For over 40 years, the city of Ghent has been managing mobility through sustainable urban mobility policies. This resulted amongst other things in further expanding the large pedestrian area in the historic centre. Furthermore, in April 2017 all cross-city traffic arteries were cut to prevent car traffic from passing through the city centre.
The city now plans to intensify its focus on multimodal journeys. The realisation of a multimodal traffic centre to inform citizens is a key element of the City of Ghent’s latest mobility plan (Strategic Mobility Vision 2030).
A lot of small- to medium-sized cities around the world, like Ghent, want to get a grip on traffic and mobility. Building separate, traditional traffic management centres for all these cities is most likely not the answer. They require huge investments and people watching screens 24/7. On top of that, the majority of trips are not undertaken by car and cities want to encourage walking and cycling in their mobility plans. How can this be achieved when the main focus of traffic management is on cars? And how can cities prepare for disruptive technologies when their traffic control centres haven’t changed a lot since the seventies?
Ghent developed the Traffic Management As a Service (www.TMaaS.eu) concept in order to monitor and manage traffic (for all transport modes). No lengthy investments in hardware installations are needed, the cloud-based platform processes multi-modal mobility information. The city works with world-class partners to collect and process innovative mobility data. The Traffic Management as a Service platform automatically analyzes this information and notifies operators and citizens, strongly reducing the need to watch screens 24/7.
The platform will not be built specifically for Ghent, it will allow any city to connect! Once the TMaaS.eu platform has been established, the goal is that every small- to medium-sized city can subscribe and immediately get insights on mobility, manage traffic and communicate with citizens.
The main result of the project is a first realisation of the Traffic Management as a Service concept. The www.TMaaS.eu platform will automatically monitor traffic and mobility for the city of Ghent, give traffic operators and end-users insight in mobility and notify them on relevant events.
The project will also prove that the concept is truly flexible and can be used around the world. The platform will be configured and tested for multiple other cities, integrating at least one relevant and qualitative data source for every city.
To ensure that the platform is aligned with real needs, thorough research will be carried out to collect the requirements from traffic operators and citizens. This will result in a report on the current status of traffic management and the needs and visions of operators. A second report will focus on what is rarely asked: what do citizens really want to know in order to plan their journey? Both reports will fill the gap between how traffic management systems are built and what the people using them really expect.
We believe the Traffic Management as a Service concept will be consuming a lot less time and investments than the current practices. In order to subjectively judge these advantages, an industry partner will investigate if there is a business model for the TMaaS concept and how it relates to the costs of ‘old-fashioned’ traffic management.
Finally, it is rare for any urban authority to take the initiative in the field of ITS (Intelligent Transport Systems), which is dominated by the private sector. A first result of the Traffic Management as a Service project is that we will have the voice of the city - and the citizens - heard in all relevant debates on traffic management. Technology should materialise the visions of cities on mobility, not the other way around. Communities should challenge the automotive and ITS industries to build the best possible products to be used in their communities.