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041119-blm-loc-1information

Carla Bailo, president and CEO of the nonprofit Center for Automotive Research, speaks during the annual Community Information Forum hosted by McLean County Regional Planning Commission on Wednesday, April 10, 2019, at The Chateau Hotel and Conference Center in Bloomington.

BLOOMINGTON — After nearly 100 years with the "security blanket" of a personal vehicle, residents may seek a menu of services to get around the city of the future.

"There's different modes for different demands, distance and flexibility. ... Finding those right solutions and enabling them is important," said Carla Bailo, president and CEO of the nonprofit Center for Automotive Research. "The future is automated, connected, electrified and shared."

Moving from individually owned cars to ride-hailing, ride-sharing, public transit and other services is sure to be messy, however — not only for individuals but also for municipalities, Bailo told local officials Wednesday at the McLean County Regional Planning Commission's annual Community Information Forum.

In response, she encouraged them to consider what infrastructure will be necessary and how traveler habits will change in the community.

"Think about communication ... connection to traffic signals, smart street lamps. When cars can begin to communicate, they become more efficient," she said, noting cellular data infrastructure is critical. "We need to think about how we can make the community (easier for artificial intelligence) to understand and communicate what the people on the roadways are doing."

She encouraged local officials to think about potential transit problems because "it's not always just congestion and bottlenecks" as it is in larger, wealthier cities where services like Uber and Lyft have caught on.

"Is it getting students to education? Is it getting elderly people to their doctor's appointments? Is it working with the disabled? What kind of services need to be provided?" she asked. "You have to understand how your community is moving, and then alter your offerings."

That process is somewhat complicated, Bailo acknowledged, because officials have to anticipate when autonomous and electric technologies will catch on.

She noted Americans have proved reluctant to leave behind traditional combustion engines for hybrid or electric equivalents, even at the same price, due to "range anxiety" and a lack of infrastructure like charging stations.

Projections show that a quarter of vehicles will be hybrids or electric by 2030 regardless, said Bailo.

Ultimately, those changes could lead to a "triple zero" future, as Bailo describes it, with zero traffic accidents and associated fatalities; zero carbon footprint, including emissions and building and disposing of vehicles; and zero stress, for drivers, passengers and those who use the road outside vehicles. 

She said the most important principle is to "fail fast and change it."

"Mobility really is the economic engine for a city," she said. "We need to provide that menu of services to be able to integrate seamlessly."

Contact Derek Beigh at (309) 820-3234. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_beigh

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