Develop an operation control system to manage the operation.
A means to improve the system operation, especially for larger systems are Computer-based operation control systems. These refer to an automatic control system for buses that ensures data transfer between vehicles, infrastructure and the traffic control centre. They can provide real-time information for passengers and managers, traffic light priority, voiceannouncement in the buses, etc.
Small operations (up to around 15 vehicles) can be organized without the need for a computerized system. However, in larger operations complexity levels rise, and the need to keep the overview at a system level, react to unforeseen events and take decisions is beyond the capacity of a manual control system.
The desirability of computer-based operational control will depend on city size and circumstances. In medium-size towns, real-time scheduling and vehicle location systems should be considered. In larger towns, integration between operational control and traffic light priority should be aimed at.
The main processes provided by computer-based operation control systems are:
To collect real-time data about the vehicles, in particular their location (real-time information for management),
To transfer the real-time data to the traffic control centre,
To transfer instructions to bus drivers e.g. about re-routing of lines (real-time scheduling),
To transfer data to traffic lights for traffic prioritisation,
To transfer real-time data to bus stops (real-time information for passengers); this can be done directly (bus to bus stop) or the traffic control centre transfers to bus stops some data which has already been processed (“filtered”),
To perform ex-post analyses about the system’s performance (statistics, reliability studies, etc.).
The objective of a good management of operations control is to minimise the costs of operation and maintenance (see guideline Vehicle maintenance and repair) and to make public transport more attractive (higher speed, better information, secured connections, higher reliability etc.). The question is which of the operations mentioned above is performed more efficiently by automatic procedures rather than by personnel manually.
Since the 1990s automatic vehicle location (AVL), automatic on-board counting systems and real-time scheduling has been used by operators in larger operating areas (urban conglomerates). For these (large) areas, it has been shown that they can support an effective dispatching, an improved fleet utilisation and vehicle availability, an improved movement control / monitoring and a higher customer satisfaction. The question is to what extent this also applies to smaller cities, especially in economic terms. From the cities analysed by PROCEED, 33% of the small (up to 50,000 inhabitants) and 68% of the bigger cities are equipped with some kind of vehicle monitoring system (sometimes as part of a larger operating area).
Manufacturers of computer-based operation control systems offer various system architectures with different hardware options (e.g. detectors, transmitters, information displays), communication technologies, and software (with functionalities such as calculations of predicted delays, statistical evaluations, optimisations etc.). Some manufacturers also provide bus traffic priority as an integrated option.
According to the infrastructure already in place, available financing and human resources, a city, public transport authority or operator can decide optionally for a tailor-made system. The investment can be performed in stages.
In the case of an implemented computer-based operation control system, all options should be checked to integrate traffic light prioritisation regardless of city size. For instance, when using a ‘Rendezvous’ based system in smaller cities it is very important that all buses are running on time.
For operations with low demand number of passengers can be counted by hand e.g. by the driver or other personnel. Other methods that can be used are calculations based on visual estimations on the number of passengers in certain sections or by onboard surveys.
Automatic on-board counting systems count the passengers as they enter and alight from the vehicle. One kind of counting system is an Automated Passenger Counter (APC), which include treadle mats (which register passengers when they step on a mat) and infrared beams (which register passengers when they pass through the beam). Other systems work by observing changes in weight. Electronic ticketing schemes can also be regarded as a counting system, at least for boardings. They provide a wealth of information that can be used to improve the existing network. Other approaches use ‘Bluetooth’ technology to track the passengers’ trips from their mobile phones (anonymously).
On-board counting systems are used to reduce the costs of data collection and to improve data accuracy. There are various reasons for using on-board counting systems:
Operational planning: The information gained (e.g. passengers per trip, per line, boardings per stop, passenger load per hour) helps identify the weak points in the present public transport network, paving the way for a more efficient design.
Strategic planning: Where public transport is carried out by operators supported with public financing, these systems supply reliable information to the authorities, information that otherwise would be very hard to gather.
Share of revenues: In integrated tariff schemes, passenger counts are often used to distribute the revenues from the common tariff among the different operators. Data from on-board counting systems can support this procedure under certain circumstances depending on the actual method used.
Operational control: Data can be used in real-time for vehicle operations, but this can only happen if all vehicles are equipped with an APC. Data can also be used for future planning purposes. The system requires additional sensors for counting passengers either on the vehicle or at the stop, and the ability to store or transfer the information.
From the cases analyzed by PROCEED, about32% of the citiesuse automatic passenger counting.
According to the city size (for small cities) the costs of introducing automatic vehicle location and real-time scheduling, for operational reasons only, might not be justified by the overall benefits. When considering the implementation of such a system, the benefits, maintenance and the necessary efforts for correct operation of the system should be considered.
It has to be stated that bus prioritisation does not necessarily need a central system as a nucleus. Other decentralised techniques may well fit to the actual needs of the urban bus network.
With an integrated network of different operators (e.g. urban and regional bus) the need for open access to a computer-based operation control system for different operators will grow. Where operators use different systems this may result in incompatibility issues and therefore in the investments made producing limited benefits.
To operate in real-time reliable communication links with a control centre are required so that additional buses can be dispatched easily.
Depending on the major reasons for the use of automatic on-board counting systems, it is not necessary to equip all buses with counting systems. Also, it is possible to get insight in the performance with only a few ‘counting buses’. However, this requires strict vehicle allocation planning.
Passenger counting systems are widely used and provide necessary demand data e.g. for planning purposes. However, it should be noted that such systems require accurate efforts in data managementto deliver reliable data. There are various sources of error leading to incorrect measurements.
Almelo, Enschede, Hengelo (The Netherlands): Traffic light priority and management information is gained from the SABIMOS Twente system.
Chur (Switzerland): All buses can be localised by GPS signal. The real-time location of every bus can be observed via a website. The localisation is especially used for real-time information at bus stops and for announcements of the next bus stop in the buses.
Donostia-San Sebastián (Spain): There is a project called "Intelligent Public Transport System" that includes the exploitation and management system. The SAE real-time scheduling system knows the current location of all buses, the number of users, recording times of departure and arrival, etc. More than 40 information screens with real-time information were placed on bus stops at the end of 2005. Toledo also implemented the SAE information system.
Dundee (UK): The system used in Dundee provides recording of bus braking, and indicators for performance and speed based on GPS.
Graz (Austria): A system called ITCS (Integrated Transport Control System) has been installed, which continuously communicates the position of all vehicles to the central control unit. The system provides real-time passenger information at many stops.
Kaunas, Klaipeda (Lithuania): A comparison of the working regime and the timetable is performed by the PIKAS system.
Ljubljana (Slovenia): The urban bus system uses the GPS based system TELARGO which provides automatic vehicle location and real-time scheduling (departure and arrival of buses) including low floor bus information.
Luleå, Lund, Karlstad (Sweden): TriTrans is a module-based information system for public transportation (bus, tram, light rail, underground or commuter train). The system operates in real-time and serves all parties involved – traffic planners, dispatchers, drivers and passengers. Traffic controllers are provided with information on vehicles’ deviations from schedule. The system helps traffic controllers to plan traffic when deviations from schedule occur and enables them to communicate with drivers. Waiting passengers are given the information they need – in real-time – by means of visual display and voice announcements. The information can also be made available on the Internet. Passengers in vehicles are informed of the next stops or stations by visual display and voice announcements. Drivers experience less stress, are freed from various tasks, can communicate readily with traffic control, and have a highly advanced alarm function at their disposal.
Graz (Austria): The public transport operator equipped 130 vehicles of its fleet (both trams and buses) with 'Bluetooth' receivers. The devices can anonymously trace mobile phone users with activated ‘Bluetooth’ interface in the range of the receiver (i.e. passengers on-board). Since the Bluetooth ID of each mobile phone is unique, the system provides data on origin - destination of the trips within the Graz urban network. However, the system does not cover all trips, but the share allows the analysis of Origin-Destination trip patterns within the network.