Massive data bank set to revolutionise Cambridge congestion problems

PUBLISHED: 14:34 20 July 2016 | UPDATED: 11:22 05 August 2016

How Cambridge could become a city driven by smart technology

How Cambridge could become a city driven by smart technology

ILIFFE

New app planned to aid real-time travel in Cambridge

Students and bikes...new plans to ease congestion sre aimed at getting more people to cycle. Picture: Keith HeppellStudents and bikes...new plans to ease congestion sre aimed at getting more people to cycle. Picture: Keith Heppell

Transport bosses in Cambridge have been urged to make use of a massive amount of travel data aimed at revolutionising the city’s congestion problems.

City Deal’s Smart Cambridge have amassed a significant amount of transport data over the last 12 months as part of a research programme that will deliver a number of travel apps for residents.

The Smart Cambridge researchers have collected data on 1,000 buses across the city – pinpointing their locations every 30 seconds for more than a year.

The data was unveiled by Ian Lewis, director of Infrastructure Investment at Cambridge University, who revealed that the data had been collected from sensors placed on the buses.

A number of zones had been used to collect the data and travel times and these areas included Hills Road, Histon Road, Madingley Road, Milton Road, East Road, and Newmarket Road. The data received allowed analysts to look in detail at journey times in both directions.

Mr Lewis said: “It is monitoring 20 areas around the region, telling us in real-time what the journey times are across those zones.

The data is set to form the foundation for a ‘real time’ travel app which will provide users with the exact location of buses and details about roads that are congested.

Mr Lewis added: “You can get a message telling you Hills Road is congested. In due course, it’s going to turn it into real-time information about what your bus journey to Addenbrooke’s is likely to do.

"We absolutely ought to look at this information. It would be silly not to use it."

by Ian Lewis, director of Infrastructure Investment at Cambridge University

“It can already see ahead – it knows what the situations are on the roads for the rest of that journey. The hard part is to translate that into an easily consumable form for your average bus passenger, which we are committed to doing.”

During the last 12 months the data has been able to show the result of major traffic problems in the Cambridge area.

It demonstrated that the city is particularly vulnerable to traffic chaos when there is a major accident on the main A14 or M11 roads.

Mr Lewis added: “Dr Lewis said his own analysis shows ‘the city falls apart all at once’ if something happens on the A14 or the M11.

“On a normal day, the rush hours are incredibly short. If you look at the Madingley Road, it is normal, normal, normal then it goes to five times normal on the way in for about 40 minutes.

“Normal is two minutes [to travel along Madingley Road], by the way. At about 9am it becomes 10 minutes, and by 20 past it’s back to normal. But you can only learn that by looking at the data.

“We absolutely ought to look at this information. It would be silly not to use it.”

The full range of data collected by the team will eventually be made public and Mr Lewis said the travel app was being worked on by external companies as well as university researchers.

What happens in the rest of the Smart City world?

There is not one smart city in full operation anywhere in the world but it won’t be long in coming.

Several European cities are well on the way to producing a city where transport is all linked by smart technology.

Cities like Amsterdam and Copenhagen are leading the way along with Barcelona but Cambridge is also in the frame and the technology being produced in the city is also being coveted by others looking for an integrated transport system. Copenhagen has invested in smart technologies in their transport system. For example, 81 per cent of their traffic lights are centrally monitored and managed, and 49 per cent of those lights have sensors to give rights of ways to buses.

Other pioneering cities include Rio de Janeiro, Dublin and Barcelona. Amsterdam is possibly the only city in the world that has more problems with pedestrian and cycling traffic congestion than those caused by cars.

A total of 67 per cent of all trips are done by cycling or walking. Indeed, on a daily basis there are 10,000 bikes parked adjacent to the central train station.

Amsterdam Smart City is a public private partnership which is focused on finding new mobility solutions and improve the quality of life for everyone. The collaboration is working on 40 smart city projects ranging from smart parking to the development of home energy storage for integration with a smart grid.

Barcelona has also been testing all kinds of sensors on everything from noise and air contamination to traffic congestion and even waste management.

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