Most cities face increasing traffic problems caused by excessive private car use. This not only affects the citizens quality of life, in terms of commodity and ease of mobility within the city, but causes serious environmental problems in terms of atmospheric and noise pollution. Most cities within the EU recognize the need to develop innovative approaches towards a sustainable transport system which will offer better environmental conditions and a higher quality of life for the local inhabitants. Historically, integrated traffic management schemes have focused primarily on easing mobility by car. The new challenge arises in integrating environmental criteria and encouraging the implementation of new transport policies which reduce private car use and promote new urban public transport circuits. Within this context small and medium-sized cities are eager to investigate and contrast the cost effectiveness of different urban traffic management strategies which will deliver on both environmental and economic criteria, and to explore new computer based methodologies which will improve prediction techniques and help to present more clearly the available options to both politicians and users.
The project was seen as a demonstrative and preventive project which initially involved know-how transference from an Italian Partner to an Objective 1 zone (Portugal). The main objective of the project was to study the effects on the urban environment of different local traffic management schemes and to evaluate their impact in terms of atmospheric and noise pollution. In this way, the project aimed to encourage the implementation of new transport policies, particularly those which prioritized the creation of new urban public transport circuits. To achieve these objectives, the project initially envisaged three main stages: firstly through an initial study and evaluation of the current state of play in traffic policies and their repercussions on the environment in the different city contexts. Secondly, the project would focus on the development of computer-based management support and information systems, including the planning and implementation of a New Transport and Parking Integrated System to optimize existing systems and the development of a computer simulation program. They also aimed to investigate current usage and possible implementation of both conventional and telematic Ecotax models (TAVAU and SPTEV), although these actions were not finally implemented. In the final phase the project would study and carry out information and awareness campaigns aimed at providing incentives for the general public to use public transport and to disseminate the results of the project.
From the outset the partners saw the project as a great opportunity to study innovative solutions for implementing new models of traffic management and mobility in medium-sized cities. The Portuguese cities, Evora and Vila Real, each with different levels of technical expertise, were able to capitalize on their partners know-how. They learnt how to apply new methodologies for environmental data collection linked to automobile traffic and how to create innovative transport management models using simulations which illustrated the environmental impacts of different policies.
Much of the projects time was taken up in initial groundwork, collecting together the necessary characterization elements on urban traffic, pollution levels, vehicle entrance and exit movements etc. The models created were then tested and results compared between the different cities. The second stage involved the “laboratory treatment”, through simulation models, which tested out the relevance of the analyses and deductions made. The project also decided to expand the information and marketing element with the objective of creating greater public awareness of the measures and solutions proposed.
The results from the different phases can be summarized as follows: following on from the initial data collection phase, The New Transport and Parking Integrated Management System (NTPIMS) was planned by evaluating the current distribution of existing parking measures and visualizing possible car park distribution scenarios, paving the way for the different simulation models. This data formed the basis of the VIRIATUS simulator which consisted of a virtual projection of the impact of a potential reduction in vehicle use stemming from the use of different variants including the number and location of car parks on city outskirts and the availability of alternative transport. In the following phase the NTPIMS was implemented in the 3 cities, taking advantage of an advanced experiment in one of the cities (Evora). In the final phase, major campaigns were carried out to stimulate public transport use in the target cities.
The project carried out continuous dissemination through the press and television. This culminated in the organization of a successful “Car-Free Day” celebration (organized on September 22nd, with a day reduction of 85% in car use in Evora), followed by the launching of new public transport routes.
A central outcome of the project was the environmental impact study of different traffic management strategies in the target cities, taking into account traffic performance (intensities and fluency) and the environmental effects (air and sound quality) A specific strategy was chosen in each city and was compared with a “reference scenario” or the same context without the application of the TMS strategy. All the strategies chosen shared common criteria, namely imposing direct restrictions on private car travel, expanding infrastructures for parking outside central areas and expanding public transport services. The results of the comparative simulation of the effects of the TMS revealed in one city (Faro) a reduction of 28% on the use of 8.300 private cars, a 7% increase in traffic velocity and significant reductions (34%) in total journey time. The environmental benefits would include significant reductions in fuel use, gas emissions of between 43,91 and 44,72%. (through the increase of average speed) and reductions in noise pollution on main internal road arteries of up to 4 dBA. The impact of this type of simulation was seen to be a great aid for increasing awareness of the issues amongst both local politicians and the general public.