Two research projects on smart mobility

July 25, 2022 08:48
Photo: HKBU

The annual Esri Young Scholars Award is for local tertiary students to research on topics of their choice using the geographic information system (GIS). This year, in addition to the individual category, a group category has been newly added with six outstanding awards.

In terms of reward, the top 3 winners of individual applicants can be awarded a summer internship at the Urban Renewal Authority as before, and all winners can participate in the online Esri User Conference held in the United States in July for free. They could exchange ideas with GIS professionals from all over the world in real time, and learn about the latest application cases around the world.

When you look at the award-winning works, you can't help but admire young people's broad vision, concern for society and innovative thinking.

First of all, I would like to share two works about smart mobility.

Sum Tin Lam, Alvin from the Department of Geography and Resource Management, Faculty of Social Science at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, won the champion of the individual category with the project Wheeling to Go — Wheelchair Users Accessibility in Kwun Tong District. The work also won him the two outstanding awards: Best Introductory Video Clip and Best Use of Open Data.

Sum believes that whether people are healthy or not, they should be able to obtain basic needs within a 15-minute walk to minimise their dependence on transportation. He has used this principle to review Kwun Tong which is the most densely populated and ageing community in Hong Kong. For a normal pedestrian, it only takes a 14-minute walk from East Kowloon Health Centre to Lam Tin MTR Station, but 53 minutes if the mobility aids route is chosen, according to the HKeMobility app. Through the Lands Department's 3D Pedestrian Road Network dataset, Sum found that the area is full of travel obstacles, including steep walkways (from the waterfront to Sau Mau Ping has a rise of up to 200 meters), staircases, narrow passageways less than 1.2m wide, roads without traffic lights, and more than 75% of the passageways lack shelters (motorised wheelchairs may malfunction in heavy rain).

He also conducted a survey to investigate the places where the elderly often go to further dig out the problems. For example:
• MTR stations: such as Lam Tin Station Exit A and Exit D, escalators are the only way to reach the station from these exits. Wheelchair users have to detour and travel 40 minutes longer to Yau Tong Station instead;
• Medical and rehabilitation services: wheelchair users in Sau Mau Ping and Ngau Tau Kok have to travel an extra 15 minutes to reach rehabilitation facilities, such as hospital, 8 health centres and a day centre;
• Markets and shopping malls: residents of Sau Mau Ping and Ping Shek need to spend 15 minutes more to buy food;
• Recreational facilities: there is a series of stairs to the main entrance of Lam Tin Park, wheelchair users have to spend an extra 15 minutes to enter the park.

Sum concluded that given the ageing population, the authority has to address and eliminate physical barriers as soon as possible to ensure social inclusion and better living quality of wheelchair users.

Another work is about the charging network for electric vehicles (EV). The project Charging for the Future? from Chan Chun Ping, Dieter, student of the Department of Urban Planning and Design in the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Hong Kong, won the 2nd runner up in the individual category.

While the government encourages purchase of EVs, the lack of charging stations is deterring car owners. It takes time to charge, so the charging facilities should be within a 10-minute walk from one’s home or office, suggested Chan. He reviewed the distribution of CLP charging stations and the government's 3D Pedestrian Road Network data, and found that Kowloon City district, including To Kwa Wan and Ho Man Tin, needs to be improved the most.

Chan recommends the government to actively collaborate with property owners of suitable sites, and bear the installation costs. This enables a better allocation of charging stations by central planning, and can meet users' needs more effectively and efficiently.

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Adjunct Professor, Department of Computer Science, Faculty of Engineering; Department of Geography, Faculty of Social Sciences; and Faculty of Architecture, The University of Hong Kong