Road Network Operations
& Intelligent Transport Systems
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ITS and Transport Operations

Road Network Operations are part of a much wider activity known as “transport operations” – which comprise the methods and techniques used to support the movement of people and goods and maintain optimal conditions on a transport network. In general, this is achieved by measures that are designed to match transport supply – the capacity of the transport system – with transport demand. When transport demand exceeds the available capacity, the result is congestion.

Video: Economics of Land Transport in Singapore - Managing Traffic Congestion in Singapore

Transport operations have many objectives including:

  • optimising the flow of traffic
  • ensuring safety of operations
  • managing incidents, adverse weather and emergency situations
  • minimising the impact of infrastructure maintenance and construction
  • ensuring a high level of service to the users of the system

The objectives of “transport operations” are well-aligned with those of Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) – and as a result, ITS has a lot to offer in terms of improving transport operations. The connection between ITS and transport operations is illustrated by the following three aspects of transport operations:

Road Network Operations

The major functions of ITS-related road network operations are:

  • road network monitoring and safety
  • road network management
  • traffic management
  • mobility management and road users support

Road Network Monitoring and Safety

Road network monitoring and safety – involves all measurement, resources and procedures aimed at comprehensive management along the overall road network. It is also focuses on road conditions and data collections in order to promptly react to events occurring in a specific place on the network. ITS services can make transport safer and more secure, maximising capability to contain and reduce the impact of disasters.

Road Network Management

Road network providers and operators put in place a series of procedures and operations for the management of incidents and events, to re-establish normal conditions. This includes emergency management, winter services management and management of maintenance activities.

Traffic Management

Road administrations are responsible for monitoring and controlling their road network. Management of traffic flows is a critical factor that influences the management of the overall network – and road users’ expectations. Besides taking action when traffic appears to be very congested, road network operators also need to plan and forecast traffic flows – considering different analysis scenario and solutions, in order to provide road users with tangible improvements to their journey.

Mobility Management and Road Users Support

The publishing and distribution of information to road users on road network conditions and traffic flows, represent the interface between road operators/road administrations and public users. Data available to users tends to influence their behaviour on the network – and this needs to be taken into account as an important instrument to convey traffic flows. Information published can be: real-time or future-forecast.

Use of ITS

ITS technologies lie behind good traffic management and information delivery for both urban networks and interurban roads. Pro-active and re-active measures can be applied. Pro-active measures focus on the prevention of incidents/congestion. Re-active measures focus on the detection/verification of incidents and unsafe road conditions, response and clearance, and recovery to normal operations. Other solutions include better road works planning, lane restrictions, bad weather and road conditions alerts, and automatic braking systems.

Many ITS applications can help support road network operations. Examples include:

  • network monitoring, which performs a key function in gathering prevailing road network information and providing support for other network operation activities (See ITS & Network Monitoring)
  • traffic control and incident management, which aim to maximise the efficiency of the transport system and the utilisation of existing capacity (See Traffic Management)
  • toll roads and electronic payment, which relieve the bottlenecks associated with traditional toll booths and which allow for the implementation of congestion pricing strategies to better operate and manage the transport network (See Electronic Payment)
  • travel demand management strategies intended to reduce the travel demand on the network (See Demand Management)

Public Transport Operations

The goal of public transport operations is to help increase and retain ridership, cut down on the cost of operations (principally fuel and staff costs), and improve the level of service for passengers (See Passenger Transport).

Examples include:

  • applications aimed at monitoring public transport vehicle operations to ensure schedule adherence and to facilitate passenger transfer at connecting stations
  • the provision of information about the expected arrival time of a transport vehicle, transfers, and ride-share opportunities
  • providing traffic signal priority for transport vehicles to help improve the quality of service and to provide incentives for travellers to use transport
  • the use of smart fare cards to make it easier for travellers to pay for the service – whilst collecting useful data that can be used by the transport operators to better plan, manage and operate the transport system
  • personalised public transit services such as flexible-route buses that are allowed to deviate from the main route to pick-up or drop-off passengers

Freight Operations

Optimising freight operations and the movement and distribution of goods is a central part of transport operations that is vital to a nation’s economy. The effective operation of road networks directly benefits freight operations. Roads that are well-managed enable timely deliveries and reduce vehicle turnaround times and costs to freight operators. This has becoming more important with the spread of internet retailing and just-in-time stock management procedures. Freight operators may face additional challenges from local government policies – introduced to control heavy vehicle movements in urban centres.

ITS can contribute to improved efficiency and security of freight operations:

  • real-time communications for vehicle location, dispatching and tracking
  • automated control and information systems
  • vehicle and load monitoring to track consignments for security and to keep customers up-to-date on progress
  • in-vehicle data recording to monitor drivers’ hours, alertness, performance and behaviour (for example, in obeying traffic rules) – with a view to offering training if necessary
  • improving internal company efficiency

ITS can also help freight operators in other important ways – by identifying available parking and ensuring compliance with driving time and rest period regulations. The absence of available parking and of ways to identify it in good time, can create safety hazards – with truck drivers being obliged to park on roadsides or highway access ramps.

ITS and Freight Operations in USA and Europe

In the US, advanced routeing and decision-making software – and organisation for the routeing of time-sensitive deliveries – has increased deliveries per driver hour by 24%.

A smartphone app developed for European truck drivers enables them to look up available parking options across borders – with details of security and comfort provision – and to share the information with their schedulers, who can then plan future routeings more efficiently (See Freight and Commercial Services)


Reference sources

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