Advanced Transit Fleet Management Transfer Of European Systems And Solutions Into North American Environment

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1 Advanced Transit Fleet Management Transfer Of European Systems And Solutions Into North American Environment Roland Staib and Horst Gerland INIT Innovations in Transportation Karlsuhe, Germany ABSTRACT Advanced technologies and solutions for public transit fleet management and passenger service have a long history in Europe. In Germany, for instance, the federally funded transit research and development program was initiated in 1971 with the objective to promote innovative technical and operational concepts and to allow for thorough practical tests and trials of prototype and first-time applications. New technologies such as the guided bus, the dual-mode bus, the call bus or dial-a-ride bus, the flexible operation system, the smart bus, and the automatic vehicle monitoring and dispatch system were designed, developed, tested, and matured to practical usefulness. In the framework of this long-term program, INIT converted an innovative transit fleet management concept from the research and development status into a useful and now proven market product. Matured, completed, enhanced, and technically updated over the years, INIT s Intelligent Transportation System INITRANS is now a comprehensive, modular, and state-of-the-art hardware and software suite successfully operational in more than 60 projects throughout Europe. With the backing of this longterm success and the large number of system implementations in Europe, INIT is now transferring the INITRANS technology and solutions to transit systems outside Europe. Although the market share of public transit in North America is currently significantly lower than in Europe, the sensitivity toward modern and attractive transit means is increasing, and the INITRANS approach has already been well received by a number of transit authorities. This article describes the major criteria, options and benefits of the transfer of European transit management technology into the North American environment. BACKGROUND INIT which stands for Innovations in Transportation was among the first system houses worldwide to supply computer-integrated transit fleet management systems to the public transit industry. INIT was founded in 1983 by a group of engineers who, as a working group within the Technical University of Karlsruhe, were involved in the design, specification, development and operation of Europe s first fully computerized dial-a-ride system. Funded largely by the German Federal Department for Research and Technology, main intent of the first INIT projects was the specification and development of the technical and operational functions and features for computer-aided management and control systems, today known as Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS). Since 1985, INIT has implemented ITS systems in Osnabrueck, Trier and Bremerhaven (Germany). The systems have undergone various enhancements and technical updates since then. In 1989, INIT was awarded the Innovation Grant of the State of Baden-Wuerttemberg for the development and successful deployment of INITRANS. Major criteria for the award were the advanced technology, manufacturing achievements, and the success of the system on the transit market. Originally, the functions and technical solutions were based on the comprehensive, sophisticated standards and guidelines of the Verband Deutscher Verkehrsunternehmen (VDV, German Federation of Public Transportation Authorities, equivalent to APTA) as INIT engineers were strongly involved in the definition of the specifications from their earliest stages of development. In the meantime, INITRANS is compliant with or provides interfaces with transit-related standards such as IBIS, SAE or CAN. With the backing of almost 20 years experience in applying advanced technologies to the transit industry, INIT is now specialized in providing state-of-the-art technology for the computer-integrated management of rail, light-rail, fixedroute, and paratransit or demand-oriented transit systems or a flexible mix of the different services. SYSTEM FEATURES AND BENEFITS Today, INITRANS includes the following major features and components for effective transit fleet management: 1

2 On-board equipment (e.g., mobile data terminals/ on-board computers as the brain and central database on board the vehicles, electronic peripherals, communication network) Automatic vehicle location, navigation and control, utilizing different technical solutions such as GPS or dead reckoning or a combination of both Automatic management of electronic on-board peripherals (e.g., passenger information systems, fare management devices, health check components) Automatic passenger counters with passive infrared sensor technology, suitable for all types of vehicles Operational status displays utilizing GIS infrastructure Comprehensive central software for vehicle dispatch and service restoration including connection protection and other passengeroriented features Emergency alert management (on board, centrally controlled) Advanced voice and data radio communication Smartcards, smartcard readers and transaction processing and clearing software including best price calculation Depot management software In-house developed scheduling and runcutting software Technical interfaces to third-party systems such as scheduling systems, data evaluation systems, paratransit systems, maintenance systems Due to the provision of post-implementation support and the establishment of user circles, INIT is in permanent and close contact with all customers including small, medium-size and large transit authorities. This allows for closer monitoring of how the new technology affects the transit service and contributes to increasing attractiveness The major benefits reported by the current INITRANS users are: Increase of transit patronage due to improved reliability of timetables and transfers through schedule adherence monitoring and protection of transfers at risk Increase of transit service flexibility due to integrated utilization of fixed-route, route deviation and on-demand transit modes in one umbrella system Higher awareness and attractiveness of public transit due to improved passenger information and passenger service at home, at stops, and on board Higher exploitation of the resources due to a variety of computer-aided functions for operational management, dispatch, and service restoration Reduction of running times through automatic traffic signal priority and other means to speed up transit vehicles at traffic bottle necks Simplification of passenger service and reduction of dwell times at stops through use of smartcards for cashless fare collection Increase of both passenger and driver safety and security due to provision of alert features (e.g., silent alarm) and social control features (e.g., video camera) Attainability of low-density residential areas due to on-demand operation modes avoiding trips without passenger demand Provision of actual and reliable performance data and information for planning purposes due to automatic on-board and central data collection and evaluation components Provision of efficient tools for the generation of schedules and timetables, personnel employment, pull-out/pull-in management, and in-depot vehicle management As a whole, transit fleet management systems such as INITRANS proved to have a positive impact on the modal split of the service area. In addition, transit authorities were able to reduce the peak number of revenue vehicles resulting in savings of resources or using the free resources to provide additional services. SYSTEM TRANSFER Due to utilizing the open system architecture approach, state-of-the-art engineering methods and tools, proven data management systems, standard communication protocols, and recognized standards regarding system development and operational performance, systems originally tailored to the European transit industry can easily be adopted by and successfully operate in other transit infrastructures. In 1997, the METRO Regional Transit Authority of the City of Akron, Ohio decided to adopt 2

3 INITRANS in a proof-of-concept project with the objective to prove that innovative concepts are capable of improving all essential fields of transit in the service area. Major interest of the authority is to increase the transit attractiveness in general, provide reliable information to the passengers, speed up the transit vehicles at bottlenecks, and subsequently integrate the additional operational and passenger-related features provided by the system. The system in Akron has been derived from INIT s standard Smart Vehicle solution as shown in Figure 1 and the INITRANS CAD/AVL version operational in Stockholm, Sweden. Figure 2 gives an overview of the system configuration as currently implemented in Akron. Adjustments to the conditions and requirements of the U.S. transit industry were due with regard to SAE compatibility, adaptation to the radio infrastructure and interfacing with the local traffic signal controllers. In light of potential future enhancements and application in other projects, interfaces to North American scheduling software packages and paratransit scheduling and dispatch systems will be necessary. As INITRANS includes in-house developed scheduling and runcutting modules, on-demand dispatch software, and interfaces to a variety of relevant European third-party systems, INIT is very familiar with this task. Figure 1. Components of the INITRANS Smart Vehicle 3

4 Route C - Technology Figure 2. INITRANS System Configuration in Akron, OH. 4

5 The INITRANS system in Akron includes the following major features and components: On-board computer COPILOT with integrated GPS receiver and interfaces to mobile radio, GPS antenna, odometer, door switches, audio annunciator and electronic on-board peripherals such as next stop display and passenger counter. The compact version of COPILOT is used with Vehicle Logic Unit (VLU) and Mobile Data Terminal (MDT) provided in one dash-mount housing. According to different requirements, COPILOT can also be provided with dash-mount MDT and separate VLU. Automatic passenger information display and audio announcement system. The text for the next stop display is stored in the on-board computer memory and transmitted to the display when and where relevant. The audio announcement system holds the text electronically (EPROM); the release of the announcement is triggered by the on-board computer. Automatic passenger counter. Under the system name Infra-Red Motion Analyzer (IRMA), INIT provides proven and accurate automatic passenger counting equipment using passive, non-radiating infra-red technology. Passenger counts and discrimination between Ons and Offs occur through one single sensor mounted in the door frame. The collected data is stored in the on-board computer memory for subsequent offload and evaluation. Automatic vehicle location (AVL). The vehicle positioning is conducted by means of Differential GPS in combination with dead reckoning. This is the standard AVL solution when a comparatively high location accuracy is required as with systems where traffic signal priority is involved. Wayside passenger information. At major stops, customer information displays have been installed to provide the passengers with reliable, accurate, and real-time information about the next available buses. The due departure time is shown in minutes with countdown in minute increments. Voice and data radio management. In the current demonstration phase, exclusive frequencies and INIT s relevant standard radio approach regarding bi-directional communication management, vehicle polling and message structure are used. As with other systems, adjustment of the radio communication to local requirements, e.g., simulcast or trunked radio, is possible. Real-time operational performance monitoring. Based on AVL, the control center provides comprehensive operational status displays in tables, graphics and true maps as the backbone for dispatcher interaction. Computer-aided dispatch and service restoration. The INITRANS central software package includes a variety of functions to assist the dispatchers when interaction due to service interruptions, inclement weather conditions or other incidents is necessary. These functions are based on actually identified service-impacting events. Traffic signal priority. INITRANS provides intelligent features for traffic signal priority at intersections and traffic bottle necks, based on data radio. Computer-aided dispatch and service restoration, traffic signal priority and real-time passenger information are among the most important system features in European applications and find increasing acceptance in North American ITS project concepts. This is reason enough to describe these INITRANS modules in more detail. COMPUTER-AIDED DISPATCH AND SERVICE RESTORATION Computer-aided dispatch and service restoration actions are defined as operational interventions by either the dispatcher (manual dispatch) or the central computer (automatic dispatch) in order to correct incidents in the operational performance. Interactions can be automatically initiated or manually created by the dispatcher according to the operational needs. The decision on the particular intervention is based on the actual operational status, prepared by the corresponding central INITRANS functions. Basically, two completely different strategies for the intervention into and correction of affected operational situations are possible: Schedule adherence which will be the emphasized objective, when and where the headways of successive vehicles exceed a certain, pre-defined time limit (e.g., every 20 minutes). Headway optimization which is suitable for headway-oriented operation, when and where the fixed cycles (headways between successive 5

6 vehicles) are so short, that schedule adherence is less important to the passengers (stress on avoiding vehicle bunching rather than on-time performance). In the normal case, computer-aided dispatch actions are displayed to the dispatcher prior to their performance, in order to generally leave the final decision on the interventions with the dispatcher. The different dispatch actions can be adjusted through global preset values or individual threshold values, according to the importance of messages and operational information (e.g., it is possible to set a limit value for delays with the consequence that all reported delays smaller than this limit are not displayed or taken into account). In detail, the following dispatch actions are implemented into the INITRANS central software package and can be used for vehicle group or single vehicle dispatch: Pull-out supervision (alarm in case of overdue pull-out message) Turn before terminal (trip end and resume of return trip at actually determined stop) Pass by a stop or a group of stops without stopping (instrument to make up for delays) Hold back leader (instrument to avoid vehicle bunching) Pass another vehicle (enables receptive vehicle to pick up passengers and relieve fully occupied leader) Follower picks up passengers (enables receptive vehicle to pick up passengers and relieve fully occupied leader) Fill-in vehicle (additional vehicle in case of overload) Substitute vehicle (spare vehicle in case of vehicle breakdown) Supervision of layover time (alarm when violation of layover time is detected) Compensation for delays or runs ahead of schedule (provision of offset or temporary offset) Connection supervision and protection (algorithm to protect transfers at risk) Manual vehicle registration and manual insertion of vehicle delays (manual entry of non-equipped vehicles and simulation of their runs) Handling of voice radio communication (management of RTT, PRTT and emergency voice communication requests) Emergency rerouting (on-line rerouting in case of accident, short-term detour, bad weather conditions) All dispatch and service restoration actions or other service-impacting events are reported to an event log file and can be provided for subsequent evaluation. TRAFFIC SIGNAL PRIORITY In Germany, the procurement of ITS type systems usually is federally and state funded through the Community Traffic & Transit Financing Act. When applying for funds, the funding authorities attach greatest importance to proving that the funded system contributes to speed up the transit vehicles and thus improve the overall transit service. This implies that almost all applications for funds, at least in Germany, are focused on traffic signal priority as one of the major system features. In addition, this led to the fact that all system suppliers including INIT are very familiar with and experienced in traffic signal priority for transit and provide sophisticated strategies, hardware and software for active traffic signal preemption and priority control and management. INITRANS includes both on-board and wayside/intersection modules for traffic signal priority. INITRANS provides traffic signal priority via data radio. Visual contact between the vehicle and the traffic signal is not necessary. Based on the actual vehicle position, the COPILOT on-board computer autonomously and automatically generates and transmits traffic signal priority requests or, upon passing the signal, clearing messages to the relevant traffic signal. The registration point(s) and the clearing point, both defined in close contact with the transit authority and the city engineer, are measured in distance to/from the traffic signal as shown in Figure 3 or provided in x/y-coordinates and stored in the on-board computer memory together with other route and network data. The data messages are received by an intelligent decoder which is provided as a specific INITRANS module and serves as the interface to the traffic signal controller. The telegrams transmitted by COPILOT include the traffic signal address, telegram type (e.g., pre-registration, main registration, clearing), direction information (e.g., left, right, straight ahead), and priority such as schedule adherence status, vehicle occupancy or approach of transfer point. The priority values are relevant in case of telegram collision (simultaneous requests) or implementation of intersection-specific priority strategies. Multi-intersection priority management is possible in that a priority request for intersection A can simultaneously be received by and utilized 6

7 Figure 3. Functional Concept of Traffic Signal Priority as pre-registration at intersection B or a clearing message for intersection A can simultaneously be the priority request for intersection B. PASSENGER INFORMATION SERVICE As more innovative information and communication technology is used in public transportation, more importance is attached to the passenger-related functions, particularly the system s capability of being utilized for passenger information. With regard to this, the following aspects are essential when integrating sophisticated passenger information modules: Since the system holds a data base with both the pre-planned and actual data, any passenger inquiry can be reacted to with actual and reliable information. Since the vehicles can be connected to the central computer, delays and transfers at risk can be reported and taken into account when retrieving schedule information. Vehicles can be induced to wait for feeder services, when and where transfers are at risk. Since it is possible to have all schedules stored on the computer, it is comparatively easy to provide schedule information not only on the transit agency s own service, but also on other services such as railway and even air services. Since it is possible to generate any individual origin-destination request by area and time, it is comparatively easy to provide computer printouts showing individual personal timetables at the passengers` request. Due to the increasing requests of transit authorities, INITRANS includes a central software package to retrieve passenger information from both the nominal schedule (trip planning) and/or the actual schedule (real-time information). Real-time data are utilized in the INITRANS components for visual on-board information (next stop display), audio on-board announcements (internal and/or external loudspeakers), stop and/or wayside information displays (large-scale displays or monitor screens) or generation of next departure information upon passenger request. In addition, the provision of personalized timetable printouts is possible containing the desired connections by area and time. The communication between the central computer and the stationary information units is conducted via land-line, data radio or radio paging. CONCLUSION The Intelligent Transportation System INITRANS is a comprehensive state-of-the-art hardware and software suite for transit fleet management and passenger service. Among the different system features and components, computeraided dispatch, traffic signal priority and real-time passenger information are considered essential when the utilization of the system under North American conditions is discussed. This is mainly due to the fact that the European systems such as INITRANS have a long history and thus provide matured components, proven in over sixty applications throughout Europe. In conjunction with the METRO Regional Transit Authority of Akron, Ohio, the first INITRANS implementation in the United States is focused on the above mentioned features and their acceptance by the U.S. transit industry. In addition, possible modifications are under investigation to adapt the system to the North American transit market, e.g., with regard to modification or substitution of equipment, alteration of software modules, and 7

8 implementation rules. It can be stated that, not least due to the high standard of the three mentioned system features, INITRANS has received the attention of a large number of North American transit authorities. In light of this, INIT has become a member of both North American public transit associations (APTA and CUTA) and established a permanent base in the U.S. to provide INITRANS as well as qualified implementation and post-implementation support to the transit industry. 8

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