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How public transportation is getting smarter

The US Transportation Department recently announced awards totaling over $94 million to technology projects boosting road safety and transit reliability.1 It’s part of the federal government’s increasing focus on using advanced technology to gain insights for planning and engineering the future of smart transportation.

This funding, and the rest of the funding from the $1 trillion 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), has state and local public transportation experts studying where the money can make the most impact.

The state of public transportation

When surveyed, public transportation professionals said their most important challenge for the coming year was improving the user experience.2 From the reliability of schedules to the ease of transactions, user experience enhancements keep constituents engaged in public transit and help to fund further upgrades to the system.

However, when asked about the technology currently used to support such advancements to the system, 30% of public transportation professionals surveyed said they manage their services without software support. Only 23% said they used a software platform for management.2

In addition, 51% of respondents stressed the need to focus on the shift to electric and zero-emissions vehicles.2 Last year alone, the Department of Transportation awarded more than $1 billion to agencies for low- and no-emission buses.2

State and local governments will soon depend on advanced technology to help create a more efficient and sustainable transportation system — without compromising user experience.

What technology can provide right now

To make public transportation more attractive to constituents in the near term, some municipalities have put technology to use through:

  • Creating or improving mobile apps and websites for service updates 
  • Using digital payment systems to streamline transactions
  • Providing Wi-Fi and charging stations
  • Updating digital signage and displays for service updates and road conditions
  • Distributing information more freely through social media channels

Short-term improvements focus on a more transparent view of the current status of services and easier ways for users to interact with services.

But what about the long term? How will technology improve transportation after we all have a clearer view of the system?

How IT will support the future of public transportation

Looking three or more years into the future, public transportation professionals are most concerned about staffing, the changeover to electric vehicle fleets, and user participation and experience.2

Future federal funding from the IIJA targets these challenges and the technology support needed for their implementation, including:

  • Electric vehicle infrastructure
  • Cybersecurity
  • Connectivity for communities affected by construction
  • Risk assessment for extreme weather events

Here’s how IT professionals can help government agencies make the most of those funds. 



1 Modernize and automate. 

To improve experiences, process large amounts of data, and cope with staffing shortages, IT expertise will prove critical to the future of transportation.

Providing a better transit experience is not just based on user demand. A full 62% of public transportation professionals want to provide passengers with real-time updates on route changes or delays, with 52% wanting that information available on apps and websites.2 Commuters will also appreciate updates on road delays and maintenance through electronic signage. But none of it can happen without significant compute power to process and relay that information, especially at that speed.

The upgrades needed to handle the effects of extreme weather events also require a modernized approach to data. According to Deloitte, “Increasing the resiliency of the transportation system will require significant innovations in infrastructure design and maintenance, coupled with a more data-driven approach to prioritizing investment decisions.”3

Increasingly, organizations are using edge computing to accelerate the process of turning data into insight. The Lenovo ThinkEdge portfolio, powered by Intel® Xeon® Scalable processors and Intel® Atom™ processors, is ushering in a new era of edge automation and management at scale with AI. ThinkEdge servers already are being deployed globally to improve emergency response, public safety, and accessibility.

2 Prepare your community for the electric vehicle revolution.

The IIJA allocates $15 billion overall for electric vehicle infrastructure, with more than 80% going to state and local governments.3 The federal government has already expressed its plans to move to 100% acquisition of zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) by 2035.3

Figuring out how many vehicles and charging stations will be needed, as well as estimating the long-term costs of maintenance and electricity, will require IT’s help. From demographic analysis to design support and charging technology expertise, agencies will turn to IT to provide foundational knowledge on the future of electric vehicle infrastructure.

For example, the state of New York’s public utility organizations pooled their expertise to analyze the state’s needs over the coming years. They set a goal of deploying 850,000 ZEVs by 2025.4 The analysis led to a total program budget of $701 million, with $206 million earmarked to directly benefit disadvantaged communities.4 

No matter the workload, the Lenovo ThinkStation P360 Ultra desktop and mobile ThinkPad® P1 workstation, powered by the Intel vPro® platform with 13th Gen Intel® Core™ processors and Windows 11 Pro, ensure agencies are equipped for data-intensive projects.

3 Shore up cybersecurity for increased community connectivity.

The IIJA specifically allocates $2.5 billion in grant funding to state, local, and tribal governments for electric vehicle infrastructure with requirements for cybersecurity and privacy to use the funds.3

These security concerns include not only the typical malware and ransomware municipalities have come to expect, but also new types of data manipulation. For example, the data used to report delays and accidents is often crowd-sourced and open to misinformation. IT teams must demonstrate they are well equipped for cyberthreats of all kinds.

IT professionals can do their part by investing in solutions that include Lenovo ThinkShield and Intel vPro® platform protection, including Intel® Hardware Shield, for transparent security from the supply chain on up. 

Ensure your team has the time and resources freed up for whatever the future holds by outsourcing day-to-day operational tasks through Lenovo Managed Services. Experience fewer disruptions, better employee retention, and more freedom to focus on improving transportation for your community.

As more IIJA funding finds its way to state and local governments, IT professionals are well positioned to guide agencies into a new era of smarter transportation, made safe and efficient through your trusted partner in progress.

Visit the Government page or contact your Lenovo for Government representative today.