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What do we mean by ‘smarter travel’? Whether it’s about encouraging more healthy and sustainable options like walking or cycling, or reducing congestion by encouraging people to use their car at different times of the day, ‘smarter travel’ is about giving people choices that work for them. We know we need to increase capacity, improve efficiency, and manage demand across the nation’s road network, but what can we learn from different schemes currently being implemented not only in the UK, but further afield in Europe as well?
This was the topic of a recent webinar hosted by Transport for West Midlands - part of the West Midlands Combined Authority - in partnership with Arcadis. The webinar provided an opportunity to share knowledge across several organisations with a view to encouraging smarter ways to travel.
Speakers included The City of Amsterdam leading discussions on their Innovation Centre for Digital Mobility; and Arcadis sharing learnings from projects delivered in the Netherlands. Transport for West Midlands shared intelligence from multiple platforms, including early findings of the Network Resilience Live Lab – a new pilot project that aims to lay the foundations for a smarter, better-connected transport network.
Start with the customer
In the West Midlands alone, more than 8.4 billion miles were driven on the region’s roads in 2016. Between now and 2035, the region is predicted to grow by a staggering 100 people every day, placing an increasingly heavy demand on the transport network. This highlights a very real need for a different way of moving.
The starting point for any transport management plan is the customer and understanding their needs. This has been key in the West Midlands, where the ADEPT SMART Places Live Labs Programme has focused on understanding exactly how the highways network is being used, before taking that data and using it to inform what changes need to be made in future. Funded by the Department for Transport, the programme has identified 20 key routes for investment and will be used to tackle congestion in areas that need it the most.
Similarly, in Amsterdam mobility data is helping planners to understand and influence how people use public space. Mobility is part of a much wider eco-system in which places are designed to be liveable, safe, and accessible for all. Providing new mobility options will be critical not only in tackling congestion, but also ensuring the best flow of vehicles in and around these public spaces.
Customer focus and managing customer expectations have been central to the Netherland’s development of a strategy known as Minder Hinder, or ‘reduced nuisance’. This is a user-focused, integrated package of interventions such as smart planning and construction, clear signage, customer communication and mobility management that has now become mandatory on all highways projects in the Netherlands that are likely to disrupt customer experience. Far more than just a short-term measure to deal with congestion during roadworks, Minder Hinder is about implementing lasting measures that will have a sustainable, long-term impact on roads and road-users.
Using the data
Mobility management is critical when it comes to creating liveable and vibrant places, often combining ‘nudge tactics’ with more direct incentivisation to encourage positive behavioural change.
This is at the heart of an approach in Amsterdam known as Spitsmijden. An important demand management tool, Spitsmijden relies on data from regular road users and is designed to tackle congestion and reduce demand by incentivising behavioural change. It offers targeted financial incentives to encourage people to avoid certain roads during certain times, thereby easing congestion during peak hours or when roadworks are underway. In one study, participants reduced peak hour travel by 40-55%. However, the effect can be longer term. Even after the ‘reward’ period has ended, 40-50% of changed behaviour continued.
The use of data-driven technology to improve traffic flows is becoming increasingly common. We are moving away from relying purely on roadside measures to ease traffic congestion, instead using smart digital ways to communicate with passengers across many different modes of transport.
Mobility as a Service (MaaS) is a concept that brings together multiple modes of travel, combining options for different transport providers into a single service. It means that journeys can be planned and paid for on one platform, regardless of whether the passenger is using bus, train, tram, or cycle hire – or a combination of options.
MaaS has been trialled in the Zuidas business district of Amsterdam. Close to the airport and with its own large train station, Zuidas is part of the rapidly expanding Amsterdam Metropolitan area. In the next 20 years population growth is expected to exceed 200,000 additional inhabitants, 9 million tourists and a 40% increase in traffic. To accommodate this huge expansion, Zuidas will undergo major construction works over the next 10 years to improve road and rail access.
The MaaS Zuidas programme will be key to ensuring the district remains liveable and vibrant throughout this period, by helping to spread traffic and suggest alternative options to stop disruption. Participants will use their smart card - Zuidas Pas - to use a combination of railways, bike share and taxi (or more) to get in and around the district without having to rely on cars.
Working in partnership
MaaS is a solution to a shared problem, and has been created via public-private partnerships between the City of Amsterdam and regional transport providers. It highlights the need for more focus and co-operation between projects, government and road users, and demonstrates how much can be achieved by working together.
Partnership working has been key to the West Midlands Network Resilience Live Lab pilot. Comprising eight different research projects delivered by nine local authorities from across the region, the project brings together multiple innovations across many different urban environments. Other partners include, for example, the police force sharing data from CCTV cameras to provide an overarching view of road traffic. By working together, it allows for a much better understanding of what is happening on the highway network across the entire region.
Looking to the future
We are working in a new ecosystem where providers and digital tools come together to capture and accelerate change. Technology, data, and innovation are all enablers, but ultimately the focus for any traffic management tool is to improve the wider environment, whether from a sustainability perspective or broader placemaking.
The customer has been the golden thread running through all of these examples. We need to put the customer at the heart of everything, considering how people view ‘place’ to ensure we are providing the transport options they need. Rather than demonising car use, this is about creating an all-encompassing, multi-modal approach to travel, working together to explore how we can deliver the services transport users need.
These insights were drawn from the recent webinar ‘Going Dutch - Enabling Smarter Travel’, hosted by Transport for the West Midlands in partnership with Arcadis.
You can listen to the full recording here.
With thanks to our speakers:
- Deborah Fox, Head of Demand Management, Transport for West Midlands
- Anne Shaw, Director of Network Resilience, Transport for West Midlands
- Stuart Lester, Data Innovation Lead, Transport for West Midlands
- Ruben Polderman, Project Manager, City of Amsterdam
- Marek Kruszel, Mobility Programme Manager, City of Amsterdam
- Eduardo Green, Innovation Manager, City of Amsterdam
- Erik Verschoor, Smart Mobility Technical Director, Arcadis Netherlands
- Rob Mouris, Senior Mobility Consultant, Arcadis Netherlands
- Tim Strong, Transport Innovation Director, Arcadis UK