Infrastructure investment in the 20th century brought many countries and cities vast road networks, passenger and freight rail, and urban passenger transit systems. Today, much of that legacy infrastructure needs to be repaired, replaced, or even removed. In other cities, building this critical infrastructure is a 21st effort, with new investments being made into rail and road networks. With various levels of development of critical infrastructure across the world, the 21st century has also brought new infrastructure needs. From charging stations for electric vehicles to broadband solutions to 21st smart infrastructure, among other needs, policy makers and corporations need to explore how to work together to make sure that we make the investments necessary to be successful in the connected world. This topic area explores what we should be building, with a critical eye towards electric charging, broadband, and intelligent transportation systems (ITS) into how we will pay for those investments.  

What should we be building?

Infrastructure needs vary by city. Where some cities and countries have built robust passenger and goods transportation networks, others are beginning the process. For example, the needs of a city such as London, home to the oldest subway network and a vast commuter rail network, has very different needs than a city such as Mumbai, with a legacy commuter rail system that is the busiest in the world, and in parallel a fast-growing modern subway. In this sub-topic, the Commission will explore the various infrastructure needs we will see globally over the next 25 years, considering the different types of cities and their development.

Key questions for this sub-topic will include:

  • What are the key features for various stages of infrastructure development across North America, Europe, and Asia? What lessons can we learn from cities in a later stage of development that are applicable to cities in an earlier stage of development?
  • How can new transportation infrastructure be better planned with land use to enable better/modern housing options, more transportation options, and access to opportunity as cities grow, while preventing undue auto dependency and structural problems in the future?
  • What are the key infrastructure needs for cities at various stages of development? For later stage development cities, how do we best consider operations and maintenance needs in an infrastructure portfolio?
  • What is the total cost of ownership for specific assets and how can we ensure that the costs of operations and maintenance are planned for?
  • What investments in technological infrastructure do we need to be making? Are there circumstances where earlier stage development cities can leapfrog later stage development cities from a technological perspective? What technological investments should later stage cities make?
  • Where have cities and transit agencies successfully built bike lanes and bus only lanes? Does micromobility and small delivery bots part of the “bike” lane of the future? What opposition did they face? How did they overcome that opposition?

Infrastructure for alternative fuels

A key barrier to the adoption of electric, hydrogen, or other alternative fuels is charging infrastructure for our vehicle fleets. This sub-topic explores how to most effectively proliferate charging infrastructure. Key questions that the Commission will explore are:

  • What progress has been made thus far? What can we learn from this progress?
  • What are the highest priority geographies for charging infrastructure?
  • What are the projected needs of the grid at defined stages of electrification? Where can grid capacity meet that need today? Where can it not?
  • What steps can we take to bolster capacity and ensure that we can meet needs when they arise?

Digital infrastructure

Investment in 5G broadband infrastructure is critical to unlocking the value of connected devices for the transportation system. For this sub-topic, the Commission will explore the following:

  • What is the current state of development for countries across North America, Europe, and Asia? What additional investments need to be made?
  • What can we learn from investment in 4G? Are there lessons that can be applied to accelerate 5G, while avoiding key pitfalls?
  • What are the most effective ways for governments to catalyze development?
  • How much spectrum is needed for connected devices now and in the future?
  • Which technologies show the most promise? Which do not?
  • What cities have ITS and other key technologies already available? Which have not? What are the differences in the various investments that have been made?
  • What smart infrastructure should be prioritized in cities today? How could this be paid for?

Smart Growth

Over the past century many cities have been designed around the automobile and suburban ideals. This section seeks to look across the next century to explore what our cities should look like and how we want to get there, asking the following questions:

  • How should we consider growth and density in our cities over the next 100 years? What should urban planners be advocating for?
  • How will climate change shift our urban environments? How can we become more resilient?
  • How can we think about the future of the intersection of land use and mobility?

How do we pay for and finance necessary investments?

Defining what we should build is only half of the battle—paying for it is the rest. Approaches to funding and financing infrastructure vary across the world from excise tax trust funds, to general funds, to private financing. While funding mechanisms vary, most countries collect fuel taxes that either directly or indirectly help to support transportation investments. With fuel economy increasing and the path to electrification accelerating, receipts from fuel taxes are decreasing and creating budgetary shortfalls. This sub-topic will explore funding and financing of infrastructure, seeking to cross-pollinate lessons from around the world. Key areas of exploration will include:

  • Should policy makers prioritize general or dedicated funding approaches for infrastructure? What lessons can we learn from experiences around the world?
  • What transportation funding streams, such as fuel excise taxes, are currently in decline? What is the current and projected impact of fuel shortfalls on budgets? What are solutions for bolstering budgets with more sustainable funding streams?
  • How can we best leverage private financing or public private partnerships (P3s) for project delivery?
  • How can funding be targeted to key areas of need rather than more traditional investment strategies?