Steve Penn, regional business development manager of software systems, Swarco questions how TMaaS can be utilised to tackle air quality…
Poor air quality affects us all. It is a drain on our health, our environment and the economy. Since 1997, each local authority in England has been reviewing and assessing air quality in their area, measuring air pollution and trying to predict how it will change, with the overall aim of contributing towards the UK achieving its national air quality objectives.
The immediate challenge is to reduce emissions of harmful nitrogen oxides in areas where concentrations currently exceed legal limits. With road transport being one of the central sources of pollution, a number of initiatives including increased promotion of ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEV) and investment in vehicle charging infrastructure have been introduced to help tackle the issue.
Traffic management systems (TMS) can also be essential tools, supporting city and road managers to efficiently operate their networks and manage ever-changing traffic situations. Building on this, Traffic Management-as-a-Service (TMaaS) provides a new and advanced approach, based on a fully digital and virtual platform, where the management of traffic is transferred from physical, manual centres to the cloud and enables the faster processing of traffic data to provide real-time information.
Crucially, TMaaS platforms such as Swarco’s MyCity enable multiple ecosystems to be integrated, allowing data from various urban mobility solution providers and devices to be brought together and managed through a single platform. TMaaS platforms not only visualise, but also interpret the mobility data that is fed into them, and alerts operators when necessary. They can, in real time, see the status of all transport modes on a dashboard and view historic data.
Every city has its own individual requirements, and these require different tools to be efficiently managed. A key benefit of TMaaS is that it is completely scalable and can be built up over time. Additional data sources and services can be implemented as and when required, and in line with budget planning. It offers a phased, flexible and efficient approach to capture, analyse and support strategic decisions to help tackle the issues of air pollution and congestion.
The ability to represent and report on real-time validated data complements not only conventional TMS data but can be analysed alongside other integrated services such as vehicle counting and classification, driving behaviour and risk scoring, and micromobility and pedestrian data. This continuous view of multiple data streams provides a detailed view of the air quality readings, along with the potential factors behind high reported rates, and the impact on all road network users.
TMaaS helps reduce pollution in practical ways, in the way intersections are configured, for example, to improve traffic flows and reduce dwell times, or in how variable message signs are deployed to change driver behaviour, re-route traffic or promote other modes of transport. To enhance the operational efficiency and speed to action, semi- and fully automated interventions can be executed based on configured rules and actions.
Today, local authorities and city managers should be reviewing their existing infrastructure and considering how TMaaS solutions can support key objectives. Its flexibility and scalability mean that deploying an air quality strategy does not require a large initial investment. With the right tools and consultation, a phased approach can be identified and implemented to align with specific and individual objectives and budgets.
Initially, visibility is key and obtaining data through a central platform can support the analysis for implementing future city-wide strategies. Of course, TMaaS does not represent a one-size-fits-all solution. Every town and city has its own challenges and criteria to consider, but it offers a number of key benefits that can help to address the problems of today, as well as tomorrow.
Regional business development manager of software systems
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