This article was originally published in the Winter 2018 issue of The Record. Subscribe for FREE here to get the next issue delivered directly to your inbox.
This year, more than 54 million people in the US travelled for Thanksgiving, traditionally the busiest day of the year on America’s roads, making traffic four times worse than usual in major cities across the country. The horror of holiday travel is a familiar scenario across nations – in the UK, each Christmas season adds an average of 1.3 million drivers to the usual traffic, and in Sydney, Australia, traffic jams have become a Christmas tradition of their own. While temporary, it exemplifies a larger issue: As more people move to urban areas, and new modes of transport increase the complexity of our journeys, traffic and congestion will only worsen, unless cities can address the growing need for intelligent, real-time, user-centric, and connected congestion management.
Thankfully, technology is on our side. The ubiquitous use of data and the growing application of internet of things (IoT) and cloud technologies in cities around the world means that many urban areas are becoming smarter and more networked, investing in a wide range of smart city applications and technologies, including 4G, real-time transit schedules, connected traffic cameras, traffic lights, street lights and parking.
Taking advantage of the newest technologies, the government of New South Wales, Australia’s largest state, is leading the charge against traffic woes in Sydney – one of the world’s greatest cities and Australia’s most congested metropolis, turning it into a global model for intelligent transport management. Teaming up with Cubic Transportation Systems and partner Microsoft, it plans to roll out the Intelligent Congestion Management Program (ICMP) – a next-generation transport management solution that will put an end to holiday traffic jams and simplify journeys for millions of travellers on a daily basis.
When delivered, ICMP will transform the local multimodal Transport Management Center (TMC) – a complex multimodal TMC and a critical asset responsible for the planning, coordination, and proactive real-time management of the entire New South Wales state road network, covering 111,846 miles and serving a growing population of over 7.5 million – into a truly predictive, data-driven, multimodal operation that optimises the entire transport network and helps the city manage end-to-end journeys rather than disparate transport modes.
Cubic’s Transport Management Platform (TMP) running on Microsoft’s Azure platform, will sit at the heart of the new congestion management solution. By leveraging the power of the Azure cloud, the TMP will ingest numerous data sources and deliver actionable insights to those who need them most, improving the city’s overall situational awareness and providing a common operating picture across the state’s entire transit network. The new system will enhance the monitoring and management of the road network across the state, coordinate the public transport network across all modes, improve management of clearways, planning of major events and incident clearance times. It will equip city operators and first responders with the tools needed to effectively handle any challenge, including accidents, emergencies, or natural disasters, while also providing the public with real-time information about disruptions and traffic conditions and offering personalised, predictions-based journey advice. Optimising the transport network and providing information to travellers is critical in reducing the impact of congestion, as is making public transit the mode of choice, and integrating new modes of travel into the overall transport ecosystem in a safe and beneficial way.
A significant element of ICMP includes a focus on smart traffic signal control – a key enabler of efficient and effective city traffic management. Sydney will increase its investment into industry’s fastest-growing adaptive traffic control technology that relies on cost-efficient data sources, such as connected vehicles and in-road sensors. Those smart traffic controls are able to rapidly adapt to changing traffic conditions, minimising disruption and increasing throughput at city intersections.
When it comes to traffic, Sydney’s goal is ambitious yet simple: ‘Predict in 30 minutes, act in five’. Now, with Cubic’s acquisition of Trafficware’s intelligent traffic management solutions for the transportation industry, and thanks to the partnership with Microsoft, by the time ICMP implementation is completed, Sydney will be able to take full advantage of artificial intelligence, IoT, and powerful cloud technologies to address congestion, improve safety and make public transport the mode of choice, placing itself at the forefront of multimodal transport innovation and setting the bar high for intelligent congestion management around the world.
Chris Bax is vice president of ITS Global Strategy at Cubic Transportation Systems