«Traffic is the worst plague of Palermo», that’s what used to say a controversial character of Johnny Stecchino, a movie by Roberto Benigni. Obviously the statement would sound like a joke considering the much more asphyxiating social problems caused by the Mafia and corruption, but on closer look we find out that, according to ISTAT, Palermo is the slowest city in Italy and that according to TomTom it’s at the eleventh place among the most traffic congested cities in the world.
In a time when resources are scarce, facing the problem of the traffic in a city like Palermo is an ambitious purpose, but for the criticality of its context it represents a perfect lab to prototype innovative and low cost solutions. If changing the urban fabric is a long and expensive process that surely could degrade the environmental heritage of the city, then we have to try changing the citizens.
To face this issue we started from a simple question: why do people move? We move mainly to reach the working place or to go shopping. The answer, though banal, helped us to focus on a process of urban mobility (one of many possible) that can be more efficient by facilitating the meeting between supply and demand.
In this context we invented the app trafficO2, a decision support system that aims to reduce traffic and pollution by proposing an equal agreement for everyone: prizes in exchange for a sustainable urban travels.
The idea is to combine in a serious game two of the complementary actors involved in the urban traffic scene: the community of workers and the local retail businesses. All of the local businesses that subscribe to the platform as sponsors become stations of a new type of mobility system that fosters travel by walking, biking, public transportation, car pooling and car sharing.
For every respectful behavior towards the environment, the citizen earns a certain amount of points, with whom he can rise the ranking of his community and win the prizes offered by the sponsors.
In 2012 the project won the contest “Smart Cities and Communities and Social Innovation” promoted by the Italian Ministry of Education and Research and it was approved by the EU Campaign “Do the right mix”.
In 2013 the testing phase for the platform began and it involved a growing slice of the 60.000 students of the University of Palermo. Early tests have shown a reduction of more than 50% of CO2 emissions in the routes house-university.
In 2014 trafficO2 won the first edition of the Social Innovation AROUND Award and, in 2015, it has been awarded during the first edition of the Smart City Innovation Awards sponsored by MIT Enterprise Forum and BNL/BNP Paribas.
The results of trafficO2‘s tests in Palermo were published in 2015 on IGI-Global book “Social, Economic and Environmental Sustainability in the Development of Smart Cities“.
Once the experimental phase is completed, the platform for sustainable mobility will be able to be tested in other cities, such as Naples, Rome, Turin or Milan, also starting from a University level and aiming to involve the major communities of users in the urban environment.