A better flow of traffic and more space for cyclists in Copenhagen
With the SOCRATES2.0 pilots coming to an end in the coming months, we are zooming in on several interesting use cases in the pilot city of Copenhagen. ‘By integrating the data, it’s easier to avoid traffic jams, to give cyclists more space and to take measures in case of air pollution,’ says Jan Romijnders, mobility consultant at Technolution.
In Copenhagen, one of the four pilot cities in the pan-European project, tests with smart traffic and navigation services are taking place to optimise traffic flow and to improve air quality. As one of the eleven SOCRATES2.0 partners, Technolution is integrating the different data sources to analyse them and subsequently advise service providers what routes to avoid.
‘TomTom provides car traffic data, bicycle sensors that were already located in the city show the number of cyclists, and air sensors from Aarhus University provide information about air quality,’ says Jan Romijnders. He and his colleagues integrated these data into their so-called Network Manager software program, which provides an overview of the traffic in the city.
The Network Manager identifies the so-called ‘problem state’, based on the boundary conditions or key performance indicators the road authority has defined for the network. Once the problem state is known, the Network Manager automatically generates Service Requests that are being forwarded to the traffic management centres and private service providers. Finally, the private service providers incorporate the service request into the navigation advice to the road user. The traffic management centre then activates the appropriate service, like the display of a message on a road signs. Romijnders: ‘This way we have a coordinated approach to optimise the traffic flow.
Bicycle jams and climate goals
The Network Manager is, for example, triggered when bicycle congestion occurs at traffic lights. This is often the case during Copenhagen’s morning and evening rush hours, although with so many people working from home due to the global pandemic, there is far less traffic now.
‘When the number of cyclists exceeds a certain threshold at a certain location, we send a message to TomTom,’ says Romijnders. ‘We ask them to pass on a message to motorists to stay away from a certain road, and TomTom provides their users with an alternative route.’ The goal is to stimulate the safety and the flow of the cyclists.
Copenhagen is a very bicycle-friendly city and wants to continue developing its cycling infrastructure in the coming years, Romijnders continues. The city also wants to become climate-neutral by 2025. By joining the project, the Danish capital may be able to find ways to reduce its CO2 output while staying accessible.
The Network Manager is also used as part of the use cases in the pilot city of Amsterdam. While the situation in the Dutch capital is quite similar to the Danish capital, here the focus is on the management of traffic and the low emission zones that prohibit the most polluting vehicles from entering the city.
In Copenhagen, one traffic centre manages the situation on the road, while Amsterdam and surrounding areas have three traffic centres. One is run by the central government, one by the province and one by the city.
Romijnders believes the Network Manager is of real added value here. ‘Right now, traffic management often looks at one small part of the network,’ he says. ‘But cars don’t disappear magically; they have to go somewhere. With the Network Manager, we have an overview of the entire network and can optimise the set of measures that need to be taken to distribute the traffic as efficient as possible.’
One of the project’s use cases in Copenhagen uses two air quality sensors that show when the air is becoming too polluted. ‘When that happens, we ask TomTom to communicate to their users to avoid the area at that point.’
While this use case, which was only launched in mid-October, is currently happening on a small scale, the experiment can definitely be scaled up, says Romijnders. ‘We could, for example, put twenty sensors in Copenhagen to cover the whole city.’
Concerts and other events
Another use case (Smart Destination) was designed to improve the flow of traffic around Copenhagen’s Parken football stadium and concert venue. Before the pandemic, this was often the location of traffic jams.
Motorists can subscribe to Livecrowd Mobilty, a service from the BrandMKRS agency, and receive updates on the traffic around the stadium via social media. There are not many parking places near the stadium, and when there’s an event, motorists are advised to park at hubs around the city and take public transport to the event.
Of course, most events have been cancelled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, so, unfortunately, this use case couldn’t be tested by motorists. However, Romijnders says: ‘Technically we’re ready to use this system and send the data to the partners involved. We know it works well.’
When events can once again be held (next year, for example, several European Cup football matches are planned to take place in the city, as well as the annual Pride festival), the city would like to send messages to motorists, so they know when to avoid the stadium or the city centre.
After SOCRATES2.0, the partners, including the city of Copenhagen, plan to continue with the smart mobility ideas developed during this project. ‘All these smart mobility ideas improve the quality of life in Copenhagen and help to become the first carbon-neutral capital in 2025,’ Romijnders concludes.