Urbanisation and the growing pressure on city infrastructures are posing challenges all over the world. Accessibility has to be balanced against both environmental demands and efforts to ensure an attractive urban environment.
With its fully automatic, electronic systems for traffic control, the Swedish company Kapsch trafficcom AB offers innovative solutions both for today’s cities and for urban centres of the future. By improving traffic flows, such systems reduce travel time, emissions and noise. Transport companies and public transport systems can hone their logistics when the risk of disruptions in the traffic flow is reduced. There is also a potential for reducing the amount of traffic.
– The extent to which this technology can impact on traffic volume depends on what policy the authorities decide to pursue, says Göran Andersson, Senior Sales Manager of the Swedish company. Experience gained from London, Singapore and Stockholm indicates a traffic reduction of about 20 per cent in central areas.
Today, Kapsch trafficcom’s systems are to be found in 41 countries and on five continents around the world. Italy is one of the company’s foremost markets for intelligent traffic solutions in city centres.
Such systems are in place in 28 Italian cities and towns, one of the aims being to protect sensitive environments and valuable cultural heritage with the aid of environment-based traffic zoning. One example is Milan, which established an environmental zone in central city areas where vehicles were charged according to their environmental classification.
– Within just a year of installation, the system had reduced the number of non-classified vehicles by over 50 per cent, says Göran Andersson.
The company’s Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) is in fact a toolbox of technological solutions designed to optimise traffic flows and reduce environmental impact.
In practice, the system works by equipping vehicles with a ‘transponder’ or ‘tag’ that communicates with a traffic control centre. Automatic number plate scanning can then be used to check and register both regular and temporary users. Via specially designed software, wireless communication and GPS (Global Positioning System), the electronic toll system can be adapted to different kinds of traffic applications in both rural and urban environments.
Charges can be set according to the type of vehicle, and are payable either in advance or later.
Individual systems are tailored to local conditions and desired outcomes. Each city has its own traffic patterns and challenges. This in turn means adapting strategies and tools alike, both to keep the traffic flowing and to persuade drivers to alter their travel habits.
Properly applied, the technology can be used to control traffic and - via road charges - can also generate revenue. Such revenue can for instance be invested in improvements to public transport. Also, it may provide drivers with the incentive to switch to greener vehicles.
Kapsch trafficcom’s systems are easy to set up and the payback is fairly rapid, depending on the charge level. The choice of technological solution depends on what legislation is in place in the country concerned. If the country has a reliable vehicle register and legislation that allows number plates to be photographed, most parts of the system can be fully automated.
Growing urbanisation is expected to boost the demand for intelligent traffic solutions. Göran Andersson is optimistic about the future and about the company’s chances of helping to solve many traffic challenges in expanding cities. Not least as part of the emerging concept of sustainable cities, such as the Swedish Symbiocity.