long-term infrastructure improvements and give significant results in the form of congestion reduction.

The strategies embrace a broad range of concepts and applications such as infrastructure enhancement through reduction of fuel powered transportation and encouragement of active means of transportation, roadway maintenance and information technologies. Q-Free is proud of its open and modular approach to development which enables the company to provide solutions that perfectly suit an integrated approach for congestion and air pollution reduction.

Infrastructure Enhancement: Traditionally infrastructure enhancement is thought of as construction of new roads, tunnels and bridges, but the limitation of space and resources, together with increasing environmental focus, makes smaller scale enhancements crucial. Sustainable infrastructure enhancements that boost the capacity of existing systems are particularly important. Instead of expanding construction of road infrastructure, implementing systems such as Lane Closure Management, Congestion Charging and Electronic Toll Collection, Parking Guidance/Wayfinding, and Traffic Light Controllers, all work to reduce congestion, thus the amount of air pollution produced by idling vehicles.

One such way of utilizing existing infrastructure is by implementing a Lane Closure Management System (LCAMS). LCAMS minimizes the impact of lane closures by automating the manual processes of planning, monitoring, resolving conflicts, and exchanging information about existing and planned lane closures across the region. This establishes an efficient process to quickly and correctly redirect traffic and resolve conflicts.

Enhancement through reduction and optimization of engine powered transportation: Stockholm was the first city to receive the award European Green Capital by the EU Commission in 2010, three years after the its implementation of congestion charging for cars crossing the city’s inner boundary leading to traffic reduction of 20% into central city areas. In addition to a decrease in traffic volume, 24% of commuting trips changed from cars to transit, and the commercial traffic in the city center decreased by 15%. The large reduction in traffic volume led to a reduced traffic emission in the inner city of 10-15%, as well as increased traffic safety. With the positive results, inhabitants and politicians became less opposed to the idea of paying for a good that used to be free and started to embrace the benefits of the congestion charge.

Electronic toll collection is another mean for reduced air pollution as the need to stop and pay at a booth/kiosk is eliminated by electronic or wireless payments using On-Board Units (OBU). In addition to maintaining traffic flow while still collecting tolls from drivers, ETC is also used address the issue of larger vehicles, which tend to use more fuel and have a greater level of emissions per vehicle.

In many markets the classic tolling schemes are challenged with the “polluter pays” principle. The focus on road-user-charging address tolling based on the respective infrastructure use as well as the amount of emission from each vehicle, and in turn, move away from static tolling points were every vehicle is charged the same amount without considering driving distance or emission amount. Included in our tolling portfolio, Q-Free develops a C-ITS portfolio that can contribute to an even more “fair” road user charging coexistent with or replacing current tolling schemes.

Considering the road infrastructure as a set of services draws the decision on how to use the road infrastructure closer to the end-customer. In line with this, development together with our customers in order to support integratable, non-proprietary and customer adapted product and solutions is fundamental in Q-Free’s development strategy. We believe that customer driven development will not only promote the right direction for future technology innovation, but also safeguard and motivate the best solutions from an environmental perspective.

Independent of scheme, the result of tolling and road charging is an income stream for infrastructure upkeep and a positive outcome for the environment. Revenue collected from these tolls can then be invested into improving public transportation. Doubling of bus network coverage and frequency in cities, could prevent the premature deaths of nearly one million people per year from air pollution and traffic fatalities worldwide, as well as save 40 billion hours of commuters’ time every year by 2030.​​​​

Read Q-Free’s tolling and C-ITS references available here:

Statistics have demonstrated that it’s not only regular commuters that are to blame for the traffic problems urban sites are facing. Up to 30% of congestion can actually be related to drivers searching for parking. With less areas available for parking and still high traffic in central zones, the fight for available parking areas increases, prices tend to rise and excess of queues create bad air quality. As a response to these challenges, new approaches to parking have been taken and with parking guidance, wayfinding, sensors and dynamic pricing opportunities. Drivers and operators are presented with dynamic information which assist in the monitoring and locating of available parking.  Q-Free has, over the past years, invested heavily in renewing its portfolio within parking and has many interesting products and solutions on the market and in the pipeline. 

Enhancement through use of active transportation: While building a new roadway can cost tens of millions of dollars, many of the pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure projects are extremely low-cost in comparison. Better bicycling infrastructure can improve safety for all road users, in addition to promoting healthier lifestyles and reducing congestion.

To motivate bikers and pedestrians, bicycle and pedestrian counting has become a tool to stimulate green transportation modes and give communities an indication on the use of their bicycling infrastructure. Bicycle priority is another way to incentivize cyclists on the street by giving them preference in traffic lights and improving their safety. Tools that encourage people to switch their mode of transportation from cars to bicycles have a climatic effect as the entire lifecycle emission from a cyclist is over 10 times lower than those stemming from the passenger car, including the additi​onal energy burned by a cyclist compared with that of a motorized transport user. Encouraging the use of non-motorized modes often also supports transit and smart growth.

Read our Infomobility references here:

Goods Roadway maintenance: Poorly maintained roads increase accident rates and have both a human, proprietary and environmental cost. One of the contributors to damage on road structures and reparation costs of billions of dollars worldwide are overweight vehicles.  As road maintenance is an effective action to reduce costs and prevent CO2 emissions from road transport, monitoring and detecting vehicles with excessive loads has an appropriate interest to authorities.

Both high-speed Weigh in Motion systems for use in live lanes, and low-speed Weigh in Motion systems, for use in inspection and other low-speed applications, record vehicle classification and axle load data without interruptions to traffic flow. This solution is used as a screening for overloaded vehicles and can be interfaced to traffic signals or diversion signs to intercept overloaded vehicles and to ANPR or CCTV camera systems[CM4] .

Information Technologies: ITS-based traveler information systems are intended to increase the quality and quantity of transit information that users and operators have available, provide information about alternative routes and modes and reduce the overall impact of delays throughout the transit system.  Most require minimal capital investments on the part of transit authorities, but can have a significant impact on air pollution reduction.

Traffic controllers provide at-the-roadside intelligence which coordinates the operation of traffic signals, pedestrian crossings, bus and tram prioritization systems, and cycle prioritization systems., Reducing stop-and-go traffic, smart signal controlling maximizes throughput in intersections, decreasing emissions from idling vehicles.

Conclusion: ​​Cities are facing a range of challenges related to providing first-mile and last mile service for transit users, coordinating data collection and analysis across systems and sectors, facilitating the movement of goods into and within a city, reducing inefficiency in parking systems and payment and optimizing traffic flow on congested freeways and arterial streets.  Q-Free is proud to provide products and solutions that can cover an arising holistic approach to transportation that breaks down the traditional modal and geographic barriers to optimize how we transport people and goods and reduce our environmental impact. By the end of the day it isn’t mainly about technology and infrastructure, but about how people want to move and live.