A look into the ITS laboratory

Wai Cheung, the City of Edmonton traffic engineer

Wai Cheung is the City of Edmonton’s traffic engineer. He has been responsible for planning the ITS hardware installations and is part of the team of the Yellowhead Trail ITS Simulation Laboratory.

How can cities manage the increase of traffic in times of tight budgets? ITS can be an answer. Unlike any other city in the world, the City of Edmonton is experimenting with it. Compass has talked to Wai Cheung, Edmonton’s traffic engineer.

Compass: What is your view on the mobility of the future?

Cheung: I see mobility of the future to be very similar to today with a mix of private and public transport vehicles. The difference will be the technology on board the vehicles. The future will see technology providing motorists with increased safety, efficiency and reliability. Route guidance from signs or their personal navigation devices will provide motorists with the most efficient route. Upon entering a high speed corridor, the vehicle will take over the driving and safely join a virtually connected high speed train until it has reached its exit and controls are reverted back to the driver.

Compass: What are the challenges that have to be taken?

Cheung: The challenges will be continuing growth in the number of private vehicles but without any additional roadway construction. The mode shift to public transport will increase, however, the increase in private vehicles will surpass the number of vehicles lost from the mode shift. ITS helps by increasing the needed capacity through improved efficiency of existing roads without the need for roadway construction.

Compass: That sounds sustainable.

Cheung: Yes, ITS has the potential to provide multiple sustainability benefits. Information is now instantly available at all times from any location. ITS will provide mobility information that influences individual choices about where to go and how to get there. Transport efficiency leads to optimal use of time, better fuel economy and thus a lower environmental impact.

Compass: Unlike any other city, the City of Edmonton is experimenting with ITS. Why are you doing so?

Cheung: The City of Edmonton continues to grow in population and size. Funding for new infrastructure is almost completely focused on public transport with little to no money being spent on additional capacity for roads. The only way to meet the increasing demand on the road network is to use technology that optimizes the way we use our existing roads.

Compass: What are your current issues?

Cheung: The Yellowhead Trail ITS Simulation Laboratory was developed as a proof of concept project to demonstrate the potential benefits of deploying an advanced ITS incident management system on one of the busiest arterials in Edmonton. The project integrated many of the Vision products that we have already been using including PTV Vissim and PTV Visum. Additional state of the art technologies were incorporated including PTV Optima and PTV Balance.

Compass: How does the various components interact?

Cheung: Fundamentally, real time traffic conditions are reported back to Optima which is the online predictive model built on our Visum model. PTV Balance then uses the predicted traffic volumes to produce network optimized, strategic traffic signal timings. These timings are used to provide tactical signal timings at the local traffic controller with input from intersection vehicle detection. As traffic flows change, data is constantly fed back to Optima to start the process over again.

Compass: What happens if there occurs an incident?

Cheung: If an incident occurs within the network that impacts capacity, an incident management scenario is deployed including displaying information on dynamic message signs about the incident location and route guidance. PTV Optima is then updated to reflect the change in link capacities and the detour routes. PTV Balance provides strategic signal timings for the new network including the proposed detour routes.

Compass: What is your advice for cities which would like to implement ITS in their traffic manamgent strategies?

Cheung: There are many ITS strategies available to be implemented but there is no single strategy that is applicable to all situations.  It is important to understand the potential benefit of an ITS strategy and weigh that against the level of effort and cost of implementing it.

Compass: What has to be done to bring ITS on the road worldwide?

Cheung: ITS needs to have more widely publicized success stories so that the public know that more can be done to relieve congestion, help the environment and improve their quality of travel, all at a small fraction of the cost of building more roads.

Interested in the Yellowhead Trail? Then have a look on this video. It’s about improvement measures for traffic flow in Edmonton along the Trail.