A New Philosophy: Amsterdam's proactive traffic management
Giovanni Huisken and Tiffany Vlemmings on navigating the way to public-private cooperation: Amsterdam pilots proactive traffic management.
That sinking feeling, when you think your navigation system has found a quicker alternative route, only to find yourself in a gridlock on a suburban backroad. We have all been there, and it is infuriating, however, these headaches could soon be a thing of the past...
Efficient and effective traffic management is at the heart of urban mobility; our cities and regions could not function without it. However, creating such integrated and co-operative management frameworks is an uphill battle, and requires coordination between public and private actors. The way transport services are provided has changed greatly over the past few decades, with private stakeholders and public authorities taking new and complex roles in delivery of mobility services.
The European project SOCRATES2.0, a consortium of road authorities, service providers and car manufacturers, has been challenged to establish smart traffic and navigation services. The project which will be tested by at least 9,000 users in the regions of Amsterdam, Antwerp, Copenhagen and Munich, is finding new ways for public and private stakeholders to set new standards for sharing and integrate traffic information.
The project’s pilot in Amsterdam (which began in 2019) presents an intriguing case. The POLIS member city is using Optimising Network Traffic Flow (ONTF) to create smart route advice on motorways, regional roads, urban-interurban interfaces and urban roads. The project brings together public and private stakeholders, each playing their part to drive the trial forward.
- Data providers(BeMobile, BMW, HERE, National Road Data Portal [NDW], TomTom)
- Road Authorities (Municipality of Amsterdam, Province of North-Holland, Rijkswaterstaat)
- Intermediaries(MAP Traffic Management [MAPtm], NDW, Rijkswaterstaat, Technolution)
- End-User Service Providers (BeMobile, BMW, BrandMKRS, TomTom)
Cooperation is key
All SOCRATES2.0 partners agree that by cooperating, more business opportunities for private partners can be developed, more effective traffic management for public authorities achieved and better services for road users provided. The goal is to test the added value this brings and to find out how this can lead to sustainable business cases for all stakeholders. To facilitate this, project partners created a Cooperation Framework consisting of a set of cooperation models.
The cooperation models are based on the level of communality within the collaboration. The first level comprises of agreements for sharing public and private traffic data, based on agreed data exchange formats (“Exchanged data”). At the next level, partners can create a common view of current and/or predicted traffic situations in a network, based on the exchanged data (“Shared view”).
The highest and final level of cooperation arises when partners develop and implement coordinated actions and services towards communities of travellers (“Coordinated approach”). For the Amsterdam use case the latter cooperation model was chosen and implemented.
SOCRATES2.0 stands for ‘System of Coordinated Roadside and Automotive Services for Traffic Efficiency and Safety’. It is a European project based on a cooperation of road authorities, service providers and car manufacturers. Together they will improve car mobility by promoting cleaner, efficient and safe flow of traffic. The key lies in developing intelligent ways to collect, exchange and use traffic data throughout the complete value chain for traffic management and information services. At this moment traffic data is collected by both road authorities and service providers. Increasingly cars and drivers themselves also produce essential traffic information. By exchanging and integrating all available information from road authorities, service providers and road users you can create a complete and consistent picture of the expected traffic situation.
The dense population of the Metropolitan Region Amsterdam has resulted in severe congestion. Service providers usually re-route travellers when congestion has already built up; however, re-routing would be most effective if commenced pro-actively, when the likelihood of congestion is rising, yet traffic is not completely static. The proposed solution consists of a public-private partnership where all partners cooperate, building a common (predicted) operational picture based on data collected by all parties to determine common goals, KPI’s, and conditions for re-routing. To succeed, well-established intermediary roles are necessary.
The Amsterdam Region was chosen as a test site to pilot the ONTF use case. The most challenging and innovative part is orchestrating and coordinating traffic management services by traffic management centres (by means of roadside equipment) and service providers (by means of in-car navigation). All four new intermediary roles were deemed necessary to achieve this:
- the Strategy Table;
- the Network Monitor;
- the Network Manager;
- the Assessor.
Within this use case, there are three TMC’s in operation (Rijkswaterstaat, Province of North-Holland, Municipality of Amsterdam), four Service Providers active (Be-Mobile, BrandMKRS, BMW, TomTom) and all four Intermediary roles implemented (Strategy Table coordinated by MAPtm and NDW, NDW acts as Network Monitor, Rijkswaterstaat and Technolution together act as Network Manager and MAPtm acts as Assessor). During the preparation phases, all systems were (re)designed, built/adjusted, reconfigured, connected and implemented at operational level in order to construct a single, integrated ecosystem.
All things Amsterdam
The POLIS member city of Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands. With an urban population of 1,209,419 and a metropolitan population of 2,158,592, it is also the largest. The city is in the province of North Holland in the west of the country. It comprises the northern part of the Randstad, the sixth-largest metropolitan area in Europe.
The main objective of the City's traffic and transport policy is to improve accessibility and the quality of life in Amsterdam. The city wishes to restrict all unnecessary car-based traffic and promotes the bicycle for all short distances (under 10 km). Amsterdam is known as one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the world. There are about 700,000 bicycles in the city and cycling accounts for 38% of all journeys in the city. Transportation by car is discouraged by the local government, with initiatives such as Autodelen andMeerijden.nu and general demand management measures (parking fees, access restrictions, etc). Public transport in Amsterdam mainly consists of buses, 16 tram lines and four metro lines (a fifth is under construction).
Making the data flow
As shown in the information flow figure below, several input sources are used. Sources include ‘regular’ induction loop data (volume, speed), FCD (Floating Car Data) based traffic information (travel times, speed, volume, delays), and multiple prediction sources (15-minutes look-ahead predictions of volume, speed). Additionally, activated traffic management measures by the TMCs are used as input data. The input sources are fused and completed within the Network Monitor, providing the current and predicted network traffic state of the Amsterdam Region network. This is forwarded to the Network Manager and the Assessor.
The Network Manager - uses the activated traffic management measures, alongside current and predicted network traffic state to calculate the problem state, based on the level of service of each network segment. The problem state is generated within the boundary conditions coming from the Strategy Table. Once the problem state is known, the Network Manager automatically generates Service Requests (SRs). SRs are available in two types, either an ‘avoid’-SR or ‘reroute’-SR type. An ‘avoid’-SR means that services should be activated to avoid a specific network link, while ‘reroute’-SR means that services should be activated to rerouted traffic following a specific route (made up of several network links). The Service Requests are forwarded to the (private) Service Providers, the (public) TMC’s and the Assessor.
The Service Providers - receive the SR’s in their backend systems and digest, filter and map them to establish which individual end users are eligible to receive a specific service. The service is then sent out to the end-user’s device and displayed as an advice or recommendation. The end-user then decides to either follow the advice or ignore it. Service providers can encourage travellers to follow their advice by providing incentives. For each SR, follow up behaviour is monitored and forwarded to the Assessor.
The TMC’s - also receive SR’s in their Traffic Management System. The operator can either acknowledge an SR or discard it. When acknowledged, accompanying services (a selection of one or more traffic management measures) are activated, e.g., the display of a message on a Dynamic Panel, adjustment of green times of traffic lights, the activation of ramp metering, etc. This information is then forwarded to the Network Monitor and the Assessor.
The Assessor - collects a vast amount of data; information on the current and predicted state, activated measures, sent out Service Requests, reached and impacted fleet vehicles and also KPI’s and toolbox information. This information is used to establish – on regular intervals – the impact of each partner in the total ecosystem. The results will be used to assess if adjustments of the KPI’s and/or Toolbox are necessary and in how far the cooperation of the participating partners is successful.
The objective of this use case is to test possible scalable solutions to optimise the traffic flow on the MRA network. It also should lead to new business opportunities for private partners and better services for road users. The pilot has been in operation since December 2019; however, the COVID-19 lockdown has created complications, as the traffic flow is severely lower than usual. All partners kept their systems in hibernation during this summer and were eager to begin in September. However, the traffic situation has not yet returned to normal.
A new business model?
The project has yielded technological, functional and organisational results. Technical chains were implemented by defining uniform and easily transferable messages, applicable to intermediaries, TMC’s, as well as Service Providers. For this, authorities introduced DATEX-II based Service Requests that are available in two types – either an ‘avoid’-SR or ‘reroute’-SR type.
Software was also developed and configured to fulfil the multiple functions different intermediaries perform. Essential developments contain data fusion and completion algorithms, traffic prediction methods and network problem state identification functions.
Finally, several new and enhanced end-user services were developed for providing individual traffic information and navigation advice to road users. Organisational results are based on the cooperation between partners in what has been termed the “Socrates Cooperation Framework”.
By testing in the pilot cities, the search for a ‘win-win-win' solution for all stakeholders is key. The project endeavours to find profits for the Road Authorities (improved and efficient management of the network), for the Service Providers (more business opportunities and better services for their customers) and for the road users (valid and consistent traffic information and navigation advice). Initial results appear positive, suggesting the cooperation framework is deployable in traffic management across Europe.
Functional results are expected once the project’s operational period has ended. Nonetheless, more data is still required. As COVID-19 lockdown conditions continue to disrupt traffic flows, the project is yet to observe the full effect of this integrated and cooperative framework. However, preliminary results give good reason for optimism, laying the ground for further public-private cooperation across urban mobility.
The POLIS member city of Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands. With an urban population of 1,209,419 and a metropolitan population of 2,158,592, it is also the largest. The city is in the province of North Holland in the west of the country. It comprises the northern part of the Randstad, the sixth-largest metropolitan area in Europe. The main objective of the City's traffic and transport policy is to improve accessibility and the quality of life in Amsterdam. The city wishes to restrict all unnecessary car-based traffic and promotes the bicycle for all short distances (under 10 km). Amsterdam is known as one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the world. There are about 700,000 bicycles in the city and cycling accounts for 38% of all journeys in the city. Transportation by car is discouraged by the local government, with initiatives such as Autodelen andMeerijden.nu and general demand management measures (parking fees, access restrictions, etc). Public transport in Amsterdam mainly consists of buses, 16 tram lines and four metro lines (a fifth is under construction).
POLIS provides a platform for its members to share experiences in traffic management through the Working Group on Traffic Efficiency. Traffic management measures are aimed at improving the safe and efficient flow of traffic. Traditionally, traffic management has focused on optimising the throughput of vehicles at intersections. This scope has now widened significantly to incorporate other modes (public transport, cyclists and pedestrians) and policy priorities, such as prioritising sustainable modes at traffic lights or managing traffic in such a way to reduce vehicular emissions. Alignment with broader air quality, climate, and sustainable mobility objectives has become a key feature in modern traffic management.
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