TRANS-3 implements a regional travel information Web service offering multi- and intermodal route planning based on real-time data. The service will cover the road and public transport networks of the tri-national agglomeration of Basel (700,000 inhabitants in CH/D/F).
The project consortium is composed of road and public transport operators, transport authorities, and technology providers. It aims at evaluating the adequacy of multimodal real-time information for managing transport demand (increasingly necessary for relieving road congestion), and for promoting public transport and park & ride trips, especially in daily cross-border travel.
TRANS-3's objective is to create and trial a multimodal pre-trip travel information Web site for the tri-national agglomeration of Basel. The web site offers multimodal and intermodal route planning for regional trips, with real-time and expectational travel times.
The one-year trial period of the web site is aimed at obtaining evaluation results on cost, use and impact of the service. On this basis, the consortium aims at elaborating proposals for an economic and organisational model able to support operation of a multimodal travel information service after the end of the project.
The objective of implementing multimodal travel information responds to the orientations of regional and urban transport policy, which is confronted with increasing negative impacts of road traffic (congestion and environment), and aims at promoting inter-modality and public transport.
TRANS-3 is a take-up action, using technology for multimodal route computation developed in the CAPITALS PLUS project.
TRANS-3 has implemented a multimodal travel information web site for the tri-national agglomeration of Basel (extending over France, Germany and Switzerland). The URL is: http://www.transbasel.com. The web site offers multimodal and intermodal route planning, which builds on timetables for bus, tramway and railway modes, on expected travel times for the car mode (drawn from historical travel time profiles and traffic modelling), on average travel times for bicycle and pedestrian modes, and on real-time data for car park availability. It offers additional features such as real-time event data for motorways, real-time car park data, and traffic web cams.
The Web site is in trial operation since August 2001. The implementation has been preceded by a user needs assessment. At present the service is the object of an evaluation phase. The evaluation addresses system performance, quality of information, costs and lessons learnt in implementing multimodal travel information, benefit for travellers, and the adequacy of the service for the achievement of the authorities' and transport operators' objectives.
In parallel to evaluation, the consortium is elaborating proposals for an organisational and economic framework for sustainable operation of a multimodal travel information service in the agglomeration of Basel.
TRANS-3 uses a data model based on the ALERT Plus representation of the transport network. It uses ALERT C, DATEX and MI2 for the transmission of real-time road data. Most public transport timetables are acquired through the Hafas data format which has been found to be available for a majority of public transport operators.
The web site www.transbasel.com is TRANS-3's primary result, and the multimodal route computation is its most innovative feature. Indeed Transbasel's route computation has pushed farther than any other presently operational travel information service the integration of individual and collective transport modes. It offers a multimodal choice of alternative routes and indicates the travel time as a criteria for comparison between individual and collective modes. In certain cases it offers intermodal solutions, e.g. Park + Ride. Park + Ride recommendations are either the result of constraints (the origin or the destination point is unaccessible to car or to public transport), or simply the result of travel time optimisation (Park + Ride is faster than car alone and than public transport alone).
The data underlying the route computation are:
- Fix link travel time values for the pedestrian and bicycle modes;
- Daytime-dependent link travel time values for the car mode;
- The detailed (vehicle-by-vehicle) timetables of the public transport networks;
- Real-time car park occupancy data.
Besides the route computation, the transbasel web site has further characteristics which make it a platform for traffic and travel information.
Complementary features of the web site are:
- Real-time display of available car parking spaces;
- Real-time display of motorway traffic status by maps and web cams;
- A collection of links to related web resources.
TRANS-3 has entered in cooperation with private local web portals in order to explore perspectives for becoming a public resource for multimodal traffic and travel information. At present two forms of cooperation exist: In agreement with the operator of the car parks, Transbasel supplies real-time car park occupancy data to www.mybasel.ch. www.planetbasel.ch and www.mybasel.ch have integrated a route computation form to their web sites. The user is directed to transbasel for the answer.
TRANS-3 has created a web site which has attracted the attention of the public and of the transport professionals who work on multimodality. There are specialists of multimodal travel information who consider www.transbasel.com as a reference implementat
Starting from problems encountered during the project's lifetime, TRANS-3 collected a set of observations and recommendations which may be of value for further development and exploitation of multimodal travel information services.
- Intending initially to display maps on the Web site, TRANS-3 has subsequently renounced to this feature, which is generally present in car travel information services but still often absent in public transport information services. TRANS-3's feasibility study has shown the lack of appropriate geographic data sources : urban public transport features are generally absent from geographic sources, transport operators do not have geographic descriptions of their networks, many sources lack continuity across country borders, and multinational editors have high entry prices. The effort for TRANS-3 in terms of manpower as well as monetary costs would have been too high.
- TRANS-3 has used the network of a strategic transport planning model as a starting point, and modified it according to the needs of the multimodal route computation. This proceeding has been successful but has revealed certain difficulties, which relate to abstractions and simplifications which are justified for a planning model (used by specialists) but have inadmissible consequences for travel information (intended to non-specialists). For example : the planning model lacks toponyms ; it may code a road with a parallel bicycle lane as a single link, which is misleading for travel information ; it may model a single PT stop when a bus line uses two parallel one-way streets with physically separated uni-directional stops ; the planning model can vary the network density, which means missing PT stops and is is inadmissible for travel information ; etc.
Furthermore, TRANS-3 had to develop a common understanding on how to translate the physical network into the coded network topology (simple conformity to the logical data model does not guarantee homogeneous results of the route computation).
The experience shows that only persons with a real-world knowledge of the physical network can guarantee a good network coding.
- For manual coding of network features as well as for subsequent data maintenance, an integration of the static database with a GIS-type graphical user interface is desirable.
- Use rights, data formats, and data quality for public transport timetables are a substantial problem. TRANS-3 has adopted a specific provider-
All partners of TRANS-3 wish that the web site transbasel.com be maintained in operation after the end of the project. The motivation comes from the feeling that the service can effectively become an instrument of public policy in matters of regional transportation, and by the encouraging interest and feedback from users, journalists and observers.
There is agreement on the fact that the solution for future exploitation will be in a public-private partnership. A political support of the service is necessary for making legitimous the operating consortiums' access to all required data, and for covering at least a part of the operation costs.
The political support can take the form of a direct public service mission (run the public website, and offer the resource of a multimodal data warehouse for third-party information service providers). Alternatively, it could be indirect through authorities becoming principal paying users of added-value services (such as integration into public websites, or information displays or kiosks in public premises).
The present business model rests on free access to data, on public investment for initial set-up and on a latitude for selling added-value services.
Indeed, the revenue generated by added-value services will be too small to amortise private investment for initial set-up of the system. It is essentially a scheme of public economy.
The presence of a private or mixed operating consortium seems nevertheless justified, since the private stakeholders would be interested in searching additional and new associated services (in relation to points of interests, for example).