Italy is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 6.5% under the terms of the Kyoto Protocol. Road transportation is one of the most important areas to address to reach this goal. In congested commercial areas like Bologna, extensive road works are adding to traffic overload. Car exhaust emissions are related to the number of circulating cars and average travelling times. EU Directives oblige Member States to monitor air quality and to implement plans to ensure air quality levels within certain parameters.
The project would test a new method of homeostatic open traffic balancing in a congested commercial area by implementing an innovative prototype based on an integrated multi-sector supervision real-time feedback system. Such a system would lead to the development of a model that will gather live data on mobility, environment, air pollution, road works and safety. The main objectives of the project were to reduce air pollution caused by traffic, analyse the integrated mobility model, demonstrate homeostatic control, improve road safety and raise environmental awareness among citizens. The project would be framed in the context implementing a traffic plan in the Bologna region.
An inter-sector homeostatic model was established to supervise traffic conditions (in quasi real time). The model incorporates both environmental data and traffic data; it fixes the on/off thresholds to switch the messages on the displays installed on the roads of the project experimental area. Results produced by the model, however, were not of any particular interest. While lessons learnt in the frame of the project implementation would be integrated into the mobility plan, a set of guidelines for managing traffic based on the results of the project was not produced. However, the project was able to determine a quantitative correlation between the reduction of traffic jams and quality air improvements. Using the Pearson coefficient, the project showed a weak correlation. Another result of the project was the reduction of pollutant emissions linked to traffic – 10%, as consequence of a 20% reduction of journey lengths. Despite this positive outcome, the project validation report nevertheless showed that there are no substantial differences between the emissions in the periods of the road-displays on and the emissions in the periods of road-displays off. It is unclear whether the project helped improve road safety or whether drivers were receptive to taking alternative paths.