EU cities find optimal route

In-TimeGerald Lamprecht, AustriaTech, explains how changing people's travel behaviour can help solve the issue of continuously increasing car traffic and its negative environmental impact

All around the globe, cities are struggling with continuously increasing car traffic and the need for road infrastructure, as well as air pollution, noise, CO2 emissions and demand for expensive inner-urban space for parking cars. Growing chronic congestion is negatively affecting the economy, costing time and money.

Road infrastructure can easily be built in the countryside, but when approaching cities urban sprawl as well as political and other considerations hamper the building of new highways; above all in urban and inner city areas there is simply no more space available for additional lanes and parking. So how to solve the growing demand and how to diminish the increasing negative effects? EU cities are trying new solutions and opting for In-Time.

A new era
In April 2009 a pilot project called In-Time started. The aim of In-Time, running for three years and co-funded by the European Commission, is to help travellers change their travel behaviour, switching from the car to alternative means of transport, and thereby decreasing the energy consumption and other negative effects of car use. After the end of the project phase In-Time shall become self-sufficient.

The approach taken by In-Time is to make travellers aware of the existing alternatives to car traffic, such as bus, tram, tube or commuter trains, by providing them with multimodal real-time traffic information and journey routing, so they can choose from different options according to various definable criteria and get guided to their destinations without getting lost when using novel transport means.

For the cities, this approach is very attractive, since up to now they could only reach travellers by traffic management measures. Those measures, by their nature, always direct masses of people and can’t apply to the needs of the individual travellers. Furthermore, they often apply to only one means of transport and neither do they cover the whole transportation chain, nor give further real-time information and journey routing outside the affected area or section of the network, leaving people “stranded” at the end of diversions or at the mercy of route and time table changes.

Multi-modal service
In-Time as a multimodal real-time traveller information and journey routing service closes the gap between general traffic management and “information-poor” decisions of the individual traveller, who in reality have to react to changing conditions. By giving them accurate real-time information and fully supporting them on their journeys, In-Time helps them to find the optimal route and the best combination of different means of transport, saving time and energy.

Moreover, In-Time takes a holistic approach, including hitherto non-existing services for pedestrians and cyclists, giving detailed information on cycle lanes and pedestrian paths, as well as cycle hire schemes where available. And on top of these static and real-time services other services can be implemented like weather information, special freight services, tourist services and other services defined and tailor-made for each city or region, depending on their specific requirements. Even flight information for seamless far-distance journeys can be included in the In-Time package.

The following example shows how far In-Time can go in the future, and what the benefits are for the traveller:

A business traveller is going to pre-plan his trip from his home in Munich to the office of a partner company in Florence. He logs onto the website of his Traffic Information Service Provider TISP and requests the following information: (in technical terms he needs: static road traffic information, dynamic road traffic information, static parking information, static public transport information, walking information, static flight information):
• The way to the office of his partner in Florence by entering origin (home address) and destination (address of partner’s office in Florence) and modes of transport (car, airplane, public transport, walking)
• Dynamic road traffic information (e.g. for road maintenance works ahead) by entering the day of planned journey and time of planned journey
• Static parking information on Munich airport so as to park as close as possible to the departure terminal, as well as for the costs and operating times
• Static public transport information for Florence for getting from the airport to the office: origin destination (airport-address of office), date and time of departure from airport, and interchanges
• Walking information for walking from the public transport stop to the office.

The business traveller gets the required information from his TISP.

On the day of the journey he switches on his navigational device when leaving his home in the outskirts of Munich and requires support from his TISP on his way to the airport. Using his navigational device, he is provided with the following dynamic and add-on services, in addition to the mandatory core services he used for pre-planning his trip:
• Dynamic Road Traffic Routing Information
• Dynamic Public transport Information
• Dynamic Public Transport Journey Routing
• Dynamic Parking Information
• Dynamic Walking Planning
• Dynamic Cycling Planning (a service which he is not going to require on this trip)
• Dynamic Weather Information
• Dynamic Flight Information

His navigational device guides the traveller through the streets to the motorway on the fastest route available. Once set off on his journey, he also receives dynamic road traffic information: his TISP sends event triggered information that the highway ahead is congested, caused by an accident.

Alternative route
The navigational device offers an alternative route that guides the traveller to the next exit, where he leaves the highway and follows the advice of his navigational device, guiding him on the fastest route to the airport. Additionally, the dynamic weather information warns him that on a specific section of the route difficult driving conditions may be expected due to the early morning late autumn conditions with icy road surfaces. Therefore, he drives rather carefully, even when being a bit late.

He travels through some villages, losing time there due to speed restrictions, and he travels carefully on the intersections, which are marked by the weather service with “icy road surface” warnings.

He arrives at the airport, still having left a small time buffer. His device recognises he reached the end of the car journey and requires the static parking information. Switching to the parking information, his TISP provides him with the closest parking bay to his departure terminal.

When parking the car, he gets an update on his flight by the dynamic flight information that his flight will be 20 minutes late. He goes to the check-in and has a nice breakfast (not yet provided by In-Time) before passing security and boarding his flight.

Due to the delayed start of the flight he arrives in Florence 20 minutes late, missing his bus connection to the city centre. After checking out he requests information from his TISP on the next connection by public transport from the Florence airport to the stop closest to the office of his partner company. His TISP provides him with the start times of the next services as well as the name of the interchange stop, and with real-time departure information about the connecting bus to the office.

The TISP also provides him with information on a re-routing of the connecting bus because of an unexpected road closure due to a leaking water pipe in the area of the office of his partner company. His TISP sends information about the replacement stop the traveller shall use to get to the office of his partner. Arriving at the stop named by the TISP, the walking information takes over and guides the traveller to the office of the partner, where the service terminates.

Updating information
This example shows the full potential of In-Time. To reach this potential, In-Time services must be filled with all relevant contents from all cities and made live by constantly updating these different contents.

This is what the In-Time test sites committed themselves to. Each of them has set up a so-called Regional Data and Service Server (RDSS), collecting the different data from the various transport network and service operators (different road administrations, public transport operators etc.) and processing them into services and routings.

The In-Time test sites are very different from each other, reflecting the variety of cities in Europe in terms of geographical, climatic, economic and cultural characteristics not to mention size, structure, architectonics and topography and of course differing transport policy and transport networks. The six test sites are Oslo (Norway), Munich (Germany), Vienna and its surrounding regions (Austria), Brno (Czech Republic), Florence (Italy) and Bucharest (Romania).

It’s not only these different characteristics which make the cities an interesting test field for In-Time, since the test phase, having started in February this year and lasting one year, shall give results on changes in travel behaviour and the environmental impact of these changes for each of these different cities, but also the different data sources and formats, differing from cities’ RDSS to RDSS, which were to be made consumable and readable for different TISPs, which made In-Time a challenging, but also future-oriented project.

Interface software
The connection and “translator” between the test sites and the different TISPs, asking for and taking services from the different RDSSs, is the so-called In-Time Interface. It has to transfer requests from TISPs to the single RDSSs, and it translates the “answers” (i.e. services) from the single RDSSs into a common format and forwards it to the TISPs. The In-Time Interface is an open standardised software that allows not only access to the six current test sites, but also is constructed to give access to and translating and forwarding answers from every further city linking to In-Time, independent from the data formats used in these cities.

This makes the In-Time Interface an interface that can be used Europe-wide and even globally, since it guarantees the accessibility of all different data formats in different cities and the translation of these formats into a unique language understood by all different TISPs.

However, the In-Time Interface can only forward, of course, answers to those requests, which must be answered by the cities’ RDSSs behind the interface. Since each city has different services and within these services different levels the danger of too many different levels of services or too little content has to be avoided. Therefore, the project defined a minimum standard of services that must be fulfilled by cities in order to become an In-Time City.

This minimum level comprises all static services on road, parking spaces, public transport and walking. A complete routing from door to door generated on basis of these services must be available for all means of transport. The higher levels of service comprise dynamic information and constant up-dates, and on top of this cities can create their own specific services for freight traffic, tourists, and big events and so on.

Environmental impact
The six test sites, which are running one year field test services to their test users, are also doing additional assessments on the environmental impact of In-Time. It can be expected that test users, who may predominantly use their car currently, will switch to other modes of transport as those modes becomes more accessible. Furthermore, if they do travel by car, it can be expected that due to the constantly updated information on congestion and free parking spaces, the best route with the most efficient energy consumption will be chosen.

This powerful tool is already raising a lot of interest from many cities and regions in Europe. Therefore, the In-Time project has put together a follower package, which can be taken for free by follower cities and TISPs in order to spread In-Time across Europe and beyond. This package contains the specifications of the In-Time Interface and describes how to adapt it for follower cities’ RDSSs and TISPs. The package will soon be available on

In-Time is, therefore, on the way to become a standardised and open solution for cities who want to actively involve their citizens in helping to lower emissions from transport and support the shift to alternative transport modes. Likewise, In-Time is on the way to become a business model for TISPs, providing their customers with up-to-date services on their navigational device or smart phone from wherever they travel.

To become a test user in one of the In-Time cities, visit the website.

Gerald Lamprecht works as project manager in the Unit ITS deployment at AustriaTech. For the In-Time project he is responsible for the project coordination.

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