Polis Newsletter
Spring | May 2012

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Welcome to the Polis public newsletter!

The 2012 Annual Polis Conference is under preparation: on 29-30 November, transport experts will gather in Perugia, Italy. The conference provides an opportunity for cities and regions to showcase their transport achievements to a large audience, and for the wider transport community to engage with local authorities on innovative transport solutions. Read more.

Polis is a network of European cities and regions working together to deploy innovative technologies and policies for a more sustainable mobility. Read more.

Enjoy your read,
Polis secretariat


2012 Annual Polis Conference - Call for Speakers

This year's Annual Polis Conference will take place 29-30 November 2012 in Perugia, Italy. The call for speakers is open until 20 June. The Annual Polis Conference provides an opportunity for cities and regions to showcase their transport achievements to a large audience, and for the wider transport community to engage with local authorities on innovative transport solutions. More information.

Polis Network News

Promoting open standards and specifications in traffic systems and ITS for cities and regions in Europe

The new European project POSSE, targeted at cities and regions, dealing with open standards and specifications in multimodal network management systems and traveller information systems has started recently.

POSSE (Promoting Open Specifications and Standards in Europe) is a 3-year project funded by the INTERREG IVC programme, which will raise awareness of the concept of open systems around Europe and will build the capacity of selected public authorities (mainly cities) to embark on a process of implementing open systems within their country.

Background to traffic management and ITS

Using computational intelligence for better traffic management and services to the public has a very long tradition in the domain of urban traffic management. The most widespread result of this development is the traffic signal controller – a control system for the arbitration of traffic flows at junctions that has evolved over decades and is becoming adaptive to traffic, cognisant of public transport vehicles, pedestrians etc. and will in the future probably even minimise the environmental impact of the junction as a whole. Other traffic management systems include a variety of detectors and monitoring systems, variable message signs providing en-route information, access control (barriers), tolling systems etc.

The consequences of un-interoperable systems

Local authorities procure, deploy and maintain these systems. But with more and more field installations, it became obvious that it was of utmost importance to ensure market forces and competition in order to avoid vendor lock-in, keep costs manageable and ensure constant innovation.  Vendor lock-in is a widespread problem among public authorities in Europe, especially in the area of traffic control. For example, once an authority has acquired a basic urban traffic control (UTC) system to manage its traffic signals, it may be unable to buy a bus priority system or a car park guidance system from a different supplier without replacing the UTC system too. Technologies purchased from different suppliers are rarely able to operate with each other as they are designed to different, proprietary, specifications.  This creates an anti-competitive situation which has implications for both the public authority and the suppliers in terms of economies of scale, closed customer base and stimulating innovation. The absence of open specifications and standards in ITS also perpetuates the monopoly that some suppliers have in a number of member states.

Countries addressing interoperability

The issue of open specifications and standards has been taken up, in a significant way, in two countries in Europe: the UK through the UTMC (universal traffic management and control) initiative and the German-speaking part of Europe through the OCA (Open Systems City Association) and its OTS/OCIT-Initiative, which have been working on this matter for more than 10 years. While there are a number of differences between the two initiatives - in the starting point, in the process of building consensus among stakeholders, in the product and in the business model - both initiatives have succeeded in defining specifications which are widely implemented: more than 100 local authorities have implemented UTMC in the UK and it’s estimated that well over 100 authorities from Germany, Switzerland and Austria have adopted and implemented the OTS/OCIT interface specifications. Furthermore, UTMC and OTS/OCIT specifications are also being taken up by cities from other countries in Europe, the middle-East and South America. The benefits of open systems have been shown through significant cost savings in technology in many cities (notably the outstations, eg, traffic controller, and communications) and incentivising suppliers to innovate in order to differentiate their products and services from others. Such quantifiable and qualitative benefits will be further identified and promoted within POSSE.

The POSSE project

At a Polis meeting in 2010 to introduce its members (city and regional authorities) to the concept of open systems, Polis brought together UTMC and OCA for the first time. Many Polis members confirmed that vendor lock-in is a problem in their respective country and that there is a pressing need for open systems.  The POSSE project will offer a step in this direction by developing a guide on the implementation of open systems, notably determining who to engage with and how to engage with them, drawing on lessons learnt and tips from UTMC and OCA – both critical success factors and potential pitfalls. POSSE will also produce guidelines on open ITS systems and standards as well as a study of the usage of UTMC and OTS/OCIT specifications. Under the leadership of Reading, one of the UK’s leading local authorities using UTMC, six cities will receive tailored support from the project culminating in a plan for implementing open specifications and standards in their local context. To enable other public authorities with an interest in open systems to benefit from the knowledge sharing within POSSE, an open ITS systems forum will be set up and coordinated by Polis. Several expressions of interest have already been received, including from one central government ministry.

For further information

To express interest in the forum and for further information about POSSE, please contact: Suzanne Hoadley, Polis, email: shoadley@polisnetwork.eu


1. POSSE partners: Reading Borough Council/Coordinator (UK), Klaipeda (LT), Burgos (ES), La Spezia (IT), Pisa (IT), Norwegian Public Roads Administration (NO), CDV (CZ), UTMC Ltd (UK), OCA e.V (D) and Polis (B)

2. Polis is a network of city and regional authorities promoting innovation in transport. It is the reference network on ITS for cities and regions. The Polis ITS agenda is driven by its members and therefore it addresses those issues which matter most to them. The current priorities are:

i.       open specifications and standards for ITS (POSSE)

ii.      open data – the publication of transport data

iii.     ITS benefits and impacts – development of KPIs for measuring ITS performance against policy objectives

iv.      tools to support decision making on ITS investments

v.       cooperative systems

Polis Released Position Paper on Active Travel and Health

The paper calls upon European institutions and other European actors to take action, to ensure that the promotion of health benefits of active travel are maximised in all relevant European policies and programmes.


A shift to active mobility and public transport combined with improved land use can yield immediate health benefits, much greater than those achievable by focusing only on improving air quality and the local environment through greater fuel and vehicle efficiencies. More walking and cycling, for all trip purposes – to work, education, shopping, social and leisure trips – can generate important economic benefits through large public health gains (which are not offset by accident costs) in addition to reduced pollution and congestion. Physical activity deficiency is one of the leading risk factors for ill-health in the 53 Member States in the World Health Organization (WHO) European Region.

While there are a number of European policies acknowledging the link between transport and health, there is a need for more initiatives, including by EU institutions, to actively promote the health benefits of active travel. This paper calls upon European institutions and other European actors to take action, to ensure that the promotion of health benefits of active travel are maximised in all relevant European policies and programmes.

Summary of Recommendations

1. References in European policy documents to improving health through active travel should form the basis of shared objectives, policies, work programmes and investment to increase levels of walking and cycling.

2. A leader for the work on active travel and health should be clearly identified in the European Commission.

3. Stakeholders from the health, environment and transport sectors should be consulted to explore the opportunity of further European initiatives on this topic.

4. Initiatives on the internalisation of external costs in transport should aim at ensuring that all health costs are taken into account, including physical inactivity.

5. The economic dimension of active mobility, and the long-term savings it can generate in healthcare costs and environmental benefits, should be taken systematically into consideration when appraising transport and urban development plans and policies.

6. Institutions at the European level may wish consider funding activities to securing the benefits of active travel in Europe.


Polis and its member cities and regions in Europe stress the urgency of emphasizing the link between transport and health in certain EU policy areas, and firmly believe that there is a need for more initiatives, including by EU institutions, to actively promote the health benefits of active travel. The paper summarizes the roundtable discussion on Transport & Health that took place during the Polis conference, 29-30 November 2011.

Read the full paper here.

ITS investment decision support tool presented for the first time

A tool to aid decision making on ITS investments has been developed and was presented for the first time at the Polis Traffic Efficiency & Mobility Working Group meeting in London on 12-13 April. Under the coordination of Polis the research group developed a decision support tool for pollution reduction.

The tool, called CONDUITS DST (DST stands for Decision Support tool), builds on the ITS key performance indicators developed within the FP7 CONDUITS project, which ended in June 2011.

KPIs were developed for the four main transport policy goals of traffic efficiency, pollution reduction, road safety and social inclusion. With sponsorship from the company KAPSCH TrafficCom AG and under the coordination of Polis and advice from ISIS, a group of universities (Technion, Technical University of Munich and City University London) have developed a decision support tool for pollution reduction.

The tool brings together data from micro-simulation and an emissions model and runs these through the pollution reduction KPI. The end result is a prediction of how a particular ITS-enabled measure (eg, public transport priority at traffic lights, traffic signal timing rephasing or access restriction) will perform in relation to air quality. The CONDUITS-DST for pollution reduction has been tested in a case study covering the introduction of traffic light priority for a particular bus route in Brussels.

In the coming months, the user interface of the tool will be improved and further cities will use the tool. The next big step will involve the development of a decision support tool for traffic efficiency. The CONDUITS DST for pollution reduction is available free of charge to public authorities.

If you are interested in knowing more the tool or the ongoing work of the group, please contact Suzanne Hoadley.


The Brussels-Capital Region launches the Mobility Toolbox

The Mobility Toolbox is meant for citizens to inform, inspire and help them prepare a project to re-design their neighborhood towards more sustainable mobility.

The toolbox comprises various tools such us a set of guidelines, a Power Point presentation to support stakeholder meetings, a free photo library to get inspiration from, a promotional video, and a mobility expert (the MobilityCoach).

People can drive a positive change in their neighborhood! First experiments in Brussels have proved that all stakeholders working together, inhabitants, shopkeepers, architects and planners, city officials can give public space back to the people.

Eligible projects should propose measures to remove transit traffic, reduce speed which would clearly benefit alternative modes of transportation (on foot, cycling, public transport), or improve the quality of life in the neighborhood.


MOLECULES Interest Group exchanges on electromobility in Paris

The workshop on 26 June will gather stakeholders from the private and public sector in the field of ICT for electromobility who will actively contribute to check the transferability of MOLECULES results. Registration for the open workshop is possible until 10 June.

The MOLECULES project (MObility based on eLEctric Connected vehicles in Urban and interurban smart, cLean, EnvironmentS) is setting up an Interest Group of key stakeholders who will follow MOLECULES’s developments to monitor the project’s progress, to provide end-user feedback and to validate the results the project is producing.

The first Expert Workshop on Open Architecture and ICT services for Smart Connected Electro-mobility will take place on June 26th in Marne la Vallée (Grand Paris area). The workshop is open to all and is free to participate.

For more detailed information, have a look at the programme. Please register before June 10.

If you cannot participate you can still follow us on LinkedIn. Join the MOLECULES Interest Group discussion forum at http://www.linkedin.com/groups/MOLECULES-Interest-Group-4415627/about

For more information please send an email to fboschetti@polisnetwork.eu or visit http://www.molecules-project.eu/


Development of Demand Responsive Transport Services in Strathclyde

Throughout Europe the issue of mobility for elderly and disabled people is a matter of concern. The development of Demand Responsive Transport Services (DRT) is now becoming recognised as a possible solution. As one of seven Regional Transport Partnerships in Scotland, Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT) has been operating DRT services for 22 years. Read more.


Click here to view a list of all recent events.

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