Reducing transport energy use with real time travel information

The In-Time project is looking at the effect that multi-modal real-time traveller information services can have of reducing transport's energy consumption levels. By Martin Böhm, AustriaTech GmbH. Around the world, significant research and development effort is currently directed towards reducing energy consumption by addressing those areas where the biggest savings can be expected. European studies have shown that the transport sector has the potential to reduce its energy consumption by up to 26 per cent
Air Quality & Weather Systems / January 23, 2012
In Time Project for less well covered modes of travel
The In-Time environment provides for the inclusion of less well-covered modes of travel, such as walking and cycling. The result is a more complete picture of available options

The In-Time project is looking at the effect that multi-modal real-time traveller information services can have of reducing transport's energy consumption levels. By Martin Böhm, AustriaTech GmbH

Around the world, significant research and development effort is currently directed towards reducing energy consumption by addressing those areas where the biggest savings can be expected. European studies have shown that the transport sector has the potential to reduce its energy consumption by up to 26 per cent (European Action Plan for Energy Efficiency: Realising the Potential) and, as the transport sector's greenhouse gas emissions increased in the US and Europe by 30 per cent between 1990 and 2004, the need for energy-saving solutions in this area is a major political issue.

Traffic increases have affected urban transport in particular, contributing to daily, habitual, chronic congestion on the major road networks and resulting in delays for the individual traveller as well as increased emissions. In total, urban transport is responsible for 40 per cent of all CO2 emissions and 70 per cent of emissions of other pollutants arising from road transport. The use of ITS with a specific focus on changing urban travel behaviour by supporting co-modal solutions is seen as a promising way of addressing this problem; if there is congestion on one transport mode the rerouting of travellers to other, parallel modes is a logical approach and real-time, intermodal traveller information services are central to achieving this.

Many projects at the national level as well as at the European and global levels are dealing with various real-time information service concepts. Most current systems are proprietary and involve setting up interfaces between real-time information sources owned by infrastructure operators and Travel Information Service Providers (TISPs), the organisations which inform the individual traveller. These systems work on single locations and continental or even global approaches are not envisaged.

To become globally accepted, the correct set-up of Business-to-Business (B2B) platform and the related interface between infrastructure operators and providers of services to end users is necessary. Big steps forward in real-time intermodal traveller information services can only be achieved if an interface is created between infrastructure operators and TISPs which meets with accepted (or, even better, standardised) rules, descriptions and formats. In parallel, terms of use are necessary which clarify the rights and responsibilities of all partners using the information exchanged. The European In-Time pilot project has specified and developed just such a B2B platform and interfaces. A demonstration was launched in six European cities in 2010.

The B2B platform is the result of discussions and agreements between technology companies running traffic management solutions within transport operation centres, TISPs, city authorities and research institutions. As the specification of the B2B interface is publicly available free of charge, follower cities and TISPs are invited to become members of the In-Time family.

Stakeholders' data provision

In addition to the set-up of the B2B interface, all city operators deliver B2B information to an agreed data quality with agreed data content accessible for end-user service generation. Cities' infrastructure operators have to commit to a content standard as high data quality is seen as being essential if user acceptance is to increase and modal shifts resulting in reduced energy consumption are to be achieved.

Road operators within the pilot cities are committed to delivering road-related traffic information covering static road network data, dynamic traffic flow data and dynamic traffic messages. This information includes travel-relevant roadwork information as well as that about accidents, incidents and congestion. Additionally, information about car parks and park-and-ride facilities is provided, while dynamic parking information (car parks' currently available capacity) can also be provided.

Public transport operators provide information covering all modes (bus, train, underground, tram and air). The information provided to the TISPs covers static public transport information (public transport timetables and information about the location of individual stops and stations) as well as dynamic information on timetable deviations. In particular, dynamic information is very important to ensure connectivity between individual modes and reduce waiting times by optimising parallel journey times.

Regional traffic management operators also have the possibility to provide special information for cycling and walking, so it is foreseen that cycle routes will be indicated as well as paths not necessarily along the road network (for example those in city parks or woodlands, as well as pedestrian bridges or tunnels). Such information will ensure high-quality door-to-door routing of the individual traveller by also using walking routes and offering special services like bike-and-ride.

Location-based information is provided by event operators and weather data service providers. In most cases, private operators will also have the possibility of providing information that might have an impact on traveller behaviour and trip planning.

Traditional navigational systems cover one transport mode - road transport, including walking information - but with In-Time such systems become intermodal. For example, including information about car parks as well as park-and-ride facilities enables the TISPs to provide, if available, information about current parking capacities. Via such services, car drivers will also receive re-routing options using other transport modes. Instead of waiting in a traffic jam along the motorway or being re-routed to the secondary road network - which in many cases only results in congestion elsewhere on the network - the individual drivers are informed about alternative transport modes which will get them to their destinations. The customised data package will include transfer and free parking space information.

Launch event

The In-Time service launch event, held in Vienna on 25 January 2011, showed that intermodal end-user services can be delivered to mobile devices and can provide intermodal traveller information services by using real-time information coming directly from the individual transport operators. Rather than supporting just one single mobile platform, In-Time demonstrates that different end-user solutions can be provided by different end-user service providers, meaning that that the In-Time solution can be customised for the user's needs. In this respect customised means both that different mobile platforms (iPhone, Smart Phone, Android) are supported and that customised services are delivered to the individual traveller.

In the In-Time environment, the real-time information for all modes is transferred from the responsible operator to the TISP. The B2B interface, as developed by the In-Time consortium, supports two options: either a complete route can be requested from the operator or single events can be transmitted. The first option is specifically used for public transport information. The In-Time TISPs have successfully shown that real-time public transport information is calculated by the transport operators, transferred to them and there merged with additional spatial data and information. Thereafter a complete on-trip and real-time door-to-door routing service is provided to the traveller. In the second case information about single events is exchanged. Typical information in this area would be car park information or weather information services. Again, this information is transmitted to the TISP, merged with additional information like route information or spatial data and then provided as a complete and customised on-trip package in real time.

Testing and validation

The whole of 2011 will be used for pilot testing and validation of the In-Time system in six European cities: Bucharest (Romania), Brno (Czech Republic), Florence (Italy), Munich (Germany), Oslo (Norway) and Vienna (Austria). This ensures that in the first stage potentially more than 8 million inhabitants will have the possibility to benefit from interoperable and multimodal real-time traveller information services. These pilot tests will also show if, in addition to the technical achievements of In-Time, the expected changes to traveller behaviour resulting in reductions of energy consumption can also be realised.

It is expected that the modal shift towards public transport will reduce the use of passenger cars, which have a considerable environmental impact in urban areas. Therefore the possible effect of real-time traveller information on modal choice is of particular importance. The expected modal shift depends on such factors as the content, quality and reliability of information. As provision of information is one of the core objectives of the In-Time project, establishing a relationship between information provision and mode choice is particularly relevant for quantification of the project's environmental impact.

In many cases the form of the information presentation (the Human-Machine Interface, or HMI) is also a crucial factor for the acceptance of the services. Therefore all In-Time services will be accessible through three different TISPs to minimise the impact of services being delivered by a single provider with an HMI which is unpopular or difficult to use.

At an aggregated level, modal shift towards public transport can be expressed as a reduction of individual transport demand, for example a reduction of mileage driven with passenger cars and other vehicles. As In-Time (and especially the end-user survey conducted in the pilot phase) has its focus on passenger transport and information to passengers, only passenger trips are taken into account.

How and if on-trip intermodal real-time traveller information services will help city authorities to reduce transport-related energy consumption and make urban transport systems more sustainable will be piloted and validated in the pilot phase, taking the different environments of six European cities into account. As the whole In-Time specification is publically available, follower cities and follower TISPs are invited to install the In-Time solution by following the guidelines of the In-Time website and thereby enlarging the In-Time community.


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