Real time: The solution for transport resilience in cities?

New York

How can you ensure the transport resilience of your city? PTV has the answers.

On June 3rd something unusual happened in Paris: For the first time since World War Two the Louvre had to call Volunteers to help move its treasures to upper floors. The Seine had peaked its highest level in more than 30 years and threatened to flood the cellar of the museum and whole parts of the city. An underground rail line that normally carries 500,000 passengers a day as well as the Métro station Saint-Michel had to be closed – hindering a lot of the staff of the museum from getting to work. Hence the volunteers.

As unusual as the situation in Paris was, according to scientists due to climate change these kinds of events, floddings, thunderstorms and other natural disasters will become more regular. 70% of cities are already dealing with the effects of climate change and nearly all are at risk. Thus, city resilience issues should be on the agenda of every city mayor.

But how can we deal with such events, how can we prepare ourselves? What are the exact effects and what measures should be taken in case of an emergency? The Louvre – fortunately – had a plan for that. Most of the cities have one as well, comprensive, thoroughly thought-out and tested. But these plans are only as good as their local adaption and realisation in the concrete situation.

There is a German saying that can be translated with: No plan survives the first contact with the enemy. The same could be said about emergency plans, the natural disaster being the “enemy”. The real impacts are always unexpected, there is a need to adapt very quickly without concrete and full understanding of the outcome and as a consequence some plans and operations work better than others.

There is in this a comparison to what PTV is developing together with cities, having a good solid plan in the background in form of a transport model. That model also needs to evolve to be operational and become reactive in real time. “Real time” is the key word in this regard. Models are working with an “average traffic day” – that does not really exist, there is always a breakdown, roadworks, adverse weather conditions, events etc. that will make every single day a unique challenge. This is where PTV real time solutions come in.

With the new urban and mobility challenges the cities are facing, they need transportation operation systems that enable them to extract the most out of their networks and systems. Cars, trucks, autonomous vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists, public transport – some of them the city can influence or control, some not. With PTV’s real time solutions we are ensuring that the systems are always operating at its best, independently of the conditions. Of course, that only works when there is variable data available, the more the accurate. With our advanced algorithms we can test a multitude of scenarios that are developed by the operator and are interactive in real time, producing output and KPIs almost instantaneously – not in hours – ensuring always the best solution at any time under any circumstances. We are also ensuring maximum efficiency through the combination and interaction between the various agents in the city.

Our real time solutions cannot only be used for traffic optimization, but also for pedestrian crowds, public transport operations, signal controllers, adaptive or fixed, and urban logistics. They also enable, for example, an information exchange with users, a reduction of energy consumption or a smoothing of peaks. The possible use cases are various and being defined and extended on a daily base.

We work hand in hand with cities, academics and forward thinking professionals in developing new methods and ideas for modelling the impacts of tsunamis, earthquakes, floods, etc. and in doing so developing evacuations plans, operations and management strategies. PTV is also combining transportation with other agent based models, setting a new standard in today’s most forward thinking cities.

Embarking on real time traffic solutions has positive side effects for cities: it will make them safer and more efficient. And it will help to solve a major problem: Cities consume 78% of the world’s energy and produce more than 60% of global CO2 emissions. With real time solutions these emissions could be reduced and cities could become more environmentally friendly. Thus, a real time resilience solution benefits the city and its inhabitants even in absence of an emergency.