How Columbus plans to give all commuters seamless mobility options

For many cities, traffic congestion remains one of their biggest problems — and therefore one of the key focuses of their smart cities initiatives.

There are some signs of progress. The latest figures from the U.S. Department of Transportation show nearly all of the largest metropolitan areas have made improvement in at least one congestion measure, whether it’s travel time, the number of congested hours or how reliably one can predict their commute time.

But congestion is still terrible and the wasted time and fuel is a drain on the economy. One innovative solution: Columbus, Ohio’s new smart mobility hubs are designed to help commuters better plan their trips. And they don’t even need a smartphone. We explain more below.

Columbus was the winner of the U.S. transportation department’s Smart City Challenge. If you would like help to accelerate your smart cities efforts, you can apply for the Smart Cities Council’s Readiness Challenge. Applications are open now. — Kevin Ebi

Buses rarely run from someone’s home to the front door of their destination, so trips involving public transit usually involve several modes of transportation. Integrated trip planning is catching on in more cities, although its benefits have often been reserved for those with smartphones.

A new effort in Columbus, Ohio, however, is designed to give everyone the benefit of seamlessly planning their trips from start to finish, even if they can’t get online. New Smart Mobility Hubs will bring buses, bicycles and car shares, ride-hailing services and other forms of transportation together in a single platform.

The best part? The trip-planning service will be available through connected kiosks. People who don’t have smartphones will get the same transportation benefits as those who do.

Integrated trip planning for all
The Central Ohio Transit Authority is working with Columbus to deploy four of the Smart Mobility Hubs in high-traffic areas along a rapid-transit line. Hubs will be placed in areas like library branches, community centers, colleges and other areas that provide community services.

Each hub will feature an interactive kiosk that provides real-time transit information and trip planning services over several modes of transportation. The kiosk will provide access to the transit agency’s service, as well as other transportation information, such where pick-up locations are for ride-sharing services or where someone can rent a bicycle.

People will be able to book and pay for their trips — even if those trips span multiple modes of transportation.

The kiosks will also serve as a platform to offer free public Wi-Fi so that people can connect with their own devices.

But it’s not just for transportation
Although “mobility,” is in the name, the Smart Mobility Hubs are designed to provide broader access to community services. Among other things, the kiosks could present information about human services or even list job opportunities.