Traffic and environment – hand in hand for cleaner air

Traffic and environment:  Volker Waßmuth, responsible for the Traffic Planning and Engineering division at PTV Transport Consult gives us a glimpse behind the scenes. Photo: PTV

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 29 seconds

Studies on air pollution control measures are currently booming. Traffic plays an essential role here. Some cities are particularly affected and are developing Green City plans to counteract air pollution with suitable measures. The federal government, but also many municipalities and regions, are working at high pressure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Our expert Dr. Volker Waßmuth is an experienced transport planner and is responsible for the Traffic Planning and Engineering division at PTV Transport Consult GmbH. He gives us a glimpse behind the scenes.

Compass: PTV Group is renowned for being experts when it comes to traffic and transportation. How much is the company involved in issues of environmental and climate protection?

Volker Waßmuth: PTV Group has been conducting transport studies and developing traffic concepts for 40 years. The impact on the environment has always been an important part of our studies, no matter if they are related to road, rail or bicycle traffic. Current environmental issues are strongly focused on air pollution and climate protection, but that is nothing new in terms of methodology.

Compass: And on what basis are such studies created?

Volker Waßmuth: We keep abreast of new scientific and technological developments on an ongoing basis. And we achieve this by using the latest methods for our studies – always including the latest scientific findings. We are actively involved in the Road and Transport Research Association, which deals with developing standards and making recommendations.

Compass: How close is the connection to science then?

Volker Waßmuth: Our studies always have a scientific claim too. After all, PTV originates from science and has since been closely connected to it – since its foundation as spin-off from the University of Karlsruhe (today’s KIT). We are continually attempting to achieve innovative progress in order to apply and implement it in our projects. We then also share these experiences with the scientific community which can, in turn, use them for their projects and applications.

Compass: How can PTV set itself apart from other consultants here?

Volker Waßmuth: 1. Our scientific background. We work together with many universities and we are involved in numerous research projects. We contribute to the development of methods ourselves. 2. We use the market-leading software from our company group and can therefore ensure a significantly higher level of detailing in our studies. 3. We have extensive market experience. 2,500 cities already rely on PTV. We know the requirements and procedures for many different kinds of studies: from smaller municipalities up to metropolitan regions. From Malsch-Muggensturm, a small town near Karlsruhe, to the whole of Europe.

Compass: And how is this higher level of detailing achieved?

Volker Waßmuth: Especially in the case of climate protection and air pollution issues, there are lots of expert reports, which calculate effects only very generally and by rule of thumb. With PTV’s methods, in particular the visualisation down to link level in PTV Visum (software for macroscopic transport planning) and the visualisation down to vehicle level in PTV Vissim (software for microscopic traffic simulation), we are able to quantify the impact on the environment and other factors where they occur, namely on the road network. Other studies are only based on theories such as “we shall increase the number of bicycles by x percent and then we shall deduct the same amount from the cars”. We, on the other hand, show this in detail on the level of the respective transport network. This is where we need our tools in order to calculate the effect in a transport model.

Compass: Working as a neutral expert requires transparency on how the results come about. How is that guaranteed?

Volker Waßmuth: Our way of working has been established for over four decades and is recognised on the market. As PTV traffic consultants, we are committed to a high level of data transparency. For us, this is an important element of quality assurance. How results come about is therefore transparent and verifiable by looking at the data basis.

Compass: Do you have any current examples?

Volker Waßmuth: Yes, quite a lot. For example, at the moment we are creating studies for the cities of Kiel, Heilbronn, Ludwigsburg and Hanover as part of the VDA initiative. All the cities are given the transport models we prepared – data transfer is fully included. This transparency is what we live: it is in the DNA of the PTV Group.

Measures – levels and causal relations. Photo: PTV Transport Consult

Compass: What do the results, which PTV provides, look like?

Volker Waßmuth: Impact assessments are at the core of our work. That means we investigate measures, concepts and ideas as well as their impact on aspects that are currently relevant: on CO2 emissions, on fine dust particles, on air pollutants and also on driving performance and similar factors; therefore on all parameters relevant to traffic and environment. And we process them. Simply put, in the end we deliver a large spreadsheet in which the effect is then displayed per measure, as well as an assessment of which measure is useful and why.

Compass: And what influence do politics and client have on these results?

Volker Waßmuth: Basically, we always highlight all traffic and transport related aspects and their effects. But in the end, it is politics which decides what is implemented and what not. We have been in the traffic consulting business for a long time and work together with decision-makers from all political colours. We advise the Green Party or CDU ministries just as much as SPD cities – anyone who contracts PTV